My draw with GM Gata Kamsky

My draw with GM Gata Kamsky

NM SeedToTree
Jun 22, 2015, 1:18 PM |

GM Gata Kamsky recently passed through Denver, CO on his way to a major tournament in California. He stopped by to give a lecture/simul and the next day participated in the Denver Open where he took clear 1st.

It's not everyday that a chess legend strolls through town so I was more than excited to sign up to play in the simul. For those unfamiliar with the term simul - it is short for simultaneous exhibition. One strong player plays multiple games of chess at the same time. The simul giver gets to play the White pieces. In this particiular simul there were 21 participants including three National Masters: Ryan Swerdlin, Joel Johnson and myself.

Here's my game.

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. Bg5 Gata is the ultimate knowledge source when it comes to the London System and had just given a lecture on it with examples from his own games just prior to this simul. But of course he chooses to play the Torre :) 

3... c5I had somewhat prepared for our game by studying some of his latest games including a draw with GM Hikaru Nakamura at the U.S. Championship 2015. Hikaru played c5 against 3.Bf4 - I didn't see a reason not to follow this idea. 

4. e3 Nc6 5. c3 b6 6. Nbd2 Bb7 7. Bd3 Be7 8. O-O O-O 9. a3 Gata explained that as a child growing up and gaining experience in the chess world he preferred this opening setup against Queen pawn openings as Black and his father said "If you like it so much - why don't you play it as White?" Often times the idea behind this move is to play b4. If Black follows standard lines with d5 and eventually e5 to challenge the center - White's idea is to be able to play a timely b5 kicking the Nc6 to win on e5. This usually involves a Black Bd6 to support it so the chances of this happening isn't that likely in this position. Another key reason is so that in some times if Black plays cxd4 and White opts to play cxd4 White won't have to deal with the pesky move Nb4. 

9... d6 Gata showed us a game in his lecture where he was White against the very strong David Navara. David chose to play 10...d5 - and while this line is perfectly playable David had many problems with the scope of his Bb7 because Gata never played e4 or c4 allowing an exchange of Black's d pawn which would free his Bishop. I decided not to follow in the same footsteps as this game with d6 - a less challenging move to the center but one that keeps my Bb7 alive. 

10. e4 I definitely want the reader to stop here and think about this position. I really like finding good instances to apply learning I've acquired through Jeremy Silman's imbalances. What's going on in this position? 1) White has a superior pawn center and 2) White has superior space in the center. What does this tell me? The strategies for the side with space advantage: 1) methodically gain more space 2) avoid exchanges and 3) restrict enemy mobility. This is because most often the side with more space has more room for their pieces and the side with less space is cramped and has less room for pieces. I always tell my students "imagine your parents threw a party at your home for 30 of their friends and they wanted to have the party in YOUR room. What would that be like?" The typical answer I get is "not fun!". I tell them to imagine then kicking out everyone except just their best friend, "Is it okay now?" "Yes!". I know this may be silly but it's a great analogy to express why too many people (or pieces) in too small a space get uncomfortable and you either need to get a bigger space or eject some people from the party! The other imbalance is White's center superiority. Silman writes that the side with the superior center has a responsibility to make their center indestructible and the other side has a responsibility to destroy it with constant pressure. My idea is to initiate a trade quickly and then make a plan to apply as much pressure to d4 and e4 as I can. 

10... h6 11. Bh4 Nh5 This move forces an exchange of Bh4 for Be7 - a great strategic idea since White has more space! 

12. Bxe7 Nxe7 I avoided the natural looking 12...Qxe7 because after 13.d5! it's clear that White gets a nice initiative. 

13. Re1 Rc8 When looking at the game afterwards I realized this move is a Theoretical Novelty (TN). 13...Nf4 has been tried with success but I figured Knight would be kicked back to g6 and I'm really not a fan of linked Knights (on e7 and g6) - they take away each others mobility and only in the case of reinforcing a key square do I feel that linked Knights like this are acceptable. That being said I'm aware that my Nh5 is not the most well placed piece and I'm thinking of the right moment to bring it back. However I'm proud of 13...Rc8 because it has a deeper idea in mind. Remember that Black has a responsibility to apply constant pressure to White's center. Rc8 is a quite move that prepares for the possibility for opening the c file but there is something deeper at work! 

14. g3 Rc7!? - I still don't have to worry about White trapping my Nh5 on the edge of 15.e5 because the Bd3 is unprotected. 

