21 June 2018

Breaking the 2700 Barrier

No, I'm not talking about achieving a 2700 rating. I'm talking about post no.2700 on this blog. That distinction belongs to my previous post, Chess Lions in Leuven, which makes this current post no.2701. Before I achieve a 2700 rating, I first have to reach 2300, but since I stopped playing competitive crossboard chess many years ago, that's not going to happen anytime soon.

How many players in the world are rated 2700? I blew the dust off my collection of historical rating files and counted the players for 2018. While I was doing that, I also counted them on the first international rating list in 1971 and at the start of every decade since then (1980, 1990, etc.), where the lists were all published in January of the respective year. The following chart shows the counts I recorded. For good measure, I added a similar count of 2600 players (which includes >2700).

Left: >2700 players
Right: >2600 players

On the 2700 side, the only player breaking the barrier in 1971 was a certain 'Fischer, Robert James' (USA) at 2760. Second on the list was 'Spassky, Boris V' (URS) at 2690. The two 2700-players in 1980 were 'Karpov,An.' (USR) 2725, and 'Tal' (USR) 2705. In January 2018, there were four players rated 2800+, 40 rated 2700-2799, and 211 rated 2600-2699.

The increase in world class players through the decades has not been linear. There were more 2600 players in 1971 than in 1980, and the largest increase in both rating bands took place in the decade 2000-2010.

A few years ago, in Next Short Draw: 2750 (March 2013), I was critical of GM Wesley So for manipulating his rating to break through 2700 Elo. According to his Rating Progress Chart (ratings.fide.com), he subsequently broke through 2800 in January 2017. A 2800 FIDE rating is an amazing achievement for any player. To break 2800, all I have to do is write another 100 posts.

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