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February Rating Recap Print E-mail
By Greg Shahade   
February 13, 2007
Photo IM Irina Krush

by IM Greg Shahade

Welcome to my bi-monthly rating recap. From now on I will cover the top junior players in even numbered months and the top overall players in odd numbered months. This means that for both March and April I will focus on the top juniors, while coming back to the overall rankings in May.You can access the complete top 100 February lists here.

Top 10 Overall:

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

Our nation's #1 has remained inactive since the 2006 World Open in July. Suddenly his first place ranking isn't so secure, as a young buzzsaw is ripping apart the competition....

2.Hikaru Nakamura – 2748 (Last Ranking: 3rd, Gained 41 points) pictured above

Hikaru has won three tournaments in convincing fashion to gain a whopping 41 points. It's EXTREMELY difficult to gain this many points once you are over 2700.

First Hikaru dominated the National Chess Congresswith 5.5/6, including wins over GM's Alexander Ivanov and Leonid Yudasin (Yudasin is strangely missing from any rating list this supplement, an error which needs correcting.)

Hikaru then strolled down to the Marshall Chess Club to compete in the monthly St. Johns Masters. Hikaru again dominated by defeating GM's Joel Benjamin and Alexander Stripunsky en route to a 4/4 result.

Hikaru topped it all off with a devastating victory at the North American Open. He scored 6/7 for clear first place, including wins over GMs Vadim Milov and Melikset Khachiyan.

The only hurdle along the way came in a non-USCF event, when Hikaru faced off against Super GM Boris Gelfand in a two-game match, and although he went down fighting, Hikaru did lose 0-2.

If Hikaru can keep up his blistering pace, we may have a new #1 player very soon.

3. Alex Onischuk – 2712 (Last Ranking: 2nd, No Rating Change)

Our current US Champion hasn't played in the United States since the NYC Mayor's Cup in June. Alex expressed displeasure with the playing conditions at US Open tournaments, mainly with the lack of sets provided to the top players, and this may be one reason why he hasn't been playing lately, as it was the specific reason he gave for boycotting the World Open. When one compares these tournaments with their European counterparts you could say that Alex has a valid point.

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

Gregory hasn't played in this country since the US Open in August, however he did just compete in the Gibraltar Open. Kaidanov was IM Irina Krush's spoiler, defeating her in an event where her performance was quite close to a GM norm. Overall Kaidanov had a rather lackluster result, finishing with 5.5/9.

5. Ildar Ibragimov –2676 (Last Ranking: 5th, Lost 8 points)

Ildar had two tournaments ranked for this supplement, the National Chess Congress and the North American Open. Ildar managed to gain two rating points at the Congress, despite scoring only 4/6. This was due mainly to his win over GM Alex Stripunsky, which helped to soften the blow when he lost to GM Alex Shabalov in the final round.

The North American Open was less successful for Ildar, as he withdrew from the event after starting 2/4, with losses to GM Vadim Milov and the Czech GM Pavel Blatny.

6. Jaan Ehlvest – 2674 (Last Ranking: 7th, Gained 6 points)

Jan has been very active in the past few months, playing in about a dozen tournaments. He was all the way up to 2684 after winning the Marshall Chess Club Championship, however he lost ten points in the Eastern Open, which he ironically tied for first in. The main culprit was his shocking first round loss to expert Kayin Barclay. I suspect USCF website readers would love to see that game.

Ehlvest is a tremendously strong player whose rating will likely fluctuate quite a bit, as he is one of the most active American GM's. Don't be surprised to see him jump above the 2700 mark, as were it not for that one fateful loss, he would likely be around 2690 right now.

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

Larry hasn't played since the 2006 US Championship in March. He is in danger of being knocked off the Top ten list due to inactivity, as you must have played a rated game in the last 12 months to be listed.

Yury Shulman – 2662 (Last Ranking: 6th, Lost 6 points)

Yury played in one event in the last few months, the UTD GM Invitational. In this 12 player round robin, Yuri tied for first place with 7.5/11 yet still lost six rating points. These are the hazards of being one of the top ten players in the nation.

