Archive for the ‘Gata Kamsky’ Category

Nakamura, the Gracious Chess King

June 12, 2007

Hikaru Nakamura’s star in the chess firmament is rising even as Gata Kamsky’s is flickering (and will hopefully rekindle). The 19-year-old resident of White Plains, New York, came in an uncontested first this weekend in the National Open in Las Vegas.

Nakamura first broke records at the age of 10, when he became the youngest master ever in America, and then again at 15, when he became a grandmaster at a younger age than Bobby Fischer. His interest in chess seemed to wane when he entered college but now the passion is backand he is playing and studying chess with avengence.

Nakamura was graciousa rare and welcome quality in a world of grandmasters known for their runaway cocksureness—when Jennifer Shahade interviewed him for Chess Life Online She told him that he owed his victory to “playing real openings for a change” and to the encouragement offered by fans.

“Considering my recent results have been less than stellar,” he said, “and the fact that my confidence hasn’t been as high as in the past, it was so nice that so many players offered me kind words and wished me good luck. That other people still believe in me, meant a lot.”

Back to Brighton Beach

June 11, 2007

Black (Boris Gelfand) to mate Kamsky in two moves. How? Click here for the answer.

There will not be an American player in September’s World Chess Championship in Mexico City. Gata Kamsky, the only candidate from the United States, was knocked out today in the fifth game of his qualifying match against Boris Gelfand in Elista, Kalmykia. Kamsky had the advantage of White today and needed to win to even the score.

But he chose a lackluster opening to sidestep Gelfand’s trademark Najdorf Sicilian and then lost after he pressed too hard to try to give himself winning chances. And so his Israeli opponent, a fellow Russian emigre, advances to the world championship after two wins against Kamsky and three draws (The sixth game will not be played because Gelfand has already secured victory).

I was rooting for Kamsky and admired how he got back into the game after a six-year break, during which he earned a law degree. But, like “The Sopranos” and Flatland, all good things must come to an end. Still, Kamsky is young enough that he could take another shot at the World Championship. And for that matter I suppose HBO could resurrect “The Sopranos” since they didn’t kill off Tony.

Back in the U.S.S.R

June 10, 2007

Siberian emigre Gata Kamsky may be back on Russian soil, but things are not looking good for the Brighton Beach hopeful’s bid to play in the World Chess Championship in September. Today he struggled to draw the fourth game of his six-game World Championshio Qualifying match in Elista, Kalmykia. Kamsky remains a point down against Boris Gelfand of Israel, having lost one game and drawn three.

If Kamsky wins tomorrow, he’s still in the hunt. If he loses, he can make it back to Brooklyn before Coney Island’s historic boardwalk attractions have been dismantled to make way for luxury condos.

American Chess Star Falters

June 8, 2007

Although he had the advantage of the White pieces today, Gata Kamsky played a timid sequence of opening moves known as the London System and went down to a stinging defeat in 58 moves. Born in Siberia, Kamsky is America’s only shot at winning the World Chess Championship in 2007.

Kamsky has proved himself to be a scrappy fighter, often excelling in time-pressure scrambles, but he has handicapped himself in his bid for the world crown by apparently not preparing any sharp openings. Or if he has cooked up some early-move novelties, he is strangely reserving them for lateralthough at this rate, they’ll unfortunately be no later. He is now behind 1-2 (with two draws and a loss) at the halfway point in the six-game match against the fiery tactician and fellow Russian ex pat Boris Gelfand.

After Kamsky thirtieth move as Black, the above position was reached. Now Gelfand as Black won a pawn on the spot. How did he do it?

K Power Rules in Chess

June 7, 2007

“There is a joke in chess circles that you don’t stand a chance of becoming world champion unless your name is Russian and starts with a K,” I write in King’s Gambit: A Father, a Son, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game. “Kramnik, Kasparov, Karpov, Kasimdzhanov, and Khalifman were all world champions during the past twenty-five years, and another K, Korchnoi, was the strongest challenger to the throne.”

And so Brighton Beach hopeful Gata Kamsky’s quest for the world title has at least alphabetic tradition on his sidenot to mention 301 million Americans who have not seen a fellow countryman as world number one since 1975, when Bobby Fischer flaked out on defending his title.

Today, Kamsky drew with the Black pieces against Boris Gelfand of Israel in the second game of a six-game World Championship Qualifying match in Elista, Kalmykia. Yesterday’s gamethe first of the matchwas also a draw. Neither player has drawn blood yet. Both men are originally from Russia: Kamsky is from Siberia and Gelfand from Belarus.

Go Gata, Go!

May 31, 2007


At the halfway point in the first match in the World Championship Qualifying Tournament in Elista (”Help me, MapQuest!”), Kalmykia, the Brooklyn legend Gata Kamsky has surged to a commanding 2.5-.5 lead over French phenom Etienne Bacrot. 

The word on the rue is that Bacrot—who once had the distinction of being the world’s youngest grandmaster—has turned his attention from I-can-barely-pay-the-rent chess to I-can-buy-the-building poker.  (Poker is legal in Paris, unlike in New York, and the elegant Aviation Club de France, founded in 1907 at the dawn of heavier-than-air flight, is a congenial place to play poker late into the night.)  

