SANDS: Iron man Kamsky falls just short in Thessaloniki in chess tourney

American GM Gata Kamsky came up just short of a remarkable double this week, blundering in a level position Monday against Italian GM Fabiano Caruana in the final round of the FIDE Grand Prix in Thessaloniki, Greece, to allow Cuban GM Lenier Dominguez Perez to pass him for the tournament title.

Fatigue may have played a role in Kamsky’s loss — just in the past two months he finished fifth at the FIDE Grand Prix event in Zug, Switzerland, (won by Bulgaria’s Veselin Topalov), won his fourth U.S. national crown in a playoff over Texas GM Alejandro Ramirez in St. Louis, and was undefeated and alone in first in Greece before his final-round disaster. That’s an exhausting stretch for any player, let alone for one who celebrated his 39th birthday over the weekend.

The Brooklyn grandmaster dominated the early round of the latest FIDE event, including a win in his individual game against Dominguez Perez and a satisfying triumph over fellow Yank GM Hikaru Nakamura.

Kamsky and Nakamura are clearly the class of American chess, the only two U.S. players rated above 2700, and the games between them in international events are always worth a look. In last year’s U.S. championship, Nakamura scored his first victory at classical time controls over his rival, but in Greece, it was Kamsky who claimed the honors, with a thorough demolition of Nakamura right out of the opening.

Black’s unusual 3…Be7 treatment of the French gets exposed early when Kamsky finds an inspired way to undermine Black’s pressure on the center: 9. Bxh6 gxh6 10. Ne2 Qb6 11. 0-0 Bd7 (see diagram) 12. b4!!, a true grandmaster’s move with the simple positional threat of 13. b5, evicting the knight on c6. Any capture of the pawn is met by 13. Rb1 (e.g. 12…Qxb4 14. Rb1 Qa5 14. exf6 Bxf6 15. Rxb7 and Black’s king is in mortal peril), and Black overreacts with 12…a6 13. Qd2 fxe5 14. dxe5 Qxb4 15. Qxh6 Qa3? (to meet White’s next move, Nakamura had to try 15…Qg4! 16. h3 Qg8 17. Rac1 Qf7, with some hopes of surviving) 16. Bg6+ Kd8 17. Bf7! and it is Black’s center that is collapsing.

Kamsky-Nakamura after 11...Bd7.

Enlarge Photo

Kamsky-Nakamura after 11…Bd7. more >

Black tries an exchange sacrifice with 17…Rf8 18. Bxe6 Rxf3!? 19. gxf3 Qxf3 20. Ng3 Nxe5, but the attack is easily parried after 21. Rae1 Qf6 22. Qxf6 Bxf6 23. Bxd5 Bb5 24. Rd1, when 24…Bxf1 25. Bxb7+ wins even more material. Nakamura struggles on with his bishop pair, but Kamsky’s rook ruthlessly picks off Black’s remaining pawns. In the final position, White is two pawns to the good in addition to the exchange, and his pawns are about to roll down the board; Nakamura resigned.

Summer is the season for national championship tournaments, and the recent Czech Republic title event produced a very nice mating attack from Czech GM Alexey Kislinsky in his win over young IM Vojtech Plat. White plays aggressively from the get-go and is rewarded for his energetic play.

Black’s troubles along the e-file in this Closed Sicilian land him in trouble early after 9. e5 Nd7 10. f5!? (the most provocative continuation) exf5 11. Qe1 Qe7 12. Bg5 f6 13. exf6 gxf6 (Qxe1? 14. Raxe1+ Kf7 15. fxg7 Kxg7 [Bxg7 16. Re7+ wins a piece] 16. Nh4 and Black is helpless) 14. Qd2! 0-0-0 (fxg5 15. Rae1 h6 16. Rxe7+ Bxe7 17. Qe2 leaves the Black king still in a bind) 15. Rae1 Qf7 16. Bf4, and Black’s extra pawn is almost a detriment in this position.

