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By Greg Shahade   
June 12, 2006
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IM Anna Zatonskih and IM elect Rusudan Goletiani. Photo Paul Truong

June 2006 Rating List Recap

Here is a quick recap of the movement since the last Rating Supplement and a list of the top 10 men and the top 5 women. The number in parenthesis represents the total rating point gain/loss since the last supplement. Because the Olympiad just finished there will be some mention of who is likely to make the team in two years.

 

1. Gata Kamsky 2736 (+6)

After his powerful performance in Sofia there can be no doubt that he's the player to beat in the USA. Gata was rusty when he first reentered the tournament scene, but he's already proven himself capable of beating the best players in the World, and has notched a +2 score against the mighty Viswanathan Anand since his return to the chess scene. Gata also played a very solid board 1 to anchor the United States towards their Bronze Medal in the Olympiad.

2. Alexander Onischuk 2704 (+18)

One could have argued that he belongs in the number 1 spot, but after Kamsky's spellbinding performance in Sofia, Alex will have to settle for number 2. Alex has been playing tremendous chess, capping off his US Championship victory with a superb performance on board 2 in the Olympiad. This is the second consecutive Olympiad in which Alexander has had an incredible performance.

3. Hikaru Nakamura - 2697 (-58)It's shocking to see Hikaru slip to the number 3 position, as many thought he would remain in first or second for years to come. Unfortunately Hikaru has been playing erratically lately, starting terribly in the 2006 US Championship only to redeem himself with late surge. Hikaru has already begun to turn things around with a stellar performance in the Olympiad, as his 3 last round wins were crucial to the USA's bronze medal performance. It's a testament to Hikaru's incredible talent that anyone would be surprised to see the 18-year-old only ranked third in the United States.

4. Gregory Kaidanov 2696 (-26)

Gregory had another strong performance at the Olympiad, however his spot on the team may be in serious jeopardy. Gregory has been relatively inactive lately and has dropped a few points. There are now quite a few up and coming players within striking distance of him, and he will need to keep putting up solid performances if he wants to stay among the top 5 in the nation

5. Ildar Ibragimov - 2692 (-10)

 

Ildar is not as well known as many players on this list, but has an ambitious and exciting style that's always fun to watch. Ildar is perhaps most famous for his action packed final round loss in the 2005 US Championship to Hikaru Nakamura. Ildar hopes to change this perception, as being the 5th ranked player in the nation, he is clearly capable of winning any tournament he enters. Ildar was also a member of the 2006 Bronze Medal winning Olympiad Team.

6. Jaan Ehlvest 2685 (+9)

 

Americans are going to have to be careful, as 2 time World Championship Candidate, Jan Ehlvest, has recently switched federations and now represents the United States. Jan has tremendous experience playing against the top players in the world, and will be a very serious threat to qualify for the 2008 Olympiad.

7. Alexander Shabalov 2671(+5)

 

Always a fan favorite due to his swashbuckling style, Alex continues to be one of the strongest players in the nation. Unfortunately for Alex he lost out on an Olympiad spot to Akobian, as the youth bonus points that Akobian gained propelled him into the 6th board position. With Ehlvest now joining the fray, the qualification for 2008 is going to be as competitive as ever.

8. Larry Christiansen 2663 (+16)

 

The top American born player on the list has been playing fantastic chess lately. He tied for first place in his US Championship group only to lose out on tiebreaks. Larry had been having some difficulties in the previous year, with his rating dropping under the 2600 mark. Since then he has been storming the barricades and drumming up attacks left and right. In his last three tournaments he has gained almost 50 rating points, and is close to achieving his highest rating ever, despite being older than the other members of the top 10. This is his highest rating in 5 years.

9. Yuri Shulman 2660 (+37)

 

Yuri has burst into the elite of the US Chess Scene like wildfire. He took the USA by storm with his impressive display in the US Championship, emerging from his group to face #2 Alex Onischuk for the title. With his youthful exuberance and fighting spirit, Yuri is a solid contender to compete for a 2008 Olympiad spot.

