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Friday, 24 Apr 2020 20:19
Ratings analytics: Top 10 in the retrospect 2001-2020 Part 1

Kaspars Migla is the creator and founder of a chess website chessratings.top. In his column, he analyzes FIDE standard rating changes, career-highs, rating distribution by country, continent, region, and other rating-related statistics. In the first part of his historical research, he looks at the Top 10 for both Open and Women  ratings over the 19-year period. 

Almost 20 years ago, on January 1, 2001, the International Chess Federation (FIDE) published the first downloadable rating list. From this moment on any person has had an opportunity to delve into deep analysis of chess ratings by sorting out and breaking down this data.

Up to 2009 rating lists were published every four months; from January 2010 to June 2012 – quarterly; from July 2012 rating lists have been updated monthly.

146 downloadable lists published so far provide a fertile ground for various types of statistical analysis. In this edition, Chessratings.top looks at chess elite – the Top 10 active players with classical time control (both open and women).

Here is the Top 10 Open January 01, 2001:

1. Garry Kasparov (RUS) 2849, Age 38
2. Viswanathan Anand (IND) 2790, Age 32
3. Vladimir Kramnik (RUS, 2772, Age 26
4. Michael Adams (ENG) 2746, Age 30
5. Alexander Morozevich (RUS) 2745, Age 24
6. Peter Leko (HUN) 2745, Age 22
7. Alexei Shirov (ESP) 2718, Age 29
8. Veselin Topalov (BUL) 2718, Age 26
9. Vassily Ivanchuk (UKR) 2717, Age 32
10. Boris Gelfand (ISR) 2712, Age 33

The average age (how old a player became in a particular year) was 29,2 years, whereas an average rating  – 2751. Only 12 players had rating 2700+ back then, i.e. the TOP 10 plus Evgeny Bareev (RUS, 2709) and Loek Van Wely (NED, 2700).

Photo: Lennart Ootes

Although active professional life in chess lasts longer compared to other sports, none of the players from this top appeared on the same list on April 1, 2020.

Top 10 Open April 1, 2020

1. Magnus Carlsen (NOR) 2863, Age 30
2. Fabiano Caruana (USA) 2835, Age 28
3. Liren Ding (CHN) 2791, Age 28
4. Ian Nepomniachtchi (RUS) 2784, Age 30
5. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA) 2778, Age 30
6. Alexander Grischuk (RUS) 2777, Age 37
7. Levon Aronian (ARM) 2773, Age 38
8. Wesley So (USA) 2770, Age 27
9. Teimour Radjabov (AZE) 2765, Age 33
10. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (AZE) 2764, Age 35
10. Anish Giri (NED) 2764, Age 26

Photo: Maria Emelianova

At present, the average rating is 2788 which is 37 points higher than 20 years ago. The percentage difference is small (only 1,3%) especially considering the inflation of ratings. Moreover, three people from the 2001 list would be in the current top with Kasparov comfortably sitting on the second position. Despite the persistent feeling of young stars breaking into the chess elite, the average age in the current top 10 is 31.1 years – almost two years higher than in 2001. Why is that? You will find out a little bit later.

Top 10 Women January 1, 2001

1. Judit Polgar (HUN) 2676, Age 25
2. Jun Xie (CHN) 2557, Age 31
3. Alisa Galliamova (RUS) 2554, Age 29
4. Chen Zhu (CHN) 2538, Age 25
5. Maia Chiburdanidze (GEO) 2525, Age 40
6. Pin Wang (CHN) 2506, Age 27
7. Yuhua Xu (CHN) 2500, Age 25
8. Nana Ioseliani (GEO) 2499, Age 39
9. Pia Cramling (SWE) 2492, Age 38
10. Kanying Qin (CHN) 2489, Age 27

Average age – 30.6 years. Average rating – 2533.

Photo: Chessvibes

We see the same picture on the women's side – no player from the Top 10 of January 2001 made her way into the current Top 10.