Whatever the reason for Bacrot’s shaky play, I’m happy Kamsky is winning, and not just because I want to see an American play in the World Championship in September in Mexico City.  But also because I want Kamsky to avenge the loss Bacrot inflicted on Canadian champion Pascal Charbonneau in the 2004 World Championship in Tripoli, Libya.  I accompanied Pascal to North Africa then and watched everything he did that week to prepare for his two-game battle with the Frenchman.   

Three chapters of my book, King’s Gambit: A Father, a Son, and the World’s Most Dangerous Game, are devoted to Pascal’s chess career and our exciting and harrowing adventures on and off the chessboard in Tripoli (I was detained there and accused of being a spy).  Here’s an excerpt from the chapter called “Gadhafi’s Gambit and Mr. Paul”:

It was now forty-five minutes until his game with Bacrot, and Pascal told me that it was time to put chess aside, stop our heavy conversation, and do “the most inane thing possible, something that required no thinking whatsoever.”  We didn’t have much to work with.  The television in our hotel room received only two English-language stations, and the first, CNN International, was hardly comforting.  Paul Johnson Jr., an American engineer, had been kidnapped in Saudi Arabia, and CNN was replaying footage of his distraught wife pleading with his captors not to behead him. 

Luckily, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” was on the other channel.  We watched as Lieutenant Uhura told Kirk, “Captain, I’m getting something on the distress channel.”

“Maybe,” I said, “she’s picking up Bacrot’s cries of anguish as you crush him.”

Pascal laughed. 

A few minutes later Kirk was being philosophical: “Admiral, how we deal with death is just as important as how we deal with life.” 

“He’s speaking to you, Pascal,” I said.  “He’s telling you that if you reach a bad position you must not cave in.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” he said, and he pantomimed a sizzling tennis serve. 

“Strike!” I shouted. 

Pascal looked deflated.  “Shit!  If you thought that was baseball, I’m in trouble.” 

“No, no. I meant to say, ‘Ace.’  I got the word wrong.  Sports isn’t my thing.”

He served again.   

“Ace!” I shouted.

 “Better!” he said.  “Now I’m going to beat the punk.”

Windows Expert Needed in Bulgaria

May 19, 2007

Mig Greengard’s Daily Dirt blog at, which has the superb tag-line “Because losing sucks,” is a must read for chess professionals and their fans.  On Wednesday, May 16, a curious posting stream appeared called “Help Wanted! Elista or Bust”—a general plea for assistance in replacing grandmaster Gata Kamsky’s malfunctioning laptop in Bulgaria—and then curiously disappeared.  Kamsky, a Siberian turned New Yorker who graduated from law school, is America’s best hope since Bobby Fischer for winning the world chess championship.  To play for the world title in September in Mexico City, he must first do well in a qualifying tournament that starts in a week in Elista “help-me-Map-Quest” Kalmykia.  

Kamksy is now warming up in the M-Tel Masters tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria, and can’t use his computer, which houses his all-important chess-opening preparation and a database of his past games as well as his opponents’.  Hence the Daily Dirt plea, which suggested that Kamsky faced the same dilemma as a working mom: he could not shop for a computer in Bulgaria because he had to play chess during the hours when the stores were normally open. 

The fact that the No. 1 ranked U.S. player and his supporters have to scramble for a computer on the eve of his representing our country in a world-championship-qualifying match says something very pathetic about the state of American chess.  Can you imagine Tiger Woods or his manager having to post an ad on Craigslist because the champ misplaced his clubs?  Or Lance Armstrong, because he couldn’t find his bicycle? 

Doesn’t Kamsky have a back-up of his preparation on hand? 

In 2004, I accompanied Pascal Charbonneau to the world championship in Tripoli, and the Canadian Champion installed a copy of his opening preparation on my PC—and he almost needed it after he plugged his laptop into an outlet in the hotel room and the outlet kind of exploded and the electricity in the entire wall blew out!  (I could have provided Pascal with more support in Libya if I hadn’t been taken into custody and harassed on suspicion of being CIA, but that’s a long harrowing story, which will have to wait until the publication of King’s Gambit.)

Why can’t Kamsky just ask the  M-Tel organizers to help him get a new laptop? A world-class competitor like Kamsky customarily employs a “second”—a strong player to help him come up with opening-move novelties and lend moral support.  Can’t Kamsky’s sous-chef take an hour out from cooking up novelties in the Queen’s Indian Defense and go shopping in Sofia for a computer?  Or does Kamsky not have a second? 

And why doesn’t the United States Chess Federation, which has 80,000 dues-paying woodpushers like myself, just step in and buy him a new laptop or fix him up with someone who can reinstall Windows?  I can’t think of a better use for our dues than to support our very best player. 

After a few posters on ChessNinja ridiculed Kamsky because of the Help Wanted request (someone named Eoa slighted Bulgarian, perhaps?wrote, “Lets see a lawyer that can easily earn over a hundred thousand a year easily in the USA needs help from chess peasants laughable. If He is going to play pro let him act pro.”), Kamsky himself wrote to explain that the matter would be dealt with privately and that “Everything is fine:)”.  The Help Wanted thread subsequently came down. 

The latest Daily Dirt blog entry indicates that Kamsky now has a new laptop and new software because good Samaritans intervened and shipped them to him.

Mig’s site does a dynamite job of tracking Kamsky’s progress in Bulgaria (he’s now tied for second place).  News about the M-Tel tournament and his progress can also be found at ChessBase News and Chess Life Online.