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Gata Kamsky
Chess Player Profile

(July 2008) Gata Kamsky was born 2 June 1974 in Novokuznetsk, Siberia, at that time part of the USSR. One of the world's top chess players since the mid-1990s, he qualified as challenger for the FIDE World Championship in 1996, then retired from professional chess to finish his studies. He returned to active play in 2004.

Early Accomplishments: When Kamsky was seven, the family moved to Leningrad, where at age 11 he won an Open event ahead of several titled players. In 1987 he qualified for the semifinals of the Soviet Championship, where he placed 19th out of 32 players and appeared for the first time on the FIDE rating list at 2380. Although becoming Soviet junior champion for the second time, Kamsky was not invited to other events. His father Rustam, an ex-boxer, concluded that his son's progress was being blocked by World Champion Kasparov himself.

Political Asylum in the West: In March 1989, Kamsky burst onto the international chess scene during the New York Open when he and his father asked the FBI for political asylum. The family was granted financial support, including an apartment in Brooklyn, by the American Chess Foundation. Kamsky took every chance he could to play and his FIDE rating jumped from 2345 on the July 1989 FIDE rating list to 2650 on the July 1990 list.

A Star Is Born: Still untitled, and ranked 163 out of 184 players, Kamsky finished 2nd/3rd in the GMA Open at Palma de Mallorca in December 1989, ahead of 153 GMs and 20 IMs. The next step in the qualification cycle for a coveted place in the 2nd GMA World Cup was a tournament in Moscow, uniting the top finishers of the three GMA Opens with other top players seeded by rating. When Kamsky was the only player who failed to appear in Moscow, Rustam again claimed that he was blocked by Kasparov, president of the GMA.

First World Championship Cycles: Kamsky's first participation in a World Championship cycle was at the 1990 Manila Interzonal, where he was the only untitled player. He finished 51st in the 64 player field, 2.5 points outside of the qualifying circle. Three years later, at the 1993 Biel Interzonal, he finished 2nd-9th out of 73 players, qualifying for the next stage. The year 1993 saw the World Championship schism, and Kamsky also qualified from the Groningen PCA Qualifier, finishing 3rd-7th out of 54 players.

Parallel FIDE & PCA World Championship Cycles: The candidate matches for the two cycles ran in parallel, the FIDE event preceding the equivalent PCA event by a few months. On the FIDE side, Kamsky beat Van der Sterren in the quarterfinal, Anand in the semifinal, and Salov in the final. He was lucky against Anand, when trailing by two games with three to go, he levelled the score and won the playoff. On the PCA side, he beat Kramnik in the quarterfinal and Short in the semifinal, before losing to Anand in the final. Several matches were marred by incidents involving his father.

FIDE Title Match Against Karpov: In February 1995, while Kamsky beat Salov in the final of the FIDE series, Karpov was taking on Gelfand in the other final match. Most followers of top level chess considered the PCA's Kasparov - Anand title match to be the real World Championship match, with the Karpov - Kamsky match a sideshow. Not surprisingly, FIDE had trouble organizing the match. It was rumored for Montreal, later announced for Baghdad, and finally held in June 1996, nearly a year late, at Elista, Kalmykia. Karpov won +6-3=9.

Kamsky Withdraws from Profesional Chess: Rumors persisted for months that Karpov and Kamsky had not been paid their full prize money. In January 1997, Kamsky announced that he was withdrawing from chess. He partially pinned the blame for the delayed 1996 match on Karpov, saying, 'It has been clear for some time that Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov will do all they can not to allow any of the possible contenders to come near the chess Olympus.' Kamsky made a brief comeback attempt in 1999, playing in the FIDE World Championship Knockout at Las Vegas. Seeded into the second round, he lost the match to Khalifman, the eventual winner of the event. He completed his studies, married, started a family, and returned to chess in 2004. He qualified from the 2005 World Cup for the 2007 candidate matches, beat Bacrot in the first match, then lost to Gelfand in the second. By beating Shirov in the 2007 World Cup, he qualified for a 'challengers match' in FIDE's new cycle.

Also Worth Noting: The challengers match is scheduled to start November 2008 at Lviv (Lvov), Ukraine. Kamsky's opponent is Veselin Topalov, who was seeded into the match as consolation for losing the World Championship Unification match to Kramnik in 2006.

USA Champion: Kamsky won the USA Championship in 1991 at Los Angeles.