Chess championships

If the Capital District were a country, it would rank 139th in the world

By Peter Henner

Now that the Albany Club Championship has started, all three area chess championships — Saratoga, Schenectady, and Albany — are underway.

The Schenectady Championship is being contested in two preliminary sections of 10 players, with a championship section comprised of the highest scoring players from the preliminaries. The Albany Championship also hopes to have two preliminary sections, if more than 10 players sign up for the tournament.  The Saratoga Championship has nine players in a single section, and the champion will be the highest scoring player. 

World chess championships

The Indian Grand Master Viswanathan Anand defended his championship in a match earlier this year. In 2011, eight of the world’s top players will contest a series of matches to determine who will challenge him in 2012.

The chess world was recently shocked by the decision of the world’s highest rated player, the young Norwegian Magnus Carlson, to withdraw from the tournament.

Four of the players were selected on the basis of tournament results between 2008 and 2010: the Armenian Levon Aronian, the Azerbaijani Radjabov Teimour, the Russian Alexander Grischuk, and the Israeli Boris Gelfand.

The four other competitors are the Bulgarian Topolov, who lost to Anand in 2010; the American Gata Kamsky, who lost to Topolov to determine who would challenge Anand in 2010; former World Champion,  RussianVladamir Kramnik, selected on the basis of his rating; and a tournament organizer’s nominee, the Azerbaijani Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

The contestants will play four-game quarterfinal matches with the winners proceeding to four-game semifinal matches and a six-game final match, to determine the 2012 Challenger.

The Women's World Championship will be contested in Turkey in December of this year. Sixty-four women, including two from the United States, Anna Zatonskih and Camilla Baginskaite, will compete in a knockout tournament.

Interestingly, Pia Cramling, who once refused to play in women’s tournaments, is competing and is seeded eighth in the tournament. Some of the strongest women players in the world, including the Polgar sisters, are not competing.

Capital District v. the World

There are approximately 100,000 chess players in the world who hold international ratings from FIDE (The Fédération Internationale des Échecs or World Chess Federation). The November 2010 list is accompanied by a ranking of countries by the average rating of the top 10 players (computing the average by the top number of rated players if there were less than 10 in a country).

To no one’s surprise, Russia was ranked first, with an average rating of 2731. The United States ranked sixth: The average rating of the top players is 2640 and there are 2368 players rated, of whom 1157 are active.

The full list of countries is available at http:/

If the Capital District were a country, we would be ranked 139 out of 161 countries of the world, slightly below South Korea (137), but ahead of Aruba (140), Haiti (147), Afghanistan (149) and Ghana (150).

Six of the players listed on Bill Townsend’s list of the area’s top 50 players hold international FIDE ratings, with an average rating of 2009.

Some of our strongest players are not rated by FIDE, and Dan Van Riper, the highest rated player in the Capital District, is rated 2225, but has retired from chess and is not included. If Dan were included and more of our top players were rated, we could easily be 10 to 20 countries higher.  

This week’s problem

The problem, from the 1953 tournament to determine a challenger for the world championship, is the finale of the game between the famous Russian chess coach, Alexander Kotov, and Laszlo Szabo.

Stronger players may want to try to find the 39th move, which forced Szabo’s immediate resignation. If you cannot find the winning move, look at the intermediate solution, and then see if you can find the mating combination (an easier problem).

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