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    Entries in Gata Kamsky (30)

    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.

    Friday
    May312013

    Thessaloniki Grand Prix, Round 8: Kamsky Leads Alone

    Gata Kamsky still intends to retire when he turns 40, unfortunately, but for now he's enjoying some fine performances. That he won the U.S. Championship wasn't much of a surprise - with Hikaru Nakamura gone he was a pretty significant favorite. After eight rounds there his score was 6-2, which was good but not a shock. He's also 6-2 thus far at the FIDE Grand Prix tournament in Thessaloniki, and that is a surprise. He has won three games in a row, and his latest victim was the aforementioned Nakamura. It was a remarkably easy win, more or less settled when Nakamura played 15...Qa3? White was already better, but that gave Kamsky a won position after 16.Bg6+ and 17.Bf7, picking up the e-pawn. Nakamura fought an additional 30+ moves, but the advantage was just too big.

    Fabiano Caruana shared the lead going into the round, but he was fortunate to escape his game with Alexander Grischuk with half a point. (That was the only draw of the round.) Caruana was a bit worse for a long time, but it wasn't too worrisome until 40...Kh6, imperiling his king. Grischuk's 41.Rd1! revealed Black's trouble, but on move 44 he let Caruana slip away with 44.Rh1+; 44.Rd7 Rg7 45.e6 kept a probably winning bind.

    Tied for second with Caruana is Leinier Dominguez, who had led or been tied for the lead after rounds 4-6. He outplayed Alexander Morozevich pretty smoothly. White's position looked pleasant after 23.Rfe1; after 23...Be6 it was probably winning. It's hard for me to understand that move; maybe Morozevich felt his position was bankrupt in any case and hoped to gain some compensation with the bishop pair in return for the pawn (and the space, and the e-file, and the dark squares...). He didn't.

    Other games: Veselin Topalov played a very poor opening against Etienne Bacrot - especially unusual for Topalov with the White pieces. He must have missed Bacrot's nice tactical shot 14...Bxb4, after which he was in very bad shape. In fact, Bacrot may have been winning with 15...Nd4 rather than 15...Nxb4. Presumably White intended to give up the queen for three minor pieces with 16.Nxd4, but after 16...Bxe2 17.Nxe2 c6 White's d-pawn will drop, and his e-pawn may soon join his neighbor in the afterlife as well. So 15...Nxb4 may have been a bit of an amnesty, but when Topalov gave up the exchange with 20.Nd5 (rather than holding it with 20.Nc2 - 20...Bh3 21.Ne1 followed by Ng2 is the point) it became a matter of technique. The technical task was simplified by Topalov's 31.h4?; 31.Nf5 first would have kept some hope alive.

    The two remaining games were also won by Black: in the battle of the Rus's (neither of whom is from Russia), Rustam Kasimdzhanov won a very nice ending over Ruslan Ponomariov, while Vassily Ivanchuk's tournament of implosion continued against Peter Svidler. In fact it was a good battle, not lost by the Ukranian on any single really bad move. (Perhaps the simplest and easiest improvement came on move 27, when 27.Rxh6 would have maintained the balance.)

    Today (Friday) was the second and last rest day, and the last three rounds will be played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Here are the pairings for round 9:

    • Svidler (3.5) - Grischuk (4.5)
    • Kasimdzhanov (4) - Ivanchuk (1.5)
    • Nakamura (3) - Ponomariov (4)
    • Bacrot (3.5) - Kamsky (6)
    • Morozevich (3.5) - Topalov (3.5)
    • Caruana (5.5) - Dominguez (5.5) (Probably the most important game of the round.)

    Thursday
    May302013

    Thessaloniki Grand Prix, Round 7: Kamsky, Caruana Lead

    It was a very good day for citizens of the United States at the FIDE Grand Prix tournament in Thessaloniki as they went three for three while no non-citizen managed to win. Two of them, Gata Kamsky and Fabiano Caruana (who holds dual citizenship but represents Italy) are tied for first, while the third, Hikaru Nakamura, got his first win of the event.

    Kamsky's win was the cleanest, as he simply outplayed Rustam Kasimdzhanov with the black pieces in a Dutch Defense. Kasimdzhanov didn't make any obvious, egregious errors, but was beaten a bit at a time. The only really clear error came on move 27. White should have played 27.e4, temporarily sacrificing a pawn. His position was worse but wouldn't have been lost. Instead, he tried 27.exf4, but this opened the kingside files and Kamsky took speedy advantage.

