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Kamsky close up Print E-mail
By Jennifer Shahade and Josh Friedel   
August 4, 2006
Gata Kamsky, here pictured in front of his Brooklyn home. Photo JS

GM Gata Kamsky took first place in the Mayor's Cup, the World Open and now sits atop the USCF rating list. (Look for Greg Shahade's August list recap in the next few days.) This, combined with his international performances in Sofia and Turin, firmly place him as the man to beat in American chess.

Chess Life Online brings you annotations from his Mtel result by IM Josh Friedel, one of America's most dedicated and talented young players. [DOCUMENT:21]Download Josh Friedel's annotations in Chessbase[/DOCUMENT] or scroll down for play through games and read the analysis.

As a child prodigy, Gata's life was rigorously structured, and his serious expression reflected that. Now at thirty-two years, Gata actually looks younger. Gata’s current chess training regiment is sporadic. The cornerstone of Gata’s daily routine is a 2 mile walk with his family on the boardwalk.

He shares a three room Brighton Beach apartment with his wife Alisa and two-year-old son Adam. They live steps away from the “Q” train, thirty minutes from Manhattan, and smelling distance from the ocean.

Gata calls his wife Alisa "his lucky charm.” Gata met her while promoting chess in Kazan, the capital of Tatarstan, where Gata was born. She was wearing a beautiful navy dress, and it only took Gata a few days to realize she was the woman for him. Before he left, he invited her to come live with him in America.

Trained as a doctor in Kazan, Alisa is busy adjusting to New York and starting a family. She doesn't know the rules of the game, but she and Gata agree that she often has a sixth sense about his results, accurately predicting when he'll win or lose.

Gata agrees with Alexander Onischuk that TDs should provide sets and clocks for top players: "A World Championship Candidate bringing his own clock to the game," he exclaims, "Only in America!"

Gata became close with all the team members in the Turin Olympiad, but he acknowledges that now things are back to normal, and they all aim to crush each other.

Gata with his wife Alisa. Photo JS

Gata, psyching himself up for a game at the U.S. Championship. Photo Jacob Okada

Gata thinks it only makes sense for a player of his caliber to come back to chess if the ultimate goal is the world crown. For several years, Gata disappeared from chess to study more lucrative but less celebrity-oriented fields like medicine and law. Gata missed the game and the fanfare. After dipping a toe back into the chess world via ICC, he was eventually convinced to dive back in. As for a more immediate goal now that he’s back in chess, there’s one that stands out.

"I will keep playing in the U.S. Championship until I win it,” says Gata.

20-year-old Josh Friedel, our guest annotator presents three of Gata's games from Sofia.
Josh Friedel Photo JS


Kamsky, G.
Mtel Masters (Sofia, Bulgaria)
Josh Friedel

These two have a long history. In my database, I have 92 games in which they have played, including a 1995 candidates match which Anand barely won. However, there was a huge gap between 1996 and 2006 due to Kamsky leaving chess. It is nice to see these old rivals go back at it!

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0–0 8.h3

The anti-marshall, one of the main features of this year's Sofia.


8...d6 9.c3 is the main line lopez.; 8...d5?! 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 and black doesn't have enough compensation for the pawn, as h3 is a much more useful defensive move than c3 here.

9.d3 d6 10.a3 Qd7

Though Na5 and Nb8 are also commonly played here, Qd7 was the preferred move this tournament. All of these options aim to improve the position of black's lame c6 knight. 11.Nbd2 Nd8 Ponomariov chose Rfe8 against Kamsky later this tournament, but Gata prefers to transfer is knight to e6 immediately. The variations often transpose, however.


White chooses to play for d4 quickly, skipping over the usual first step of transfering the knight to g3. Though this puts pressure on black more quickly, the knight isn't ideally placed on d2, and will often be in white's way later in the game.

12...Ne6 13.d4?!

I really think white should transfer the knight first. Most likely Anand missed Kamsky's next move.


Already we see the drawbacks of the knight on d2. With the knight on g3 this move would not be possible.


This leads to nothing, but it is hard to find an alternative.
If 14.dxe5 dxe5 15.Nxe5 Qd6 16.Nef3 Nxe4! 17.Nxe4 Qxd1 18.Bxd1 Bxe4=

14...Nf4 15.Nf1 Ng6 c6

d5 is coming next move, and there is really no good way to counter it.


16.Bg5 h6 17.Bxf6 Bxf6 and black's knight will head back to f4, where it will be a menace to society.; 16.N3h2 c6 17.Ng4 (17.Bg5? Nxd5!) 17...Nxg4 18.Qxg4 cxd5 19.Qxd7 Rxd7 20.Bxd5 Bxd5 21.exd5 f5 and black is happy.

