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On Chess: U.S. champ regains spot in world's top 10

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Grandmaster Gata Kamsky put on an impressive performance last week in Thessaloniki, Greece, by defeating several of the world's best players. Apparently no one's mentioned to 39-year-old Kamsky that his best days are supposed to be behind him. Through this recent success, including his victory at the 2013 U.S. Championship, Kamsky is displaying some of his finest chess yet and has re-entered the world's top 10 ranked players.

The super-tournament was the fourth of six in FIDE's (the World Chess Federation) Grand Prix Series, which will qualify the two top-performing players across the six events into the 2014 Candidates Tournament, eventually producing the next challenger for the World Championship title.

Kamsky finished second overall, but he led the event for a few rounds until the final day when he fell to GM Fabiano Caruana (who finished third). The winner was Cuban GM Leinier Dominguez Perez, who snatched the victory with a final-round win over GM Veselin Topalov. Dominguez played some inspired chess throughout the event and was as deserving a winner as Kamsky could have been. Curiously, Kamsky defeated Leinier in the first round, who later defeated Caruana in round nine (a beautiful effort, by the way), and then the trifecta was completed when Caruana beat Kamsky in the last round. This tournament marks Leinier's greatest performance yet.

Several of Kamsky's games will stay with me for a while, including some striking wins against Russian super-GMs Peter Svidler and Alexander Morozevich. Perhaps the most anticipated game, at least from an American's point of view, was Kamsky's eighth-round match against GM Hikaru Nakamura.  Nakamura somewhat controversially declined to play in the U.S. Championship this year, and probably felt like he had something to prove in their individual game. Let's just say friendly fire was on the agenda. But Kamsky was in better form that day (or perhaps itching to kill), and played fantastically to defeat Hikaru, putting in question the unofficial title of America's strongest player.

After this success Kamsky has re-entered the world's top 10 rankings, and is just 12 rating points behind Nakamura. They will likely both play in the next event in the series, scheduled in Beijing next month. Currently leading in the series are Topalov and Caruana. Nakamura is in seventh while Kamsky moves up to ninth, but both are within reach of the leaders given another strong result.

The next super-tournament to follow is the Tal Memorial, to be held in Moscow starting next week. Participating will be Nakamura, who will test himself against the likes of World No. 1-ranked Magnus Carlsen, reigning World Champion Viswanathan Anand, former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik, and other incredibly strong players. Nakmura played brilliantly last month in Norway (tying for second in a star-studded field), and should hope to recapture some of his amazing form from that event.

Kostya Kavutskiy is a FIDE master and a regular contributor to Chess.com. He attends Lindenwood University and is a member of the Lindenwood chess team.