Sinquefield Cup Contenders: Gata Kamsky
By Brian Jerauld
Gata Kamsky is a Soviet-born, American grandmaster, currently ranked No. 2 in the United States and No. 19 in the world, with a FIDE rating of 2733. He was born in Siberia, Russia, in 1974 and learned chess at 7 years old. By 9, he had won the Under-15 USSR Championship, and then became a back-to-back Junior Champion of the Soviet Union at 13.
Kamsky emigrated to the U.S. in 1989 and earned his FIDE Grandmaster title the following year, also becoming the youngest player ever rated in the world's top-ten.
Kamsky’s impact on American chess has been profound, having been the highest-rated American since his arrival in 1989 – second only now to Hikaru Nakamura. Kamsky won his first of four U.S. Championships in 1991, and the following year helped America grab its first-ever gold in the World Team Chess Olympiad.
In 1994, at age 20, Kamsky became the youngest-ever to challenge for the FIDE world title and the first American since Bobby Fischer. The 20-game match against reigning champion Anatoly Karpov was finally held in 1996, in Elista, Kalmykia, in Russia. Kamsky lost the match 7.5-10.5, but substantial political controversy surrounding the event ultimately led to an eight-year hiatus from professional chess for the American GM, partially in protest.
Kamsky returned in 2004 – “past his prime” at 30 years old – for an extraordinary second chapter in his career. By 2007, he had regained his elite form, qualifying for the Candidates Tournament that year and later winning the Chess World Cup as the 11th seed, knocking off Magnus Carlsen in the semifinals. In 2010, Kamsky won his second U.S. Championship – 19 years removed from his first title – and returned to successfully defend the crown in 2011.
Kamsky’s play in 2013 leading up to the Sinquefield Cup has been some of the finest in his career. He earned his fourth U.S. Championship title in May, then rolled hot into the fourth stage of the FIDE Grand Prix, taking second place in Thessaloniki, Greece. His FIDE rating crested at 2763 in July, the highest ever in his career. Just before arriving in Saint Louis for the Sinquefield Cup, Kamsky went deep in the Chess World Cup 2013, but was ultimately knocked out by GM Evgeny Tomashevsky in the quarterfinals.
In nine classical games versus Carlsen, Kamsky holds a 2-1 record with six draws. In eight matches against Levon Aronian, Kamsky has won only once against five losses, with two draws. Nakamura and Kamsky are tied 1-1 with 6 draws over eight career games.