10 Jun

In The Club

Arpad Emrick Elo (1903-92), professor of physics at Marquette University in Milwaukee, got inducted into the World Chess Hall of Fame not for his silky playing skills but rather for his prowess with a calculator. In 1960, his Elo system replaced the Harkness rating system in the USA - and in the past 50 years or so, the term ‘Elo’ has become synonymous with millions of players around the world with chess ratings. 


And up to 1971, when the first Elo international rating list came out, the best player in the world was first among equals. For the next decades, three players in turn took dominance: Bobby Fischer, then Anatoly Karpov, and finally Garry Kasparov. After Kasparov's retirement in 2005, and a period of parity returned to the top with no real dominant force - but then came the rise of World champion Magnus Carlsen, and he's now the dominant force in chess.

But regardless of who dominates, the release of the Fide monthly rating list is always a point of interest, as it shows a snapshot of just who is up and who is down in the world’s top 10. Carlsen tops the June rating list on 2876, almost in a league of his own, and back to within striking distance of his all-time high of 2889, a record rating he set in April 2014. The only question remains as to whether Carlsen can become the first player in the world to apply for inaugural membership to a new club, namely the ‘2900 club’

It used to be that the ’2800 club’ had a very limited membership, but with rating inflation nowadays, that’s not not the case anymore. In the latest Fide list, America’s Hikaru Nakamura now becomes the tenth player - alongside (respectively) Kasparov, Kramnik, Anand, Topalov, Carlsen, Aronian, Caruana and Grischuk - in history to breach the 2800 rating barrier.

World Top 10: 1. Magnus Carlsen 2876 (=); 2. Fabiano Caruana 2805 (+2); 3. Viswanathan Anand 2804 (=); 4. Hikaru Nakamura 2802 (+3); 5. Veselin Topalov 2798 (=); 6. Vladimir Kramnik 2783 (-6); 7. Alexander Grischuk 2781 (+1); 8. Levon Aronian 2780 (+4); 9. Wesley So 2778 (+2); 10. Anish Giri 2773 (-3).

This month, the top 10 player on the rise is Anish Giri of The Netherlands, who had a much-welcomed back-to-form score to take the top board prize at the recent French Team Top-12 Championship in Montpellier. Inspired by Giri’s score of 8/10, his team, Bischwiller, clinched the French team title ahead of Clichy, the three-time defending champions.

Anish Giri - Laurent Fressinet
French Team Top-12 Championship, (6)
Queen’s Gambit Declined, Exchange variation
1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 Nf6 4.cxd5 exd5 5.Bg5 Be7 6.e3 c6 7.Bd3 Nbd7 8.Nge2 h6 9.Bh4 Nh5 10.Bxe7 Qxe7 11.0-0 0-0 12.Qd2 In the Exchange variation, normally when Nf3 is played, White will follow up with Qc2, a3 and Rab1 to get a 'minority attack' with b4 to play for an ending. However, when we see Nge2, then generally it will be followed up with Qd2, Rae1 and f3 to push for a central advance of the pawns. 12...Re8 13.Rae1 Nb6 14.Nc1 Qg5 15.f3 Bf5 16.Bxf5 Qxf5 17.e4 Nc4 18.Qe2 Qg5 19.Qf2 Nf4 20.Kh1 Stopping the minor annoyance of the knight fork with Nh3+. 20...Qd8 21.e5 c5 22.b3 cxd4 23.Qxd4 Qg5 24.g3 Ne6 25.Qf2 Nb6 26.f4 With all his major pieces supporting the pawn push, this can come as no surprise - and Black's rapid demise comes with it. 26...Qe7 27.f5 Ng5 28.Qd4! Stopping Black from playing d4, hitting the weak d5-pawn and also supporting his own pawns. What could be better? 28...Rac8 29.Nd3 Red8 30.Nb5! Not only hitting a7 but also looking at having a dominating outpost in the heart of the Black camp on d6. 30...Nc4 31.Nf4 All roads lead to Rome in such positions, but the quickest way was 31.bxc4 dxc4 32.Nd6 cxd3 33.h4 Nh7 34.Nxc8 Rxc8 35.Qxd3 and Black may as well resign here. 31...Na3 32.Nd6 Nc2 33.Nxc8 Qd7 34.Qd1 Rxc8 35.Qxd5 Qxf5 36.e6 fxe6 37.Rxe6! (See Diagram) This winning tactic takes advantage of a knight fork on e7 winning the c8 rook. 37...Qxd5+ 38.Nxd5 Kh7 If 38...Nxe6 39.Ne7+ would have been the clear win. Black here, though, is just playing out moves in a totally lost position to get through to the time control before resigning. 39.Re7 Nd4 40.Rc7 Rd8 41.Nf4 1-0

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