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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Wanted: Queen, 13, for Chaste Chess Prince

It has all the makings of a medieval fairy tale: a remote Khandom, a tyrannical king, a timid young prince, a nationwide search among the commoners for a future queen.


A new feature film? No, just immigrant American chess master Gata Kamsky, submitting to the will of his father Rustam, who for the last month has been combing the steppes of the tiny republic of Kalmykia in a very public search for a 13-year-old princess to play companion to his unsuspecting son.


Gata, 22, came to Elista along with his father at the beginning of June with one main goal: to wrest the World Chess Federation Championship away from Russia's Anatoly Karpov. But once the match started, Rustam, who prohibits his son from talking to girls and, during matches, from reading newspapers, began to pursue a secondary aim -- the choice of a mate for Gata.


While Gata was falling behind in Game 5 of his match with Karpov, Rustam was announcing, in an interview with Nadezhda Kumenova of Izvestia Kalmykia, that he was looking for a young girl to take home to America.


"My plan is this," said the short, red-faced, pugnacious Tatar, who once worked as an actor and photographer but for many years now has made his living solely as coach to his son.


"We find a smart, humble, domestic girl from a good family who is between the ages of 13 and 14. Nationality plays no role. We sign a contract with the parents, take the girl home to America, where she will study in school with Gata ... If, in the course of these years, she and Gata fall in love with each other, then -- Thank God!"


The girl has to be young, Rustam explained, to ensure that Gata's future mate will have the right upbringing. The family patriarch says he is anxious to play the central role in the formation of his future daughter-in-law's character.


"I want to exclude the possibility of chance meetings and the mistakes of youth," he said.


A great plan, on the face of it -- but was Gata aware that the appeal was making it into print? No, said Kumenova.


"I asked Rustam if Gata knew that this was going into the paper," she said. "He said, 'Of course not. Gata has no time for newspapers.'"


Gata, an awkward, bespectacled youth who almost never gives interviews and seems to masters at tables in Park Pobedy in Leningrad, and by his early teens the family was living off winnings earned through bets his father placed on Gata against rated players in chess halls throughout the city.


Gata and Rustam emigrated to the U.S. when Gata was 14, and since then, as always, Rustam has not let Gata out of his sight. As Rustam says himself: "Gata has only fallen twice in his life -- once sledding, and once on the swings. And both times he fell into my arms."


So it comes as no surprise that Gata has no say in the choice of his own mate. When asked in that same Izvestia Kalmykia interview whether Gata approved of the matchmaking plan, Rustam answered: "Whether he approves or disapproves, I am the master of the house. And it is for me to decide."


Gata sustained the third fall of his life in Elista, collapsing under the superior play of the more self-sufficient and independent -- and twice-married -- Karpov.


Once again, Rustam was there to catch him. If there was to be no chess success, there would at least be family happiness and the possibility of marital bliss.


Nearly 30 sets of parents responded to the matchmaking appeal of Kamsky senior, and after a long selection process, the field was finally narrowed to two girls. According to these finalists, they were only introduced to Gata after Kamsky junior lost the match to Karpov last Friday.


"I like Gata a lot," said Karolina Khartzayeva, who at 15 was a little old for Rustam's taste but made up for it with her good looks and her chess-playing ability -- she was Elista's school champion in 1994. "But I'm not thinking about marriage yet. I just want to study."


Baya Kharashkina, 14, said, "Rustam is nice. Gata is nice. But really I just want to study." She betters Karolina in one respect at least; she is Kalmykia's under-18 chess champion this year.


Rustam will not say whether a final choice has been made yet, but it is likely that one of the two girls will be occupying a chamber in the Kamsky home in Brooklyn by the end of the summer.


No one knows how Gata feels about his would-be future mates. Karolina said she thought Gata liked her; Baya wasn't sure. But as long as Rustam is around, it probably doesn't matter. The master of the house decides everything.