16...c6 17.Bg5

Both sides fight for the d5 square.

17...cxd5 18.Bxf6 Bxf6 19.Bxd5 Nf4 20.Bxb7 Qxb7

White has lost control of d5, and black equalizes comfortably.

21.Qc2 g6 22.Rad1 d5=

Black achieves the desired d5 break, solving nearly all of his opening problems.

23.exd5 Rxd5 24.Rxd5 Qxd5 25.Rd1 Qe6 26.Qe4 Rb8

I don't understand this move, though it doesn't harm black's position any. a5-b4 doesn't look very strong, and Qb7 doesn't look very threatening.

Re8 or Bg7 would make more sense to me.

27.Ne2 Nxe2+ 28.Qxe2 Re8

and back he goes.

29.Qe4 h6

Making sure the knight can't hop to g5 when he plays Bg7.


White tries to prevent black from playing f5, but this move will give Anand headaches later.


Threatening to go to f4 with the bishop, after which f5 will be very strong.

31.Nxg5 hxg5 32.Qd5

White forces the queens off, but this doesn't put an end to all his problems.

32...Kg7 33.Qxe6 Rxe6³ 34.Rd7 Kf6 35.Kf1 Rc6 36.Ke2 Ke6 37.Rd8 e4 38.f3

38.Ke3 f5 39.Kd4! (39.Rg8 Kf6 40.Rd8 Ke5 and black is making progress.) 39...Rc4+ (39...Rd6+?? 40.Rxd6+ Kxd6 41.b4 followed by c4 and it is white who wins.) 40.Ke3 f4+ 41.Ke2 Rc6 42.Rd4 Ke5 43.f3 and white should be able to draw.]

38...exf3+ 39.Kxf3 Rd6! 40.Re8+

Though white should still hold after this, the king and pawn ending was a draw.

40.Rxd6+! Kxd6 41.Ke4 Ke6 a) 41...Kc5?? 42.Ke5 Kc4 43.Kf6 Kb3 44.Kxg5 Kxb2 45.h4+-; b) 41...a5 42.b4 (42.b3 draws also.) 42...axb4 43.axb4 f6 44.Kd4 f5 45.c4 (45.gxf5 gxf5 46.c4=) 45...bxc4 46.gxf5 (46.Kxc4 f4 47.Kd4 Kc6 48.Kc4 Kb6 49.Kd3 Kb5 50.Kc3 Kb6 51.Kc4 Kc7 52.Kd3 Kd6 53.Ke4 Kc6 54.Kd4 Kb5 55.Kc3=) 46...gxf5 47.Kxc4 Ke5 48.Kd3 Kd5 49.b5 Kc5 50.b6 Kxb6 51.Kd4 Kc6 52.Ke5 f4 53.Ke4 Kd6 54.h4=; c) 41...f6 42.b4 Ke6 43.Kd4 f5 44.c4 bxc4 (44...f4 45.c5=) 45.Kxc4 Ke5 (45...f4 46.Kd4 Kd6 47.a4 Ke6 48.Ke4 Kd6 49.Kd4=) 46.gxf5 gxf5 47.a4 g4 (47...f4 48.Kd3 Kd5 49.b5 axb5 50.axb5 Kc5 51.Ke4 Kxb5 52.h4=) 48.hxg4 fxg4 49.Kd3 Kd5 (49...Kf4 50.b5 axb5 51.axb5 g3 52.b6=) 50.Ke3 Kc4 51.b5=; 42.Kd4 f5 43.b4 f4 44.Ke4 f3 45.Kxf3 Kd5 46.Ke3 Kc4 47.Kd2 Kb3 48.Kd3 Kxa3 49.Kc2 Ka4 (49...Ka2? 50.c4! bxc4 51.Kc3 Kb1 52.Kxc4 Kb2 53.b5 axb5+ 54.Kxb5 Kc3 55.Kc5 Kd3 56.Kd5 Ke3 57.Ke5 Kf3 58.Kf6 Kg3 59.Kxg6 Kxh3 60.Kxg5+-) 50.Kb2 a5 51.bxa5 Kxa5 52.Kb3 Ka6 53.Kb4 Kb6=

40...Kd5 41.b3?

41.Rc8 is better. White still prevents Kc4, but also removes the White rook from the inconvenient e-file. 41...Rf6+ (41...Rc6 42.Rxc6 Kxc6 43.Ke4 f6 44.b4=) 42.Ke3 Rf1 43.Rc7 f5 (43...Rb1 44.Rxf7 Rxb2 45.Rf6=) 44.Rg7 should be drawn.


Forcing the king to the g-file.


