Home Page arrow Chess Life Online arrow 2015 arrow September arrow Gata Kamsky Wins New York International
Gata Kamsky Wins New York International Print E-mail
By Bryan Quick   
July 22, 2015
marshallscene.gifPART 1 - ROUND SIX

The clocks for Round Six started promptly at 11am. GM Sergei Azarov sat head-in-hands staring at a hundred year old chessboard, the wooden pieces remaining lifeless in their starting position. A quarter hour went by. The chair opposite GM Azarov was still empty.

This weekend 70 players have gathered at the Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan for the 8th Annual New York International. They come from twenty countries on five continents. At the start of this Saturday morning's round many strolled in late, which International Arbiter Dr. Frank Brady found surprising. This tournament is tense. A single point is currently the difference between 1st place and 25th, and many players are currently in Norm contention.  

As the room filled up, the seat across from GM Azarov was still empty. Azarov was seated at the Marshall's Fischer Table - a 100 year old imposing piece of oak furniture that every World Champion since Capablanca has played upon.  Along with three other GMs and FM Alexander Kalikshteyn, he is currently tied for first place in this event with a 4/5 score. As the tournament's #2 seed, the elite player from Belarus was waiting for his top rival, GM Gata Kamsky.

The New York International was started in 2008 by Dr. Brady, well known in the chess world for authoring NY Times Best Seller "Endgame," among other books. The event has had different venues for the past few years. To honor the Marshall's 100th year anniversary, the club decided it was time to return home this year. It is too early to tell who will win, or who will achieve Norms, but at present there are seven GMs on the top five boards and none of them take kindly to draws.


Finally, Kamsky strolled into the club. He approached the top board in his usual trance, stopped, and gave a confused look around. Apparently, his favorite chair was taken. One of the tournament directors, noticing the subtlety, chuckled. Gata was not deterred. He took off his light jacket, made himself at home in the new chair, and played e4.

A sharp Sicilian quickly ensued after Azarov wasted no time responding with c5. I'll let you know soon what happened. But first, enjoy this exciting game from Round Four. GM Alder Escobar of Colombia gives up his queen for three minor pieces against the rising Chinese talent, Qibiao Wang.



It has been a bit longer than four or five hours. The tournament has concluded, the players have traveled home, and the Marshall has returned to normal.

What is most interesting about watching strong chess players, I find, actually has nothing to do with their games. It's their psychology, their demeanor while playing that interests me.

On Friday afternoon during Round Four, the City of New York decided to do some intense drilling in front of the club. As an Organizer, I was less than thrilled. Strangely enough most of the players didn't seem to notice. They sat at their boards without deviating from their typical routines: GM Hedinn Steingrimsson sucked on his Icelandic "Energy Gel." Kamsky strolled up and down West 10th Street like a Greek philosopher lost in thought, as the Arbiters attempted to both keep an eye on him and plug their ears from the noise. Back inside, Azarov remained locked in his perpetual stillness, only his eyes darting back and forth intently.

Kamsky went on to win the Round Six game, and eventually the tournament with a 7/9 score. Azarov made a mistake during time pressure, which quickly became decisive. Many games today seem to be decided this way, between moves 35 and 40, while trying to make time control. This seems to be a necessary evil in the age of computers. We cannot adjourn games.

Going into the last round, a lot was at stake. A number of players had the chance for a norm performance, and a logjam of players had a shot at winning top prizes. You can see the complete results here: http://www.marshallchessclub.org/tournaments/nyint

Before Sunday night's final round, one instance stood out.

FM Leif Pressman came into our office and inquired about his norm chances. Coincidentally he was due to play GM Azarov, and with the black pieces no less. Leif would need a win to have performance rating high enough for an IM norm.

The Marshall regular took a moment to digest that information, nodded, and quietly walked away. After he closed the door, FIDE Arbiter Oscar Garcia and I shot each other a look as if to say, "He doesn't have much of a chance." Besides being a very strong player, Azarov has a remarkably professional approach to the game.

For the next few hours Leif sat on the back patio at the Marshall with his laptop preparing for the game. Some of the younger players were goofing around and talking loudly. I'm not even sure if he knew they were there.

As the night wore on, a crowd of 30 people started jostling for the best view of Board Three. Azarov, head-in-hands as usual, had one minute left on his clock. He had made only 21 moves of the required 40 to get to the time control. Turns out the time pressure didn't matter. Realizing his defeat, he shut off the clock in resignation.

Sorry for doubting you, Leif.


FM Alexa Kalikshteyn earned a GM norm. See full standings here.