Rust and talent

Gata Kamsky challenged Anatoly Karpov for the world chess championship in 1995. Then Kamsky moved to US and dropped out of chess.

Jorge Sammour-Hasbun won the world championship for his age group as a kid and studied with the mad tactician Mikhail Tal. Then Sammour-Hasbun moved to the US and dropped out of chess.

Now they’re both back in action after a lapse of many years. Kamsky as of this writing has advanced to the final round of the World Cup, a knockout tournament in Siberia. Among his victims are three super-GMs rated among the world’s top 20, including super prodigy Magnus Carlsen. 

Sammour-Hasbun famously came out of nowhere and won an online blitz tournament featuring many, many grandmasters, and recently completed an astonishing season playing for Boston in the US Chess League.

It’s an inspiration to the rusty old amateur. (I wrote about mental rust here, noting some apparent similarities to a condition known as sluggish cognitive tempo.) Except for one thing: Boatloads of talent. They’ve both got it. World-class, astonishing, that’s-not-fair level talent. Modern chess puts a huge premium on knowledge of the opening phase. Both Kamsky and Sammour-Hasbun are able to play insipid or unstable openings, avoiding the “best” lines as dictated by modern theory, and then simply outplay or outcomplicate incredibly strong opponents.

Ah, for a boatload of talent. Sigh. :)


7 thoughts on “Rust and talent

  1. Jorge is powerful in the endgame. He can take a drawn endgame and force a win against someone who may not know how to play it correctly.

    Oh… and his tactics … it’s unfair… how many circles did I have to complete to reach this great height of mediocracy?

  2. Derek,

    I think the proper timeline for Kamsky was 1) Came to the U.S. in the early 90s 2) Played a while 3) Championship vs. Karpov in 1996 4) Lost match and dropped out of chess 5) Returned a few years ago. Kamsky played chess under the U.S. flag for a long time before taking a break. Here’s my kamsky story: I remember back in — I think it was 1991 — Kamsky played Board 1 for the Brooklyn Tech team at the Pan Am Intercollegiate tournament in Chicago. My buddies and I met him in the terminal at the airport, on our way home to Laguardia, and asked him if he wanted to play bughouse with us. He wanted to, but his father said no.

    It’s great to see a Kamsky who is older, more mature, a father himself, taking on the world’s elite again. When will he win the U.S. championship? I would also love to see our other star with a K in his name, Nakamura, train with Gata. How cool would that be?


  3. Re: Timeline – Yet another case of the facts interfering with a good story. :)

    Kamsky-Nakamura would be an interesting training partnership. Kamsky plays such beautiful, clear chess and Nakamura plays such beautiful, murky chess.

  4. i am enormously happy to see Shirov ‘through’. i admit that for the last four or five years i have NOT been a fan of Shirov’s, never quite seeing the Fire On Board that he was famous for, but we sure saw it this time round.

    how sweet the joy for many chess fans to see these two older guys through.

    dont know how closely you watched, but Kajarkin repeatedly got an advantage in his opening prep, but as soon as he fell off his memory of prog, Shirov equalized then got an advantage. i ran fritz at the end of round 5 and entirely here at round 6, esp in the second half of each game. man oh man!

    let the real fighting begin, and may the last man standing win!

    warmest, dk

  5. DK – greed. Shirov has had a few quiet years and it’s exciting to see him in (or on) good form. Yay old dudes :) I’ll be happy whichever way it goes.

    I get a kick out of how we US chess fans adopt these British-ism like “Shirov is through to the finals” and “Shirov on first place.” I do it too. I assume it’s because we all get most of our coverage from Mark Crowther at TWIC.

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