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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kamsky Evens Series, Fans Go Wild

ELISTA, Southern Russia -- American Gata Kamsky bounced back in a big way in his world chess championship match against Russia's Anatoly Karpov, soundly beating the FIDE champion to even the score of their best-of-20 series at 1-1.


Kamsky had lost the first game in a long, drawn-out battle with Karpov which ended when the young American resigned Friday. After that match, experts predicted Karpov would likely not need the full 20 games to finish off Kamsky.


But Kamsky's play Saturday not only won him respect among grandmasters, but fans in Kalmykia. At 22, Kamsky is fast becoming a cult figure among Kalmyk youth, and his victory caused a crowd of high school students gathered outside the playing hall to erupt in cheers.


"Young people are all rooting for Gata," said Alexander Badmayev, a reporter for Kalmyk youth radio. "For us, Karpov symbolizes the old era. Gata is the new generation."


This FIDE championship in tiny Elista is probably the first venue where young Kamsky has ever had a fan following. Nicknamed "The Robot" on the chess tour, he is a much-vilified figure among chess players because of his emotionless demeanor and his slavish deference to his father, Rustam, who does not allow his son to give interviews alone or have girlfriends.


But there are signs that a new life may be beginning for Kamsky in Kalmykia. Just one month before the match, Rustam Kamsky said he will permit his son to spend time with young women once the match is over, and already there are rumors spreading among reporters in Kalmykia that Kamsky senior was searching for a wife for his young son in Elista.


Those rumors seemed to gain some verisimilitude after young Kamsky was spotted at a local disco after his victory Saturday night.


"Gata may be coming of age in Elista," said Albert Minnulin, a Russian master and chess correspondent for Komsomolskaya Pravda.


In terms of chess, Kamsky, the world's fifth-ranked player, has shown maturity in his match against Karpov. In Game One, though he lost, he demonstrated great stamina and concentration to hold his ground for 56 moves despite falling into a clearly losing position early in the game.


In Game Two, he played mistake-free chess throughout, following a plan carefully designed to take advantage of Karpov's cautious nature. On move 11 he offered the Russian a pawn, but Karpov, who is generally loath to extend his defenses early in games, did not take the piece. The result was a major positional advantage which allowed Kamsky, on Move 17, to take Karpov's queen in exchange for a rook and a knight.


"If Kamsky continues to play error-free chess and force Karpov to play for a long time to gain victories, he will have a great chance in this match, if only for reasons of stamina," said Swiss grandmaster Lucas Brunner.