January 2007 FIDE Rating list released!

Much has changed in the world of FIDE ratings as the year ended with Veselin Topalov losing the championship crown, some fans and a boatload of rating points. The controversy generated in the FIDE World Chess Championship negated the meteoric rise by the Bulgarian and he has fallen from grace (2783, -30).

Viswanathan Anand  (2779, +0) holds steady but is keeping form by winning a number of rapid events. This new year may be the year Anand tastes sweet victory. Vladimir Kramnik (2766, +16) was perhaps the biggest winner amongst the top players despite Shakhriyar Mamedyarov's  sudden leap to the 4th spot (2754, +26).

Kramnik is now going to be severely tested to defend his crown in a timely fashion, but has been plagued by health issues.
Vassily Ivanchuk holds the 5th spot, but will gain a few ELO after winning the Carlos Torré tournament in Mexico.

Topalov and Kramnik are unaware of another battle brewing.

Topalov vs. Kramnik

There hasn't been much of a change in the top ten, but Peter Svidler (2728, -22) tumbled eight slots to #12. He effectively swapped positions with Kramnik. His poor showing in the Russian SuperFinal had everyone scratching their heads. The newest member of the 2700-club is Krishnan Sasikiran of India (2700, +25). He has always followed Anand as the #2 and now joins an elite group. Sasikiran had a poor showing at the 2006 Chess Olympiad, but put together a nice string of results including a solid performance at the Asian Games with a team gold medal. He is now #21 in the world.

In the women's category,
Judit Polgar (2727, +17) continues to hold the top spot as she has for more than a decade. She scored well in the Essent Masters event shortly after having her second child. She beat Topalov twice and went on to tie Mamedyarov for first place. No woman in history has ever had such consistent success among men. However, Koneru Humpy is making gradual improvements and earned two gold medals in the Asian Games (women's rapid and team).

Former World Champion
Zhu Chen (2518, +17) is back on the rating chart, but is now playing under the flag of Qatar. Zhu represented her new country in the Asian Games and won a bronze medal in the women's rapid.  Hou Yifan has eclipsed the 2500 barrier, is #8 on the women's chart and #2 on the girls chart beyond Koneru. China's Zhao Xue (2463, -4) has dropped a bit in the past couple of years, but earned two medals at the Asian Games (women's rapid and team). The rest of the list has no significant changes.

Teimour Radjabov (2729, +0) has been on top of the junior charts for what appears to be an eternity (three years). Norway's Magnus Carlsen (2690, -8) has moved up to the #2 spot with a number of good results of in the past year. Sergey Karjakin (2678, +6) is gradually improving while America's Hikaru Nakamura (2651, +7) has gained a few ELO during school breaks at Dickinson College. Rounding out the top five is China's  Wang Yue (2644, +0) continues to impress. He logged an amazing 45 games so his rating will take a rise.

IM Emory Tate (right) takes on Morocco’s  GM Hichem Hamdouchi at Calvia Chess Festival. Hamdouchi won in 66 moves.

IM Emory Tate (right) takes on Morocco's  GM Hichem Hamdouchi at Calvia Chess Festival. Hamdouchi won in 66 moves. Photo from calviafestival.com.

In Africa, Morocco's Hichem Hamdouchi vaults back over the 2600 mark (2602, +20) with a number of good results in Spain. He remains the #1 player on the continent by a wide margin. Essam El-Gindy (2523, +0) leads a trio  of 2500-level Egyptian players. Eighteen-year old Bassem Amin (2514, +9) and nineteen-year old Ahmed Adly (2507, +0) represent the future of Egyptian chess.  African Vice-Champion Slim Belkhodja of Tunisia is 5th at 2487  after a gain of 12.

South of the Sahara,
George Michelakis (2425, +0) has not seen action in the past year. Amon Simutowe (2417, +8) of Zambia showed a slight gain after his victory in the 2006 Jamaican Open. Simutowe has now completed university studies and can spend a bit more time getting his final GM norm. Robert Gwaze of Zimbabwe (2413, +0) and Watu Kobese (2389, +0) hold steady. Activity among the top African players is rather stagnant. Zambia's Chitumbo Mwali may provide some hope for new talent after winning the African Junior Championship.

In the Caribbean, Cuba's Lenier Domínguez (2638, +3) remains solid after his 8/9 performance at Ciutat de Barcelona Lázaro Bruzon (2614, -32) has hemorrhaged a whopping 53 points since the July 2006 list and hasn't been the same since his thrashing in Biel. Kevin Denny (2360, +0) remains the top player amongst the English-speaking Caribbean islands.

Maurice Ashley (2465, +0) has been out of sight for more than two years.  Some speculate that he has retired, but look for him to resurface in 2007. Cuban IM Dionisio Aldama (2454, +0) was based in Mexico, but has since moved to Phoenix, USA. He scored well in the recently-ended North American Open.

Cuba's IM Dionisio Aldama. Photo by Instituto del Deporte del Estado de Yucatán.

IM Dionisio Aldama

Emory Tate (2410, -3), who has recently played in Spain, remains a mainstay in American tournaments. FIDE has not conferred his IM title which is an egregious oversight. Stephen Muhammad (2394, +0) is trying to break the 2400-barrier mark, but his recent performance at the North American Open will cost him a few. In Europe, Sweden's Pontus Carlsson (2492, +31) is rising rapidly and stands ready to earn his final GM norm in 2007.

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Posted by The Chess Drum: 2 January 2007