Archive for the ‘Gata Kamsky’ Category

Brain Freeze at the Chessboard

February 20, 2009

Only two Americans have ever made it to the very pinnacle of championship chess, and both of them were crazy.

[So starts my NPR piece, which continues at]

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.


[Kamsky is on the right.]


Kamsky Pulls Ahead in World Cup

December 14, 2007

Gata Kamsky defeated Alexey Shrirov today in a thrilling 37-move slugfest in Siberia that had his American fans (the really loyal ones who joined the live Webcast at 5:00 a.m. EST) on the edge of their seats. The real fireworks started shortly after 8:00 a.m. by which time some of the grandmasters kibitzing from the U.S. had consumed enough coffee to comment intelligently. The most astute observations, though, came from European GMs like Italian champion Fabiano Caruana who had less of a time-zone disadvantage.

Kamsky now leads in the finals of the World Cup by one game with two games remaining.

Kamsky on the Move

December 13, 2007


[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.

U.S. Chess Successes

December 10, 2007


[Above photo from proto chess wizard Fabiano Caruana at the age of three]

Kudos to two American chess players for triumphs this past week. Yesterday, Gata Kamsky of Brighton Beach reached the finals of the 2007 World Cup in Khanty-Mamsiysk, Russia, by defeating Norwegian prodigy Magnus Carlsen. The finals will take place on Thursday.

And last Tuesday, 15-year-old Fabiano Caruana, who once lived in Brooklyn, won the Italian Chess Championship. I’m sure he is destined for further chess greatness. In my dotage, I’ll be able to say I knew him when.

Kingfishers Clobber Knights: I Should Eat Crow

August 30, 2007

Wimpy logo or not, the Baltimore Kingfishers tragically defeated my New York Knights 3-1 in the first round of the United States Chess League. Pascal Charbonneau and Irina Krush were both winning in their respective games but threw it all away.

It is a very sad day in the Big Apple, but New Yorkers are used to bouncing back. I remember when the city was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1975 and President Gerald Ford refused to help (which occasioned the famous Daily News headline: “Ford to City: Drop Dead”). Well, we survived when Washington turned its back on us. And we will survive the indignity perpetrated last night by Baltimore.

After 34 moves, Irina had reached this promising position as White against her avian foe.

One of the joys of watching top-level games on the Internet Chess Club is that you never know who may drop by and kibitz. Last night, I and the other woodpushers who were watching Irina’s game online were treated to unexpected commentary by the legendary Gata Kamsky, the No. 1 ranked player in the United States. Gata said that she had a “strong advantage” in the position above and suggested a quiet continuation. But Irina surprised him (‘Nice,” he said, approvingly) with the forceful pawn push f5.

Now if Black is so greedy as to grab the f-pawn, he has no defense against the sly Bishop shift Bh5

and Irina shoving her e-pawn (after Black, say, moves his king):

The e-pawn is now immune to capture by the Black f-pawn because then her bishop will capture the opposing cleric.

But none of this after f5 was to be. Black did not grab the f-pawn bait, and although White continued to enjoy a strong game, the wily kingfisher eventually swindled her.

The Grudge Game That Barely Was

July 28, 2007

For all the press-conference talk (and, admittedly, my own hyping) of the grudge chess game in Montreal between Nigel Short and Gata Kamsky, the hoped-for confrontation was an uneventful draw, which was interesting only initially because Short trotted out a rare opening, the Ponziani, that has barely been played in high-level chess since the Late Cretaceous. Maybe he kept the gloves on because he was trying to recover his equilibrium from an otherwise terrible tournament.

As John Saunders, the editor of British Chess Magazine, blogged today:

“Which brings me to the main talking point of the Montreal event: the dismal showing of Nigel Short. He got off to an absolutely dreadful start, 0/4, which became ½/6 (thereby equalling his… start at the 1980 Phillips and Drew tournament when he was 14 years 10 months old). It is reported that he was suffering from dental problems, which is indeed unfortunate, though I’m also told that Alekhine had similar problems in the early stages of his world championship match against Capablanca, had six teeth pulled out and went on to become world champion.”

Saunders’ whole blog entry is worth reading. He has the following to say about the game that wasn’t:

“One cannot help wondering whether the dental problem was the only reason for Short’s debacle or whether yet another airing of his ancient grudge against Kamsky after round two may have been a contributory factor. The English grandmaster has an elephantine memory for slights and disputes from the past and his inability to keep a statesmanlike silence could perhaps be his Achilles heel in a tournament context. It was noticeable how he occasionally liked to dust off and rehash some old vendetta in one of his newspaper columns whenever there was a slow news week in chess. Sometimes entertaining, sometimes offensive, but he no longer has this conduit for his pent-up aggression. Whatever the rights and wrongs of what happened between the Kamskys and Short all those years ago, he should surely have channelled all the remaining aggro into their individual game in Montreal and let the pieces do the talking. And, if I might be permitted to patronise the former world championship finalist further on his selection of opening (just this one time – I promise it will never happen again): the Ponziani is not a good choice if you want to play for a win with White. Believe me, I’ve tried and it’s not up to the job.”

