Kamsky Tops Philly on Way to Saint Louis
By Jamaal Abdul-Alim   
April 22, 2014

Philadelphia — Even though GM Gata Kamsky won clear first place in the Philadelphia Open over Easter Weekend, there was one game in which he nearly threw it all away with a blunder.

It happened during Round 4 in what Kamsky described as a “completely winning” position against GM Alexander Fishbein. It was Kamsky realized the square to which he wanted to move his rook — which he had already picked up with his hand — would have led to his demise in a few moves.

Bound by the touch-move rule, Kamsky was forced to place his rook to a square he hadn’t initially planned.

 “I played Rg1, and I intended to play Rf5 with the idea of some crazy beautiful mate,” Kamsky said. “But I would get mated myself.”


Kamsky said “the lesson for the kids” is to never relax in a winning position and, conversely, never give up in a hopeless position.

 “It’s never over until someone resigns or gets mated,” Kamsky continued. “You always have chances. Even in the most hopeless position you might suddenly find a mate.”

Although Kamsky was the highest rated player and the only GM rated above 2700 to compete in the Philadelphia Open, he didn’t view the tournament as a cakewalk. The tournament fielded a collective total of 23 GMs and IMs, and there were 457 paid entries.

“You don’t get free games here,” Kamsky said. “Everybody is fighting.”

Kamsky said the Philadelphia Open served as a “good warmup” for the U.S. Championship, which is the next event in which he plans to compete.

Kamsky counted the game he won against GM Mikhailo Oleksienko, of the Ukraine, as one of the most challenging. He said he analyzed the game on a chess engine and it showed that he had an advantage “but not that great.”

 “The guy was solid and squeezing me but I got lucky in the tactics,” Kamsky said. “I had some decent counterplay.”

Kamsky also counted his Round 5 game against GM Magesh Panchanathan, of India, as one of the most challenging.

 “That was a good game on his part,” Kamsky said. “He basically found really pretty tactics and made it a draw.”

For his victories in the Open Section, Kamsky pocketed $6,398 — 91 percent of the projected prize of $7,000 —- plus a $183 bonus for winning clear first place.

While glad to collect the money, Kamsky seemed similarly enthused about the significant number of young players competing in the tournament, which he attributed to scholastic chess.

 “I’m happy to see the kids in different sections … playing in the tournaments on the adult level,” Kamsky said. “That’s really amazing.”

GM Josh Friedel, 2013 US Open Champion and US Championship contender took clear 2nd place.


Alisa400.jpgPhiladelphia local Alisa Melekhina (who recently wrote for CLO on combining law school and chess) also played in the Philadelphia Open as a warm-up for Saint Louis, where she will be playing the US Women’s Championship. She called the following c3 Sicilian win her favorite over the board game ever. “I sacrificed a bishop and rook for a devastating mating net that he could only defend by sacrificing back his queen.”


Find full standings from the Philadelphia Open here and see the crosstables on MSA.