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December Rating Recap Print E-mail
By Greg Shahade   
December 14, 2006
Joel Benjamin is in the top ten for the first time in over two years.

by IM Greg Shahade
In this bi-monthly feature, I profile the recent results of the top 10 rated men and top 5 rated women in the USA. This was a mysterious rating list, as many of the top players managed to gain or lose rating points without playing. After a lot of fine sleuthing, I eventually uncovered the reason for these rating changes.

Top 10 Overall:

1. Gata Kamsky – 2752 (Last Ranking: 1st - Lost 1 point)

Gata is in first place for his fourth consecutive rating list. Wonder we he lost that single point? So did I, fortunately I figured it out by digging through MSA. Be sure to keep up with Gata's world, by reading his open letter to FIDE regarding the candidates matches.

2. Alex Onischuk – 2712 (Last Ranking: 3rd, Gained 10 points)

Alex pulled off the impressive feat of gaining 10 points without playing at all. I'm now guessing that this has something to do with the Olympiad, the FIDE World Cup and the World Team Championship, as it seems they have been retroactively rated and this has caused the mysterious change in the ratings of inactive players.

3. Hikaru Nakamura – 2707 (Last Ranking: 2nd, Lost 2 points)

It may be true that there is no official rating change for the young superstar, Hikaru Nakamura, however at the very end of this supplement Hikaru swept through the field at the National Chess Congress,scoring 5.5/6 and gaining 17 rating points in the process. (Be sure to check out Hikaru's blog from the Congress, including annotations from his win against Yudasin.)

This result will only be counted in the next rating list, thus demoting Hikaru to 3rd place. His success gives him the serious opportunity to catch up with Gata Kamsky, should he continue to perform so well. The trouble for Hikaru has often been his inconsistency versus lower rated players, and if he can successfully avoid that in the coming months, Gata may have a real serious contender to deal with.

Also it seems as if Hikaru was the victim of losing 2 points without playing, as his rating mysteriously dropped. My personal opinion is that it's simply wrong to rate a tournament that wasn't even played in the United States, 12 months after the fact. Was this really necessary and if so why weren't these events rated in a timely fashion?

4. Gregory Kaidanov –2686 (Last Ranking: 4th, Lost 6 points)

No big surprise here. Gregory hasn't played since the 2006 US Open, so he naturally lost 6 rating points

5. Ildar Ibragimov –2684 (Last Ranking: 5th, Gained 2 points)

Ildar competed in the Western States Open and had a solid result, tying for 2nd place behind GM Sergey Kudrin. The highlight of his tournament was a final round victory over the Czech Grandmaster, Ljubomir Ftacnik.

6. Yury Shulman –2668 (Last Ranking: 6th, Lost 11 points)

Yury has been climbing the lists rapidly over the past months,however he hit a major roadbump in the December list, losing 12 points at the Midwest Class Championships. Yury finished with 3/5, defeating three lower rated players yet losing to GM Jaan Ehlvest and GM Dmitry Gurevich.

7. Jaan Ehlvest – 2668 (Last Ranking: 7th, Gained 2 points)

Jaan is only 2668 on this list, but be ready for a major jump in February, as he finished 2nd place in the National Chess Congress and won the Marshall Chess Club Championship to put him at 2685, which is good for 5th place on the list. With a few more good results, Jaan has a chance to break into the top 3, which has been a rather exclusive club for the past year or so.

Jaan is actually unfortunate not to be ranked much higher on this list, as he played in the St. Johns Masters event in New York just before the deadline and lost 17 rating points after giving up three draws to much lower rated players in IM Jay Bonin, FM Ilye Figler and Irina Zenyuk, whom is rated around 2175. Jaan is ranked below Shulman because ties are broken by previous list position.

8. Larry Christiansen –2663 (Last Ranking: 8th, No Rating Change)

Larry hasn't played in a USCF event since the 2006 US Championship. His main action has been in the US Chess League , where his team, the Boston Blitz, won the Eastern Division but was eliminated by New York in the SemiFinals.
Despite not playing any rated games, Larry's rating actually stayed the same!

9.Boris Gulko – 2660 (Last Ranking: 9th, Lost 1 point)

Don't be fooled, Boris hasn't played in months. He seemingly lost one point from the World Team Championship from last October.

10. Joel Benjamin 2652 (Last Ranking: 14th, Gained 6 points)

Joel's rating keeps going up and up. When this column first ran, Joel was far from the top 10, rated at only 2605. However since then he has been on a tear, gaining 50 points and reasserting himself as one of the top players in the nation. You may not realize this, but Joel managed to get over 2700 in June of 2002.

Joel's points from this list came from his tie for first at the September St. John's NY Masters, and it looks as if he has a few more points coming for the next rating list as he won the St. John's Masters again in November.

Players to Watch:
11. Varuzhan Akobian –2648 (Last Ranking: 10th, Lost 6 points)
12.Igor Novikov – 2647 (Last Ranking: 12th, Lost 3 points)
13. Alexander Stripunsky –2644 (Last Ranking: 13th, Lost 6 points)
14.Alexander Shabalov – 2643 (Last Ranking: 11th, Lost 7 points)
15. Alexander Ivanov– 2640 (Last Ranking: 15th, No Rating Change)

We have a record of four consecutive Alex's on the rating list as number 16 is also an Alex, (Fishbein). Whereas Alex's used to dominate the top 10, we are down to just one (Onischuk).

A notable absence from this list is Leonid Yudasin, who is a citizen of Israel but resides in Brooklyn. He would be number three or four on this list, with the same exact rating as Hikaru Nakamura, 2707!

Top 5 Women:

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

Susan hasn't played in the USA since winning the Mayor's Cup. She has a history of playing very few events, but when she does play she is without question the top female player in the nation.

2.Anna Zatonskih –2492 (Last month: 2nd, Lost 5 points)

Anna played in the NY October Open and had a decent result, gaining 5 points. You may wonder why she actually lost 5 points? She was another player to lose 10 points from the Olympiad that she played in 12 months ago.

3.Irina Krush –2449 (Last month: 3rd, Gained 7 points)

Irina didn't officially play during this rating supplement, but she did recently have a fantastic result at the Marshall Chess Club Championship, gaining about 20 points. This event was too late for the December list, but in February she will be within serious striking distance of Anna Zatonskih for 2nd place on the list and perhaps will pass her depending on the next few months.

4.Rusudan Goletiani –2411 (Last month: 4th, Gained 4 points)

Rusa was another recipient of mystery points, as she gained 4 from the 2005 Olympiad. The bad news for Rusa was her subpar performance in the National Chess Congress, in which she lost 15 points. This event will be rated in the next list.

5. Camilla Baginskaite -: 2349 (Last month: 5th, Gained 7 points)

Camilla was back in action this month, competing in the Governor's Cup in South Dakota and gaining 8 points, mostly coming from a draw to GM Alexander Ivanov. In fact she would have finished in clear first ahead of three GM's if she won her last game, yet she was defeated by GM Sergey Kudrin.

Players to Watch:

6. Tatev Abrahamyan– 2303 (Last month: 6th, Gained 10 points)

Access the completeDecember 2006 Top 100 lists here, available now on the redesigned uschess.org.