Grudge Match Is Today

July 26, 2007

The grudge game between Nigel Short and Gata Kamsky that I blogged about earlier is this afternoon in Montreal (rather than yesterday, as I mistakenly wrote initially). Short is having an awful tournament in Montreal. He’ll need to pull it all together to beat the higher-rated Kamsky.

Short made it clear in a press conference last week how happy he’d be to beat Kamsky today. In answer to a journalist’s question about how he’ll feel playing Kamsky, given their bitter match in the 1990s, Short said:

“What can I say? I have been playing chess for a very long time. My match against Gata Kamsky was by far the most unpleasant experience I ever had in my career. In essence Gata Kamsky won this match by cheating. His father threatened to kill me during the match. It was a very ugly incident. It had to be reported to the police. He (Rustam Kamsky) had to be pulled off me actually. So, quite frankly, I would rather not see him (Gata) But it’s not up to me, the organizers decide who is to participate. This is not my business. Gata Kamsky, if you talk to him now, I am sure you will find him to be a polite person. But it’s like someone who was part of a gangster group, and he would very much like to forget about these unpleasant parts of his past when he went everywhere with his father – who is nothing more than a thug. In other sports if you had a situation where a member of a delegation threatened to kill one of the players, and don’t forget Rustam Kamsky was a boxer, and, as far as I understand, had been in prison for such offenses, you would have an automatic disqualification, but for various reasons that didn’t happen. I am sure Gata Kamsky would like to forget about the influences of his father, but he benefited from it at the time. If I win this game it will give me more satisfaction than anything else.”

Grudge Game Tomorrow: Nigel Short v. Gata Kamsky

July 25, 2007

If I wasn’t in Costa Rica, I’d be heading to Quebec for a ringside seat for tomorrow’s grudge game between Nigel Short and Gata Kamsky in the Montreal Chess International. In the mid 1990s, Short lost a world championship semi-finals match to Kamsky by the lopsided score of 5.5 to 1.5. Short said that the match was the worst experience in his long chess career because he was subjected to unfair and terrible psychological warfare waged by Kamsky and his father.

The Kamskys suggested that he was cheating. “Never before had anyone accused me of cheating,” Nigel told me. “And they were doing this after I lost. That would make me the the worst cheater in the history of chess.” And then there was the notorious death-threat: Short said that Kamsky’s father got in his face and threatened to kill him.

The toxic match reared its ugly head last October when Short and Kamsky got into an Internet spat (Mig Greengard has a nice post on this). The online scuffle ended with Kamsky threatening to take it offline: “I don’t want to talk about it, but if you want to do something about this, we can settle this like real men, outside. I’ll be waiting.”

At the press conference in Montreal, Short dragged out all the old dirty laundry in response to a journalist’s question. The tournament organizers were apparently not happy; Kamsky, however, was not in attendance.

You can watch the moves of their game live, although unfortunately not their behavior, at the tournament Web site.

No Rest for the Chess Weary

July 21, 2007

Irina Krush, 23, the new U.S. Women’s Chess Champion, is making her way today from Stillwater, Oklahoma, the improbable site of the women’s championship, to Montreal, where she is playing in the seven-round 2007 MonRoi International Women’s Grand-Prix Finale. The first round is tomorrowshe doesn’t even get a day’s restand continues through July 28. Chess organizers generally do not consult each other about the timing of their tournaments, and so the professional chess circuit can be grueling or even maddeningly impossible. (A ridiculous example of the latter happened in May, when Gata Kamsky, the top rated American player, had to sit out the U.S. Championship, also in Stillwater, because of a prior commitment to play in a strong tournament in Europe.) OK, Krush’s hurried travel to Quebec is made easier by the flush of victoryand the fact that chessmate Pascal Charbonneau is waiting there to celebrate with her. They are both two-time champions, he of Canada and she of U.S. Women’s chess, of course.

While Irina was tearing up the chessboard in Stillwater, which is America’s newest chess mecca thanks to the generous sponsorship of Frank Berry, Pascal was playing his first two games in the 2007 Eighth Montreal Chess International, one of the strongest chess events ever held in North America. It is so strong that Pascal, rated 2503, is seeded last! He lost the first game and then winged his way through an opening he barely new (the White side of the Two Knight’s Defense) to achieve a draw against “Chucky,” the No. 1 seed Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine. Ivanchuk, the No. 4 player in the world, with a rating of 2762, outranked Pascal by an imposing 250 points.

Pascal told me that he was happy Irina had won. Now, he said, he could try to focus on his own remaining games in the tournament (there are seven more rounds, the last on July 28) rather than worrying about how she was doing.

Thanks to MonRoi, the games in both and 2007 MonRoi International Women’s Grand-Prix Finale.