Gata Kamsky

The US number one player

Kamsky funny caricature

Kamsky in action

The American Grandmaster Gata Kamsky is traveling to Elista, Russia on May 25th to play candidate matches in his second run for the world chess championship. The previous one ended with Anatoly Karpov defending his title in a match against Kamsky back in 1996 at the very same place of Elista. Maybe the Kalmyk steppe will bring him better luck this time. We’ll keep you updated. In the meantime, here are few facts from his rich biography.

Gata Kamsky was born on June 2nd, 1974 in Novokuznetsk, Russia. Before he turned 15, he had won the Soviet under-20 championship twice, which was a remarkable achievement having in mind the competition of the older and more experienced players. After playing the New York Open in 1989, he immigrated to the United States together with his father Rustam. Rustam stated that Garry Kasparov was obstructing Gata’s chess development in Soviet Union.

Gata played his first super-tournament in Tilburg 1990 and won it together with Vassily Ivanchuk. The closing ceremony was amusing. Cheerleaders danced around the winners and confetti were flying while the loudspeakers were blasting the song “You’re sixteen”, reffering to the age of the young talent. This result finally brought him Grandmaster title, which he did not have until then despite his 2650 rating.

Joel Lautier 2560 – Gata Kamsky 2595

Belgrade Investbank 1991

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 Nc6 9.Be3 0-0 10.0-0 Qc7 11.Rb1 b6 12.f3 Rd8 13.Bf4 Qb7 14.d5 Na5 15.Bb5 (Weaker is 15.Bc2 c4 16.Bc2 e6) 15…Bd7 16.Qc2 (Better was 16.Qd3) 16…e5! 17.Bg5 f6 18.Bh4 Bxb5 19.Rxb5 Nc4 20.Qd3 Nd6 21.Rb2 c4! 22.Qc2 Rf8 23.Bf2 Qc7 24.Rbb1 (Be3 was stronger. Now Black Bishop becomes active) 24…Bh6 25.a4 Rae8 26.Rbd1 Rf7 27.Kh1 f5 28.exf5! gxf5 29.f4 exf4 30.Nd4 Ne4 31.Be1 Qe5 32.Nc6 Qg7? 33.Rd4? (While both players were in time trouble, Lautier missed 33.d6! Now after Nd6 Black is clearly better) 34…Nd6 34.Qf2 Qg4 35.Bd2 Re2 36.Qf3 Rg7 37.Bxf4 Bxf4 38.Rxf4 Qxg2+ 39.Qxg2 Rgxg2 40.Rg1 Rxg1+ 41.Kxg1 a5 42.Rf2 Re3 43.Nd4 Rxc3 44.Nxf5 Nxf5 45.Rxf5 Rd3 46.Kf2 c3! 47.Rf6 b5 48.Ke2 Rd2+ 49.Ke3 Rxd5 50.Ra6 Rc5 0-1

The Alekhine Memorial 1992 (category 18) saw Gata on 3rd place. Later he won Buenos Aires. In 1993, he qualified simultaneously for FIDE’s championship cycle by taking 2nd place at Biel Interzonal and for PCA (Professional Chess Association) Candidates by sharing 3rd in Groningen. His continuous run in both the FIDE and the PCA championship cycles is one of the most impressive streaks of winning matches ever, second only to Fischer’s.

Interesting series of matches started when Gata faced Dutch GM Paul Van der Sterren in the FIDE Candidates Matches in Wijk aan Zee in January 1994 and won 4.5-2.5. The next step was much harder, Kamsky was paired to play Vishy Anand on his field in Sanghi Nagar, India. Anand took an early lead 3.5-1.5 and just when everyone expected to see Kamsky eliminated, he pulled a miraculous comeback to bring the match to a tie 4-4. He then shocked Anand 2-0 in the tiebreak and progressed to the semi-finals.

