Kamsky wins Mayor's Cup!
By Jennifer Shahade   
June 30, 2006
A happy Kamsky- a point ahead of the field by the last round. Photo JS

Mayor's Cup Final Standings

1. Gata Kamsky 6.5
2. Susan Polgar 6.0
3. Alexander Onischuk 5.5
4. Boris Gulko 5.0
5. Ildar Ibragimov 4.0
6. Alexander Stripunsky 3.0

(Scroll down for complete crosstable)

Any event at the New York Athletic Club is an experience. Tournament winner Gata Kamsky called it like going back in time. From the chandeliers to the porcelain bathrooms, it's all about elegance. There's also a dress code, and many a chessplayer in sneakers and jeans has been denied entrance to the club. Not that long ago, NYAC barred more than the casually dressed. Until the 80's, women were not accepted as members.

Today Susan Polgar is a member. She and manager Paul Truong organized the 2006 Mayor's Cup under the Susan Polgar Foundation.The event brought together six of the top players in America for a rapid (Game 25/5) double round robin. For most of the players, the event was a kind of "World Open" warm up, where up to 50K will be at stake. The schedule, five games of rapid chess in a row, was grueling.

Everyone played fighting chess, even without an official "30-move rule" (which prohibits agreed draws before move 30.) It seems as though the rule is catching on in players' subconscious and it may soon be superfluous to mandate fighting chess.

Boris Gulko was the star of Day 1. The eldest player in the touranment defeated both Kamsky and Susan Polgar to head the crosstable by the end of the play.

Boris Gulko has still got bite.

On day two, Gata emerged as champion with a plus four score (6.5/9). See Gata's insightful comments on his games below. For the number one rated player in America, the win was a confidence boost that will make him one to watch in Philly for the World Open.

This was an uncontestably great event to watch. However, few spectators came- a surprise considering the popularity of chess in New York, and the star-studded field. Clearly the reason was lack of public awareness, not lack of polished shoes. Most New York chess fans just didn't know about it. This is a typical problem in American chess. The new www.uschess.org will do its part to see the American chess public is more aware of great events.

Gata's favorite game from his tournament was his calm positional win with black (above game) against runner-up Susan Polgar . Susan wanted very badly to beat Gata, for reasons of personal rivalry (she's never won against him before) and tournament strategy: it was the penultimate game and they were tied for first place. The winner of this game was bound to go home with the Cup.

After 19...Rc7 Susan is worse if she just sits and waits for Black to pressure her c-pawn. So she played 20.g4!?, signalling that she was out for Gata's king.

Kamsky explains his thoughts at the time, "21...Ne4 was necessary to diffuse her plan of Rg1, g5 etc. After Ne4, black has a small but lasting plus due to her weakness on c3." Gata pinpoints 24. Qxe4 as an innacuracy on Susan's part, which allowed black a superior pawn structure after 25...f6. Black's pawn structure is easily defensible, while white's c-pawn and even her a and h pawns are vulnerable. Instead he recommends 24. Qxg5 after which Black's advantage is slighter.


Gata also had some great insights on his second game against Ildar Ibragimov, in which he played the black side of a Panov-Botvinnik (transposed from 1.c4).

After 21....Bxa4, black seems better according to traditional positional thought because of his two bishops. In fact, Gata didn't think the two bishops were a real advantage in this game, since they didn't have much breathing room.

Gata gave himself a ?! for 23... Re4, because it allows white to push the rook away with 25.Ng3, followed by 26. Bf4!, zeroing in on black's sole weakness. In the game, 26....Be5 instead of Bf8 is well met by 27. Bxe5 Rxe5 (de5? Ne4!) 28. Ne2 , with the idea of relocating the knight to f4. (Kamsky) This line shows the weakness of the seemingly solid pawn structure f7, g6, h5. A white knight on f4 would function as an outpost because g5 is an unrealistic prospect.

A better way to hone an advantage was 23.. g5! (instead of 23...Re4)

Ildar's mistake was in trading dark squared bishops with 35.Bxe5?!, allowing Gata to amass a menacing pawn phalanx. Still he had drawing chances until he allowed Gata's bishop to land on d3.

Ildar Ibragimov

However, Gata has the most to say about his loss against Gulko, rattling off ways to save the rook endgame or passionately wondering where he went wrong psychologically. His heightened intellectual involvement with a loss says a lot about his character; many chess players forget their losses as soon as possible.

Keep checking Chess Life Online throughout the next couple of weeks for another web exclusive on Gata Kamsky. We'll publish a new photo gallery and IM Josh Friedel will annotate games from Gata's astonishing Mtel result.

Susan's back

Susan Polgar had a fantastic event, scoring plus three (6/9). She reached the following position against Boris Gulko:

Susan played 24.d5! here. After ed5 25.g3 (less strong is Rd5 Nh4!) Be5 26. Be5 Ne5 27.Nd4 Rcc8 28.Nxb5, white is on top and went on to win after 57 moves.

Susan was thrilled with her final result. After defeating Stripunsky in the last round, she was beaming for an hour straight. With a result like that, her fans can only hope that one day she'll play in the U.S. Championship and take down some of America's top GMs when it counts the most.

U.S. Champion Alex Onischuk(right) was the only player who didn't lose a single game. However, he only won one. GM Kamil Miton from Poland (left), co-champion of the Chicago Open came to observe.

Gata Kamsky, with his Mayor's Cup.

Susan giving a speech after the prize ceremony.

Round Five of the Mayor's Cup.

NYC Mayor's Cup 2006 Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Round 5 Round 6 Round 7 Round 8 Round 9 Round 10
1. Gulko, Boris W 2 B 4 W 3 B 5 W 6 B 2 W 4 B 3 W 5 B 6

0.5 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.5 3.5 4.0 4.5 5.0 5.0
2. Polgar, Susan B 1 W 6 B 4 W 3 W 5 W 1 B 6 W 4 B 3 B 5

0.5 1.5 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.5 4.5 4.5 5.0 6.0
3. Onischuk, Alex W 6 W 5 B 1 B 2 W 4 B 6 B 5 W 1 W 2 B 4

0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0 2.5 3.0 4.0 4.5 5.0 5.5
4. Kamsky, Gata B 5 W 1 W 2 B 6 B 3 W 5 B 1 B 2 W 6 W 3

0.5 0.5 1.0 2.5 3.0 4.0 4.5 5.5 6.0 6.5
5. Stripunsky, Alex W 4 B 3 B 6 W 1 B 2 B 4 W 3 W 6 B 1 W 2

0.5 1.0 1.0 1.5 2.0 5.0 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.0
6. Ibragimov, Ildar B 2 B 2 W 5 W 4 B 1 W 3 W 2 B 5 B 4 W 1

0.5 0.5 1.5 1.5 1.5 2.0 2.0 2.5 3.0 4.0