Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chess open to whole world

After decades of Russian domination, chess open to whole world

Lubbock Avalanche-Journal
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Story last updated at 2/21/2010 - 11:34 pm

The question of the week is: Does Russia still dominate the chess world?

For many decades, Russia as a part of the Soviet Union used to dominate the chess world. As we all know, Bobby Fischer broke through the Iron Curtain to defeat Boris Spassky in the 1972 World Championship in Iceland. But that was a very rare exception.

The Soviet Union also dominated women’s chess. The Soviets ruled the world chess rankings for many decades, and they also won every single chess Olympiad they competed in. Things changed in the 1980s.

In 1984, I broke through that barrier to become the number-1-ranked female player in the world. Since then, my sister Judit and I have kept the number ranking in the family. That is more than 25 straight years. In fact, Judit is still No. 1 today by a significant margin.

In 1988, my sisters Judit, Sofia, and I, along with Ildiko Madl, shocked the chess world by winning the team gold medal at the Thessaloniki chess Olympiad in Greece. This was the first time any team had finished ahead of the Soviet Union. We came back with the same team and won gold again at the 1990 Novi Sad chess Olympiad. In addition to the team gold medal, my sisters and I also won individual gold as well. This was the end of the Soviet dominance in women’s chess.

When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia emerged as some of the top chess nations in the world. But other nations have since caught up, largely due to the Internet and computer technology. Now any player can have access to millions of chess games in the chess database, as well as top computer software. This is why the playing field is now a lot more even.

In fact, on the men’s side, the No. 1 player in the world is from Norway, while No. 2 is from Bulgaria, and No. 3 is from India. On the women’s side, the No. 1 player is from Hungary, while No. 2 is from India, and No. 3 is from China.

Here is another good example. The annual Aeroflot Open Chess Tournament in Moscow, Russia is by far the strongest open chess tournament in the world. But this year, this tournament just ended and the winner is a young Vietnamese chess grandmaster. The same Vietnamese player also tied for first in the very strong Moscow Open, which ended the day before the Aeroflot Open started. Here are the top finishers of the 2010 Aeroflot Open:

Rank, title, name, score, federation, rating

1. GM Le, Quang Liem 7.0 (Vietnam) 2647
2. GM Korobov, Anton 6.5 (Ukraine) 2648
3. GM Motylev, Alexander 6.0 (Russia) 2697
4. GM Zhou, Jianchao 6.0 (China) 2632
5. GM Nguyen, Ngoc Truong Son 6.0 (Vietnam) 2616
6. GM Grachev, Boris 6.0 (Russia) 2653
7. GM Cheparinov, Ivan 5.5 (Bulgaria) 2660
8. GM Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime 5.5 (France) 2730
9. GM Nepomniachtchi, Ian 5.5 (Russia) 2658
10. GM Bu, Xiangzhi 5.5 (China) 2673
11. GM So, Wesley 5.5 (Philippines) 2656
12. GM Sargissian, Gabriel 5.5 (Armenia) 2680
13. GM Savchenko, Boris 5.5 (Russia) 2638
14. GM Bacrot, Etienne 5.5 (France) 2713
15. GM Timofeev, Artyom 5.5 (Russia) 2652
16. GM Bareev, Evgeny 5.5 (Russia) 2643
17. GM Najer, Evgeniy 5.5 (Russia) 2665
18. GM Iturrizaga, Eduardo 5.5 (Venezuela) 2616
19. GM Dreev, Alexey 5.5 (Russia) 2650, etc.

Another major chess invitational is coming to Texas Tech. The 2010 SPICE Spring Invitational will take place in March (13-19) at the beautiful campus.

Young chess phenom Robert Hess got his second grandmaster norm last year in this event and he went on to become a grandmaster shortly after that, along with a break through year. Another young chess phenom Ray Robson came to SPICE for the first at the same event last year. Ray will be back at Tech to compete in the fourth annual SPICE Cup in November.

We will have a very diverse and interesting field this year, including three Knight Raiders, and a 13-year-old star from Texas.

Here are the confirmed players:

-IM Davorin Kuljasevic (CRO) 2585 USCF — 2552 FIDE (2 GM norms) — Texas Tech Student
-IM Gabor Papp (HUN) 2578 USCF — 2542 FIDE (GM norm) — Texas Tech Student
-GM Julio Becerra (USA) 2610 USCF — 2538 FIDE (2-time participant of the SPICE Cup)
-GM Ben Finegold (USA) 2616 USCF — 2533 FIDE (earned GM title at the 2009 SPICE Cup B group)
-IM Gergely Antal (HUN) 2557 USCF — 2511 FIDE (2 GM norms) — Texas Tech Student
-GM Jesse Kraai (USA) 2550 USCF — 2508 FIDE
-IM Dean Ippolito (USA) 2534 USCF — 2465 FIDE (Previous participant of the SPICE Cup)
-IM Irina Krush (USA) 2492 USCF — 2460 FIDE (GM norm — previous participant of the SPICE Cup)
-FM Eric Hansen (CAN) 2426 USCF — 2406 FIDE
-FM Darwin Yang (USA) 2398 USCF — 2369 FIDE (13 years old — Youngest ever participant of a SPICE Invitational)

Average FIDE rating: 2488.5

A Grandmaster norm is expected to be 6 points (out of 9 games) and an International Master norm is expected to be 4 points (out of nine games). I will announce more details in an upcoming column.

Local chess activities:

-“Super Saturday” SPICE Fun Chess, April 3–May 1. Two levels: Novice and Intermediate. Class dates: April 3, 10, 17, 24 and May 1 (five sessions). Hours: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays at Texas Tech Administration building. Instruction will be provided by members of the nationally ranked Texas Tech Knight Raider Chess Team, based on my popular and highly effective chess curriculum and direct guidance.

Registration fee: $99 by March 27, after then, add $20 late fee. Please send registration form to: Texas Tech, SPICE, Box 45080, Lubbock, TX 79409. For information, please go to: or e-mail

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