The publication of the new FIDE ratings caused a bit of a stir because Magnus Carlsen is not leading on all three lists. Due to more blitz games being rated than expected, Hikaru Nakamura is the number-one player on the blitz rankings.
Carlsen finished the year 2019 as the world champion in standard, rapid and blitz. As we wrote in our final report, he also topped the live ratings in all three lists, surpassing Nakamura in the blitz thanks to his win in the second playoff game. So it was a surprise when Nakamura was still leading the blitz ratings in the list published by FIDE on December 31.
FIDE Blitz Ratings, January 2020 (Top 20)
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It was Henrik Carlsen, the father of the world champion, who suggested on Twitter that a mistake had been made. FIDE had rated all games of the Grand Chess Tour playoff match for third place between Carlsen and Levon Aronian, even though the match was already decided before the end, and the final three blitz games were just played for the spectators.
Carlsen senior was referring to paragraph 6.5 of the FIDE Rating Regulations, effective from July 1, 2017, which say:
6.5 Where a match is over a specific number of games, those played after one player has won shall not be rated.
The Twitter account of 2700chess, the site that keeps live ratings up to date for players rated 2700 and above, also expressed surprise. It apologized for having provided data that ended up being different from FIDE's—which rarely happens.
The confusion was initially explained by a segment from the Grand Chess Tour regulations for the playoffs in London, which stated:
All games in each match must be completed, even when a match is already decided. All games (except for the Armageddon tiebreak game if required) will be submitted for the appropriate category of FIDE rating.
However, the fact that the Grand Chess Tour organizers sent all games to FIDE doesn't automatically mean that FIDE will rate them all.
As it turned out, the confusion was based on something else, which Henrik Carlsen readily admitted as soon as he found out. And he was definitely not the only one who missed this particular detail—Nakamura himself also briefly thought his top position in the list was a mistake:
However, FIDE turns out to be right, and the publication of its rating list is correct. The reason is that for rapid and blitz, there are separate rating regulations and there, the relevant paragraph is different:
6.5 Where a match is over a specific number of games, those played after one player has won shall not be rated, if the match was scheduled for more than 8 games.
The playoff matches in London consisted of two standard games, two rapid games and four blitz games, so eight in total. Therefore, paragraph 6.5 can be ignored, and all games should be rated. That's definitely a detail that's easy to miss.
On a final note regarding the blitz ratings, you might have noticed that Iuri Shkuro is still in the world top 10. We first mentioned the Shkuro case in July 2016, where we explained what's happening here:
As it turns out, the events where Mr. Shkuro won his points have a lot of similarities. They were all held in Ukraine, and each time he played against (much) lower rated opponents. He gained points by getting a huge score, while possessing a K factor of 20.
As we look at in the new rapid rating list, we can see something similar.
FIDE Rapid Ratings, January 2020 (Top 20)
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Also here it's an unknown Ukrainian player, FM Ihor Kobylianskyi, who managed to reach the top 10 in the world. Born in 1969, the same year as Vishy Anand, Kobylianskyi also got his high rating from beating a large number of lower-rated players using the high K-factor.
On the standard list, Carlsen leads with the biggest margin. He has a standard Elo rating of 2872, which is exactly 50 points more than world number-two Fabiano Caruana. Both will be playing in the upcoming Tata Steel Chess tournament in nine days.
World number-three Ding Liren's next tournament will be the candidates, and the same can be said for the world numbers-four and -five, Alexander Grischuk and Ian Nepomniachtchi.
The Tata Steel Chess tournament announced today that Nepomniachtchi has withdrawn from the tournament for "being too tired after a long and heavy series of tournaments in 2019" and that he wants to take a break to prepare for the candidates. He will be replaced by another Russian player, Nikita Vitiugov.
FIDE Standard Ratings, January 2020 (Top 20)
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The women's standard list has Hou Yifan still at the top, which is not surprising unless you expected her to have dropped off due to inactivity. However, the Chinese grandmaster did play six rated games this year while mostly focusing on her studies at Oxford.
She played in the 137th varsity match between Cambridge and Oxford, and then three games in the 4NCL back in March, and in November she played two games in the Bundesliga, for OSG Baden-Baden.
In total she won three games, and drew three and now her rating is two points higher than in March, and 80 points higher than runner-up Ju Wenjun, the women's world champion who will be defending her title against Aleksandra Goryachkina in a match that starts January 5.
World number-eight Viktorija Cmilyte, a member of parliament in Lithuania, has been even less active but is still on the list as she played three games in March in the Women's Bundesliga in March.
FIDE Standard Ratings (Women), January 2020 (Top 20)
Hou is also the number-one in the rapid ratings, but by a much smaller margin. Ju is eight points behind. Surely because of her world title match coming up, she decided to skip the world rapid and blitz last week, where could have earned the top spot in the list.
Hou played 14 rapid games in October at the Karpov Trophy in Cap d'Agde, France that were not rated. For the January list, she played three events in December that were rated: a tournament in Salamanca, three games from a China-Russia friendly match and the Belt and Road tournament in China.
FIDE Rapid Ratings (Women), January 2020 (Top 20)
Like Carlsen, Hou is leading in the standard and rapid lists, but not in the blitz. In the women's list that's actually Kateryna Lagno, the reigning women's world blitz champion. Lei Tingjie of China is third and Ju Wenjun (rated 2536) is not on the list for inactivity in blitz chess.
FIDE Blitz Ratings (Women), January 2020 (Top 20)
Alireza Firouzja has been in the news a lot lately—not just because of his intended federation change, but also for his good results. The 16-year-old—now the top player in the Juniors because Wei Yi of China simply got too old for this list—won more than 100 points in the world blitz and added 89 points to his rapid tally.
He'll be back to standard chess (now rated 2723!) soon as he plays in Wijk aan Zee.
FIDE Top Juniors, January 2020 (Top 10)
The top 10 of the girls is an international affair with just two players from the same country: Carissa Yip and Annie Wang from the U.S.. The top player is IM Zhansaya Abdumalik, followed by the Chinese WIM Zhu Jiner.
FIDE Top Girls, January 2020 (Top 10)
All data courtesy FIDE.
Chess.com Blitz and Bullet
"Household name" is an understatement for Nakamura on Chess.com, where he is still playing a lot, and still topping both lists. In the blitz list, the runner-up is not far behind though: GM Daniel Naroditsky, also from the U.S. One of the many rising stars in India, GM Srinath Narayanan, is actually in fourth place right now.
Chess.com Blitz ratings per Jan. 2, 2020
(See full list here.)
In the bullet, Nakamura's lead is more than 100 points. The runner-up is Shant Sargsyan of Armenia, followed by Firouzja. Also on Chess.com, the Iranian star is one of the very best!
Chess.com Bullet ratings per Jan. 2, 2020
(See full list here.)