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    Entries in Gata Kamsky (24)

    Tuesday
    May202014

    Kamsky, Krush Win The U.S. Championships (Again)

    It wasn't easy, but defending champions Gata Kamsky and Irina Krush both managed to keep their U.S. Championship crowns. For Kamsky, this is his fifth title and fourth in the last five years, while for Krush it is her sixth title and third in a row.

    In the open championship Kamsky had the best tiebreak of the three playoff participants, so he waited for the winner of the bid-Armageddon semi-final match between Alex Lenderman and Varuzhan Akobian. Akobian had the low bid with 29:57, so he was given Black and draw odds against Lenderman, who got White and 45 minutes. The position was around equal when Lenderman made a fatal miscalculation. He sacrificed a pawn, expecting to regain it after 22.Na4 with a positional advantage. He completely missed (or at least underestimated) the weakness of f2, and Akobian quickly finished him off with a direct attack and advanced to the final.

    An Armageddon game at the stage could eventually be reached, but before that could happen the players would have a couple of normal game/25s (with five second increments) first. Akobian had White against Kamsky in the first game, got nothing, and the game was a relatively uneventful draw. In the second game Kamsky played his usual patient chess, essaying the London System and playing for a little queenside pressure. Objectively the position after 17 moves was approximately equal, but Akobian, who was already starting to run low on time, tried to resolve the position immediately with 17...dxc4 18.Nxc4 e5. He was probably better off keeping the position intact, but it's hard for most of us not to just "do something", especially in a high pressure game with time dwindling away. The same goes in spades for Akobian's 21...c5, which was an outright error. After this mistake he was just about lost, and he was soon down a pawn and down to his last seconds on the clock; bad news against anyone, and hopeless news against Kamsky.

    In the women's championship things proceeded quite similarly. Krush, likewise the defending champion, had the best tiebreak scores and could await the winner of the bid-Armageddon game. The winning bid here was very similar to that in the open event, with Tatev Abrahamyan getting Black and draw odds with 29:45 on her clock to Anna Zatonskih's 45 minutes. Here the similarities end, as Abrahamyan was simply unfamiliar with the theory of a major line - not good. 12...Nxc3 is the standard move; instead, her 12...Nc5 was a lemon. When Zatonskih found the brilliant and correct 16.Nxd5!! it looked like it would be game over, and the commentators were already making her the favorite for the final, given how sharp she seemed to be. Abrahamyan's response was a further error, and on move 20 Zatonskih had several winning moves. Instead, she blundered with 20.a4?? - a good idea in general, but not properly timed - and after this Black was not only not dead lost, but better. From there Abrahamyan always kept control, and although both sides committed various inaccuracies Zatonskih never had the chance to be better. In the final position Black was around +50 according to the computer, but with White enjoying some threatening possibilities and a handy perpetual available Abrahamyan took the easy way out and proceeded to the final.

    The first g/25 was a mess, with Krush's position constantly vacillating between clearly winning and much better, with an occasional fleeting moment where Abrahamyan might sneak out with a draw. The last such moment came on move 66, when after a long stretch of very resourceful defense Abrahamyan could have drawn with 68...Rg8+ 69.Rb8 Rb6!! 70.Rxg8+ Kxg8, when any sideways rook move will be met by 71...Ra6+, winning the pawn or repeating. If instead 71.a5, then 71...Rb5 72.a6 Rb6 and the pawn is lost due to zugzwang. Missing this last chance, she lost the game. In game 2 Krush equalized with Black, but 20...Nxd5? was too cynical. Yes, it traded some material, but gave White the opportunity to target Black's weak b- and d-pawns, not to mention the Black king by means of the h7 square and the a2-g8 diagonal. Abrahamyan also enjoyed a huge advantage on the clock, but Krush defended well (except on move 31) and eventually both advantages disappeared. In the end Krush had the better position - and crucially, one that could not be lost - and White eventually acquiesced in the draw. (All the games can be replayed here, with my on-the-fly notes.)

    Congratulations once again to Gata Kamsky and Irina Krush! Their challengers are getting closer and closer, but close, as they rightly say, isn't good enough.

    Wednesday
    Jan012014

    Recently Completed Events: Beijing

    In the previous post and this older one I presented a pair of games from the SportAccord World Mind Games; in this one I will recap the results and present still another game. It was a very strong event with 16 elite GMs participating. The event had three stages: a 7-round Swiss in rapid chess, a double round-robin in blitz, and finally five rounds of Basque System chess. (The Basque System refers to a match where the opponents simultaneously face each other on two boards, having one color on one and the opposite on the other.)

