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Topalov’s masterpiece October 5, 2006

Posted by dorigo in chess, games, news.

Game eight of the World Chess Championship took place in Elista today, with Vladimir Kramnik playing white after a hiatus during which, due to funny match rules and a forfeit, he had to defend three games as black in a row.

Kramnik is leading the match 4:3, after two initial wins over an overconfident Veselin Topalov, who had a winning position on game 2 and spoiled it totally, and a forfeit on game 5 due to a controversy arisen over the usage of his private restrooms – whose continuous use had been deemed suspicious by Topalov’s team director, Danailov.

Kramnik’s best gift is his ability to defend slightly worse positions, and his strategy appeared to all a simple one until today: to take few risks, draw the remaining games, and end the match as the winner with a score of 6.5:5:5. But it is not going to end that smoothly.

Today Topalov entered a complex variation of the Slav defence, where he allowed Kramnik an active position against Topalov’s uncastled king. White was thus lured into giving up two light pieces for rook and pawn, with an active position that seemed to be at least equal. However, the imbalance created was masterly exploited by Topalov, who move after move built up a large advantage, in a position where Kramnik played as the shadow of himself.

Here is a critical moment in the game:

 Black has just played 40….,Nfd5, and he is already better, after a few inaccurate moves by White. The time control has been just reached, and both players can relax a moment, not pressed by the clocks anymore. But now Kramnik unleashed the horrible 41.Kxg3??, which allows two different conversions to technically winning positions by Black: 41…Nxe3, and the still stronger 41….,Nc5, which was what actually Topalov chose after a few minutes’ thinking.

Now white is lost, because black wins a tempo by forcing the Rook on b7 to move, and he will generate a lot of activity against the white king. All of white’s pawns are fixed and weak and will fall as ripe fruit. For instance on 42.Rb5 (attacking the Nc5)  there can follow both 42….,Ne4+ 43.Kf3 Rg8 44.Rxa5 Rg3+ 45.Ke2 Rxe3+, with a devastating invasion, or even 42….,Nc3!?, when 43.Rxc3 fails because of 43….Ne4+ 44.Kf3 Nxc3 with an easy win.

Veselin Topalov was criticized fiercely by most of the chess world for accepting to win by forfeit game 5, under controversial circumstances. I personally think he is not totally responsible of the decision of his team director, and besides, Kramnik should have played game 5 even if he had really been insulted by the allegations of using a computer in his own restroom. 

I doubt Topalov will win back many sympathies after this nice win, but he has mine. He showed he can beat Kramnik under adverse circumstances – with the black pieces, and with the need of winning at least one of the last few games of the match. Well done, topo! 



1. Joachim - October 5, 2006

Sad thing is that we now have to hope that Topalov wins another two (or at least one) game, or that Kramnik wins one – otherwise this whole game 5 disaster will prevent any unanimous new champion and the same disaster as before will prevail. On the other hand this might lead to professional FIDE future event planning, so something good may come out of it.


2. dorigo - October 5, 2006

Hi Joachim,

I agree, it is a current risk – if they end 6-6 or 6.5-5.5 for Topalov it is not going to be good for chess.


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