The latest FIDE rating list was released earlier this month. Retired Garry Kasparov (2812) still holds the top spot by a comfortable margin. I think there will be at least one more and perhaps two more lists before Kasparov is declared inactive. Vishy Anand (2788) did not play any games during the latest period, but now sits alone in second as Veselin Topalov (2782) dropped 6 points at Dortmund. In general, it was not a good period for the top players as most of the top 10 either dropped points or stayed even. The only rating gain was a scant 2 points by Peter Svidler (2740), but that was enough to move him past classical World Champion Vladimir Kramnik (2739) into 6th place on the list. Other than that, the top 10 remain unchanged. Club 2700 now numbers 20 members as big gains by Liviu-Deiter Nisipeanu (2707), Teimour Radjabov (2704), and Sergei Tiviakov (2700) vaulted each of them to all time highs. Meanwhile, Gata Kamsky (2690) and Viktor Bologan (2682) dropped out. I may have to start tracking Club 2750 as being the elite as more and more players cross the 2700 mark. The average rating of the top 100 is a record 2664.
Of course, the FIDE World Championship, which took place this month in Argentina will shake up the above analysis. Veselin Topalov was completely dominant in the first half scoring 6.5/7. He then coasted to the title with 7 draws in the second half finishing a point and a half clear of Anand and Svidler. I thought he might try to press Polgar in the last round to try and cross 2800 and possibly pass Kasparov's rating. He may have still crossed the 2800 barrier. In my mind the next logical step is a match between Topalov and Kramnik to end the rift in the title. Although initially it looked like this might happen, the recent talk from the Topalov camp is that Kramnik's rating and results over the past few years do not qualify him as a contender. Hopefully, this is just verbal sparring to stir up interest. The tradition of match play to determine the World Champion goes back over 100 years, hopefully all the involved parties will see the light and get this match to take place.
The move of the US Chess Federation from New York to Tennessee resulted in a backlog of FIDE rated events in the US. It looks like most of these got cleared on this rating list, resulting in lots of activity for US players. Gata Kamsky (2690) still holds the top spot, but US Champion Hikaru Nakamura (2662) continues to close the gap. A strong showing in the Continental Championship of the Americas (equal second with Kamsky and others), moved Alexander Onischuk (2640) back to the third spot ahead of idle Yasser Seirawan (2635). Ildar Ibragimov (2617) rounds out the US players in the top 100 although Gregory Kaidanov (2608), Varuzhan Akobian (2600) and Alexander Goldin (2600) all sport 2600+ ratings. Alexander Ivanov (2589) had a string of good results to move into the 9th spot, ahead of Alex Shabalov (2581). Familiar names such as Igor Novikov, Boris Gulko, Zsuzsa Polgar, and Joel Benjamin are now the top of the second 10 followed by US-champion runner-up Alex Stripunsky, Gran Prix Champion Aleks Wojtkiewicz, Yuri Shulman, Nick De Firmian, Sergey Kudrin, and America's latest GM-elect Ben Finegold.
My rating dropped 19 points from my disastrous finish at the Chicago Open down to 2304. That puts me at #164 in the US and #5651 in the world.
As mentioned previously, I played in the Tennessee Open the weekend after the Colias Memorial. Here are the key positions from my games in that event.
In round 1, I had the Black pieces against my teammate from the 1999 US Open Team Championship, David Gilchrist. We reached a somewhat unusual position after 22. e4
Here, White controls the open d-file and his bishop is well placed on the long diagonal. Black's light squared bishop is not participating. On the plus side for Black, all the entry points on the d-file are covered, White's knights are on horrible squares, and Bc8-e6 can come with tempo improving the worst placed piece. White's last move opened up the possibility of a sacrifice on g5, which I decided to defend against 22...Nh7 Instead, the immediate 22... Bc8 23. Nxg5 hxg5 24. Qxg5+ Bg7 25. f4 it looks like Black has to give back the piece with 25...Nxe4 26. Bxe5 Qxe5 27. Qxe5 Bxe5 28. fxe5 Rxe5 29. Rd8+ Kg7 with an approximately equal game 23. f4 Ng6 24. fxg5 Bc8 25. Qc3 He probably needed to bring the knight back into play with 25. Nf2 25... Bxh3 26. Qxh3 Nxg5 Now, White has some problems because of his weak e-pawn and somewhat airy king. He tried bailing out to an endgame with 27. Qd7 Qxd7 28. Rxd7 but after 28...Rxe4 he was a pawn down and had problems with the pin on the e-file. I eventually won.