    Caruana's win wasn't so smooth. First one player and then the other had a very slight advantage, but it was Alexander Morozevich who was doing most of the pressing. The key moment came on move 47. Caruana threatened 47...Qb1+ 48.Nf1 Qxf1+ 49.Kxf1 Rh1#, and so Morozevich played 47.Nf1(??). That took care of the mate, but it was a blunder, and he was lost after 47...Nh3+!, forcing the win of the queen. Instead, 47.Nxf4 exf4 48.Nh5 sufficed for full equality. (Note that 48...Qb1+ 49.Kh2 Qxe4?? walks into mate starting with 50.Qc8+.) A nice gift for Caruana!

    The third decisive game was Nakamura's win over Veselin Topalov. Nakamura quickly won a pawn, but in light of the locked pawn structure and Black's good knight vs. White's bad bishop, a draw was the likelier result. Nakamura thought that Topalov's decision to exchange the last pair of rooks was a mistake, though even after the trade it wasn't clear that White could win. After the game Nakamura believed he could have won more easily with 44.Bxg6, but this is a mistake: after 44...Kxg6 45.Ke5 Nf5! 46.d6 Nd4! 47.d7 Kf7! 48.Kd6 Ne6 49.f4 Kf6! it's a draw.

    Another key moment came at move 50. Nakamura thought for half an hour on 50.f5 before playing it, and Topalov instantly replied with 50...Nd6, which looks like a serious (and fairly obvious) error. As Nakamura pointed out, Black needed to play 50...Kg7, aiming to park the king on f6 and bringing the knight back to d6. He didn't see a way to win after that, and it's not clear that there is one. (I'm not completely sure about that, but I'm not spotting one and the computer doesn't offer any sensible lines either.) Topalov's move allowed 51.f6, which in turns makes it possible for White's king to make further inroads.

    Nevertheless, the adventures hadn't yet come to an end. After 54...Nxb5 White had any number of clear winning approaches; for example, 55.Be8 Nd6 56.f7 Kg7 57.Kg5 followed soon by Ke6, or 55...Nd4 56.Kg4 Nxb3 57.d6 Nd4 58.Bf7 Nc6 59.Kf5. In both cases, White is not just winning but easily winning. Instead though, Nakamura played 55.Be2, probably anticipating 55...Nd6 and intending to meet it with 56.Bd3, cutting off the Black king. Instead, Black played 55...Nd4!, and now Nakamura had to think. He was down to his last 4-5 minutes until the second time control (achieved by making the 60th move). He looked nervous and his time was dwindling, but to his credit he played the absolutely correct - and probably only winning move - 56.Bh5!! To make this move he had to accurately calculate that 56.Bd3 failed, to recognize that 56.Bh5 won, and to have the inner strength to undo his last move. After 56.Bh5, 56...Nf5+ was probably a better try, but Topalov was lost in any case.

    The other three games were drawn, but only Bacrot-Dominguez merits mention. It was a very long game, but instructive in two ways. First, it shows both the strengths and the limits of the minority attack. White got what he wanted and saddled Black with a chronically weak c-pawn. That's the strength. On the other hand, Dominguez showed that the one weakness, by itself, wasn't the end of the world. He never had any counterplay, but even so it was very hard for White to convert this slight advantage into something major. The second instructive aspect came late in the knight ending, when Dominguez bravely and correctly sacrificed the aforementioned c-pawn with 60...Nd7. If Mikhail Botvinnik's maxim that "knight endings are pawn endings" were true, then White would have won. Instead, Black got just enough counterplay, and between that and White's backward e-pawn, Dominguez was able to hold the game.

    Round 8 Pairings:

    • Grischuk (4) - Caruana (5)
    • Dominguez (4.5) - Morozevich (3.5)
    • Topalov (3.5) - Bacrot (2.5)
    • Kamsky (5) - Nakamura (3)
    • Ponomariov (4) - Kasimdzhanov (3)
    • Ivanchuk (1.5) - Svidler (2.5)

    Tuesday
    May142013

    Kamsky Wins U.S. Championship in Playoff

    Alejandro Ramirez had a great tournament and gave Gata Kamsky a run for his money, but in the end experience prevailed as Kamsky won the U.S. Championship by finally defeating his opponent, in the Armageddon game. Before that they played a pair of 25-minute games, and while Kamsky was better in each he simply couldn't put his opponent away. Ramirez proved himself an adept defender, as indeed he also did in their classical game in round 8.

