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Karpov vs Kamsky, 1996

With Gary Kasparov showing no interest in rejoining FIDE, the world chess body continued with its normal qualification cycle to produce an opponent for its champion, Anatoly Karpov. An American grandmaster, 21 year old Gata Kamsky, emerged the winner of the process.

 Gata Kamsky
 Gata Kamsky
Kamsky, born in 1974 in Siberia, had defected to the United States in 1989. A genuine chess prodigy, he won the under-20 Soviet Championship at the age of 12. In July of 1990 he became the youngest player ever to appear FIDE's top ten rating list. He obtained his Grandmaster title at age 16. Driven strongly by his father, young Kamsky single-mindedly pursued his goal to be World Champion, participating in both the PCA and FIDE qualification cycles. He reached the finals of the 1994-1995 PCA Candidates' matches, eliminating Kramnik and Short before losing to Anand. The FIDE Candidates matches brought even greater success, defeating Van der Sterren, Anand, and then Salov to emerge as Karpov's challenger.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the tiny Soviet republic of Kalmykia, had been chosen as the new FIDE president in 1995. He scheduled the match to be played in Baghdad, Iraq; but the US State Department refused to let Kamsky travel to that country. Ilyumzhinov then chose Elista, the capital of Kalmykia, as the match site. Kamsky was reluctant to play in a Soviet satellite but agreed when his safety was guaranteed.

The prize fund was 2 million dollars with approximately 1 million going to the winner, 500,000 to the loser and the rest split between FIDE and various charities. The match was scheduled for 20 games; if tied, the match would continue until a player won a two game mini-match.

The match began on June 6, 1996. Karpov won the first game, but Kamsky came back to win the second to even the score. But experience trumped youthful ambition: Karpov--then playing his ninth world championship match--won 4 of the next 7 games, to establish an all but insurmountable lead. On July 11, after 18 games, with a score of 10½ to 7½, Karpov retained the title of FIDE World Chess Champion. Immediately after the match, Kamsky gave up chess to pursue a medical career, but returned to chess in 2004 to resume his goal of becoming World Champion.

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FINAL SCORE:  Karpov 10½;  Kamsky 7½
Reference: game collection WCC Index [Karpov-Kamsky 1996]

NOTABLE GAMES   [what is this?]
    · Game #4     Kamsky vs Karpov, 1996     0-1
    · Game #2     Kamsky vs Karpov, 1996     1-0
    · Game #6     Kamsky vs Karpov, 1996     0-1


  1. The World Chess Championships by Graeme Cree

 page 1 of 1; 18 games  PGN Download 
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Karpov vs Kamsky 1-0571996Karpov - Kamsky FIDE World Championship MatchD97 Grunfeld, Russian
2. Kamsky vs Karpov 1-0651996Karpov - Kamsky FIDE World Championship MatchE54 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Gligoric System
3. Karpov vs Kamsky ½-½501996Karpov - Kamsky FIDE World Championship MatchE15 Queen's Indian
4. Kamsky vs Karpov 0-1451996Karpov - Kamsky FIDE World Championship MatchE54 Nimzo-Indian, 4.e3, Gligoric System
5. Karpov vs Kamsky ½-½231996Karpov - Kamsky FIDE World Championship MatchD97 Grunfeld, Russian
6. Kamsky vs Karpov 0-1291996Karpov - Kamsky FIDE World Championship MatchC43 Petrov, Modern Attack
7. Karpov vs Kamsky 1-0711996Karpov - Kamsky FIDE World Championship MatchE97 King's Indian
8. Kamsky vs Karpov ½-½611996Karpov - Kamsky FIDE World Championship MatchB17 Caro-Kann, Steinitz Variation
9. Karpov vs Kamsky 1-0411996Karpov - Kamsky FIDE World Championship MatchD97 Grunfeld, Russian
10. Kamsky vs Karpov 1-0591996Karpov - Kamsky FIDE World Championship MatchE12 Queen's Indian
11. Karpov vs Kamsky ½-½661996Karpov - Kamsky FIDE World Championship MatchD45 Queen's Gambit Declined Semi-Slav
12. Kamsky vs Karpov ½-½541996Karpov - Kamsky FIDE World Championship MatchB17 Caro-Kann, Steinitz Variation
13. Karpov vs Kamsky ½-½901996Karpov - Kamsky FIDE World Championship MatchE15 Queen's Indian
14. Kamsky vs Karpov 0-1611996Karpov - Kamsky FIDE World Championship MatchE41 Nimzo-Indian
15. Karpov vs Kamsky ½-½411996Karpov - Kamsky FIDE World Championship MatchA70 Benoni, Classical with 7.Nf3
16. Kamsky vs Karpov 1-0491996Karpov - Kamsky FIDE World Championship MatchE15 Queen's Indian
17. Karpov vs Kamsky ½-½601996Karpov - Kamsky FIDE World Championship MatchA13 English
18. Kamsky vs Karpov ½-½801996Karpov - Kamsky FIDE World Championship MatchE15 Queen's Indian
 page 1 of 1; 18 games  PGN Download 
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2)  

