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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 12, 2011

U.S. Champ Kamsky advances to 2nd round in World Championship Candidates Cycle

By Peter Henner

Gata Kamsky, fresh from defending his United States championship in April, has advanced to the second and semifinal round of the Candidates matches, to determine the 2012 challenger to World Champion Vishy Anand. Although the 36-year-old Kamsky has been eclipsed by Hikaru Nakamura  as the most prominent United States player in international circles in the last two years, Kamsky is still ranked 18th in the world. He is also the last United States player to play a match for the World Championship, losing to Anatoly Karpov in 1996.

Traditionally, Candidates matches took place over months, and involved matches of 8 to 12 games. In the current cycle, the quarterfinal, semifinal, and final matches are all to be completed within three weeks.

The quarterfinal and semifinal matches are four games each, and the final match, to determine the challenger, is six games. In the case of a tie, the tie is to be broken by a series of progressively faster games: the contestants will play a two-game match at a rapid time control (with each player having an opportunity to play both white and black), followed by a second match, if the players are still tied. If they are still tied after four games, they will play blitz games at a faster time control, until one player prevails.

This does not seem to be a good way of picking a world champion. Chess at fast time controls involves different skills, and creates the possibility of a player winning or losing by a fortuitous mistake.

The use of speed chess as a tiebreaker is perhaps a reaction to the long siege warfare of world chess championship matches going on for months, with many draws, such as the famous first match between Karpov and Kasparov in 1984, which was eventually discontinued after 48 games, because of Karpov’s alleged illness. (Kasparov alleged that the match was discontinued by then Soviet authorities, to protect a politically favored world champion.)

This year, three of the four quarterfinal Candidates matches ended without a decisive game (four draws). Kamsky defeated the Bulgarian Topalov, who lost the world championship match last year to Anand by 2 1⁄2 -1 1⁄2, winning one game and drawing three. In the second round, he will face the Israeli Grandmaster Gelfand who defeated the Azerbajaini Mamedyarov on tiebreaks 2 1⁄2-1 1⁄2.

The other semifinal will feature two Russians, former world champion Kramnik, who defeated the Azerbajaini Radjabov on tiebreaks 4 ½-3 ½ and Grischuk, who defeated the Armenian Aronian on tiebreaks 2 ½-1 ½.

Kamsky was born in Russia, and was recognized as a chess prodigy at an early age. He came to the United States in 1990 and won the United States championship in 1991.

It was well-known that he had a controlling and difficult father, who managed his adolescent chess career, and was generally hated by the chess community. Kamsky retired from chess in 1996, went to college, medical school for a year, and eventually graduated from law school. He returned to serious chess in 2004.

Mallana leads Albany B, beats undefeated Albany A

Kavana Mallana, the first woman to play in a Capital District Chess League match, won a tense game on third board, to clinch a 3-1 victory for Albany B against the previously undefeated Albany A team.

On Board 1, Dean Howard defeated John Morse to win his seventh straight tournament game. (He won his last game in the Albany championship preliminary section, a playoff game and the two-game match against the winner of the other preliminary section, plus three previous league games.) Howard gave the A team its only victory.

On Board 2, I defeated Tim Wright in a short sharp game, and, on Board 4, Art Alowitz defeated Bob Kemp.

Mallana’s game was the last to finish. Her opponent, John Lack, had a significant space advantage and was pressing hard for a victory. He sacrificed a rook for a strong attack. Both players were in serious time trouble and both made mistakes, Lack missing a forced checkmate. However, in the end, Mallanna held on for the win.

This week, the Albany B team will play the only remaining undefeated team, the Schenectady Geezers. Although the team has a 4-1 record, it will be without Mallanna against the Geezers, and will be without me on second board for its last match against Schenectady A.

This week’s problem

The Hungarian Lajos Portisch was one of the strongest players in the world from the early 1960s through the late 1980s, qualifying for the Candidates matches eight times.

In this game, he played  1… Qa6?  missing a forced win and ultimately settling for a draw.  What should he have played?

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