US has more top grandmasters than Russia

by ChessBase
7/5/2022 – Actually more players in the top 100: 13 US grandmasters vs 12 from Russia, down from 22 five years ago. But even the total is closing: In total Russia still has 246 grandmasters, compared to 101 from the US. Many Russian GMs from the older generation, like Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik, have dropped out of the rating list, but the main reason for the decline is the reaction of players to Russia's war invasion of Ukraine. | Newsweek photo Getty

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U.S. Has More Chess Grandmasters Than Russia for First Time Ever

In its 7/4/22 report by Newsweek writes: 

"The U.S. has more chess grandmasters than Russia for the first time, as a growing number of top Russian players are opting against representing their country following Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine.

The International Chess Federation (FIDE), the governing body of chess, released its July rankings for the world's top 100 players. It includes 13 U.S. grandmasters, and 12 from Russia, placing the United States on top for the first time.

U.S. grandmasters Fabiano Caruana, 29, Levon Aronian, 39, and Wesley So, 28, are all in FIDE's top 10 players in the world this month, coming fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, while 31-year-old Ian Nepomniachtchi is the only Russian grandmaster in the body's global top 10 ranking, placing seventh."

Newsweek reported that leading Russian chess players have switched to compete under the flag of FIDE. They include:

Nr. Player Age Elo
1 Dmitry Andreikin 32 2729
2 Nikita Vitiugov 35 2722
3 Kirill Alekseenko 25 2708
4 Alexandr Predke 28 2688
5 Vladimir Fedoseev 27 2686
6 Andrey Esipenko 20 2682
7 Alexey Sarana 22 2668
8 Anton Demchenko 34 2653
9 Vladimir Malakhov 41 2651

In total, Russia still has the most grandmasters—246, compared to 101 from the US. FIDE director general Emil Sutovsky said that the anger over Putin's war against Ukraine has prompted many top Russian players to leave the Russian Chess Federation and make the switch to FIDE's flag.

"Russia had 22 grandmasters in the top 100 five years ago," Sutovsky said. "It's only 12 today. This is not because the older generation led by Kramnik has dropped out of the list, it's because after the war began, many leading Russian chess players considered it right to switch to play under the neutral flag of FIDE.

Newsweek reports that Ian Nepomniachtchi, 2766, is still playing under the Russian Chess Federation. But in April Ian penned an open letter, signed by 44 top Russian chess players, to the Russian president Putin, criticizing the war. The letter said:

"We are against any military action on the territory of Ukraine and call for an immediate ceasefire and a peaceful decision to the conflict through the path of dialogue and diplomatic negotiations. For us, it is unbearably painful to see the catastrophe that is happening these days with our people," the letter read.

During these tragic days we are thinking of all the people caught in the midst of this frightful conflict. We share the pain of our Ukrainian colleagues and call for peace."

It was signed by Ian Nepomniachtchi, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Daniil Dubov, Pyotr Svidler, Andrey Esipenko, Maxim Matlakov, Kirill Alekseenko, Alexander Motylev, Mikhail Kobalia, Evgeny Naer, Pavel Tregubov, Alexander Khalifman, Polina Shuvalova, Igor Lysyi, Dmitry Kryakvin, Vladimir Barsky, Mark Glukhovsky , Maxim Notkin, Maxim Chigaev, Anastasia Chigaeva, Olga Badelko, Pavel Ponkratov, Alexander Shimanov, Daniil Yuffa, Konstantin Mesropov, Svetlana Ershova, Evgeny Egorov, Anna Volkova, Eteri Kublashvili, Yana Sidorchuk, Anna Burtasova, Denis Grigoriev, Ilya Gorodetsky, Oleg Pervakov.

Here's the full Newsweek story

Editorial note:

Regardless of the technical nitpicking on who is playing under the Russian flag or just outside of it, since playing under the FIDE flag does not mean they are representing another country, a few things do bear commenting.

If you disregard the flag, then there are still 20 Russian grandmasters in the Top 100 list, to the US's 13, but it is much less lopsided if you look ahead to the newer generation of players. Russia has eight players under 30 in the Top 100, of whom four are 25 or younger. The US has exactly the same number in both these categories. Sure, one of them is a recent 'import' from Russia: Grigoriy Oparin, now playing in St Louis while he pursues his university studies, but he is now playing under the American flag. The other three players under 25 are completely 'homegrown' in the US: Samuel Sevian, Jeffery Xiong, and the new rocket on the rise, Hans Moke Niemann, whom GM Yermolinsky described as 'the most determined player since Bobby Fischer'.

No nation has a lock on chess talent, but there is no question that the development of these players is thanks to the patronage of billionaire Rex Sinquefield. Some readers will point out that he had a direct hand in bringing together the current US Team lineup, with the likes of Wesley So, Dominguez Perez, and recently Levon Aronian. A perfectly valid point, but his patronage, as we all know, has gone far deeper than that.

For decades, US players who developed in the United States, regardless of their talent, were known to have a certain weakness overall in strong round robin events due to the American chess landscape, which was completely centered around weekend opens. This affected not only their openings, but their style and approach to the game.

Now the newer generation of players, both female and male, can look at a never-ending series of master and grandmaster tournaments held in the St. Louis berth, allowing them to develop on a more equal footing with their European and Russian peers. It was hardly an overnight transformation, but the results are now bearing fruit, and the parity of the number of young players in the Top 100 reflects this.


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