Top 10 Women April 1, 2020

1. Yifan Hou (CHN) 2658, Age 26
2. Humpy Koneru (IND) 2586, Age 33
3. Aleksandra Goryachkina (RUS) 2582, Age 22
4. Wenjun Ju (CHN) 2560, Age 29
5. Kateryna Lagno (RUS) 2546, Age 31
6. Mariya Muzychuk (UKR) 2544, Age 28
7. Anna Muzychuk (UKR) 2535, Age 30
8. Nana Dzagnidze (GEO) 2524, Age 33
9. Dronavalli Harika (IND) 2515, Age 29
10. Zhongyi Tan (CHN) 2510, Age 29

Average age – 29.0 years, average rating – 2556.

Photo: Frans Peeters

Comparing to the year 2001, the average rating increased by 23 points or 0.9%. Since this gain is smaller than in the open category, whole 5 players from the “old” list would have qualified for the new one.

Eight players out of the Top 10 Open of 2001 are still active. All of them with just one exception are in the current Top 100, whereas Anand and Topalov are not far away from the Top 10. On the women’s side, only two players from the Top 10 of 2001 are still active.

Here are these eight players mentioned above:

16. Viswanathan Anand (IND) 2753
19. Veselin Topalov (BUL) 2735
37. Michael Adams (ENG) 2701
58. Vassily Ivanchuk (UKR) 2678
62. Boris Gelfand (ISR) 2676
77. Peter Leko (HUN) 2663
83. Alexander Morozevich (RUS) 2659
104. Alexei Shirov (ESP) 2647

Since the oldest in this group is Boris Gelfand (born in 1968), maybe even ten years down the road all of them will be among active players. Only two World Champions Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik are missing. Kasparov played his last tournament game back in 2005, whereas Kramnik retired from professional chess at the beginning of the last year.

Photo: Niki Riga

Here are two still active players from the Top 10 Women 2001:

22. Pia Cramling (SWE) 2464
33. Alisa Galliamova (RUS) 2438

It is just another evidence of a shorter and less intense period of activity in women's chess. However, Pia Cramling (born in 1963) has been doing a great job undermining this doctrine. Last year the GM from Sweden became the most active player in the Top 100 Women playing 133 games!

Photo: David Llada

Let’s have a look at the players who made their way into the Top 10 Open after January 1, 2001 – particularly at the age they first did it, the countries they represented back then and the rating they had at that moment. The player from the current Top 10 Open and Women are marked with an asterisk.

Open:

1. Evgeny Bareev (RUS)    2709, Age 35, 2001
2. Loek Van Wely (NED)    2714, Age 29, 2001
3. Ruslan Ponomariov (UKR)    2727, Age 19, 2002
4. Alexander Grischuk (RUS)    2712, Age 20, 2003*
5. Peter Svidler (RUS)    2713, Age 27, 2003
6. Bacrot Etienne (FRA)    2718, Age 21, 2004
7. Levon Aronian (ARM)    2724, Age 23, 2005*
8. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (AZE)    2754, Age 22, 2007*
9. Teimour Radjabov (AZE)    2747, Age 20, 2007*
10. Magnus Carlsen (NOR)    2765, Age 18, 2008*
11. Dmitry Jakovenko (RUS)    2737, Age 25, 2008
12. Sergei Movsesian (SVK)    2751, Age 31, 2009
13. Vugar Gashimov (AZE)    2759, Age 24, 2010
14. Yue Wang (CHN)        2749, Age 23, 2010
15. Pavel Eljanov (UKR)    2751, Age 27, 2010
16. Sergey Karjakin (RUS)    2760, Age 20, 2010
17. Hikaru Nakamura (USA)    2751, Age 24, 2011
18. Gata Kamsky (USA)    2756, Age 37, 2011
19. Fabiano Caruana (ITA)    2767, Age 20, 2012*
20. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA)    2758, Age 24, 2014*
21. Leinier Dominguez Perez (CUB)    2768, Age 31, 2014
22. Anish Giri (NED)    2768, Age 20, 2014*
23. Wesley So (USA)    2762, Age 21, 2014*
24. Liren Ding (CHN)    2770, Age 23, 2015*
25. Pentala Harikrishna (IND)    2768, Age 30, 2016
26. Ian Nepomniachtchi (RUS)    2771, Age 29, 2019*
27. Vladislav Artemiev (RUS)    2761, Age 21, 2019
28. Yangyi Yu (CHN)    2763, Age 25, 2019

