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Hikaru Tops April Rating List Print E-mail
By Greg Shahade   
April 14, 2007
Photo Jennifer Shahade

by Greg Shahade

This rating update focuses on the official April rating top 100 overall and women lists. There were so many interesting dips and climbs at the recently concluded Foxwoods Open, so I chose to discuss that in this article. Foxwoods post tournament ratings have already been calculated, but they won't be published officially until the June list. By that time, I will most likely be focusing on the results of the Frank Berry U.S. Championship.

1.Hikaru Nakamura – 2755 (Last Ranking: 2nd, Gained 7 points) pictured above

After a series of fantastic events, Hikaru has finally displaced Gata Kamsky as the number 1 ranked player in the nation. Unfortunately for Hikaru it doesn't seem like it'll be a long stay at number 1. He just had a poor showing at Foxwoods,losing to both GM Shabalov and IM Kraai and drawing the young IM Robert Hess. Hikaru's game against Kraaiwas especially troubling, as he got technically smashed by someone rated 200 points lower than him. This is the kind of game you would never see from Kamsky, however on the flip side you won't often see Kamsky bulldozer 3 consecutive tournaments, while barely yielding a draw.

Expect him to lose quite a few rating points from this event and drop down to #2 on the next list.

2. Gata Kamsky – 2752 (Last Ranking: 1st, No rating change)

As much as it seemed that Kamsky could just sit around and sit atop the list, it wasn't to be, as Hikaru staged a furious rally to overtake him. The good news for Kamsky is that he tied for first place in Foxwoods, winning the tiebreak, while Hikaru had a subpar result, which should be enough to propel him back to first place on the next rating list.

3. Alex Onischuk – 2712 (Last Ranking: 3rd, No Rating Change)

Alex hasn't played in the USA since June 2006, although has played in a few foreign events. He does plan to defend his US Championship title in May, so stay tuned for his return.

4. Gregory Kaidanov –2686 (Last Ranking: 4th, No Rating Change)

Gregory also hasn't played in the USA since August (but did play some foreign events), but is also expected to compete in the US Championship in May.

5. Ildar Ibragimov –2675 (Last Ranking: 5th, Lost 1 point)

I'm really confused about these phantom points, but somehow Ibragimov lost one point without playing during this rating supplement. Meanwhile if you look in the Member Services area there is no tournament in which he finishes with a rating of 2675. So I'm not really sure how this rating was calculated.

In any case expect some small gains from Ildar on the next rating list, as he tied for first in Foxwoods with 7/9. He will lose a few points for his draw to Richard Shtivelband (2258) in Round 1, but will gain a ton back from his wins over GM Perelshteyn and GM Ehlvest. The only reason he isn't due to make a large gain is because he lost 10 points at the Eastern Class Championships after drawing 2 2300 players and withdrawing.

6. Jaan Ehlvest – 2675 (Last Ranking: 6th, Gained 1 point)

Ehlvest and Ibragimov are neck and neck on the rating lists, although it couldn't have helped Jan's cause that Ibragimov defeated him in Foxwoods. Ehlvest still had a chance to tie for first place, but was unable to defeat Ivanov in the final round.

7. Larry Christiansen –2670 (Last Ranking: 7th, Gained 7 points)

He's back! Larry was in action again at the US Amateur Team East. He used the time tested strategy of beating everyone who was lower rated than him and drawing the one player in the tournament who was higher rated (Izoria - 2726). Let's see if Larry continues to play in an event here or there. He skipped Foxwoods and isn't yet qualified for the US Championship, so it's possible we will have to wait for a while to see him play again.

8. Yury Shulman – 2662 (Last Ranking: 8th, No rating change)

Yury hadn't played since December 2006, until he played this month in Foxwoods. That wasn't calculated in this rating list but I'd expect very little change based on his result there. He defeated a few 2450 players, while losing to Kamsky and drawing Izoria (2722), Ibragimov (2675) and IM William Paschall (2374).

9.Boris Gulko – 2661 (Last Ranking: 9th, No rating change)

Boris Gulko hasn't played since June 2006.

10. GM Alexander Shabalov - 2656 (Last Ranking: 10th, No rating change)

Shabalov lost 2 rating points at the FIDE Winter Open in Oklahoma, despite finishing in 2nd place with 5.5/7. Life is tough as a 2600+. In recent news, Shabalov started off in Foxwoods with a bang, scoring 5.5/6 to start the event. Unfortunately his star faded with a disappointing 0.5/3 finish.