9.Boris Gulko – 2661 (Last Ranking: 9th, Gained 1 point)

Boris hasn't played since the Mayor's Cup in June, yet somehow retroactively gained a rating point. I was hoping that phenomena had passed after the last supplement, but it seems it's still happening. I'm having a really difficult time figuring out where the point came from, since the only foreign event he had rated was one where he lost one point!

10. GM Alexander Shabalov - 2659 (Last Ranking: N/A, Gained 16 points)

Alex has had an active and successful winter season, gaining 16 points and knocking USCF Online author Joel Benjamin out of the top ten list. Alex's biggest gain was at the National Chess Congress, as he tied for 2nd place with 5/6, defeating GM Ildar Ibragimov in the process while drawing with GM's Zviad Izoria and Sergey Kudrin. This solid result gained him 12 rating points and has placed him back in the top 10 after a six month absence.

Players to Watch:

Joel Benjamin -
2650 (Last Ranking: 10th, Lost 2 points)
Varuzhan Akobian - 2650 (Gained 2 points)
Igor Novikov - 2632 (Lost 15 points)
Alex Stripunsky - 2619 (Lost 25 points)
The top two on the list are the ones who are closest to inching their way back into the top ten. Joel has been playing quite well lately and is also part of the New Jersey expansion team in the US Chess League.

The other two on the list are in the midst of major slumps, losing a lot of points and moving further away from the top ten list. Novikov is relatively inactive these days so it may be difficult for him to recoup his losses from the UTD Invitational.

Stripunsky has been much more active and so it wouldn't be surprising to see him gain a bunch of these points back shortly (In fact he is already back up to 2628 after a few solid results). Stripunsky is also the founder of the second new USCL expansion team, the Queens Pioneers. Stripunsky will be playing alongside #5 rated GM Ildar Ibragimov, and thus they should be an exciting team in the 2007 season.

The bulk of Stripunsky's points were lost at the National Chess Congress, where he lost to GM Ibragimov and also to the young 2400 rated New Jersey player, Tom Bartell. He was also hurt by his first round draw to Long Island based master Tim Mirable.

Top 5 Women:

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

She hasn't played in the USA since the Mayor's Cup but is still in first place by over 100 points.

2.Anna Zatonskih – 2491 (Last Ranking: 2nd, Lost 1 point)

Anna played in two tournaments since the last rating list and lost one point. As is often the case when someone's rating changes so little, her results were boring. She pretty much beat the players she was supposed to beat while losing to the stronger opponents such as Ildar Ibragimov at the National Chess Congress.

3.Irina Krush –2470 (Last Ranking: 3rd, Gained 21 points)

Watch out Anna, as Irina seems to be playing some of the best chess of her life and is poised to wrestle away the number two spot. She gained 21 points at the Marshall Chess Club Championship, defeating GM Leonid Yudasin while also drawing GM Alex Ivanov and Alex Stripunsky.

The real shocker came in a non-USCF event, as Irina played in the Gibraltar Openand knocked off both GM Vladimir Akopian and the legendary Viktor Korchnoi. With so many wins against incredibly strong competition, Irina is probably as confident as she has ever been about her chess, and seems poised to surpass the 2500 mark for the first time ever.

4.Rusudan Goletiani –2411 (Last month: 4th,Lost 15 points)

Goletiani lost her points at the National Chess Congress, at which she had a mediocre performance. She started off the event losing to the dangerous 2200 rated player, FM Sunil Weeramantry, and simply couldn't recoup her losses in the remaining games, scoring 3.5/6 without being paired up once.

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

Camilla hasn't played since the Governer's Cup in October.

Others to Watch:

WGM Katerina Rohonyan -
2346 (Gained 18 points)

Katerina Rohonyan has just switched federations from Ukraine to the United States, and so we have another strong female player who is capable of competing for a spot on the Olympic Team. She has competed in the USCL for the Baltimore Kingfishers the past two seasons, even finishing on the 2nd All Star Team in 2005, while helping Baltimore to win the league title.

Katerina has been playing inspired chess lately, most recently scoring an impressive 5/6 in the Pan American Intercollegiate Championship, while defeating all of her lower rated opponents and allowing draws only to two 2500+ players, IM Dmitry Schneider and IM Drasko Boskovic. The American Women's Chess scene has to be happy to have such a strong and active player whom is suddenly eligible to play for our country.