Kamsky: “Life shouldn’t only be about chess”
Gata Kamsky, who turned 40 last year, has one of the most extraordinary career trajectories of any current player. He reached the Top 10 as a 16-year-old and played a World Championship match at 22 before quitting chess for almost eight years. In a new interview he talks about age in chess and explains why he never wanted to end up like Bobby Fischer.
On the 16th May Gata Kamsky was back in his native Tatarstan to play in a rapid tournament in Kazan. He outclassed the field and finished on 5.5/7, 1.5 points clear of his closest rival. Before the action began he gave a brief interview to Elena Gorbunchikova for Evening Kazan.
We’ve translated some of the highlights:
Where are you better known – in the USA or Russia?
The chess world is particular. It’s not important where a chess player lives – in Russia, Argentina or Australia. We’re all one family. Chess players know me, but to say people recognise me on the street – that I can’t do. I don’t think being recognised is the most important thing in life, though… In Russia, of course, I’m remembered. When I recently went to Sochi the organisers declared at the Closing Ceremony that they were glad to see such legendary players as Vladimir Kramnik, Gata Kamsky and Alexei Shirov. That was nice for us to hear, but we understand perfectly well that our names are already the past. Now the chess scene is being dazzled by the young talented players in the world’s Top 10. But we’re still fighting for titles.
Is 40 years a lot for a chess player?
I don’t consider myself an old man – more of a middle-aged sportsman. But still… Chess is a sport and that means that, as in any other form of sport, the race for the World Championship will be won by younger players. If you take me – I climbed in rating from 18 to 21 years old. Back then I was among the world’s top five. Now it’s the same with young guys like Magnus Carlsen and the Italian Fabiano Caruana, who’s 22 years old and fifth [sic] in rating. Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov have recently been experiencing chess difficulties connected with their age. Viswanathan Anand, who’s 45 years old, is more of an exception to the rule.
After asking about Gata’s chess school in Kazan the interviewer tried to probe into Kamsky’s decision to quit chess and the role his father played in his career. A response initially wasn’t forthcoming, but that was more than made up for by the final answer:
Parents play a key role in the development of many outstanding sportsmen. Everyone knows how strong an influence your father had on you. Have you already determined the fate of your 10-year-old son Adam?
That’s a very tough question…
After you lost the FIDE World Championship match in 1996 (to Anatoly Karpov), you quit the chess stage for almost 10 years. You studied medicine and law. They say you also opened a law office. Are you now a practicing lawyer?
No, I don’t practice.
So chess has once again become the main thing in your life?
No, it hasn’t. As for World Championship runner-up… Yes, I failed to become Champion, but I had other values in life. For me it was more important to receive an education. I understand that for many sportsmen the goal is to become World Champion, but a person’s life shouldn’t only be about chess. Bobby Fischer said that his life was chess, but I wouldn’t want to end up like him.