42.Ke3? Re6+ 43.Rxe6 fxe6! (43...Kxe6? 44.Kd4 f5 45.b4 f4 46.Ke4=) 44.Kd3 a5 45.a4 (45.Ke3 a4 46.bxa4 bxa4) 45...bxa4 46.bxa4 e5 47.c4+ Kc5 48.Ke4 Kxc4 49.Kxe5 Kb4 50.Kf6 Kxa4 51.Kxg5 Kb3 52.h4 a4 53.h5 gxh5 54.gxh5 a3–+

42...Rc6 43.Re3 f5

Now white's position might already be beyond salvation.


If 44.Kf3 f4 45.Rd3+ Ke5 46.Ke2 Rd6–+

44...gxf5 45.Rg3

If 45.Kf3 f4 46.Rd3+ Ke5 47.Kg4 Ke4 48.Rf3 Rd6 49.Rf1 Rd3 50.Kxg5 Rg3+ 51.Kh4 Rxc3–+


Black's king is too active.

46.a4 [46.Rxg5 Rxc3 47.Rg6 a5 48.Ra6 Rxb3 49.Rxa5 Rb2+ 50.Kg1 f4 (not 50...Kf3? 51.a4 and f5 hangs.) 51.Ra8 (51.a4 b4–+) 51...Kf3 52.Rb8 Kg3 53.Rg8+ Kxh3 with a won ending for black.]

46...bxa4 47.bxa4 Kf4 48.Rf3+

If 48.Rd3 Rc4 49.Rf3+ Ke5 50.Rg3 Kf6–+

48...Ke5 49.Re3+ Kf6 50.Rd3 f4 51.Kf3 Ke5 52.Kg4 Rd6!

A nice little piece of calculation by Kamsky.


If 53.Rf3 Rd1 54.Kxg5 Rg1+ 55.Kh6 Ke4–+

53...Kxd6 54.h4 gxh4 55.Kxh4 Kd5 56.Kh3

If 56.Kg4 Ke4 57.c4 f3–+

56...Ke4 57.Kg2 Ke3!

Anand resigned after this final touch. White has to play Kf1, after which black's king heads to the queenside, taking the pawns and cutting off white's king just in time. For those of you who are too tired to calculate here is the line. [57...Ke3 58.Kf1 Kd3 59.Kf2 Kxc3 60.Kf3 Kb4 61.Kxf4 Kxa4 62.Ke3 Kb3 63.Kd2 Typical of pawn endgames is for one tempo to change a draw to a loss or a win to a draw. Kamsky shuts out the white king just in time. 63...Kb2]



Kamsky,Gata (2671)
Svidler,P (2743)
Mtel Masters Sofia BUL
Josh Friedel

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6

Svidler is known to favor the Kan and Paulsen setups.

3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 d6

A rather passive variation. The more challenging moves are Nf6, a6, and Qc7. Svidler probably chose this move to avoid any preparation Kamsky might have had.


English attack setups with Be3 and Qd2 are all the rage today, but Gata prefers to play for a small, safe edge.

6...Nf6 7.0–0 Be7 8.Be3 0–0 9.f4 e5

A sharp continuation. Bd7, Qc7, and a6 are also quite playable.

10.Nxc6 bxc6 11.Kh1 exf4

Khalifman tried 11...Be6 , but after 12.Bf3 Bc4 13.Re1 Nd7 14.b3 Ba6 15.f5 White has a clear plus. 15...Nf6 16.g4 h6 17.g5 hxg5 18.Bxg5 Nh7 19.Be3 Bb7 20.Rg1 Bf6 21.Rg3 d5 22.exd5 cxd5 23.Nxd5 e4 24.Nxf6+ Qxf6 25.Be2 Qxf5 26.Qd4 g5 27.Rf1 Qg6 28.Bc4 Rac8 29.h4 Rxc4 30.bxc4 g4 31.Rxg4 Qxg4 32.Rg1 Qxg1+ 33.Kxg1 f6 34.Qxa7 Rf7 35.Qb8+ Kg7 36.Qg3+ Kh8 37.Bh6 1–0 Kamsky,G-Khalifman,A/Las Vegas USA 1999

12.Bxf4 Be6 13.Bf3

Keeping an eye on d5. 13...Qb6

13...d5 14.exd5 Nxd5 15.Nxd5 Bxd5 16.Bxd5 Qxd5 17.Qxd5 cxd5 18.Rad1With a very slight plus.

14.b3 Rfd8?!N

14...Rad8 looks more logical to me, as black's rooks look best on d8 and e8.

15.Qe1 Nd7?

A natural-looking move which just happens to lose tactically.

15...d5 16.Qg3! (16.exd5 cxd5 and black has good play involving Rac8 and d4.) 16...Qc5 17.Be5 d4 18.Ne2²]


Now Black really could have used a rook on e8.