15. Qe2 16.e5 is now a threat 

15... Qa8?! Here's the idea behind Rc8! The Queen batteries with the Bb7 to apply more pressure on e4. At the time I didn't think White could get away with e5 because it unleashes the power of my Qa8 and Bb7 but unfortunately I was wrong. I should have taken the time to play Nf6 both this move and the next. 

16. Rad1 You must try and understand that Gata being the simul giver is only spending a few moments at each board as he goes around the room. Over the board I have no doubt he would find e5 but with so little time to give each board he prefers to be solid. 

16... Rd8?! Once again Nf6 was the correct decision 

17. Bb1 cxd4 18. cxd4 Nf6 Finally saving my Nh5 from the rim! This position has clarified and it is approximately equal. White still has more space and center domination however Black has pressure against e4. Even though there are no penetration squares along the c-file my Rc7 is the only one contesting it. I now sensed that I definitely wanted a Knight on c4 applying pressure to the b2 pawn. 

19. Nh4 Gata appears to be hinting at playing f4 - this would make sense at the right moment to gain more space and increase his advantage. I'd like to point out to the avid reader that I was considering playing moves like e5 or d5 striking the center at the right moment but in either case it would lock in my Qa8-Bb7 and make it look rather silly. This is not a closed center but a fixed one! Remember when the center is not in motion it is usually a good idea for wing attacks! 

19... a6 I now plan to gain more space on the Queenside with b5 to secure c4 for my coming Knight maneuver and also to open the a7-g1 diagonal to apply pressure to White's d4 pawn with Qa7 should he play the likely f4 soon. 

20. Ng2 Nc6 21. Nf3 Na5 22. Nd2 The computer doesn't disagree but I always feel I've done something correct if my opponent's best response is to take back their last move! 

22... b5 23. f3 Qa7 With 23.f3 securing the e4 pawn for a while I proceed with the intended Qa7 to intensify pressure against d4. 

24. Qf2 Ba8 Many people have asked me why I played this move. Try to imagine the simul scenario. Many people have already been eliminated. Instead of a few minutes to consider each move I now have a minute or two and I'd already used up an inappropriate amount of passes (generally 3-4 is max). This is a waiting move that clears the b file in case after Nc4 I decide to play bxc4 and go after a backwards b2 pawn. 

25. g4 Fixed center = wing attack. I was a little taken aback. 

25... Nc4 26. Nf1 Rcc8 I want to reposition to Qe7 to help out with the incoming pawn wave. 

27. h4 Qe7 28. Ng3 Nh7 29. d5 Please take me! No way! This would unleash all White's pieces in a menacing way. Could you imagine the terrible 29...exd5? 30.Nf5! 

29... Nf8 30. f4 Ng6 Another comment I want to make here is that space advantage is truly a double edged sword. The more advantage you gain in space - the more weak squares you create. Technically White is riddled with complete weak squares from the d file to the h file. The question is whether I can do anything about it! 

31. g5 hxg5 32. hxg5 Qc7 With the Kingside feeling safe for the moment I decide that White has gain enough space to warrant another trade. I intend to play Qc5 or Qb6 to initiate a Queen trade and further weaken b2. 

33. Re2 Qb6?! This is my last mistake of the game. It seemed that Qc5 was the way to go but I liked the idea that if Qxb6 Nxb6 would apply more pressure to d5. The correct path was Qc5. Here I offered Gata a draw. He waited to see what I would continue to play. 

34. Qxb6 Nxb6 35. dxe6 fxe6 36. e5?? Blunder! Gata was tired at this point as he had eliminated everyone but 4 people. He quickly saw this series of exchanges would lead to a double attack. His Bb1 attacks Ng6 and his Rd1 + e5 attack my d6. I tell my students just how important training at tactics is and I'm glad that I follow my own advice! 

36... Bxg2! Good move! White doesn't have any good recaptures. If Bxg6 then Bf3! 

37. Rxg2 Nxf4Here I offered Gata a second draw and he accepted. Yes I know the final position is winning for Black however you must understand that the reason I have a shot as Black against such a strong player is because his efforts have been divided against 20 other players for hours. He was about to eliminate the others and be one on one with me. I'm well aware Kamsky is a beast at the endgame. I figured a gentlemen's draw would be nice instead of pushing this and getting owned in rapid chess by Gata on an open board with his Bishop. Let the criticism fly but I felt it was the right thing to do and I stand by my decision :)