    In the Rapid, Peter Leko was leading with 5/6 going into the last round, but he lost to Wang Yue and took second to him on tiebreak. Alexander Grischuk took the bronze with 4.5 points, also on tiebreaks ahead of Leinier Dominguez.

    Likewise in the blitz, there were ties for both the gold and the bronze. Sergey Karjakin scored 19.5/30 and finished ahead of Levon Aronian on tiebreaks, while Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's 18 point total proved better than Shakhriyar Mamedyarov's, likewise thanks to the tiebreaks.

    Finally, Karjakin was also able to "Basque" in the glory of a triumph in the third tournament, winning with a very impressive score of 8.5/10. Mamedyarov was second, a full two points behind, and Ruslan Ponomariov was third with 6 points.

    Now to another game from the tournament. In my older post on the event (linked above) I presented a catastrophic loss by Vassily Ivanchuk to Ian Nepomniachtchi in just 20 moves. For an encore, let's see his loss to Gata Kamsky, which only went 21 moves. (Sometimes the best thing one can do about a tournament is to forget it as quickly as possible.)

    Saturday
    Sep142013

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 5: Two Draws Leave Carlsen in Clear First Entering the Last Round

    The penultimate round of the Sinquefield Cup saw the players leave the round the way they started, relatively speaking, with Magnus Carlsen half a point ahead of Hikaru Nakamura, a point ahead of Levon Aronian, and two and a half points ahead of Gata Kamsky.

    Nakamura started the day winless against Carlsen in classical chess, but armed with the white pieces and his trusty sunglasses he hoped to win and thereby leapfrog his way into first place. It was not to be. He played the very safe 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.Re1 line against Carlsen's Berlin, and although the game started to get interesting thanks to Carlsen's later advance of the f-pawn both combatants played excellently and the game finished in a repetition.

    With a win against Kamsky Aronian could have caught Nakamura in second, half a point behind Carlsen, and that would have meant that his fate would be in his own hands for tomorrow's last round. (It isn't now, because even if he defeats Carlsen tomorrow Nakamura can win the tournament by defeating Kamsky.) Conditions looked good for that, as Aronian had won nicely yesterday and had the advantage of the white pieces against a desperately out of shape and discouraged opponent. Despite that, he didn't even come close to a victory. Kamsky played the Dutch, following Carlsen's lead in round 2 against Aronian, and although he didn't obtain quite as serious an edge as Carlsen did he still wound up with a good position. He also seemed to have a better feel for the play than Aronian did, but while it was enough to press it wasn't enough for a victory. (Games here, with my comments.)

    The games tomorrow start two hours early, at 11 a.m. local time (12 noon ET/6 p.m. CET), as they are alotting time for a playoff in case of a tie for first. It is possible; in fact, there could even be a three-way tie for first (or next-to-last place, if you prefer) if everything works "properly". Here are the pairings:

     

    • Carlsen (3.5) - Aronian (2.5)
    • Kamsky (1) - Nakamura (3)

     

    Saturday
    Sep142013

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 4: Nakamura Loses, Carlsen Wins and Leads

    It was quite a turnaround in round 4 of the Sinquefield Cup. Hikaru Nakamura had been the confident leader through the first three rounds, but that changed at the start of the second cycle. Ever combative, Nakamura played the King's Indian against Levon Aronian, who went for Makagonov's 5.h3. The position took on more of a Benoni-like character, and two moves were critical. First there was Nakamura's 10...h6, which created the preconditions for a weak kingside down the road. Second, there was his decision not to meet Aronian's 20.h4 with ...h5. After 20...Rc8? 21.h5 Nakamura was lost or nearly so, and while he managed to avoid a crushing attack by sacrificing a piece for two pawns, the resulting ending was probably technically lost, and Aronian managed to reel in the point.

    Meanwhile, Magnus Carlsen inflicted a bit more misery on Gata Kamsky, who now has just half a point out of four games. (That's half a point more than 99.9% of us would score, not that that's much consolation for him.) Kamsky appeared to be unfamiliar with Carlsen's 14...Ng4 in the line of the Exchange Ruy Lopez that transpired, and quickly found himself in a miserable bind. His decision to sac a pawn with 22.c3 was understandable but probably mistaken, but he did gain a second chance to hold later on. Carlsen seemed to be stuck between two approaches: going for a technical win, or attempting to finish the game off by more direct means. The result was that he threw away a large portion of his advantage, but once he decided to go for pure technique he managed to win the game again, and Kamsky didn't get a third chance. (Games here, with my comments.)

    The upshot is that Carlsen leads with 3/4, half a point ahead of Nakamura and a full point in front of Levon Aronian. Today - starting in about 30 minutes - Nakamura will have White against Carlsen, while Aronian will have White against Kamsky, so there's still plenty of time and opportunity for the places to shift at the top.