Gata Kamsky 2695 – Vishy Anand 2720

FIDE Candidates Sanghi Nagar, 1994

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.Nc3 Bg7 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Bc4 Qa5 8.0-0 0-0 9.Bb3 d6 10.h3 Bd7 11.f4 Rac8 12.Qf3 Qh5 (Black would be happy to trade Queens with this pawn structure) 13.Nxc6 Bxc6 14.g4 Qa5 15.Rad1 b5 16.g5 Nd7 17.f5 Bxc3 (White has started pawn avalanche threatening both fxg6 and f6 at some moment, and Anand decided to go for radical solution. He destroys White’s pawn structure and places Knight on e5. This now leaves weakened dark squares and Kamsky skillfully takes advantage on this new situation.) 18.bxc3 Ne5 19.Qf4 Nc4 (Ne5 was just pretty and nothing else. It turns that Black can’t keep his Knight there and Anand decides to at least block Bb3) 20.Bd4 e5 21.fxe6 fxe6 22.Bf6! Qc7 23.Bxc4! (White is much better due to chronically weak dark squares around Black King. Opposite colored Bishops are favoring attacking side and Kamsky exchanges closed Bb3) bxc4 24.Rxd6 Bxe4 25.Rxe6! (White goes to better endgame) 25…Qxf4 26.Rxf4 Bf5 27.Ra6 Rf7 28.h4 Bxc2 29.Rd4 Bf5 30.a4! Rb7 31.Kf2 Re8 32.Kf3 Kf7 33.Rc6 Bd3 34.a5 Re6 35.a6! Rbe7 (35…Rc6 36.axb7 Rb6 37.Rd7) 36.Rxe6 Rxe6 37.Rd7+ Ke8 38.Rd8+ Kf7 39.Rd7+ Ke8 40.Rxa7 Be4+ 41.Ke3 Bb7+ 42.Kd4 Bxa6 43.Kd5 Rb6 44.Kc5 Re6 45.Rxh7 1-0

Sanghi Nagar was also site of the next round when Gata Kamsky convincingly beat Valery Salov 5.5-1.5 to qualify for the FIDE championship final match against Anatoly Karpov.

Gata Kamsky wins

Kamsky is the leading player of the USCF

Parallely, Kamsky competed in PCA championship cycle. It started off with a match against Vladimir Kramnik in New York in June 1994, which he won 4.5-1.5. In the semi-finals he played Nigel Short in Linares, Spain. Kamsky crushed him in first three games and won the match 5.5-1.5. He went confidently into the finals, where he faced Vishvanatan Anand yet again.

Anand was patiently waiting for revenge after his loss to Kamsky in Sanghi Nagar. Still, the final match in Las Palmas started with Vishy Anand surprisingly losing the first game on time when he had a winning position. Fierce battles in Ruy Lopez and Gruenfeld emerged in the following games, with Anand coming on the top 6.5-4.5.

Gata Kamsky 2695 – Vladimir Kramnik 2710

PCA Candidates New York, 1994

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3 e6 5.Bg5 dxc4 6.e4 b5 7.e5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Nxg5 hxg5 10.Bxg5 Nbd7 11.exf6 Bb7 12.g3 c5 13.d5 Qb6 14.Bg2 0-0-0 15.0-0 b4 16.Na4 Qb5 17.a3 Ne5 18.axb4 cxb4 19.Qd4 Nc6 20.dxc6 Rxd4 21.cxb7+ Kc7 22.Be3 e5 23.Nc3 bxc3 24.bxc3 Bc5 (All this was already seen in Salov-Illeskas, Madrid 1993. Salov suggested 24…Rc5 25.Rfb1 Rd1! as an improvement to Illeskas’ play but Kamsky prepared stronger cxd4) 25.cxd4! Bxd4 (25…exd4 26.Bf4+ Bd6 27.Rfb1 Qc5 28.Bxd6+) 26.Rfb1 Qc5 27.Ra6 Rb8 (27…Bxe3 28.Rc6+ Qxc6 29.Bxc6) 28.Bc1! (Fantastic maneuver! Bishop is heading to d6. Taking on f2 is losing after 28…Bxf2+ 29.Kh1 Be3 30.Ba3 Qd4 31.Rc6+ Kd7 32.Rc8 with 33.Bh3+ next) 28…c3 29.Ba3 Qc4 30.Bd6+ Kd7 31.Bc6+ Ke6 32.Bb5 (After couple of fine Bishops’ moves, Black is practically lost. Kramnik is trying to complicate things with pieces sacrifice) 32…Bxf2+ 33.Kxf2 Qd4+ 34.Kf1 Qe4 35.Re1 Qh1+ 36.Kf2 Qxh2+ 37.Kf3 Rxb7 38.Bxe5+ Rb6 39.Bc4+ Kd7 40.Rxa7+ Kc8 41.Rc7+ 1-0

During the breaks between matches Gata played in a couple of other tournaments. He won Las Palmas 1994 ahead of Karpov and Topalov and also Dos Hermanas 1995 after a fantastic finish when he beat direct competitors Karpov and Adams in the last two rounds.

The final match for the FIDE World Championship was against Anatoly Karpov in the Kalmyk capital Elista. Following his 7.5-10.5 defeat, Kamsky announced that he “quits chess after achieving his maximum” and that “he wants to become a doctor”. In an interview given at Khanty Mansiysk 10 years later, he said: “To tell the truth, I don’t like recollecting that time. There were too many political intrigues around the Match with Karpov. It was one of the reasons why I made up my mind to leave chess. I prefer not to talk about this issue. Recently, FIDE is making efforts, but it is advisable to avoid the situations when the regulations are changed after the cycle start.”

