Throwback Thursday: Kamsky wins 2010 Chess Classic in Mainz

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
11/12/2020 – The last of ten “Chess Classic” events played in Mainz took place on August 6-8 at the Rheingoldhalle of the Congress Centre in the German city. An 11-round open tournament with a rapid time control was the main event. Gata Kamsky kicked off with nine consecutive victories and went on to secure first place with draws in the final two rounds. Vugar Gashimov, Levon Aronian and Evgeny Bareev finished a half point behind.

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The end of an era

Tireless German chess promoter Hans-Walter Schmitt organized top-class events in Frankfurt and Mainz since 1994 until 2010. The tournaments put forth by Schmitt were focused on creating a friendly atmosphere and popularizing the game by using state-of-the-art technology to add entertainment value to both players and spectators.

From 2001 to 2010, the “Chess Classic” in Mainz became one of the highlights on the international chess calendar. Usually combining rapid chess with chess960 events, it was accompanied by simultaneous exhibitions and tournaments for computers, among other side events. The main goal of the organizers was to connect the small world of chess with everyday society. 

The last edition of the event in Mainz was shortened to three days and took place on August 6-8, 2010. On August 6, a traditional opening press conference was held with three then world champions: Viswanathan Anand (classical), Alexandra Kosteniuk (women’s) and Levon Aronian (rapid). On the same day, Anand played a simul on 40 boards (+34, =4, –2) and Kosteniuk played a Chess960 simul on 20 boards, with a different starting position on each board (+16 =4 –0).

Viswanathan Anand

What used to be the strongest side event until 2009 became the main attraction in 2010, the Open Grenke Rapid World Championship. Previous winners of this tournament, nevertheless, included such well-known players as Michael Adams (2001), Viktor Bologan (2002), Alexander Grischuk (2003, 2004), Teimour Radjabov (2005), Rustam Kasimdzhanov (2006), David Navara (2007), Ian Nepomniachtchi (2008) and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2009).

In the farewell edition, the 11-round open event took place on August 7 and 8, with five rounds played on the first day and the six remaining rounds played on day two. The time control was 20 minutes for the whole game plus 5-second increments per move. The top five seeds were Aronian, Grischuk, Shirov, Karjakin and Movsesian, but it was Gata Kamsky who took home the €6.000 first prize and received the prestigious title of “Rapid Chess World Champion”. Aronian, Gashimov and Bareev finished a half point behind.

Gata Kamsky, Vugar Gashimov, Levon Aronian, Evgeny Bareev, Sergey Karjakin

Winners: Gata Kamsky, Vugar Gashimov, Levon Aronian, Evgeny Bareev and Sergey Karjakin

Anna Zatonskih, Olga Dolgova, Alexandra Kosteniuk, Elvira Berend-Sakhatova, Natalia Zhukova

Top female players: IM Anna Zatonskih, WIM Olga Dolgova, GM Alexandra
Kosteniuk, WGM Elvira Berend-Sakhatova, WGM Natalia Zhukova

Once it was known that this would be the last edition, the organizers expressed their satisfaction with the work that had been done:

We have shaped and organized the event seven years in Frankfurt, followed up by ten years in Mainz with inspiration and expertise. We have put our heart and passion into the Chess Classic. There is a quote by the Austrian dramatist and novelist Arthur Schnitzler, which says it all: “Am Ende gilt doch nur, was wir getan und gelebt – und nicht, was wir ersehnt haben.” (“In the end, all that matters is what we have done and lived — not what we have longed for”).

If you want to find out more about the history of the tournaments in Frankfurt and Mainz, do take a look at the lengthy interview that Hans-Walter Schmitt gave to Hartmut Metz.

Jens Beutel, Vladimir Kramnik, Vishy Anand,Hans-Walter Schmitt, Jürgen Wienecke

The first Chess Classic in Mainz 2001: Lord Mayor of Mainz Jens Beutel, Vladimir Kramnik, Vishy Anand, organizer of the Chess Tigers Hans-Walter Schmitt, and Jürgen Wienecke

Nine out of nine

At the time, Gata Kamsky was the reigning US champion and the 31st highest-rated player in the world — Carlsen was already the world number 1. Three players from the top 10 participated in Mainz: defending champion Levon Aronian (#5), Alexander Grischuk (#7) and Alexei Shirov (#9). The remaining 2700+ players were Sergey Karjakin, Sergei Movsesian, Vugar Gashimov, Viktor Bologan, Kamsky and Rustam Kasimdzhanov.