    Wednesday
    Sep112013

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 3: Two Draws and a Corey Hart Song

    Both games were drawn today in the Sinquefield Cup, keeping Hikaru Nakamura in solo first, half a point clear of Magnus Carlsen, a point and a half ahead of Levon Aronian and two full points ahead of Gata Kamsky.

    Starting with the less significant game for the standings, Gata Kamsky wanted to make a draw with White against Aronian, just to stop his skid and recover on the rest day. He ultimately got his wish, but Aronian obtained decent winning chances until he acceded to the trade of queens. In particular, ...Qf6 on moves 34 or 36 would have been very strong. If White met this the way he met ...Qg7, then Black has ...f4 and can recapture in case White takes the pawn, while on Qf4 there's ...Ne4+. Fortunately for the American, Aronian avoided it and Kamsky got on the scoreboard.

    The other American was less fortunate. Going into the game a draw would have seemed an excellent result for Nakamura with Black against Carlsen, but as things went it got a little dicey for the world's #1. Carlsen was forced to sac an exchange, and although he was never in desperate trouble Nakamura was always playing with the draw in hand, while the Norwegian was short of time, too. Unfortunately for Nakamura, Carlsen defended very well and got a well-earned draw. (Games here, but without notes.)

    Their game was interesting, but if anything is likely to be remembered from today's game it will be Nakamura's playing the game with sunglasses on. Why? Some saw this as harkening back to Pal Benko's decision to wear sunglasses in a famous game against Mikhail Tal in the 1959 Candidates' Tournament, to prevent Tal from "hypnotizing" him with his (in)famous stare. Benko had a horrible record against Tal, and Nakamura's record against Carlsen (in classical games) is pretty dreadful as well. To the extent that he had the better of the play today, it worked, though depending on how reflective the glasses were the stunt might have been a little un-kosher. Whatever the case, we'll award him the song of the day:

    Tuesday
    Sep102013

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 1: Carlsen and Nakamura Win

    In round 1 of the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, both players with the white pieces won their games, but in rather different ways. Hikaru Nakamura enjoyed some opening advantage against Levon Aronian before the latter managed to equalize, and the game was rapidly headed for a draw. Unfortunately for Aronian, he committed a pretty simple blunder with plenty of time on his clock (30...Qb5??), and that cost him the exchange and the game.

    The battle between Magnus Carlsen and Gata Kamsky was richer. After a rather unambitious opening and somewhat vague play in the early middlegame, Carlsen failed to enjoy any advantage; if anything, Kamsky was starting to feel his oats and went in search of an attack on the kingside. At this point Carlsen started playing very well, and his kingside jiu-jitsu led to a crushing counterattack. Kamsky opened the kingside, and the result was that Carlsen's heavy pieces soon surrounded the hapless black king.

    You can find the games here, with my notes. Round 2 starts in just under half an hour, with the pairings Aronian - Carlsen and Nakamura - Kamsky.

    Friday
    Sep062013

    Coming Up: The Sinquefield Cup Starts Monday

    Only four players are participating in the Sinquefield Cup, but they aren't just any four players! The world's #s 1 and 2, Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian, will take on the United States's top duo of Hikaru Nakamura (#7 in the world) and Gata Kamsky (#19). The event will be a double round-robin running from Monday, September 9 through Sunday, September 15, with a rest day on Thursday after the first cycle. This is Carlsen's last event before his world championship match with Anand, and while one can expect he'll hide all his real openings he'll surely take this tournament very seriously as a tune-up. For Aronian it will be a chance to bounce back from his poor performance in the World Cup and to make an early statement in advance of next year's Candidates. For Nakamura, a great result would be a huge confidence boost, and for Kamsky his fans can hope that a strong result will lead to him to delay is plans to retire in a year or so.

    Predictions?

    Tuesday
    Aug202013

    2013 World Cup: Round 4, Day 1: Kramnik, Caruana and Kamsky Win

    Day 1 of round 4 of the 2013 World Cup got off to a slow start with super-quick draws in the Dmitry Andreikin - Sergey Karjakin and Hikaru Nakamura - Anton Korobov games, but then it heated up. (That's not to say the players with White had no ambitions - that surely was not the case with at least Nakamura. But neither achieved even the most minuscule of edges, and in neither case was there anything for White to do.)

    The next draw was a 27-mover between Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Boris Gelfand, but don't be fooled for an instant by the move count. This was a very complicated game that would have been an impressive achievement by both sides, were it not all or practically home prep for both of them.