Women:

1. Lei Wang (CHN)    2498, Age 26, 2001
2. Ekaterina Kovalevskaya (RUS)    2507, Age 27, 2001
3. Almira Skripchenko (MDA)    2497, Age 25, 2001
4. Humpy Koneru (IND) 2539, Age 15, 2002*
5. Antoaneta Stefanova (BUL)    2497, Age 23, 2002
6. Corina-Isabela Peptan (ROU)    2485, Age 25, 2003
7. Kateryna Lagno (UKR)    2486, Age 14, 2003*
8. Svetlana Matveeva (RUS)    2502, Age 35, 2004
9. Alexandra Kosteniuk (RUS)    2511, Age 20, 2004
10. Tatiana Kosintseva (RUS)    2493, Age 18, 2004
11. Xue Zhao (CHN)    2487, Age 19, 2004
12. Susan Polgar (USA)    2577, Age 36, 2005
13. Yifan Hou (CHN)    2488, Age 12, 2006*
14. Nadezhda Kosintseva (RUS)    2493, Age 21, 2006
15. Anna Ushenina (UKR)    2502, Age 22, 2007
16. Marie Sebag (FRA)    2509, Age 21, 2007
17. Elina Danielian (ARM)    2513, Age 30, 2008
18. Anna Muzychuk (SLO)  2540, Age 19, 2009*
19. Nana Dzagnidze (GEO)    2518, Age 22, 2009*
20. Viktorija Cmilyte (LTU)    2527, Age 27, 2010
21. Dronavalli Harika (IND)    2525, Age 19, 2010*
22. Anna Zatonskih (USA)    2537, Age 33, 2011
23. Wenjun Ju (CHN)    2536, Age 20, 2011*
24. Valentina Gunina (RUS)    2530, Age 23, 2012
25. Bela Khotenashvili (GEO)    2531, Age 25, 2013
26. Mariya Muzychuk (UKR)    2524, Age 22, 2014*
27. Zhongyi Tan (CHN)    2518, Age 25, 2016*
28. Tingjie Lei (CHN)    2522, Age 20, 2017
29. Nino Batsiashvili    (GEO)    2528, Age 31, 2018
30. Aleksandra Goryachkina (RUS)    2509, Age 20, 2018*
31. Elisabeth Paehtz     (GER)    2513, Age 33, 2018
32. Jiner Zhu (CHN)    2507, Age 17, 2019
33. Dinara Saduakassova (KAZ)    2519, Age 24, 2020

The rating threshold to enter the Top 10 increased in both open and women categories. It is worth noting that a super-talent distinguish himself very early – it is no coincidence that current rating leaders are the youngest ones in the list. Magnus Carlsen got into the Top 10 Open for the first time on April 1, 2008, with rating 2765 when he was still 17. Hou Yifan did it in July 2006, aged 12 (her rating was 2488). It was the last year when a player rated below 2500 made it to the Top 10 Women. 

Over time, the Top 10 Open entry threshold has significantly increased but in the Top 10 Women, this trend is not so pronounced. For example, back in 2009, Anna Muzychuk made it into the Top 10 with rating 2540, whereas Dinara Saduakassova recently did the same with rating 2519.

Photo: Lennart Ootes

A slightly different tendency is exposed if we apply the “hospitality of the Top 10” criteria. Looking at the years when any of these players debuted in the top 10 one can notice that in women’s case it has happened regularly – we see a new face almost every year. When it comes to men, the situation is quite different – from 2016 when Pentala Harikrishna opened this door for a second until 2019 no debutant managed to make his way into the list.  It means that the chess elite has a very firm nutshell which is very hard to crack for young players. Consequently, the average age of the chess elite is going up. This is the answer to the question of why the average age of the Top 10 Open is almost two years higher than 19 years ago.

To be continued...