Vaishali, Tan Zhongyi, and Divya Deshmukh collage

Michal Walusza / FIDE; + GRENKE Open

New Top 25 Women's Rankings: Vaishali to No. 5!

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Turmoil at the top!

Now that we’ve had another major women’s tournament (yes, the Candidates!), it’s time to unveil a new set of rankings! I went over the criteria in the previous edition, but for those of you who want a quick summary: It’s a ranking of the Top 25 women’s chess players based on both results and performance across all OTB formats in the past two years, with emphasis on classical and the most recent 12 months. (The goal is to do a better job than the FIDE rankings!)

New rankings (May 2024)

This edition is for May 2024 (i.e. it covers everything up until the end of April). The only major women’s tournaments since the last edition (for January 2024) were the Candidates, the European Women’s Championship, and the European Rapid & Blitz. Other tournaments of note to include Top 25 women were the Tata Steel Masters and Challengers, the Aeroflot Open, and the Menorca Open.

Here are the rankings!

The May 2024 Top 25! Credit: @OnTheQueenside.

Let's take a look at who were the biggest movers!


Welcome to the Top 25, Divya Deshmukh and Lela Javakhishvili!

Divya Deshmukh, a Junior of the Year nominee last year, was very close to making the list last time. She already had a standout result by winning the Tata Steel India Rapid super-tournament, and also had a standout performance near 2600 in the Polish League. She only missed out last time because of the flurry of GM norms by others in the European Women’s Team Championship. But this time, Divya more than earned her spot at No. 21 with a second standout performance near 2600 in the humungous GRENKE Open, where she finished T-11th and nearly tied for second. She could easily soar even higher in the rankings if she gets a strong result in classical, like I don't know, maybe winning a big Swiss open! Divya is also the youngest player on the list!

The new No. 21 Divya Deshmukh at the GRENKE Open, her best tournament so far this year (through the end of April). Credit: GRENKE Open.

Lela Javakhishvili wasn’t really on the radar to make the Top 25 in January, but the former 2500 player who just turned 40 reminded us she’s still at the top of her game this past ranking period. First, she won her national championship, one of the strongest in the world, for the fifth time, tying the Georgian record. Then, she earned a bronze medal at the European Women’s Championship, her first medal in the prestigious tournament after participating just about every time over the past two decades or so. With her No. 22 spot, she is the 2nd-oldest player in the Top 25, after only Antoaneta Stefanova. One even more interesting thing about Lela is that she has two GM norms. If she could make just one more, and does it after August, she would become the oldest woman in history to earn the GM title!

The reigning Georgian national champion, No. 22 Lela Javakhishvili! Credit: Georgian Chess Federation.

Look out below!

With two new entrants in the Top 25, there were also two drop-outs. Stavroula Tsolakidou fell off the list, by no fault of her own, just a few too many players above her. One good tournament and she could easily be back on the list. The other player off was Nana Dzagnidze, whose best result, a bronze in the Munich Grand Prix, no longer counted towards the most recent twelve months. She’ll get the chance to get back on the list when she plays the next Women’s Grand Prix series for 2024-25.

The only other major decliner was Meri Arabidze who dropped from No. 18 to No. 25 on account of her 2023 European Women’s Championship title also no longer counting to the last twelve months. Her performances over the last year have been very strong, but there’s a whole pack of players going after that final spot in the rankings!

Rising up!

The only big gainers within the Top 25 were surprisingly only near the top of the list. Tan Zhongyi is No. 2 now that she has won the Candidates and was runner-up at the previous one. The previous Candidates winner Lei Tingjie might have had a case for keeping that No. 2 spot had she finished clear runner-up this time, but those last two losses at the end hurt both her result and her performance.

Humpy Koneru had the biggest gain from No. 12 to No. 6 with her Candidates runner-up on tiebreaks. Humpy’s results had been not up to her usual standard the past two years, but now she finally has a standout classical result again to reassert her place at the top. Zhu Jiner also made a big gain from No. 15 to No. 12 with a GM-norm level performance in Menorca. (She’s already a GM, but I count this as a strong result like I would with a non-GM, to keep things the same.)

The Candidates medallists, including runner-up and now No. 6 Humpy Koneru and the winner and now No. 2 Tan Zhongyi. Credit: Michal Walusza.

And above all in terms of significance, Vaishali is all the way up to No. 5! It looked like the Candidates wasn’t going to help Vaishali much when she was sitting in dead last in the second half. But an amazing five-win finish took her all the way from last to co-runner-up in just five rounds. Now the officially newest GM has the Grand Swiss title and a Candidates co-runner-up under her belt, plus a separate GM norm from late last year. With all that, Vaishali is firmly establishing herself in the world elite! And with nothing to defend from the early or middle of last year, she could climb even higher with a strong result in next week's Norway Chess!

The new No. 5 Vaishali Rameshbabu! Credit: Maria Emelianova.

That’s where the Top 25 is at through the end of April. With two more super-tournaments up ahead (Norway Chess and the Cairns Cup), we could already see a shake-up in the rankings pretty soon! Pia Cramling could make her way onto the rankings with a good result in Norway. Meanwhile, some young stars have already been making noise in May so far. Lu Miaoyi could be headed onto the next rankings, Leya Garifullina has all but assured herself of a spot already, and Divya is only going to move further up!

Expect the next Top 25 end of July or August after those big tournaments finish up. It’s only going to get more crowded!