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Gata Kamsky vs Vasyl Ivanchuk
Interpolis 14th (1990), Tilburg NED, rd 10, Sep-18
Spanish Game: Bird Variation (C61)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
Nov-23-04  Whitehat1963: Great game to study. Kamsky executes a good combination beginning with 24. Bxd4 that gives him the slight advantage that he never relinquishes.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: According to Canadian Chess Chat, Nov./Dec. 1990, this game was played quite rapidly: White used 58 minutes for the whole game, Black 25. Apparently Ivanchuk knew his position was probably lost after 8...f5 and began to play rapidly in hopes of enticing Kamsky into also playing quickly and blundering.
Premium Chessgames Member
  keypusher: Supposedly Kamsky meant to play 1...e6 but mistakenly pushed his e-pawn two squares. He then switched in desperation to Bird's Defense, which he didn't know, and swiftly lost.

Unfortunately this game seems to cast doubt on the whole story. Short vs Ivanchuk, 1989

Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: <keypusher> Supposedly Ivanchuk ...
Premium Chessgames Member
  whiteshark: Position after <12.Qh5!>:

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Black's hairy King position is a cause for major conzern.

The game continued ...

Position after <27.Bxf2>:

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and White had archived a winning endgame.

John Emms 'Izzy Giude to Ray Lopezz', p.14

Premium Chessgames Member
  Troller: <keypusher: Supposedly <Ivanchuk> meant to play 1...e6 but mistakenly pushed his e-pawn two squares. He then switched in desperation to Bird's Defense, which he didn't know, and swiftly lost. Unfortunately this game seems to cast doubt on the whole story. Short vs Ivanchuk, 1989>

I heard that story as well back then. Of course Ivanchuk knows the Bird variation very well (as almost any opening), but it's true that he hardly spent any time on this game and could have offered more resistance, so in that sense he gave Kamsky an easy job.

However, according to Karpov 9.Bb3! is a very strong novelty, improving on the immediate 9.Qh5+ in Blatny vs V Malaniuk, 1989, where (again according to Karpov) Black quickly equalized. The whole line had been seen as problematic for Black, but probably Ivanchuk knew the Malaniuk game and thought he could give it a try. I doubt Kamsky had the move prepared; still, the line was quite dubious, and it was no surprise that White could find a way to gain advantage. All in all not a good gamble by Chucky.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Peligroso Patzer: <keypusher: Supposedly <Kamsky> [sic; emphasis not in original] meant to play 1...e6 but mistakenly pushed his e-pawn two squares. He then switched in desperation to Bird's Defense, which he didn't know, and swiftly lost. Unfortunately this game seems to cast doubt on the whole story. Short vs Ivanchuk, 1989 >

<whiteshark: <keypusher> Supposedly Ivanchuk ...>

The NY Times reported as follows on this game:

<Pastimes; Chess>

By Robert Byrne
Published: November 04, 1990

“The German chess term ‘Fingerfehler’ means a mistake of the finger in moving a piece. The Manhattan Chess Club cynics have long taken it to be a lame excuse for something the brain did wrong and the player did not want to admit. But in the 10th round of the 14th Interpolis International Tournament in Tilburg, the Netherlands, there was apparently a genuine case of a fingerfehler, or so the Dutch journalist Jules Welling reports in the Sept. 28 issue of the Swiss magazine ‘Die Schachwoche.’

“He writes that the Soviet grandmaster Vasily Ivanchuk, having prepared the French Defense for his game with the 16-year-old Brooklyn star Gata Kamsky, nervously pushed the pawn one square too far and quickly found himself in a Ruy Lopez. So upset was he that he began to play too fast -- the whole 46 moves in 25 minutes as against Kamsky's 58 -- and was soundly thrashed.

“It was not an insignificant game either, but the showdown between the two. Each was awarded a prize of 21,000 guilders in this illustrious double-round competition, which ended Sept. 24. The final standings -- the players and their points -- were Ivanchuk 8 1/2, Kamsky 8 1/2, Boris Gelfand 8, Nigel Short 7 1/2, Ulf Andersson 6 1/2, Jan Timman 6 1/2, Pedrag Nikolic 6 and Yasser Seirawan 4 1/2.”


Premium Chessgames Member
  Peligroso Patzer: Apropos <keypusher>’s reference to Short vs Ivanchuk, 1989 as casting doubt on the fingerfehler theory, I would not necessarily jump to that conclusion. It is certainly <possible> that Ivanchuk hoped to replicate his success with the Bird’s from the previous year, but it was not the system he typically used when defending the Ruy, as the following data show:

Games (138) in CG database with Ivanchuk (Black) playing Ruy Lopez:

Games (3) in CG database with Ivanchuk (Black) playing Bird’s Defense (C61):

The fact that Ivanchuk played so quickly (using only 25 minutes for 46 moves) in such an important game suggests that he did become unsettled early in the game, and the fingerfehler claim would explain this. (It is also possible, of course, that Ivanchuk became rattled by Kamsky’s novelty <9. Bb3>, but this seems less likely to me.)

FWIW, at the 2008 World Blitz Championship, the game between Kamsky (White) and Ivanchuk (Black) (Kamsky vs Ivanchuk, 2008) began <1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. d3>, leading to another “offbeat” Ruy Lopez (but, of course, NOT a Bird’s Defense). Ivanchuk was presumably intending a Berlin Defense, but Kamsky crossed that plan with his 4th move. As explained in the kibitzes to the game, only a partial move score was available, but Ivanchuk apparently did lose that game, another costly loss to Kamsky for Vassily Mykhaylovych, who was ½ point behind the tournament winner in the final standings. (See:; crosstable is at bottom of story.)

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