16...cxd5 17.exd5 Bg4?!

Black aims to trade the light-squared bishops, but I don't see how that helps.

17...Bxd5 18.Bxd5 Bf6 19.Rd1 (19.Bxa8 Bxa1 20.Bd5 Bf6 21.Qg3 is also strong.) 19...Rac8 20.c4 Ne5 21.Qg3 and black is suffering, but has at least some hope to survive for a little while.


The capture of this bishop is devestating because black will dominate on the dark squares.

18...Bxf3 19.Rxf3 Nf6 20.Be3 Qa5 21.Rxf6!

The finishing blow.


[21...Qc3 22.Rff1+-]

22.Qxf6 Re8 23.Qg5+ 23...Kf8 24.Bd2

Black resigned in view of 24.Bd2 Qc7 (24...Qd8 25.Qh6+ Kg8 26.Bc3) 25.Qf6


Kamsky,Gata (2671)
Ponomariov,R (2738)
Mtel Masters Sofia BUL
Josh Friedel

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 0–0 8.h3

This way of avoiding the marshall attack was extremely common in this tournament. Gata played it with both colors, and quite successfully.

8.c3 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxe5 Nxe5 11.Rxe5 is the main line marshall, which most top players seem to be avoiding like the plague as white.


8...d6 9.c3 would transpose to the main line ruy.

9.d3 d6 10.a3 c3

This line isn't considered as challenging, because white wants to keep his bishop on the a2-g8 diagonal.


Nb8-d7, and Na5 followed by c5 are also quite common here. In this tournament, however, everyone seemed to favor the Qd7 and Nd8-e6 plan.


Rae8 and Nd8 are also possible here.

11...Rfe8 12.Nf1 Nd8 13.Ng3 Ne6 14.c3 c5 15.d4

A typical position of this variation. Usually, if black can play d5 without any problems, he equalizes. If not, White can usually maintain a slight edge.

15...exd4 16.cxd4 d5

Black has to play d5 here, otherwise white is clearly better.


17.Ne5 Qc7 doesn't accomplish much.

17...Ne4 18.Nf5 Bf8 19.Be3 Rac8N

19...a5 20.Bc2 Rad8 21.dxc5 N6xc5 22.N5d4 b4 23.axb4 axb4 24.Ne2 Qc7 25.Rc1 Qb8 26.Ned4 Rc8 27.h4 h6 28.Nf5 Rcd8 29.Bd4 b3 30.Bb1 Bc8 31.Nd6 Bxd6 32.exd6 Qxd6 33.Ne5 f6 34.Ng6 Morozevich,A-Grischuk,A/Sochi RUS 2006/The Week in Chess 599/½–½ (56)

20.dxc5 N6xc5 21.N5d4 Nxb3?!

I'm not sure black should be so quick to take this bishop. [21...a5 22.Bc2 b4÷] 22.Qxb3 Nc5 23.Qd1 a5 24.Qb1 Ne4 25.Rd1² b4?! This move leads to trouble, though it is hard to recommend an alternative. 26.axb4 Bxb4 [26...axb4 27.Qd3²]


An easy move to miss, as the knight was so well placed on d4. Now black's in a quandary. Does he want to defend a weak b-pawn or a weak a-pawn? One of the things about the Ruy Lopez is that black's apparent queenside activity is more likely to be a liability than a strength. That's one of the reasons the Ruy has become more popular than the Italian game, which was the main line a century ago.

27...Qe7 28.Nxb4 Qxb4 29.Qa2

Now the a-pawn is seriously weak, and black's bishop is a very loose piece.


29...Rc2 (30.Qxa5 Qxa5 31.Rxa5 Rxb2 32.Bd4)

30.Rd4 Qb5 31.Ra4 Bc6 32.Rxa5 Rxa5 33.Qxa5 Qxb2 34.Rc1 Ba8 35.Rc7±

Black's king is in serious danger.


Black tries to free his bishop, but this move loses by force.

35...Qb8 is probably black's best try, though the situation is far from pleasant after 36.Qa7 Qxa7 37.Rxa7 h6 38.Nd4±

36.e6! Qb1+

36...fxe6 37.Rxg7+ Kxg7 38.Bxd4++-

37.Kh2 fxe6 38.Qh5!

Most accurate.


[38...Rf8 39.Qg4 with mate in a few moves.]

39.Bxd4 Bxf3 40.Rxg7+ Kf8 41.Qh6 and Black resigned, as he can't stop mate, for example [41.Qh6 Qf5 42.Rf7+ Kxf7 43.Qg7#] 1–0

[DOCUMENT:21]Download Josh Friedel's annotations in Chessbase[/DOCUMENT]