After an exciting playoff match against Alejandro Ramirez, Gata Kamsky is the US Chess Champion. Gata proves, time and again, that he isn’t someone to be tampered with. While it’s true that Kamsky is rated a couple hundred points higher than his rival, Ramirez, neither player is a fish.
Gata’s FIDE card: http://ratings.fide.com/card.phtml?event=2000024
Alejandro’s FIDE card: http://ratings.fide.com/card.phtml?event=6500617
I was happy to see Kamsky open the deciding and final game with 1. d4; being a hard core Alekhine fan, I know how brutal queen’s pawn games can be in the right hands. It was also clear very early in the game that neither GM was playing for a draw. Fans love hot, fighting chess.
The d pawns were exchanged rather early and Kamsky opted for the exciting looking c4 move. Ramirez played 7…Qc7, allowing Kamsky to bat it around a little with his knight. I was watching the game both on ICC and on http://uschesschamps.com/live, where WGM Jennifer Shahade and GM Yasser Seirawan gave excellent commentary on each and every game in the 2013 US Chess Championships. GM Maurice Ashley chimed in now and again with computer lines–nobody understood why, really.
The game went on and Ramirez played 12…Bf5, allowing Kamsky more central space with a threat when he answered with 13. e4, following up with 14. Nd5, a great outpost for his knight.
Things went on quite regularly until Kamsky played 23. f4! The engines seemed to like 23. b4, threatening Alejandro’s N, but the grandmasters all disagreed and were screaming for f4, which Kamsky found. I did notice that if I gave either Shredder or Naum a minute or two, they both agreed that f4 was the correct move. Either was probably fine, but b4 looks rather ho-hum while f4 is exciting.
Then Ramirez dropped the ball badly with 23…b5?? All the titled players watching the match and all the engines agreed that b5 wasn’t so hot. Naum had the score at .58 at that point, which may not mean a whole lot at the 1600 level but for a Super GM, that kind of advantage can be decisive.
25. f5 seemed to seal the deal in the minds of the IMs and GMs watching the game on ICC, as well as the minds of the commentators on uschesschamps.com. Kamsky retained his advantage and by move 32, after Kamsky played queen to f4, the engines were reading .98 or so, which is a lethal advantage for a top level GM. Only a blunder by white would allow Ramirez back into the game.
When Kamsky played 35. Nc6, the general opinion was that the game was over; white simply had too great an advantage for black to overcome. The spectators were downright giddy by the time Kamsky played 39. g4, the top engine choice and an almost guaranteed win.
Gata played the rest of the game with surgical precision, slowly dismantling black. Just about every move he made matched the suggestion of the top engines. The titled observers on ICC said white couldn’t lose the game.
Then, on move 50, Alejandro made a brutal error when he played Rxa4, allowing white the neat tactical shot 51. Rxe5!! After the king takes back, which is all but forced, there is no way to stop both of white’s passed pawns. Gata played c7 next, and black threw in the towel.
Congratulations to Gata Kamsky for winning the US Chess Championship! Thanks go to the ICC for such a great relay and to Jen Shahade, Yasser Seirawan and Houdini–I mean Maurice Ashley–for