As a 12-year-old, Gata won the Soviet under-20 championship - an astounding achievement matched only by Gary Kasparov. Gata's current national rating (somewhat higher than 2,600) is among the best in America.
Despite this, chess educators agree that, as remarkably precocious as his chess playing is, his progress has actually been slowed by the coaching of his father. They say that in his opening play, the phase of chess that requires vast knowledge and experience, Gata's style is primitive, and that he would profit by studying with a top grandmaster."American players have been jealous from day 1," answers Rustam, who often refers to Gata's opponents as enemies and cannot find a teacher in the United States whom he trusts not to steal his son's ideas. "The Russian players and the Americans conspire to beat him. They all hate Gata."
A few months after arriving here, Gata took a lesson with the highly respected theoretician, the grandmaster Leonid Shamkovich.
"He visited me for two hours," recalls Shamkovich. "It was impossible teaching Gata with Rustam standing over us. He was trying to tell me things that he knew nothing about. Gata is a very passive person. He never ventures his own opinion. He always says, `You must ask my father.' Having such a dictator for a father is not the best way for a chess player. No one would teach him in the Soviet Union because of his father."
Late last October, Gata played his two-game match against Gary Kasparov in front of a standing-room- only crowd.
Kasparov won the first game easily, playing white.
In the second game, playing black, when his advantage was overwhelming, Kasparov picked up a queen from the side of the table and shook it at the admiring crowd.
After the match, Kasparov was extremely blunt about Gata. "He has no potential to be world champion. There are strong grandmasters, but to be world champion you need that last component. I don't think Kamsky has it."
In retrospect, Rustam attributes Gata's loss to Kasparov to a jealous American grandmaster, a supposed friend, who revealed to the world champion all of Gata's opening secrets.
"I was asked in an interview, `Will Gata ever win against Kasparov?' " said Rustam. As he talked, the tendons in his powerful neck bulged, he blazed with menace and ambition.
"Not only will Gata win," Rustam said, "but he will crush him like a fly."
Gata could never deliver a line like this.
"Bobby Fischer was lonely, and now Gata is going to have to be just
like that," said Rustam. "He is going to have to go against the Chess ederation and everyone else on his own."
Well, not exactly on his own. Gata has Rustam. Rustam has Gata. The father's energy and appetite for battle spur his gifted and reserved son to victories that are already memorable in chess history.
But what a lonely and confusing life this father has carved out for his son _ so much early success stirring crazily with the envy and enmity of contemporaries and the institutions that they must depend upon, and Gata hearing all of it as from the bottom of a deep well as he monkishly studies chess positions 12 and more hours every day.
"You must ask my father; I am only the player," he says.
If Kasparov is right, and some in the chess world say he is, one must appraise the coach's game plan _ to shut out the world and study harder than anyone.
But maybe there has to be air and outside experiences, as Kasparov suggests, for a creative mind to reach its full potential. Maybe a girlfriend and a soccer game make for a better chess player.
"We've gone to England, France, Germany, Spain, and we have not seen anything really," said Rustam with fire. "No sightseeing. When Gata is not playing, he is studying. Studying, playing, sleeping. That's it!"
-CONGRATULATIONS to the solvers! Tim Painter, Donovan Weight, Joye McMulland, Glannin Cloward, Stanley Hunt, Paul R. Lindeman, Ted Pathakis, Raeburn Kennard, Nathan Kennard, G. Allen Smith, Edwin O. Smith, Eugene Wagstaff, William DeVroom, Scott Mitchell, Covert Copier, Kevin Smullin, Kay Lundstrom, David L. Evans, David K. Kirk, John N. Neilsen, Brent Terry, Dale B. Brimley, Ann Neil, Harold Rosenberg, Hal Harmon, William D. Price, Dean Thompson, Jim Turner, Peter Rogers, Ken Frost.