Russian-born Kamsky, who moved to the US as a 15-year-old, is a case of what might have been. After a phenomenal climb to the very top he gave up chess at the age of only 22, going on to study medicine and then law before finally returning to the game only in 2004, after an almost 8-year hiatus. Despite how much the game had changed in the intervening period he managed to re-establish himself at the top, adding four more US Championships (2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014) to the one he won back in 1991. His victory in the 2007 World Cup earned him a final Candidates match, but it was Veselin Topalov who won and went on to play a World Championship match against Vishy Anand.
So far, however, his recent endeavours are still overshadowed by his extraordinary youth. As a chess prodigy he won the USSR Junior Championship in both 1987 and 1988. On the July 1990 rating list the 16-year-old was the youngest player ever to make it into the Top 10, climbing 149 places and 140 rating points to number 8 while incredibly still an untitled player. The peak of his career came in the concurrent FIDE and PCA World Championship cycles in 1994-1996. His victims included Vladimir Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand and Nigel Short before he eventually fell in the final matches – to Anand in the PCA event and Anatoly Karpov in the FIDE cycle. The match against Karpov proved to be the final straw, with Kamsky shortly afterwards withdrawing from chess despite still being rated no. 6 in the world.
Apart from pure chess ability Kamsky has always been characterised by a ferocious work ethic and determination, sparing neither himself nor his opponents. Initially that was fuelled by his driven father, who apparently insisted the boy studied 12-14 hours a day. The second time round Kamsky is on his own, but while a theoretical chance of challenging for the title remains it would be unwise to rule him out.
We respect your privacy and data protection guidelines. Some components of our site require cookies or local storage that handles personal information.