Champions League: Topalov wins with big finishing effort

11/15/2007 – It didn't look good for him during much of the tournament, but former FIDE world champion Veselin Topalov produced another trademark strong finish, winning his last three games, all against his main rivals, to take the event in Vitoria Gasteiz, Spain, with a 2835 performance. Judit Polgar and Ruslan Ponomariov both lost to give Topalov his impressive 1.5-point lead. Final report.

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The "Chess Champions League – Playing for a better world" is taking place from November 1st to 15th, 2007, in Vitoria Gasteiz, Spain. The participants are former world champions plus Judit Polgar, with Romanian GM Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu standing in for Alexander Khalifman (FIDE world champion 1999) who took ill just before the start of the event. The other world champions are: Anatoly Karpov, who held the title from 1975 to 1985, and then the FIDE world championship title from 1993 to 1999; Ruslan Ponomariov, who held the FIDE title from 2002 to 2004; Rustam Kasimdzhanov, who was FIDE world champion from 2004 to 2005; and Veselin Topalov, who held the title from 2005 to 2006. The event is a double round robin, with the ten rounds being played on November 2,-4, 6,-7, 9-11, and 13-14. It is a benefit event to raise funds for a hospital in Mbuji-Mayi, one of the poorest regions in Congo.

Round ten report (final)

Bulgarian grandmaster and former FIDE World Champion Vesselin Topalov is the winner of the “Champions League – Playing for a better world”. Topalov, who is 32, has been living in Salamanca for more than 15 years. He took this tournament with a heroic – but in his case trademark – comeback, winning his last three games against his direct rivals: Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu, Ruslan Ponomariov – who was the leader – and finally Judit Polgar. This had allowed him to be the only winner with more that a point and a half more than the rest.

Final standings

In her last game Hungarian grandmaster Judit Polgar, playing with the white pieces, was obliged to do her best, because she could only win the tournament by defeating Topalov. She needed to force a deciding game. The youngest of the Polgar sisters tried messing up things on the chessboard, taking a lot of risks. Topalov knew how to defend himself and seized the oportunities he had. Slowly he took control of the game, which ended up in his favour.


Anatoly Karpov watches critically as Veselin Topalov takes on Judit Polgar with black


Going down in glory: a fighting last round for Judit Polgar

Polgar,Ju (2708) - Topalov,V (2769) [B90]
Chess Champions League Vitoria Gasteiz ESP (10), 14.11.2007
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 h5 9.Be2 Nbd7 10.0-0 Rc8 11.Qd2 Be7 12.a4 Nb6 13.a5 Nc4 14.Bxc4 Rxc4 15.Qd3 Qc8

16.Na4?! Judit gives a pawn, which Topalov happily grabs. 16...Rxc2 17.Nb6 Qc7 18.Rfc1 Rxc1+ 19.Rxc1 Qb8 20.f4 0-0 21.f5 Bd7 22.Bg5 Bc6 23.Qe2 Qd8 24.Bxf6 Bxf6 25.Rd1 Bg5 26.Nc5 Bf4 27.Nd3 Qg5 28.Nxf4 Qxf4 29.Re1 g6 30.Qd3 gxf5 31.Qxd6 fxe4 32.Nc4 Re8 33.Ne3 Qg5 34.Qc5 f5 35.Nc4

White is already in a lot of trouble. Topalov is relentless: 35...e3 36.Nxe3 f4 37.Qc4+ Kg7 38.h4 Qg6 39.Nd5 Qe6 40.Nb6 Qg4 41.Nd5 Qxh4 42.Re2 Qg4 43.Rd2 Qe6 44.Qc5 Qd7 45.Rd3 Qf7 46.Qd6 Qg6 47.Qc7+ Kh6

White is desperate and tries a last-resort line: 48.Nxf4 exf4 49.Qxf4+ Kh7 50.Rg3 Rf8 51.Qe5 Rf5 52.Qc7+ Qf7 53.Qd6 Rd5 54.Qb8 Rxa5 55.Qd8 Rd5 56.Qh4 Rf5 57.Kh2 Qf6 58.Qc4 Rg5. To no avail: 0-1. [Click to replay]

The other decisive game of the day was the one between Uzbek Kasimdzhanov and Ukrainian Ruslan Ponomariov. The leader of the tournament until round eight was the one with the best chances of catching up with Topalov. However, the former child prodigy and youngest FIDE World Champion has had a bad finish in this tournament. He lost to former FIDE world championship title holder Kasimdzhanov. Still Ruslan got second place due to his good games in the first half of the tournament.


Ruslan vs Rustam, Ponomariov vs Kasimdhzanov in the final round

Ponomariov,R (2705) - Kasimdzhanov,R (2690) [E66]
Chess Champions League Vitoria Gasteiz ESP (10), 14.11.2007
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.g3 0-0 5.Bg2 d6 6.0-0 Nc6 7.Nc3 a6 8.d5 Na5 9.Nd2 c5 10.Rb1 Rb8 11.b3 b5 12.Bb2 Bh6 13.e3 bxc4 14.Nxc4 Nxc4 15.bxc4 Qa5 16.Ba1 Bd7 17.Rb3 Bg7 18.a3 Ng4 19.Bf3 Ne5 20.Be2 Bh3 21.Re1 Nd7 22.Rxb8 Rxb8 23.Ne4 Bf5 24.Bxg7 Bxe4 25.Bh6 Ne5 26.Rf1 Qxa3 27.f3 Bd3 28.Bxd3 Qxd3 29.Qxd3 Nxd3 30.Ra1 Rb6 31.e4 Ne5 32.Kf2 Rb2+ 0-1. [Click to replay]

Finally, Liviu Nisipeanu and Anatoli Karpov drew – a good result for the former, who came to Vitoria as substitute of Alexander Khalifman, and bad one for the latter, who has ended up in the last position of the tournament without winning a single game. At 56 Karpov still shows clear strategic skills, but his competitive strengh is not the same as in the past.

The tournament, which was for benefit purposes, also had other activities to collect funds for building a hospital in Mbuji-Mayi, one of the poorest region of Congo. Concerts by the Russian State Symphony Orchestra, a fashion show with the designers from the Madrid Fashion Week, an auction of things donated by sportsmen like David Ferrer and Miguel Indurain, a closing dinner insipired by Congo cuisine, prepared by Juan Mari Arzak and Martin Berasategui. The chess players also made their donation, giving their prize money to the charity.

Pictures and information by David Llada, translations by Aitziber Elejalde

Impressions from the charity fashion show in Vitoria Gasteiz

Pictures by Nadja Woisin

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