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    Entries in Gata Kamsky (27)

    Tuesday
    Aug302016

    Two Recent Kamsky Games: A Double Reminder

    It wasn't all that long ago that Gata Kamsky was one of the absolute top players in the world. He's still no slouch, obviously, but it's stunning to see that he is now out of the world's top 100. He was still in the top 100 a few weeks ago, during the Calgary International, but although he tied for second he still lost points.

    Here are a couple of his games from that tournament, a loss and a win. The loss was a disaster against Gil Popilski, who subsequently tied for first in the U.S. Open, while the win was an impressive victory over Kayden Troff that prevented him from tying for or taking clear first.

    The double reminder? The first is of the human condition: errare humanum est - to err is human. It was a very strange game all around: Kamsky chose a (dubious) Sicilian sideline, but although it was he who chose to leave the beaten track he apparently did so without a proper knowledge of the variation in question. It's hard to know exactly what went wrong: maybe he was improvising, or perhaps he mixed things up. Whatever the case, his position was already poor in the opening, and then he blundered.

    The second reminder is a happier one, of his excellence. Kamsky brutally outplayed the young American GM in the last round, demonstrating that there was a reason he was in the world's absolute elite from the early 1990s until very recently, not counting the period of his retirement. Perhaps Kamsky lacks the motivation at this stage of his life to make a serious push to return to the super-elite, but if he doesn't return to the top of world chess it won't be due to a lack of talent.

    Thursday
    Apr142016

    U.S. Championships Start Today!

    At 1 p.m. local time in St. Louis (= 2 p.m. ET) the U.S. Championships get underway in St. Louis. Both the Championship and the Women's event are 12 player round robins finishing April 25 - April 26 in case of a playoff, and don't forget that after the event, on the 28th and 29th, there will be a blitz event that might include the big three (Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, and Wesley So) and definitely includes none other than Garry Kasparov. (I hope for his sake he has been training hard.)

    The Championship is incredibly strong, with three players in the top 10 (the aforementioned Mssrs. Caruana, Nakamura, and So), and the second tier of Gata Kamsky, Alexander Onischuk, Ray Robson, and Sam Shankland isn't exactly chopped liver. On the Women's side, it looks likely to be another battle to the death between Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih, who between them have won the last 10 women's championships. Krush has won the last four, but they've almost always come down to the wire and Zatonskih is the very slightly higher-rated player.

    Here are the first round pairings for the main event: 

    • Fabiano Caruana (2795) - Varuzhan Akobian (2615)
    • Sam Shankland (2656) - Akshat Chandra (2477)
    • Wesley So (2773) - Gata Kamsky (2678)
    • Hikaru Nakamura (2787) - Aleksandr Lenderman (2618)
    • Alexander Shabalov (2528) - Ray Robson (2663)
    • Alexander Onischuk (2664) - Jeffery Xiong (2618) 

    It's a good time to be a fan of U.S. chess! Tournament predictions? Nakamura is the defending champion, and he and Gata Kamsky have won the last seven between them. So only started playing in the U.S. Championship last year and Caruana is a rookie, so the Nakamura-Kamsky streak isn't as relevant as it would otherwise be. My prediction is that Nakamura will win.

    Tuesday
    Mar312015

    The U.S. Championships Start Tomorrow (Wednesday)

    The semi-retired Gata Kamsky has won the last two U.S. Championships, but in neither event did he have to overcome U.S. #1 (and now world #3) Hikaru Nakamura. In this year's U.S. championship, he'll not only have to outperform Nakamura, but world #8 Wesley So as well. On the women's side, Irina Krush will be going for her 27th straight title (give or take...it'll be "just" her 7th title and fourth in a row, if she wins). For some reason her main rival, 4-time champ Anna Zatonskih, isn't playing, so her toughest opposition may come from Tatev Abrahamyan.

    Play begins each day at 1 p.m. local time in St. Louis = 2 p.m. ET. The pairings will be determined tonight, and both tournaments are 12-player round-robins. Sticking to the men's event, what do you think: Nakamura, So, or the field?

    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?