No fewer than twelve players finished day 1 with a perfect 5/5 score. On day 2, however, when the top players starting to face each other, Kamsky showed his fighting spirit to reach a perfect 9/9 before cruising to victory with draws against Gashimov and Grischuk.

Dutch writer and photographer Eric van Reem — who currently hosts a chess podcast — provided the daily reports from Mainz including light annotations to three key games for Kamsky: his wins in rounds 7-9 over Aronian, Karjakin and Kasimdzhanov.

Aronian (2783) vs. Kamsky (2713) - Round 7

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 a6 5.a4 e6 6.Bg5 a5 7.e3 Be7 8.Be2 0-0 9.0-0 Na6 10.Qb3 Nb4 11.Na2 Na6 12.Rac1 h6 13.Bh4 g5 14.Bg3 Ne4 15.Rfd1 Nxg3 16.hxg3 Bf6 17.Nc3 Bg7 18.e4 g4 19.Nh4 dxe4 20.Bxg4 f5 21.Bh3 Bxd4 22.c5 Nxc5 23.Qc4 Nd3 24.Nxf5 c5 25.Nxe4 Nxc1


White has been in a bit of trouble, but has managed to defend the position. Now he can expect to draw after simply capturing on c1. But: 26.Nxh6+? Kg7 27.Qxc1. This idea leads to his downfall. 27...Qd5 28.Re1 Qh5 29.Ng4 e5 30.Nh2 Bxh3 31.gxh3 Ra6 32.Kg2 Rh6 and Kamsky went on to win the game in convincing style. 33.h4 Rg6 34.Qd1 Qxh4 35.Nf3 Qg4 36.Qb3 b6 37.Nxd4 exd4 38.f3 Qf5 39.g4 c4 40.Qd1 d3 41.Ng3 Qd5 42.Re4 d2 43.Kf2 Kg8 44.Nf5 Rxf5 45.gxf5 Qc5+ 46.Re3 Rd6 47.Ke2 Qxf5 48.Re4 Kf8 49.Kf2 Rd3 50.Rxc4 Rxf3+ 51.Kg2 Qh3+ 0-1.

Gata Kamsky, Levon Aronian

Kamsky (2713) vs. Karjakin (2747) - Round 8

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.d4 Bg4 10.d5 Na5 11.Bc2 Qc8 12.Nbd2 c6 13.b4 Nb7 14.dxc6 Qxc6 15.Bb2 Nd8 16.Nf1 Qb7 17.Ng3 Re8 18.h3 Bd7 19.Bb3 Ne6 20.Nf5 Bc6 21.Nxd6 Bxd6 22.Qxd6 Nxe4 23.Qxe5 N6c5 24.bxc5 Rxe5 25.Nxe5 Nxc5 26.Bxf7+ Kh8 27.Rad1 Bxg2 28.Rd4 h6 29.Ba3


Here Sergey Karjakin, who has a queen for a rook and bishop, needed to find 29...Bh1! But he didn’t: 29...Bxh3?? 30.Bd5 Qc8 31.Bxc5 Qxc5 32.Bxa8. Now the material balance is two rooks and a knight for a queen and a pawn, and Kamsky has no trouble bringing home the beef — in spite of a spirited defence by his young Ukrainian opponent. 32...Bf5 33.Re3 Qa3 34.Bd5 Kh7 35.Kg2 Qe7 36.Nf3 Qf6 37.c4 bxc4 38.Bxc4 a5 39.Rd5 Bb1 40.Rxa5 Qf4 41.Be6 Qb4 42.Rae5 Qa4 43.a3 Qf4 44.Bd5 Qg4+ 45.Kf1 Qh3+ 46.Ke2 Qc8 47.Be4+ Bxe4 48.R5xe4 Qc1 49.a4 Qb1 50.Nd2 Qa1 51.Rg3 Qf6 52.a5 h5 53.Rb3 h4 54.Rb6 Qg5 55.Nf3 Qxa5 56.Rxh4+ Kg8 57.Rb8+ Kf7 58.Rf4+ Kg6 59.Rbb4 Qa6+ 60.Rbc4 Qb5 61.Kf1 Qd5 62.Kg2 1-0.

