Gata Kamsky

New York City/Moscow
Chess Highlights: 
Four-time U.S. Champion (2013, 2011, 2010 and 1991); Reggio Emilia 2010 Champion; Rapid World Championship Mainz 2010; 2007 World Cup

Gata Kamsky is a Soviet-born, American grandmaster, currently ranked No. 2 in the United States and No. 40 in the world. He was born in Siberia, Russia, in 1974 and learned chess at 7 years old. By 9, he had won the Under-15 USSR Championship, and then became a back-to-back Junior Champion of the Soviet Union at 13.

Kamsky emigrated to the U.S. in 1989 and earned his Grandmaster title the following year, also becoming the youngest player ever rated in the world top-ten. 

Kamsky’s impact on American chess has been profound, having been the highest-rated American since his arrival in 1989 – second only now to Hikaru Nakamura. Kamsky won his first of four U.S. Championships in 1991, and the following year helped America grab its first-ever gold in the World Team Chess Olympiad.

In 1994, at age 20, Kamsky became the youngest-ever to challenge for the FIDE world title and the first American since Bobby Fischer. The 20-game match against reigning champion Anatoly Karpov was finally held in 1996, in Elista, Kalmykia, in Russia. Kamsky lost the match 7.5-10.5, but substantial political controversy surrounding the event ultimately led to an eight-year hiatus from professional chess for the American GM, partially in protest.

He earned an undergrad pre-med degree in chemistry, but then changed his mind and applied to law school. After graduating, Kamsky realized how much he missed chess. Egged on by friends and fans, he decided to give chess another try. "Now I feel much less pressure. I play for myself only," he said.

Kamsky returned in 2004 – “past his prime” at 30 years old – for an extraordinary second chapter in his career. By 2007, he had regained his elite form, qualifying for the Candidates Tournament that year and later winning the Chess World Cup as the 11th seed, knocking off Magnus Carlsen in the semifinals.  In 2010, Kamsky won his second U.S. Championship – 19 years removed from his first title – and returned to successfully defend the crown in 2011. Kamsky secured his fourth U.S. Championship title last year.