January 2006 FIDE Rating list released!

By virtue of his outstanding performance in the FIDE World Chess Championship, Veselin Topalov (2801, +19) has finally supplanted Viswanathan Anand  (2792, +4) as the top active player (#2 overall) and eclipsed the magical 2800-rating barrier. On the latest FIDE rating list, Garry Kasparov (2812) is still listed as the top-rated player, but retired last year amidst shock and disappointment. Since that time chess has had to readjust without its mercurial figure at the helm.

Peter Svidler (2765, +25) vaulted  to the #4 position after doing well in both the FIDE Championships, European Team Championships and most recently, the Russia Superfinal.  His performance as of late has been steady and solid. Lev Aronian (2752, +28) of Armenia continues his ascent to #5 after winning the FIDE World Chess Cup over Ruslan Ponomariov  who climbed back to the #10 position (2723, +19).

Veselin Topalov.  (Photo courtesy of WCC official site)

GM Veselin Topalov, World Champion

Former match rivals Vladimir Kramnik (2741, +2) and Peter Leko (2740, -11) maintain the #6 and #7 spots with Kramnik playing like a mere mortal and Leko trying to recover from a mediocre performance at the FIDE World Chess Championships. Vassily Ivanchuk (2729, -19) was booted from his top-five spot to #8 after a poor showing at the FIDE World Cup and Boris Gelfand of Israel draws even with Ponomariov (2723, +6).

Judit Polgar (2711, -24) had a disastrous showing in the FIDE tournament but remains the highest-rated woman. Neither  Susan Polgar (2577, +0), nor Xie Jun (2573, +0) are listed and the next female player would be Koneru Humpy (2537, -3) followed by Swedish Grandmaster Pia Cramling (2515, +18).  Alexandra Kosteniuk (2514, -2) has not seen much action, but scored -1 result in the Russian Championship.  Maia Chiburdanidze (2511, +0) holds steady and rounds out the top five.

Teimour Radjabov (2704, -4) is the top junior. Both  (2674, +28) and Pentala Harikrishna (2673, +0) takes over the #2 junior position after Shakhriyar Mamedyarov became age-ineligible. The Ukrainian trio of Alexander Areschenko (2670, +15), Andrei Volokitin (2665, -1) and Sergei Karjakin (2660, +2) round out the top five with Areschenko having gain 70 ELO points since the April 2005 list. Hikaru Nakamura (2644, -18) plummeted after being ousted in the first round of the FIDE World Cup.

In Africa, Morocco's Hichem Hamdouchi gains (2575, +1) to keep his #1 ranking in Africa safe. Egyptian Essam El-Gindy remains as the only other 2500-level player (2524, +0) and  Slim Belkhodja of Tunisia is 3rd at 2488 after losing a couple of points at the World Cup tournament in Russia.

Ahmed Adly (2473, -7), Egypt's only GM, will certainly gain after winning the African Individual Championships. His compatriot Bassem Amin (2452, -2) assures a bright future for Egyptian chess after Amin won the African Junior Championship for the second time.

South of the Sahara,
Amon Simutowe (2445, -13) of Zambia continues to fluctuate, but holds the lead. George Michelakis (2425, +0). Robert Gwaze of Zimbabwe (2411) will change on the next list and Watu Kobese (2397, -3) will be looking to gain the points lost at the FIDE World Cup.

FM Stephen Muhammad. Copyright © 2003, Jerry Bibuld.

IM-elect Stephen Muhammad
(Photo by Jerry Bibuld)

In the Caribbean, Cuba's Lázaro Bruzon (2650, -27) maintained the regional rating lead despite a huge drop. Cuban Compatriot Lenier Domínguez (2638, +3) is trying to regain his form since reaching 2661 in January 2005. Kevin Denny (2365, +0) remains the top player amongst the English-speaking Caribbean islands.

In North America, the top player of African descent is
Maurice Ashley (2465, +0) who has not played in the past two years.  He is followed by Emory Tate (2391, +20) who has recently played in Netherlands and Curaçao. He most recently qualified for the U.S. Chess Championships for the first time. Stephen Muhammad (2377, +0)  who also qualified for the U.S. Chess Championships, will rise on the next list. In Europe, Sweden's Pontus Carlsson (2430, -5) is steady.

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Posted by The Chess Drum: 4 January 2006