The next years of Gata’s life are different. Kamsky graduated from Brooklyn College in 1999. The same year he made a short appearance at the FIDE knockout world championship in Las Vegas. There, he won the first game of the mini match vs Alexander Khalifman, but lost the second one and the tiebreaker (Khalifman went on to win the tournament becoming first FIDE KO champion). Gata then attended medical school, but later switched to law where he earned a degree. In a recent interview, he said he is still planning law practice once he achieves his goals in chess.

Gata Kamsky 2720 – Alexander Khalifman 2628

FIDE KO Las Vegas, 1999

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e6 6.Be2 Nc6 7.0-0 Be7 8.Be3 0-0 9.f4 e5 10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Kh1 Be6 12.Bf3 Bc4 13.Re1 Nd7 14.b3 Ba6 15.f5 Nf6 16.g4 h6 17.g5 hxg5 18.Bxg5 Nh7 19.Be3 Bb7 20.Rg1 Bf6 21.Rg3 d5 22.exd5 cxd5 23.Nxd5 e4 24.Nxf6+ Qxf6 25.Be2 Qxf5 26.Qd4 g5 27.Rf1 Qg6 28.Bc4 Rac8 29.h4 Rxc4 30.bxc4 g4 31.Rxg4 Qxg4 32.Rg1 Qxg1+ 33.Kxg1 f6 34.Qxa7 Rf7 35.Qb8+ Kg7 36.Qg3+ Kh8 37.Bh6 1-0

Kamsky was absent for the next five years and then suddenly started to play rapid weekenders at the Marshall Chess Club in New York. June 15, 2004 is the date of his big comeback. His chess looked rusty, but Gata gradually improved his form to tie 2nd place at 2005 Americas Continental Championship, which brought him to the 2005 World Chess Cup in Khanty Mansiysk. The ruthless knockout format wasn’t a distraction for Gata to shine and qualify for the 2007 World Championship Candidates Matches to be held next month in Elista. The four winners will qualify for the World Chess Championship Tournament 2007 that will take place in Mexico in September 2007. The first barrier to his second quest for the world championship will be Etienne Bacrot of France. Gata is confident: “At 32, I feel that I am in my prime and up to the task of becoming the next American World Chess Champion.”

Kamsky mtel

Kamsky was a step away from winning Mtel 2006

After the World Chess Cup, Kamsky had another fantastic event in Sofia in May 2006, where he finished 2nd after leading most of the M-Tel Masters tournament. Then the World Champion Veselin Topalov had to pull fantastic winning streak in last few rounds to grab the trophy. Only few days later, Kamsky led the US national team to win bronze medal at the 37th Chess Olympiad in Turin. On June 2006, he won the rapid Mayor’s Cup, and on July 2006, he tied first place at the World Open in Philadelphia.

Gata Kamsky 2671 – Ruslan Ponomariov 2738

Mtel Masters Sofia, 2006

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0-0 8.h3 Bb7 9.d3 d6 10.a3 Qd7 11.Nbd2 Rfe8 12.Nf1 Nd8 13.Ng3 Ne6 14.c3 c5 15.d4 exd4 16.cxd4 d5 17.e5 Ne4 18.Nf5 Bf8 19.Be3 Rac8 20.dxc5 N6xc5 21.N5d4 Nxb3 22.Qxb3 Nc5 23.Qd1 a5 24.Qb1 Ne4 25.Rd1 b4 26.axb4 Bxb4 27.Nc2 Qe7 28.Nxb4 Qxb4 29.Qa2 Ra8 30.Rd4 Qb5 31.Ra4 Bc6 32.Rxa5 Rxa5 33.Qxa5 Qxb2 34.Rc1 Ba8 35.Rc7 d4 36.e6 Qb1+ 37.Kh2 fxe6 38.Qh5 Nd6 39.Bxd4 Bxf3 40.Rxg7+ Kf8 41.Qh6 1-0

As part of his preparation for the Mtel Masters 2007 tournament, Gata Kamsky won the Foxwoods Open 2007 by defeating GM Izoria in the blitz playoff.

The 2007 Mtel Masters was fantastic tournament with a very close field. Kamsky finished first half on -2, but managed to recover by beating Sasikiran and Mamedyarov, and even fought for the first place. Last round draw held him on tied 2-5. place. Only few days later, Candidate Matches have started in Elista. Clearly, Mtel Masters was nice warm up for Gata as he smashed higher rated Etienne Bacrot 3.5-0.5 to progress into the next round.

Gata Kamsky is 19th on the April 2007 FIDE ratings list with 2705 elo points.