10. Alexander Ivanov 2660 (+22)

 

Alex has been quite active lately, gaining a few points here and there, yet never having any incredible result. Ivanov must be happy as he has his highest rating in four years (2663 in Feb 02).

Rounding out the list:

11. Alex Stripunsky- 2659(+12)

 

12. Boris Gulko -2659 (-25)

13. Igor Novikov- 2650 (+7)

14. Varuzhan Akobian -2649 (-13)

15. Ben Finegold- 2648 (-5)

There are an interesting group of players fighting to get into the top ten. Gulko has been perched there for a long time, but has been slowly dropping. This, combined with his relative inactivity, may make it difficult for him to reclaim his place amongst the American elite.

Stripunsky continues his solid ways after last years 2nd place US Championship finish. It remains to be seen whether he can crack the top 10 and fight for an Olympiad birth. He has shown himself to be a consistant player, but can he rack up enough wins against top flight competition to smell the magical 2700 plateau? Note that both Gulko and Stripunsky were just a single point away from the top 10 and are just 12 points away from being ranked #7.

Akobian is the wildcard of the bunch. Varuzhan qualified for the Olympiad based on a new system that rewards youth. He was an integral part of the team, worked hard to help the players to prepare, and came through bigtime in a final round win, to secure the bronze medal for the United States Squad. At just 22 years of age, the best has yet to come from Varuzhan.

Novikov was on the 2004 Olympiad team but has been unable to keep his rating around the 2670-2680 level that's required to qualify. Ben Finegold clocks in as the 2nd highest rated American born player and the only IM on the list.


Top American Women:


1. Anna Zatonskih - 2499

Anna clocks in at an unaesthetic 2499. She has never been above 2500 USCF, so she will be working hard to gain that one extra point. Anna is clearly deserved of the number one spot in the nation, as she put forth an impressive display to win the 2006 US Championship. Anna stumbled a bit while playing first board for the US Womens Olympiad team, although she held her ground enough to give them a 4th place finish

2. Irina Krush - 2449 (0)

It was an unpleasant start to 2006 for Irina, as she was unable to compete in the US Championship, as the World Women's Championship was held at the same time! Irina was the star of the Womens team in the Olympiad, as she scored an impressive +5 with a performance rating of 2512.

3. Rusudan Goletiani- 2412 (+21)

The 2005 US Womens Champion, Goletiani has been consistently working her way up the charts, and put forth another solid performance in this years US Championship by winning her group and eventually falling to Zatonskih in the Championship match. Rusa also had a solid Olympiad performance, with a +5 score and a 2440 FIDE performance rating.

4. Camilla Baginskaite - 2342 (+11)

Right now there a reasonable sized gap between the 3rd+4th ranked woman in the country. Camilla is not as active as the women ranked above her, however she does have some serious bite, as #3 ranked Hikaru Nakamura found out in the 3rd round of the US Championship. Camille took down the defending US Champion in impressive style, while gaining a busload of rating points in the process.

5. Tatev Abrahamyan -2297 (+4)

Tatev is one of the USA's most promising young female players, and hopes to qualify for future Olympiad teams. At just 18 years of age, one would expect this to be the case.

Others to Watch:

Batchimeg Tuvshintugs -2268 (-1)
Laura Ross - 2252 (+5)

These two young stars are the biggest threat to leap into the US Women's elite. Chimi, as Batchimeg is often called, shocked the world as she knocked off THREE grandmasters at the start of the US Championship. She's only 19 and rapidly improving.

Laura has been one of the brightest young female stars for quite a while. She is just 17 and already rated 2250. Laura has been around the 2200 mark for quite a while now, and it remains to be seen whether she can make that leap into the 2300-2400 range.

Of course one always has to remember to include Susan Polgar in this list. When she's active she's far and away the best female player in the nation, however she hasn't played much since the 2004 Olympiad and thus she was not eligible to be rated on this supplement. This may change with her participation (and impressive 2nd place finish) in the 2006 Mayors Cup.
 
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