    Le Quang Liem drew an up and down game with Peter Svidler. Le's plan with queenside castling was a new wrinkle in the line, at least to Svidler, and soon White was much better. In fact, had Le played 23.Rxd5 Svidler professed himself just about ready to resign, and that isn't just a matter of Svidler's typical self-deprecation. He really would have been completely lost. After that reprieve he was still worse, but not lost, and by the end he may have been even better with 38...Ke6 instead of 38...Kf6, going for a repetition. After Susan Polgar and Lawrence Trent prodded him about that, Svidler bemoaned his being a "chicken". Despite all those misadventures, he's still tied in the match and has White tomorrow.

    The last draw was between Alexander Morozevich and Evgeny Tomashevsky, and the latter continued his fine, solid play, gradually equalizing and then even enjoying a little pull by the end.

    Now to the wins. The first game to finish, barely, was Fabiano Caruana's win over Julio Granda Zuniga. Granda was at most slightly worse before playing 20...f5??; after it, he was dead lost, and after the obvious 21.exf6 he resigned. Black can't take twice on e2 because White will trade rooks and promote the f-pawn, while 21...Qa6 can be met several ways, most appealingly and effectively by 22.f7! Rxe2 23.Bf5+! gxf5 24.Rxd8+ Kxd8 25.f8Q+ Kd7 (25...Re8 26.Rd1+ mates quickly) 26.Qf7+ when Black can move his king to the c-file and get mated with 27.Qxc7, or do something else and lose huge quantities of material after 27.Rd1+.

    The second decisive game to finish was a greater achievement by the winner. Gata Kamsky won a very impressive attacking game against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, filled with a whole series of sacrifices. Really a beautiful game.

    Finally, Vladimir Kramnik won with the black pieces against Vassily Ivanchuk, though as he told Polgar and Trent - the first thing out of his mouth after the congratulations - it would have been much better had it happened in London. In a queen and rook ending Ivanchuk underestimated the danger of pushing pawns around his king, and it cost him.

    So far my predictions for the round are going well: three right and none wrong! Meanwhile, enjoy all eight games here, with perfunctory comments in some cases and a bit of analysis in others.

    Tuesday
    Jun182013

    A Small Super-Tournament in St. Louis

    This ought to be fun: Rex Sinquefield is putting on an elite four-player, double round robin this September (the 9th to the 15th) at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis. The participants are the world's #1 and 2 players, Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian, respectively, and the U.S.A.'s #s 1 and 2 - Hikaru Nakamura and Gata Kamsky.

    The CCSCSL has put on some great events the past few years, and this is the most prestigious yet. It should be terrific as all four players are terrific fighters; let's just hope that their website will finally be worthy of the chess it's supposed to broadcast.

    Sunday
    Jun022013

    Thessaloniki Grand Prix, Round 10: Kamsky Leads Going Into The Last Round

    One round remains in the ongoing Grand Prix event in Thessaloniki, and thanks to his win today Gata Kamsky enjoys a half point lead over Leinier Dominguez. Kamsky beat Alexander Morozevich, who managed three serious errors out of his 24 moves. (It seems that more and more of the games are being marred by serious errors, sometimes by both players, which suggests a degree of fatigue. Or maybe it's the beauty of Greece itself!) Kamsky won quickly and convincingly, but missed a chance to win even sooner. 17...Nxb2 was a real stinker, and Kamsky could have capitalized immediately with the natural and obvious 18.Nd5. (I'm sure he saw it; the question is what he overlooked in his analysis.) Anyway, he soon got a second chance, and Morozevich had to resign, faced with massive material loss and checkmate likely to come soon afterward.

    If Dominguez had beaten Alexander Grischuk, he would have remained tied for first. With Black that would have been a tough order, and a draw was a very reasonable result. It was a very sharp, even crazy game with Dominguez sacrificing material and both players attacking. This accurately played game finished in a perpetual.

    The third game with relevance to the first-place standings was a real mess, with Fabiano Caruana outlasting Veselin Topalov in a hard-fought and mistake-filled game. This was a very important result, as Caruana remains alive in the hunt for first place, and gets the white pieces against Kamsky in the last round, while Dominguez will have White against Topalov. Here are the full pairings:

    • Kasimdzhanov (5) - Grischuk (5.5)
    • Nakamura (4) - Svidler (4.5)
    • Bacrot (4) - Ivanchuk (2.5)
    • Morozevich (3.5) - Ponomariov (5.5)
    • Caruana (6.5) - Kamsky (7.5)
    • Dominguez (7) - Topalov (4.5)

    Note to those of you who may want to watch the last round live: the games start two hours earlier than usual, at noon Greek time/11:00 a.m. CET/5 a.m. ET.