Mig Greengard’s Daily Dirt blog at ChessNinja.com, 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 Eo—a 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.