Sergey Karjakin, Gata Kamsky

Kasimdzhanov (2699) vs. Kamsky (2713) - Round 9

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.d3 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.a4 Bd7 9.Bd2 0-0 10.h3 h6 11.Re1 b4 12.a5 Rb8 13.Ba4 Re8 14.Be3 Bf8 15.Nbd2 Ne7 16.Bb3 c5 17.c3 Nc6 18.Nc4 Be6 19.Ba4 Qc7 20.Nb6 bxc3 21.bxc3 Red8 22.Bxc6 Qxc6 23.d4 cxd4 24.cxd4 Qxe4 25.d5 Bc8 26.Nxc8 Rbxc8 27.Bb6 Qxd5 28.Bxd8 Rxd8 29.Qe2 Qa8 30.Nd2 Nd7 31.Nc4 Nc5 32.Rab1 e4 33.Nb6 Qc6 34.Rec1 Qe8 35.Nd5 Qe5 36.Qc4 Be7 37.Rc2 Bg5 38.Re2 Qf5 39.Rf1 h5 40.f3 exf3 41.Rxf3 Qb1+ 42.Rf1 Qd3 43.Ne7+ Kh7 44.Qxf7 Qxe2 45.Qf5+ Kh8 46.Qxg5 Ne6 47.Ng6+ Kg8 48.Ne7+ Kh8 49.Ng6+ Kg8 50.Qf5 Qe3+ 51.Kh1 Qe2 52.Ne7+ Kh8 53.Ng6+ Kg8 54.Rf3 Nd4


For ten moves now Rustam Kasimdzhanov, former FIDE world champion and current second of Vishy Anand, has wound in and out of a clear win. Now he misses his final chance: 55.Qf7+ Kh7 56.Rg3 Ne6 57.Ne7 Qe5 58.Qg6+ Kh8 59.Nc6 with a winning advantage. However, now he practically forces Black to save the game: 55.Qd5? Qe6 56.Ne7+ Kh7 57.Qxh5+ Qh6 58.Qxh6+ Kxh6 59.Rd3 Nb5 60.Kg1 Kg5 61.Rf3 Nd4 62.Rf7 d5 63.Rxg7+ Kf6 64.Rh7 Ke6 65.Ng6 Nb3 66.Ra7 Rd6 67.Nf4+ Kf5 68.Nd3 d4 69.Re7 Kf6


Now the demoralized Kasim plays a move that probably kept him awake all night: 70.Re5?? Nc1 0-1.

Gata Kamsky, Rustam Kasimdzhanov

Final standings - Top 20

# Name FED Elo Pts PtSum MBuch
1 Kamsky,Gata USA 2713 10 64,5 73,5
2 Gashimov,Vugar AZE 2719 9,5 62 70,5
3 Aronian,Levon ARM 2783 9,5 58 69,5
4 Bareev,Evgeni RUS 2663 9,5 58 68
5 Karjakin,Sergey RUS 2747 9 59 75,5
6 Kempinski,Robert POL 2612 9 58 70
7 Grischuk,Alexander RUS 2760 9 57,5 69,5
8 Shirov,Alexey ESP 2749 9 55 69,5
9 Naiditsch,Arkadij GER 2684 9 50 62
10 Kasimdzhanov,Rustam UZB 2704 8,5 58,5 69
11 Gustafsson,Jan GER 2643 8,5 57,5 71
12 Bologan,Viktor MDA 2713 8,5 57,5 69,5
13 Markowski,Tomasz POL 2628 8,5 56,5 67,5
14 Inarkiev,Ernesto RUS 2671 8,5 56 68
15 Movsesian,Sergei SVK 2723 8,5 55 68
16 Howell,David ENG 2619 8,5 55 63
17 Tregubov,Pavel RUS 2610 8,5 54,5 67,5
18 Istratescu,Andrei ROU 2620 8,5 54,5 66
19 Andersson,Ulf SWE 2567 8,5 54,5 65,5
20 Pelletier,Yannick SUI 2589 8,5 54 66,5

All available games (10 per round)



Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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genem genem 11/14/2020 11:32
The annual event in Mainz each August used to include the primary tournament for 'Fischer Random Chess' (FRC), later renamed 'chess960', and by now maybe renamed to 'chess9LX'. But in 2008 the world financial crises hit, and sponsorship money instantly withered.