When the chess rating system was established in 1971 by Professor Arpad Elo, it contained the names of 600 players. In the January 2012 list that heralds in the new year, the number has grown to over 83,000. Top of the heap on the new list is again Magnus Carlsen of Norway -- and he's been numero uno now since Jan.1 2010.
The 21-year-old chess superstar, who spent the old year winning or almost winning every event he featured in, generally outperformed World Champion Viswanathan Anand and his main rivals consistently. And at 2835, Carlsen has a 30 point lead over Levon Aronian with the second-highest rating in history - and it is not beyond the realm of possibility for 2012 seeing him surpass Garry Kasparov's high of 2851.
FIDE Top-Ten: 1. Carlsen, 2835 (+9); 2. Aronian, 2805 (+3); 3. Kramnik, 2801 (+1); 4. Anand, 2799 (-12); 5. Radjabov, 2773 (-8); 6. Topalov, 2770 (+2); 7. Karjakin, 2769 (+6), 8. Ivanchuk, 2766 (-9); 9. Morozevich, 2763 (+1); 10. Gashimov, 2761 (=).
2012: Coming Attractions
The first major of the new year is the Tata Steel Tournament in Wijk aan Zee in the Netherlands, which starts a week from today, will be the strongest in its long and storied history, featuring 10 grandmasters from the top 15 players in the world.
The average rating of the 14-player "A" group is an impressive 2752; and, remarkably, at least half of the field is capable of winning the tournament! World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen is the top seed and favorite, but he'll face stiff competition from Levon Aronian, Sergey Karjakin, Veselin Topalov, Vassily Ivanchuk, and last year's surprise winner Hikaru Nakamura, who is back to defend his title.
The full line-up (from the September 2011 rating list, that set the field) is: Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian, Sergey Karjakin, Veselin Topalov, Vassily Ivanchuk, Vugar Gashimov, Gata Kamsky, Hikaru Nakamura, Teimour Radjabov, Boris Gelfand, Anish Giri, Fabiano Caruana, David Navara and Loek van Wely.
And ICC's Chess.FM team will be back on the air to cover every move of the Tata Steel Tournament from start to finish, with all the very best in live commentary action from the likes of GMs Yasser Seirawan, Joel Benjamin, Alex Yermolinsky, Larry Christiansen, Ronen Har-Zvi et al.
And to give all non-ICC members an idea of what you are all missing, by not being able to tune-in to Chess.FM's live coverage of all the major elite events throughout the year, we're making available for free over the next week both days of Peter Svidler's commentary with Yasser Seirawan from last year's London Chess Classic! Join ICC today by clicking here to make sure you don't miss a single minute of Chess.FM's live commentary coverage and Game of the Days throughout 2012!
Click here to watch 4 hours-plus of GM Peter Svidler
2012: The One To Watch
And as one major event gets ready to start, another has just ended that enthralled the large audience of ICC members who watched the live game relay. The 54th Reggio Emilia Tournament in Italy ended in a dramatic victory for the young Russian-born Dutch star Anish Giri, 17, who impressed everyone with an almost flawless performance in winning the tournament ahead of Ivanchuk, Nakamura and Alexander Morozevich.
Will 2012 prove to be Giri's big breakthrough year into the higher echelons of the elite circle? Many believe it could be, and they see Giri - along with Karjakin - as the two most likely to mount a serious challenge to Carlsen in the future.
One of the great benefits of ICC (apart from all the top-notch online play and tournaments) in recent years has been the upgrade in our popular Chess.FM service - many members agree that the live Chess.FM commentary plus GOTDs from our elite tournament coverage, and our regular weekly shows alone is worthy of their membership fee.