- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Talk about burying the lede — or at least the footnote.

The “mainstream media” may be afraid to report it, but we can reliably pass on here that chess played a major cameo role in special counsel Robert Mueller’s magisterial/hopelessly biased report/witch hunt into the Trump-Russiagate scandal/hoax. (Hey, chessplayers watch both Fox and MSNBC.)

Specifically, according to Page 150 of the report, Mueller’s team looked into whether the Kremlin tried to use the November 2016 world title match in New York City between Magnus Carlsen and Russia’s own Sergey Karjakin to reach out to then-President-elect Trump. The report reveals that former FIDE chief Kirsan Ilyumzhinov at one point approached the Trump Organization about hosting the match at Trump Tower. (FIDE eventually went with Manhattan’s South Street Seaport.)

Russian officials also speculated that Mr. Trump might make his way over the match, which began days after his upset victory, while Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s longtime aide and spokesman, was also in town. President Trump told Mueller’s team he heard talk of the match, but never made the match site, according to Page 18, Appendix C of the report.

It also turns out that new FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, formerly a Russian deputy prime minister, gets a short shoutout in the Mueller report, having met twice with Carter Page, the colorful foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trump, but nothing nefarious ever came of it, apparently.

All of which is a good excuse to recount how Donald Trump was responsible for the most brilliant game I ever got to see in person — Russian emigre Gata Kamsky’s fantastic win over future Russian world champ Vladimir Kramnik at the Professional Chess Association’s quarterfinal candidates match, held 25 years ago at Manhattan’s Trump Tower. The PCA was the short-lived rival to FIDE in the days of the game’s Great Schism in the 1990s.

The superlative-prone Mr. Trump personally kicked off the four matches, and in the match’s Game 2, Kamsky fully justified the hype, producing one of the classic games of the decade on his way to a 4½-1½ upset of the up-and-coming Kramnik.

Our quarter-century-old analysis of this masterpiece holds up pretty well: “The big question, not answered by the taciturn Kamsky,” we wrote at the time, “is how far ahead Black saw when playing his remarkable 24th move.”

After a relatively quiet opening, things sharpen considerably with 13. Nd4!? Nxd4 14. cxd4 Qxc4, with White pitching a pawn for the initiative. With good central control and with Black’s pieces over on the queenside, White can be forgiven for thinking he had good chances of crashing through on the kingside.

Things come to a boil with 21. Bh3 Qa4 (threatening to invade on c2) 22. d5! Rc2 23. Qe3 exd5 24. e5! d4!!, an amazing move that “forces” White’s queen to move to what looks like the most dangerous square on the board.

In the analysis room at Trump Tower, the kibitzing grandmasters could not see how Kamsky planned to stop the threat of mate on g7. After a nearly forced sequel — 25. Qg5 Re2! (g6?? loses to 27. Rb1! Kh8 28. Qh6 Rg8 29. Rf4!, with the killer threat of Qxh7+ and Rh4 mate) 26. exf6 (Rxe2?? Qd1+ 27. Bf1 [Kg2 Bxe2 28. Rxf6 Bf1+ 29. Kg1 Bxh3 mate] Bxe2 28. Qc1 Qxc1 29. Bxc1 Bxf3 and wins) Rxe1+ 27. Bf1 (Kg2? Bf1+ 28. Kg1 Bxh3 mate) Rxf1+ 28. Kg2 Rg1+! 29. Kh3 (obviously not Kxg1? Qd1+ 30. Kg2 Qf1 mate) Bd7+ 30. Kh4 g6 31. Qh6, it still looks as if Black can’t stop mate.

