The 2700 Club - Who's here to stay?

4/20/2004 – Vishy is up, Vlady is down. Garry is also down, but still maintained his comfortable position as #1. Leko was a big gainer, Shirov a big loser. What about newcomers? And who will be the first new player in almost a decade to crack the top three? We take a look at the KAK and the 16 players in the 2700 Club.

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The 2700 Club

#
Name
April 04
+/-
1 Kasparov, G
2817
-14
2 Anand, V
2774
+12
3 Kramnik, V
2764
-13
4 Leko, Peter
2741
+19
5 Topalov, V
2737
+2
6 Svidler, P
2733
-14
7 Morozevich, A
2732
=
8 Adams, M
2731
+11
9 Polgar, J
2728
=
10 Ponomariov, R
2722
=
11 Grischuk, A
2719
=
12 Ivanchuk, V
2716
=
13 Gelfand, B
2714
+5
14 Shirov, A
2713
-23
15 Short, N
2712
+10
16 Bareev, E
2711
-3

It's been a long time since the top three players in the world included any names other than Kasparov, Kramnik, and Anand. (Believe the last member of this exclusive group was none other than 12th world champion Anatoly Karpov!) The KKA Triangle has proven impervious to newcomers.

Meanwhile, the #4 slot has seen many names come and go. Morozevich, Leko, Svidler, Topalov, Shirov, all have come and gone. Adams was just three points away from Anand on the July 2002 list. The current 23-point gap between #3 Kramnik and #4 Leko is the second-largest gap in the rating list after the 43-point chasm between #1 Kasparov and #2 Anand.

Yes, we said #2 Anand and #3 Kramnik. For the first time in over three years the KKA has again become the KAK. That January 2001 list was better times for both the Russian and the Indian. Anand weighed in with 2790 and Kramnik was at 2772 and about to begin his climb to 2800.

Kramnik has now lost points in every period in which he has played rated games in the past two years, a trend that continued in the first quarter of 2004 despite his win in Linares. Anand's current 2774 is the same rating he had in July last year, but Kramnik's 2764 is down 19 points in the same period.


A league of their own. The KKA since 2000.

Kasparov continues to hover far above the fray despite losing 14 points. His 2817 is the lowest he has had since January 1999. Apart from a one-list tie with Kramnik in January 1996 at 2775, Kasparov has held the #1 spot alone since 1986, a streak without parallel in the world of professional sports. (Checkers legend Marion Tinsley deserves mention, although there were Laskerian periods of inactivity in his career.)

So who will be the first player since Karpov to sneak into the top three in the world? Adams came close, as we mentioned above. Leko is taking his second turn as #4, perhaps his classical world championship match this autumn against Kramnik will allow him to swap places him?

Peter Svidler was Kasparov's recent pick after a stunning string of performances in 2003. But Corus was a cold shower for the hot Russian and he shed 14 points. And we must point out that Kasparov's track record in predicting these things is less than perfect. After Ruslan Ponomariov finished in clear second behind him in Linares 2002 Kasparov was quick to start talking about a "big four" that included the Ukrainian FIDE champ. Ponomariov is still quite young, but after all the trouble they had last year it's hard to imagine Kasparov having anything good to say about Pono, and the rating list has also been unkind.


The current 2700+ players, 16 of them to be exact.

Who will it be? Judit Polgar is at her highest rating ever but will be taking time off for a toddler soon enough. Grischuk is about the same age as Ponomariov, 21. With so many years of improvement ahead of him he's as good a pick as any. Senior citizen Nigel Short (almost as old as Kasparov) is far from his former #3 position but actually has the highest rating of his career. That goes far to illustrate both rating inflation and the powerful generation of players that arose in the mid-1990's.

As for outsiders we are all waiting for the inevitable appearance of Teimour Radjabov in the top 10. Would anyone bet against seeing him there next year at the still-tender age of 18? Also keep an eye on Vladimir Malakhov who has been working with Kramnik and hovering around the top 10 for the past year.


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