    After the draws, it was time for the Armageddon game, and as you may recall from previous U.S. Championships they do things with a twist there. As usual, the player getting Black receives draw odds, meaning that if the game finishes in a draw he wins the playoff. The twist comes in how they determine who gets what color. The player with White, whoever it ends up being, gets 45 minutes (plus a 5-second increment after every move; Black also gets the 5-second increment). But who gets Black and how much time Black will have is determined by a bidding process: both players secretly write down how much time they would be willing to have to play with the black pieces, and the low bidder gets his wish. Kamsky bid 20 minutes, and Ramirez, simulating ESP, bid 19 minutes and 45 seconds. (I suppose if he really had ESP he'd have gone for 19 minutes and 59 seconds, but the point was that it was a clever bid.)

    In the rapid games Ramirez handled the concrete play quite well, and was able to move quickly in those situations. In the Armageddon game, Kamsky tried a different tack, basically holding the position, avoiding exchanges and trying to gently suffocate the black pieces. This proved very effective, as Ramirez lacked the time to keep solving the more vague problems being posed. Eventually Ramirez fell very short of time, and then the moment was right for Kamsky to initiate concrete play. Without enough time to work out the problems, Ramirez lost ground, lost material, and finally lost the game. Still, it was a great performance, and in addition to $20,000 and a bunch of rating points, he clearly earned Kamsky's respect, too.

    As for Kamsky, he netted $30,000 and his fourth U.S. Championship title. Intriguingly, he was rather subdued after winning, and expressed himself as somewhat disappointed that one of the young guns didn't win. He still seems intent on retiring once he turns 40, and wants to see the future of U.S. chess in good hands. It seems to me that things are going in the right direction, but it will be a pity for American chess (though of course, not necessarily for Kamsky himself) if he really does follow through with his planned retirement. Anyway, congratulations to him, to Alejandro Ramirez, and to Irina Krush for picking up her 5th women's championship the day before.

    Monday
    May132013

    U.S. Championships, Round 9: Krush Wins the Women's Title; Kamsky and Ramirez Need a Playoff

    In the women's championship, Irina Krush came into the last round needing only a draw against Camilla Baginskaite to seal clear first, and that's just what she got. She played it safe, but even within those self-imposed parameters she managed to outplay Baginskaite and win a pawn. That should have been enough to win, and under normal circumstances I suspect she would have closed the deal. Perhaps overly excited about clinching tournament victory, she got a bit careless and allowed her opponent some counterplay. Wisely, she decided to regain her bearings, reset her sights, and offer a draw. It was accepted, and her resulting score of 8/9 won the event (and $18,000), half a point ahead of Anna Zatonskih, who defeated Sabina Foisor in the last round. Tatev Abrahamyan took third with 6.5 points. (Full standings here.)

    In the main event, Gata Kamsky could have clinched clear first with a win over Ray Robson, but although he seemed close to winning Robson managed to keep just enough activity to sneak out with a draw. That left the door open for any one of three players to catch him: Alejandro Ramirez (who faced Larry Christiansen), Alexander Onischuk (facing Kayden Troff) and Conrad Holt (whose opponent was second-seeded Timur Gareev). Two failed, but one succeeded.

    Onischuk had the white pieces and a big rating advantage against Troff, but despite that never came close to winning. The game was drawn, and Troff secured his first GM norm - not bad for anyone, especially for someone who turned 15 less than a week ago!

    Holt had a crazy game with Gareev that should have ended in a draw, but perhaps Holt wanted so desperately to win that he rejected a simple drawing continuation a few moves before the finish. I don't know that it was the last drawing chance, but it was certainly the easiest: 77...Qxd5 78.Bxd5 Nf5+ followed by 79...Nd4 and then capturing the b-pawn. Maybe he missed it, or maybe he hallucinated and forgot that 78...Nf5 was check (if it weren't check, White would have Be4, pinning and winning). Or, as I suggested above, he wanted to go for the win at all costs. Whatever the story, he didn't manage to catch Kamsky.

    Ramirez did, however, to his own surprise and delight, outplaying Christiansen and finishing with a nice attack in an ending with heavy pieces. Ramirez (who incidentally became a GM at 15) will have a playoff match with Kamsky tomorrow/today (Monday) at 12:00 noon St. Louis time, and they will play two 25-minute games. If it's tied after that, then they will have a bid Armageddon game.

    (Full standings here.)