Kibitzer's Corner
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Feb-21-09  swarmoflocusts: Haha! Yes!! Victory!
Premium Chessgames Member
  Troller: In 1984, after 18 games the score was 11-7 in Karpov's favour, when 22-year-old Kasparov was playing his first WC match.

In 1996, after 18 games the score was 10-7 in Karpov's favour, when 21-year-old Kamsky was playing his first WC match.

Just saying. Not comparing or anything...

Jul-29-09  AnalyzeThis: Very interesting point, Troller. Karpov didn't have the option of just running out the clock on Kasparov, like he did to Kamsky.
Dec-23-09  Pravitel: I really enjoyed going through Karpov's Elista Diaries. Very nice match and a big fight. Kamsky fought like a man to the very end, not giving up. Much better attitude than what Anand showed against Kasparov. Karpov was ruthless especially on the first part of the match and punished Kamsky accurately from the smallest mistakes.
Sep-23-10  Everett: In a sense, this was Karpov's swansong. Soon he would be ousted from his usual #2 position in the rankings and by 1998-9 be out of the top 5.

Still, through his 45th year, he was playing top level chess, over two consecutive decades of being either #1 or #2.

Apr-30-11  bronkenstein: Some usefull info + comments on key moments of the games @ .
Jun-29-12  sallom89: I never Knew about that..

< The first World Championship not to use adjournments was the PCA Championship between Anand and Kasparov in 1995 while the last one to use adjournments was the FIDE World Championship between Gata Kamsky and Anatoly Karpov in 1996.>

Jun-30-12  parmetd: A glaring error in this WC summary, Kamsky quit chess to become A LAWYER! Not medical.
Jun-30-12  Shams: <parmetd> Negative, ghost rider-- Kamsky studied medicine for a year, then law:
Jun-30-12  King Death: What <Shams> says is right, Kamsky retired from chess to become an M.D. even though he never got there. If the writer had said that Kamsky left chess "originally intending" to go into medicine I'd agree.
Jul-02-12  parmetd: the just makes a mistake in wikipedia as well shams.
Jul-02-12  King Death: < parmetd: the just makes a mistake in wikipedia as well shams.>

It isn't a mistake in that Wikipedia article, they had it right. At the time I wasn't even an active player and I knew that Kamsky was leaving chess to become a doctor. He changed his mind, happens every day.

There's no shame in not having the facts straight once in awhile, just own up instead of insisting that you're right about everything.

Jul-02-12  parmetd: He may have thought about going to med school but the fact is he never did. He went to lawschool so it should be updated to reflect that.
Jul-02-12  Jason Frost: <parmetd: He may have thought about going to med school but the fact is he never did. He went to lawschool so it should be updated to reflect that.>

The fact is you're wrong.

