Archive for the ‘Alexey Shirov’ Category

Hail Gata Kamsky, Chess Champion from, Yes, the United States

December 16, 2007

I was one of the (too few) chess-crazed Americans who got up early this morning to watch the live Webcast of fellow countryman Gata Kamsky playing the fourth game of his World Cup match in Siberia against Alexey Shirov. The game began at 5:00 a.m. EST, and three hours and thirty-five moves later, the game was drawn. Kamsky had won their four game match by the score of 2.5 – 1.5 and was now the World Cup Chess Champion. No American has done this well in international chess since 1972, when Bobby Fischer defeated Borris Spassky to become undisputed World Champion.

Kamsky played a total of 18 games in a series of World Cup knockout matches and lost not a single game. He was unflappable in positions where his opponents were attacking him, and he consistently employed an active defense. For his efforts at the chessboard, Kamsky will return to Brighton Beach with $120,000. Hail Kamsky!

The Internet is of course a great medium for watching world-class chess events. You can get up and stretch between moves, or you can watch commentary from top players who are also observing the games. It is sad, though, how few spectators attend these events in person. Notice the absence of an audience in this photograph of the penultimate game between Kamsky and Shirov. I like watching in person, because the tension is so palpable.

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[Kamsky is on the right.]

Kamsky on the Move

December 13, 2007

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[Kamsky studies his opponent's first move, the advance of the king pawn, in today's World Cup game.]

Grandmaster Gata Kamsky, America’s best hope for immediate triumph at the pinnacle of international chess, just drew the first game of his final match for the World Cup. Kamsky was playing Black in a double-king-pawn opening, and after a tense struggle that petered out into an even endgame, he and Alexey Shirov agreed to sustain hostilities on the 42nd move. Tomorrow Kamsky will have the first-move advantage of the White pieces.

Kamsky has been playing great chess for three weeks now in Khanty-Mamsiysk, Russia. Tomorrow’s game starts at 5:00 A.M. EST and can be viewed on the official Web site.

Mate in 208 Moves!

December 12, 2007

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[Alexey Shirov would need to have seen ahead a mind-numbing 206 moves in order to be sure of forcing a win in a game at the World Cup.]

According to the rules of chess, a player can claim a draw if 50 moves pass (50 for each side) in which no piece has been captured and no pawn moved. The original idea of the rule was that if one side seems to have an advantage in the endgame (the stage of the game where only a few pieces or pawns remain), 50 moves should be more than sufficient to turn that advantage into checkmate. If there was no 50-move rule, one side could keep playing on in a theoretically drawn position hoping to win only because his opponent becomes fatigued. But leave it to computers to discover that there are certain winning endgames that, even with best play, require more than 50 moves to win. These endgames are incredibly rare, and seem more like composed problems than positions that might arise in actual play, and so the 50-move rule has been left enforce.

Now, incredibly, one of these endgames—two lone knights versus a lone rook and bishop—actually occurred in a very important game, in the semifinals of the World Cup. Alexey Shirov and Sergey Karjakin had tied their regular games in the semifinals. To break the tie, the two grandmasters played two rapid games, and it was the first of these that saw the unusual endgame. With best play (from the position below), computers tell us, Shirov as Black could have checkmated Karjakin in 208 moves!! Shirov didn’t see that, of course, and the game ended in a draw.

The excellent online daily newsletter Chess Today discusses the endgame in the December 12th issue. Chess Today is a great, subscription-based publication and well worth the modest fee.


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