In round 2, I had White against David Kernell. I got a very nice position out of the opening and had an opportunity to cash in after 19...Qg6
I saw that I could win a piece with 20. g4 but thought he might be able to make things messy with 20...Nh4 21. Nexd6 Bxg4 I should have spent a little more time looking at this since 22. Ne5 is not very hard to find and would lead to a large White advantage. Instead, I grabbed a pawn with 20. Ncxd6 Nxd6 21. Nxc5 and ground out the endgame.
I had Black in the evening round vs. David Justice. After 11. Bd3
I had the opportunity to take his e-pawn, which is normally a good idea in these types of positions. However, I was leery of having to give up my dark-squared bishop after 11... Nxe4 12. Bxe4 Bxc3 13. Qxc3 Rxe4. I think this was the correct decision since White has plenty of compensation after for example 14. Ng5 Re8 15. b4 Qe7 16. b5 Nd8 17. Kh1 f6 18. Bb2 Instead I decided to hunt the bishop pair with 11...Nb4 After 12. Kh1 c5 13. a3 Nxd3 14. cxd3 d5 15. e5 d4 16. Ne4 Nxe4 17. Qxe4 Bc6 Black has a very large advantage and went on to win.
That win left me alone in first place. The next morning I had White against Ron Burnett. I was again very happy with the result of the opening, but probably should not have exchanged bishops and queens in the middlegame. Still, as we approached the time control, the position was still equal after 29...Ngf6
The only real idea Black has here is to play ...e4 and ...Ne5, so I quickly made the last move of the time control to stop this idea 30. Ne4?! This opens up another avenue for Black, instead 30. h3 Nh5 31. Ne4 Nf4 is equal. White could also try to play more ambitiously trying to distract the Black knight from e5 with 30. a5!? bxa5 31. Rxb8 Nxb8 32. Ra1. I think the main point to notice in the diagram is that Black isn't really threatening ...e4 because fxe4 hits the rook and forces it to e5. So White could have even made an absurd move like 30. Rb3 to make the time control and there would be little way for Black to make progress. 30... g4 31. Nxf6 Nxf6 32. fxg4 Nxg4 33. a5 e4! much stronger than Nxh2, it's all about getting in Ne5. 34. Rxb6 Rxb6 35. axb6+ The problem for White is that his rook gets stuck after 35. Rxb6 Ne5 36. Rxa6 Nxc4+ 37. Ke2 Kb7 38. Rc6 Rxd5 35... Kb7 36. Ra1 Ne5 37. Ra4 Nd7 and the White pawn structure falls apart, I was unable to hold the ending.
In the final round I had Black against Gainer Phay. I thought I held a slight edge after 19. Qc4
Instead of guarding the b-pawn with 19...Qb8, I became enamored with the idea of...e4 to get the e5 square for one of my knights. Since this also gives his knight the beautiful d4 square it is very double-edged. I thought a long time and finally went for it 19...e4 20. Nd4 N4e5 20...N6e5!? may be an improvement. He quickly played 21. Qxb4 which really surprised me. 21. Qe2 intending to gang up on the advanced pawn is much more critical when Black has to prove his compensation. 21... Nd3 22. Qd2 Nxe1 23. Qxe1 Qf6 24. Nxf5 Qxf5 25. Qxe4 Overlooking my 26th move. Instead 25. Bxe4 Rae8 26. Nc3 Qg4 is about equal 25... Rae8 26. Qxf5 Re1+ He even wrote 26... Rxf5 27. Ne3 on his scoresheet after taking my queen. 27. Bf1 Rxf5 and the two pawns are not enough compensation given the tied up nature of White's position and the weakness of d5. I won the ending without significant problems.