<As I am sure you well recall, in 1996 Roustam Kamsky announced that Gata was quitting chess to go to medical school. This lacked credibility because Gata never even went to high school, so how could he go to medical school (he graduated from high school in Russia at the age of 13, before he came to America). Roustam Kamsky told me that in the intervening years Gata Kamsky had achieved very high scores on all the entrance examinations, had gone to Brooklyn College and completed his BA degree in just two years instead of the usual four, and had gone to medical school, but for only one year. So, he dropped out of medical school because he did not like being a doctor and went law school instead. Gata is right now in his final semester of Law School and will graduate in May.> (

Jul-02-12  RookFile: Law School? Sounds very impressive to me.
Jul-02-12  SetNoEscapeOn: Except that he never went to Law School :)
Jul-03-12  parmetd: He did. He has a JD.
Jul-03-12  Jason Frost: <parmetd: He did. He has a JD.>

What!? I thought he decided to become an astronaut, then crashed into the moon where he captained a 'yellow submarine' made of cheese ... before riding a comet back to earth and returning to his career as the most interesting man in the world.

Jul-03-12  SetNoEscapeOn: <parmetd: He did. He has a JD.>

Apr-20-16  svBlond: <Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the tiny Soviet republic of Kalmykia>

<Kamsky was reluctant to play in a Soviet satellite>

Did this match take place in an alternate universe in which the USSR still existed in 1996?

Apr-20-16  Olavi: A comment after nine years:

<Inf: boy gata sure looks young.>

The picture is from Las Palmas 1994.

Apr-20-16  Olavi: Or even Manila Olympiad 1992, I now think, ven if I can't locate the exact picture.
Mar-05-19  amadeus: "The top 10 from the Interzonal were joined by 1993 FIDE World Champion Anatoly Karpov, 1993 FIDE runner-up Jan Timman, and 1993 Candidates semi-finalist Artur Yusupov (...)

The format was a departure from all previous world championships, in that the reigning champion (Karpov) was not seeded directly into a championship match. Instead, he joined the competition at the semifinal stage." - from Wikipedia

< First Round -- best of 8 games>

Kamsky +3 -1 =3 vs. Van der Sterren
Game Collection: Match Kamsky!

Anand +3 -1 =3 vs. Yusupov
Game Collection: WCC Index (Anand-Yusupov 1994)

Salov +4 -0 =2 vs. Khalifman
Game Collection: WCC Index (Salov-Khalifman 1994)

Timman +2 -1 =5 vs. Lautier
Game Collection: WCC Index (Timman-Lautier 1994)

Gelfand +3 -1 =4 vs. Adams
Game Collection: WCC Index (Gelfand-Adams 1994)

Kramnik +2 -0 =5 vs. Yudasin
Game Collection: Match Kramnik!

<Second Round -- best of 8 games>

Kamsky +2 -2 =4 (+2 -0 =0) vs. Anand
Game Collection: Match Anand!

Salov +2 -1 =5 vs. Timman
Salov - Timman Candidates Semifinal (1994)

Gelfand +2 -1= 5 vs. Kramnik
Gelfand - Kramnik Candidates Semifinal (1994)

<Semifinals (Candidates Final) -- best of 10 games>

Kamsky +4 -0 =3 vs. Salov
Game Collection: Match Kamsky!

Karpov +4 -1 =4 vs. Gelfand
Game Collection: WCC Index (Karpov-Gelfand 1995)

<Final (FIDE WCC) -- best of 20 games>

Karpov +6 -3 =9 vs. Kamsky
Karpov - Kamsky FIDE World Championship Match (1996)

Aug-02-19  Chesgambit: hmm no Anand ?
Nov-29-20  fisayo123: This match was Karpov's last real effort after 25 years as either the #1 or #2 dominant player in the world. He held the #1 spot for about 8.5 years and the #2 spot for about 14 more years.

Las Palmas 1996 saw the beginning of the inevitable decline of the epoch defining player.

His accomplishments in this match is undervalued because it was a FIDE WC match and because some forget just how strong Kamsky was in those years.

Kamsky was seen as in the same league as the likes of Anand and Kramnik and had beaten both in Candidates matches leading up to this. He crushed the likes of Kramnik, Short and Salov comprehensively (5.5 to 1.5)

Karpov was 45 years old. Kamsky was young and ambitious and 22 years old. Yet Karpov makes it look easy with his trademark positional style characterized by extreme precision.

I don't think such a victory has been seen before in the history of World Championship matches and certainly not in the modern era.

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