White keeps coming on 17. Nh4 Qh5 18. Re6! Kb7 (Qxh4 19. Rxc6+ Kb7 20. Rc7+ Ka8 21. Nb5 Rd7 22. Qa5 and White has a massive attack) 19. Bg3 Bh6?! (marginally better was 19…d4 20. Ne2 Qf7, though White is still clearly on top after 21. Nf4 Bh6 22. Rfe1 Rde8 23. Qe2 Rxe6 24. Qxe6 Qxe6 25. Nxe6 Nd7 26. Nxf5) 20. Qe1!, when the queen reinforces the pressure on the e-file but also prepares to enter the game via the queenside as well.

That’s just what happens in the game’s final phase: 24. Na4! c4 (Rxe6 25. Qxe6 Qe8 26. Be7! Rb8 27. b3 Ka8 28. Re1 and Kislinsky dominates) 25. Qa5 Rc8 26. Rxe8 Qxe8 27. Re1 Qh5 28. h3 Re8, and Black’s overworked knight is exposed on 29. Re7! Rxe7 30. Qc7+ Ka8 31. Qd8+ Kb7 32. Nc5+, when 32…Nxc5 33. Qb8 is mate. Plat gave up.

Kamsky-Nakamura, FIDE Grand Prix, Greece, May 2013

1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nd2 Be7 4. c3 c5 5. e5 Nc6 6. Bd3 cxd4 7. cxd4 Nh6 8. Ndf3 f6 9. Bxh6 gxh6 10. Ne2 Qb6 11. O-O Bd7 12. b4 a6 13. Qd2 fxe5 14. dxe5 Qxb4 15. Qxh6 Qa3 16. Bg6+ Kd8 17. Bf7 Rf8 18. Bxe6 Rxf3 19. gxf3 Qxf3 20. Ng3 Nxe5 21. Rae1 Qf6 22. Qxf6 Bxf6 23. Bxd5 Bb5 24. Rd1 Kc7 25. Rc1+ Kb6 26. Rfd1 Nc6 27. Be4 h6 28. Rd7 Rb8 29. Rb1 Ka5 30. Kg2 Bh8 31. Rh7 Nb4 32. a3 Na2 33. Rxb7 Rxb7 34. Bxb7 Ka4 35. Ne4 Kxa3 36. Nc5 Nc3 37. Rb3+ Ka2 38. Bxa6 Bc6+ 39. Kg1 Bd5 40. Rb4 Ka3 41. Rh4 Bg7 42. Bc4 Bf3 43. Ne6 Be5 44. Rxh6 Kb2 45. Nc5 Bd4 46. Nd3+ Kb1 47. Rd6 Ba7 48. Rd7 Bb6 49. Ne5 Ba8 50. h4 Black resigns.

Kislinsky-Plat, Czech Championship, May 2013

1. e4 d6 2. f4 Nf6 3. Nc3 c5 4. Nf3 Nc6 5. Bb5 e6 6. Bxc6+ bxc6 7. d3 d5 8. 0-0 Ba6 9. e5 Nd7 10. f5 exf5 11. Qe1 Qe7 12. Bg5 f6 13. exf6 gxf6 14. Qd2 0-0-0 15. Rae1 Qf7 16. Bf4 Nb6 17. Nh4 Qh5 18. Re6 Kb7 19. Bg3 Bh6 20. Qe1 Rhe8 21. Nxf5 Bf8 22. Nd6+ Bxd6 23. Bxd6 Nd7 24. Na4 c4 25. Qa5 Rc8 26. Rxe8 Qxe8 27. Re1 Qh5 28. h3 Re8 29. Re7 Rxe7 30. Qc7+ Ka8 31. Qd8+ Kb7 32. Nc5+ Black resigns.

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About the Author
David R. Sands

David R. Sands

Raised in Northern Virginia, David R. Sands received an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He worked as a reporter for several Washington-area business publications before joining The Washington Times.

At The Times, Mr. Sands has covered numerous beats, including international trade, banking, politics ...

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