The latest FIDE rating list appeared earlier this month. The big news was at the top where World Champion Vladimir Kramnik's rating dropped a few points to 2754 from his title defense. This dropped Kramnik into 4th place on the list behind Garry Kasparov(2804), Vishy Anand(2786), and Veselin Topalov(2757). This is the first time in many years that someone has cracked the Kasparov, Anand, Kramnik triumvirate at the top. To put an exclamation point on this feat, Topalov crushed Kramnik with the Black pieces in a mere 20 moves in round 2 of the Wijk aan Zee supertournament this past weekend.
Not all of the usual suspects appeared in Club 2700 this time around. Notably absent was Judit Polgar(2728), who didn't appear on the list since she hadn't played in the past year, taking time off to have a baby. Judit is back in action at Wijk aan Zee, so she and Gata Kamsky should put the number of players over 2700 at 17 when they both return to the active list. The minimum rating to crack the top 100 continues to creep up, now at 2613.
Even without Kamsky, the US still has 5 players in the top 100: #47 Onischuk, #69 Seirawan, #71 Kaidanov, #73 Goldin, and #99 US Champion Nakamura, who should continue to rise when the US Championship gets rated. Just outside the top 100 are 2600's Shabalov(2607) and Ibragimov(2603).
I didn't have any FIDE rated games this period, so my rating stayed the same at 2322. That dropped me 4 spots on the US list to #147. I stayed in the World Top 5000 at #4784.
I played in the annual North Tennessee Winter Open last weekend in Clarksville. I wasn't concentrating very well and played some very poor chess. Fortunately, I had a lot of luck on my side and was able to compete for a prize, eventually ending up tied for third place.
In the first round I had White against Matan Prilleltensky. It was a fairly dull game until he decided to give me a pawn in an even ending. I was well on my way to victory in the time scramble, when in the following position
I played the rather ridiculous Ka7? which traps my king in front of my pawn. If there is a win now it will be very difficult, but he was extremely short of time and ended up letting my king out of the box.
The next round I had Black against Joshua Suich and had a bad hallucination after 24. Nb4
I sacrificed the exchange with 24...Rd8?? completely overlooking that on 24... Be6 25. Ncxd5?? Rxc1 26. Nxe7+ Qxe7 White doesn't have time to recapture on c1 because his queen is attacked. My slight initiative of the kingside was not enough compensation after 25. Nc6, but it proved enough to get him in some time pressure where he made some mistakes and eventually lost on time in a drawn position.
My bad play finally caught up with me in Round 3 with White against Tony Cao. In another dull game, things were about equal after 27...Ne5
I wanted to play a move like 28. Nd2, but was annoyed by the possibility of 28...Ng4 forcing 29. g3. So I played the prophylactic 28. h3?? which loses either h3 or b5 after the simple 28... Nxf3+ I did manage to get to a materially equal knight ending after 29. gxf3 Bxh3 30. Bf5 Bxf5 31. Nxf5 f6 better is 31... Ne6 32. Qd4 Qd7 33. Qxd5+ Qxd5 34. Ne7+ Kf7 35. Nxd5 but this was clearly better for Black with his more active king and passed h-pawn and he converted the point without much problem.
The next morning I had White against Benjamin Francis and finally managed to produce a nice game. 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c6 4. e4 dxe4 5. Nxe4 Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Qxd4 7. Bxb4 Qxe4+ 8. Be2 Na6 9. Bf8!? A visually striking move, but the normal 9. Bc3 is probably a tad better. 9... Ne7 10. Bxg7 Rg8 11. Bc3 I had analyzed the coming sacrifice after my game with Dimitry Schneider in the 2002 US Masters. In that game I played 11. Bf6 Rg6 and now 12. Bc3 would be similar to the present game. At the board I decided not to provoke Rg6, although this decision has pros and cons. 11... Qxg2 12. Qd2 12. Bf3? Qxg1+ (or 12...Qxh1) is a disaster for White. After the game we were talking in the hall and my opponent proposed 12. Qd6 Nf5 13. Qd2 with the idea that Nd5 would no longer be available for the defense, but 13...Qxh1 14. O-O-O Ke7 seems sufficient. This idea might have merit with the rook on g6, but in that case, Qd6 is well met by e5 taking advantage of the rook's positioning 12... Qxh1 13. O-O-O Nd5 14. Nf3 Qxd1+ After this Black has a nominal material advantage, but his pieces are ill-coordinated, so perhaps 14... Qg2 deserves closer inspection, although White still maintains a serious initiative. 15. Bxd1 Nxc3 16. Qxc3 Ke7 preventing the disruptive Qf6.
17. Qe5 My idea was to bring the knight into play with Nd4(h4)-f5, but stronger seems to be 17. Ne5 as played by Bronstein against Kotov in the 1950 Candidates tournament. The idea is to target f7 and to immediately allow the queen to swing to the h-file. That game continued 17... Bd7 (17... f6 18. Qh3 fxe5 19. Qxh7+ Kf8 20. Bh5) 18. Qa3+ c5 19. Qf3 with a large advantage to White, who went on to win. 17... f6 18. Qh5 Rg7 19. Qh6 Kf7 I also intended to meet 19... Rf7 with 20. Nd2 with the idea of Bh5 20. Nd2 f5 20... Nc5 21. Qh5+ 21. Nf3 Nc5 21... Nc7 22. Ne5+ Kg8 23. Qd2 22. Ne5+ Kg8 23. b4 I think simpler is 23. Qh4 Bd7 (23... Nd7 24. Qd8+ Nf8 25. Bh5 b6 26. Qf6) 24. Qd4 b6 25. b4 23... Ne4 24. Bh5 a5 25. f3 Rg1+ During the game I calculated the long variation 25... axb4 26. fxe4 Rxa2 27. Bf7+ Rxf7 (27... Kf8 28. exf5 since Rg7 is pinnned) 28. Nxf7 Kxf7 29. Qxh7+ Ke8 30. Qg8+ Kd7 31. exf5 exf5 32. c5 which should win for White, but simpler is 28. Qg5+ Kf8 29. Qd8+ Kg7 30. Nxf7 26. Kc2 Rg2+ 27. Kd3 Nd6 28. c5 axb4 29. cxd6 Ra3+ 30. Kd4 c5+ 31. Kc4 b5+ 32. Kxb5 Rg7 33. d7 Bxd7+ 34. Nxd7 Rxa2 35. Qxe6+ Kh8 36. Qxa2 [1:0]
This left me with a chance to tie for first if I could beat Bradley Denton with Black in the final round. The game turned out to be a fairly dull draw, but I had one chance in the endgame where I might have caused him some problems after 28. a4
Now, 28...Rc8 29. Bd4 bxa4 might prove a little irritating to White especially given the time situation which was something like 10 minutes for White vs. 40 minute for Black. Instead after 28...f5 the game eventually ended in a draw.