Others to Watch:
Varuzhan Akobian - 2652 (Gained 2 points)
Joel Benjamin - 2650 (No rating change)
GM Alexander Ivanov- 2646 (Gained 11 points)
Alex Stripunsky - 2638 (Gained 19 points)
GM-elect Jesse Kraai-2561 (Gained 27 points)

You could have watched Akobian on MTV on the show Real Life. Now that everyone in the country knows his secret hypnotherapy tecniques, it may be difficult for him to maintain his edge over the opposition. All kidding aside, it was great to watch on TV.

Although it seems as if Ivanov has gotten his groove back, he is due to lose about 20 points from a recent tournament in Rochester, in which he lost to Sean Nagle (2427) and drew with Matt Parry (2231). He also lost to IM Hess and IM Sarkar in Foxwoods, despite finishing with a respectable 6.5/9. In any case Ivanov is moving further and further away from the Top 10, and will need some good results soon to get back into contention.

Stripunsky is finally righting the ship, as he has gained 19 points this list, has also gained more points unofficially and tied for first place in Foxwoods. This string of fine results puts him in very good shape to catapult back into the Top 10 in June. Congrats to Alex for turning things around after a serious slump. These things happen though when you are active as Alex is, as he played 4 tournaments in March.

Finally we get to Kraai, who has earned his final GM norm at the Foxwoods Open, with impressive wins over GM Nakamura and GM Shabalov. He had a chance to win clear first place if he could beat GM Izoria in the final round, but he seemed deflated after such an emotional acheivement and he lost without a fight.

One has to really admire Kraai, whom has fought so hard for the past few years to earn the GM title. He has clearly improved his game a tremendous deal in the last 5 years, which is extremely rare for someone who is in their 30's. Kraii has also complained that now that he has reached his goal of becoming a GM he doesn't know what to do with himself. I figured I'd help him with that. First he should probably take maybe a one month break to celebrate his GM title, and then let's see if he can crack the USCF top ten list! Given his steady progress I don't see why it shouldn't be possible, although it will be very difficult (probably about 70-80 points are needed). Once he does that I'll come up with another quest for him.

Top 5 Women:

1. Susan Polgar –2597 (Last month: 1st, No rating change)

Susan hasn't played since June 2006, but remains atop the list. If she doesn't play shortly, she will drop off due to inactivity, opening the door for Zatonskih or Krush to become #1.

2.Anna Zatonskih – 2491 (Last Ranking: 2nd, No change)

Anna hasn't played in the USA since December 2006. She recently had a child with GM Daniel Fridman, which will slow her chess activity for a few more months. Anna has a deep passion for the game though, so I'm sure fans will not have to wait too long for her to play again.

3.Irina Krush –2480 (Gained 10 points)

Irina keeps pressing and pressing to leapfrog Anna for that #2 spot (and perhaps #1 if Susan goes inactive). She is only 11 points away and had a pretty solid Foxwoods, scoring 6.5/9 while defeating quite a few 2300-2400 players. She gained eight points. At this rate, I predict she surpasses Zatonskih before the end of the year.

4.Rusudan Goletiani –2392 (Lost 4 points)

Rusa lost 4 points at the US Amatuer Team East while scoring an undefeated 5/6. She drew a 2240 and a 2050, while beating 4 much lower rated opponents.

5. Camilla Baginskaite -: 2361 (Gained 12 points)

Camilla clearly didn't enjoy seeing Katerina Rohonyan only 3 points behind her on the February list. So to maintain her spot she flew to Oklahoma to play in the Winter FIDE Open, and I'm sure this had nothing to do with the relatively large Women's prizes and the conditions that were offered to women. She had a very solid result, scoring 5.5/7 including a win over Marko Zivanic (2537). Her sole loss was to #3 ranked, Irina Krush.

Others to Watch:

WGM Katerina Rohonyan -
2346 (No rating change)

Katerina was so close to Camilla, but despite seeing no official rating change, her rating is actually going through the floor, with unofficial losses of over 40 points. Camilla can breathe easily again for the time being.

Irina Zenyuk - 2199 (Gained 26 points)

I'm sure Iryna appreciates that her rating on the April list is 2199 and not 2200. Actually if she was 2195 or 2192 or something like that I wouldn't have even included her in this article, but somehow the 2199 rating amuses me, especially when it's someone who has been working towards master for so long. I wonder if she will employ the strategy of finding a tournament with only 1500 players competing and attempt to beat one or two of them before withdrawing? Imagine if she played in some normal tournament and had a bad result and then didn't get back to 2200 for the rest of her life. I bet she'd wish she followed my advice?

Oops! It looks like I should have written this article faster, as Iryna just had a great result in Foxwoods, to gain enough points to push her over master! You can see one of her games in the "Foxwoods Wrap Up report."