But Black is just getting started: 31…d3+ 32. Rf4 Qxf4+!! (not a desperado but the key to the whole defense) 33. Qxf4 (not gxf4? Rg4+ 34. Kh3 Rg5+! 35. Kh4 Rh5+, winning the queen), and now Kamsky finds the saving resource 33…Rh1!!. Now 34. Qh6 loses to 34…Rxh2+, and 34. g4 (to protect h2) gives Black time for the defensive 34…h6! and 35…g5, decisively ending the mate threat. After 34. Qxd4 (Qxd6 h6! 35. g4 g5+ 36. Kg3 [Kh5 Bxg4+ 37. Kxg4 Rxd6 38. Bxd6 d2] Rg1+ 37. Kf3 Bxg4+ and wins) h6! 35. Kh3 (Kg3 Rg1+ 36. Kf3 g5 37. Qd2 Re8 38. h3 Bc6 is mate) g5 36. Qd4 d2! 37. Qxd2 Rg1 (threatening Bxg4 mate) 38. f3 Bb5!, the threat of 39…Bf1+ will cost Kramnik his queen.

As the host would say, “Incredible.”

Twenty-five years can bring big changes. Kramnik, who held the world title from 2000 to 2007, recently announced his retirement from competitive play. Kamsky, who lost his own world title match with Russian star Anatoly Karpov in 1996 and competed in two subsequent candidates’ cycles, is no longer a top-five talent. But he remains a dangerous opponent, as French GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave can attest after their German Bundesliga game in January. It was the French star’s only loss in the team competition this season.

We pick it up from today’s diagram, where MV-L as White has just played 30. Qb6-e3. Black is already a pawn up, but the opposite-colored bishops and uneasy king give White real drawing chances. But Kamsky won’t be denied in the forceful final play.

There followed: 30…a5! 31. Bxa5 Qc5 32. Qxc5 (Bxc7?? Rxg2+ 33. Rxg2 Qxe3+ 34. Kh2 Bxg2) Rxc5 33. Bb4 Rc6, and material is once again equal but the Black central pawns are ready to roll and Kamsky’s bishop on e4 dominates the position.

The finale: 34. Rb2 Kf7 35. a4 bxa4 36. bxa4 d4 37. a5 d3 (the Black passed pawn proves far superior to its White counterpart on the a-file, with the threat now of 38…Rc2 39. Rxc2 dxc2, and g2 can’t be defended) 38. Rff2 Rc1+ 39. Kh2 Rc2! (White is quickly running out of useful moves) 40. a6 (Ra2 Rb8 41. Ba3 h4 42. a6 Ra8) Ra8 41. g4 (and now, 41. Ra2 Rxa6! 42. Rxa6 Rxf2 wins) h4 42. Be1 Rxa6 43. Rd2 Ra1 44. Bxh4 Rd1!, and White resigns facing lines such as 45. Rf2 d2! $6. Rxc2 Rh1+ 47. Kg3 d1=Q 48. Rc7+ Kg8 49. Bxf6 Qd3+ 50. Kh4 Qxh3+ 51. Kg5 Qh6 mate.

Kramnik-Kamsky, PCA Candidates Quarterfinal, Game 2, New York City, June 1994

1. Nf3 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. g3 O-O 5. Bg2 c5 6. O-O Nc6 7. d4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Qe7 9. Nc2 Bxc3 10. bxc3 Rd8 11. Ba3 d6 12. Rb1 Qc7 13. Nd4 Nxd4 14. cxd4 Qxc4 15. Qd2 Qa6 16. Rb3 Rb8 17. e4 Bd7 18. Rf3 Ba4 19. Re1 Rbc8 20. Bf1 Bb5 21. Bh3 Qa4 22. d5 Rc2 23. Qe3 exd5 24. e5 d4 25. Qg5 Re2 26. exf6 Rxe1+ 27. Bf1 Rxf1+ 28. Kg2 Rg1+ 29. Kh3 Bd7+ 30. Kh4 g6 31. Qh6 d3+ 32. Rf4 Qxf4+ 33. Qxf4 Rh1 34. g4 h6 35. Kh3 g5 36. Qd4 Rg1 37. f3 d2 38. Qxd2 Bb5 White resigns.

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by email [email protected].

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