Person of day - 2 JUNE 2023
Gata Rustemovich Sabirov was born in the distant city of Novokuznetsk, but his family soon moved to Leningrad after a short stay in Kazan. Gata’s grandfather, the founder of Tatarstan’s Drama Theatre, went under the pseudonym of “Kamsky” and soon one of the most notable wunderkinds of the 20thcentury became known in Leningrad under than surname.
Kamsky was noticed by the legendary trainer Vladimir Zak in the Pioneers’ Palace and his regular sparring-partner was master Vladimir Shishkin. Zak proudly called his mentee “my little grandmaster”, for the Siberian’s talent was so evident. Gata’s successes were linear: he won the juniors’ Spartak championship, defeated Mark Taimanov during a sensational Leningrad championship and became the USSR junior champion at the age of 12.
“There’s been no talent of this level since Kasparov!” wrote Soviet newspapers about the young champion. The Soviet chess federation decided to stage a match between Kamsky and the more experienced junior prize-winner AlexeiShirov. Under the guidance of his new trainer Gennady Nesis, the wunderkind convincingly won the match before representing the USSR in the world junior championship.
In 1989, the Kamsky family accepted an offer of millionaire James Kane and moved to the US, to the surprise of Soviet functionaries. In the West, the young chess player soared- he won the US championship and became a grandmaster, thus qualifying for the inter-zonal tournament. In 1990, Gata won the super tournament in Tilburg and entered the global chess elite.
Analysts were certain that the next candidates’ cycle would be connected with Gata Kamsky’s name. While the chess world was split into two in 1993, Gata brought the US team victory in the world team championship, where he defeated Russia’s leader, Vladimir Kramnik. Soon after, he won the Najdorf Memorial in 1993, before qualifying for the candidates’ matches of both FIDE and the newly-formed PCA.
While playing qualifying matches for the PCA, he thrashed Vladimir Kramnik 4,5:1,5 and recent candidate Nigel Short 5,5:1,5, but he lost the right to a match against Kasparov to Vishy Anand. In FIDE’s cycle, he was even more successful: he beat Van der Sterren 4,5:2,5, Valery Salov 4,5:1,5 and won against Anand after a tie-break 6:4. His 1994 victory in Linares showed that Gata was serious about his challenge for the championship, which was guarded by Anatoly Karpov.
The match for the FIDE crown took place in Elista in 1996 and was followed by a chain of scandals. Despite the advent of the computer age, the ageing Karpov insisted on playing with delays. Gata’s father Rustam clashed with administrators and once knocked out Gata’s second, Yasser Seirawan, whom he suspected of passing information to the enemy camp. In the end, the 12thworld champion won by three points and the disappointed father announced that his son was robbed of the crown unfairly and that his son would be quitting chess to study at university.
Kamsky was unheard-of for several years, other than the single interruption of his seclusion, when Gata played in the 1999 FIDE knockout world championship but lost to eventual winner Alexander Khalifman at an early stage. His real return came in 2004. The law graduate of Arizona University prepared for the 2005 World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk and became a candidate. In 2007 in Elista, he knocked out Etienne Bacrot 3,5:0,5, but then lost to Boris Gelfand and failed to qualify for the world championship.
The next World Cup brought the American a grandiose triumph: he consecutively defeated Adly, Avrukh, Georgiev, Svidler, Ponomarev, Carlsen and Shirov, thus winning the trophy. Alas, Gata could not qualify for the match against Anand after he lost a qualifying match against Veselin Topalov.
He played in the 2011 candidates’ matches, where he avenged Topalov but lost to Gelfand once again. He won several large open tournaments and multiple US championships. He also won several Olympic bronze medals with the American team in individual and collective rankings. Lastly, he won three European Cups with Linex-Magic, Ural and SOCAR.
He has lived in Russia for the last few years, where he heads a children’s school in Kazan and plays for Kazan’s Ladya in Russian club championships.