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Linares R10: Topalov marches on

3/5/2006 – Veselin Topalov appears unstoppable in Linares. The second half of the Super-GM has brought him three wins in three games so far. Today it was an endgame victory over Levon Aronian. Vassily Ivanchuk is in the dumps with a second loss in three games, this time to Radjabov. Now updated with pictures and very instructive commentary by GM Mihail Marin.
 

Round ten report

Round 10: Sunday, March 5th

Peter Leko 
½-½
Peter Svidler
Francisco Vallejo 
0-1
Etienne Bacrot
Veselin Topalov 
1-0
Levon Aronian
Vassily Ivanchuk 
0-1
Teimour Radjabov

Topalov obtained another great win, in spite of the fact that his opponent, Aronian, did not make any obvious mistake. In Vallejo-Bacrot, the Spaniard ruined a reasonable position with just a pseudo-attacking move right after the opening. Ivanchuk put some pressure on Radjabov's position, but did not find concrete ways to increase it, which eventually caused him to lose the thread and get under attack. Leko-Svidler saw an interesting theoretical battle, followed by a fierce tactical phase just to end up in... a dull opposite coloured bishops ending, with inevitable draw.

Standings

Leko,P (2740) - Svidler,P (2765) [B80]
XXIII SuperGM Morelia/Linares MEX/ESP (10), 05.03.2006
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nc6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Be3 Nf6 7.Qd2 Be7 8.f3 0-0 9.0-0-0 a6.

Both players had some experience in this line. Leko's next move is a slightly unusual way to start the king side attack. 10.h4. For the time being, White refrains from weakening the f3-square with the more popular 10.g4 . Leko probably wanted to prevent the following plan, introduced by Kasparov in 1988 and employed a couple of times by Morozevich in 2005: 10...Nd7 11.h4 Nde5 when White needs to spend a tempo on the defence of the f3-pawn. However, this might have been unnecessary precaution in this concrete case, since Svidler has a different pet variation. 10...Nxd4 11.Bxd4 [The more natural way to capture back. The alternate 11.Qxd4 Nd7 12.g4 b5 13.g5 Qa5 14.Kb1 b4 15.Ne2 Bb7 was seen in Adams-Svidler, San Luis 2005. 11...Nd7 12.g4 b5 13.g5 Qc7 14.Kb1 b4 15.Na4 Bb7 16.b3 Bc6 17.Nb2 a5 18.h5 Ne5 19.Be2.

19...f5!? This is an interesting novelty over the game Leko-Kasparov, Linares 2003 which continued with 19...a4 and ended in a draw after complicated fight. It seems to be in Svidler's nature to fight against the opponent's advantage of space in such radical way. Compare with the move 30...f5 from the game against Aronian, played in the 5th round of the Morelia half, although this time the advance oif the f-pawn seems to be more to the point. An interesting tactical phase will follow now, leading to mass simplifications and an obvious draw. 20.gxf6 Bxf6 21.Nc4 d5 22.Nb6 Rad8 23.exd5 Bxd5 24.Qe3 Ng4 25.Nxd5 Nxe3 26.Nxc7 Bxd4 27.Nxe6 Nxd1 28.Rxd1 Bf6 29.Nxd8 Rxd8 30.Rxd8+ Bxd8 1/2-1/2. [Click to replay]

Vallejo Pons,F (2650) - Bacrot,E (2717) [D24]
XXIII SuperGM Morelia/Linares MEX/ESP (10), 05.03.2006
1.Nf3 d5 2.d4 Nf6 3.c4 dxc4 4.Nc3 This natural developing move is not really fashionable nowadays. 4...a6. Against WHite's declared intention to occupy the centre with e4, 4...c6 is considered a safer reaction, because the influence of the c6-pawn over the centre is higher than that of his marginal colleague. However, White can now abandon his initial plan and play 5.a4 transposing to a genuine Slav, which might not always suit a player having the Queen's Gambit Accepted as his main opening.] 5.e4 b5 6.e5 Nd5 7.a4 e6. Black should refrain from maintaining the extra-pawn with 7...Bb7 because of the resolute 8.e6! which would create him big problems with the development of the king side. 8.axb5 Nb6

9.Ng5. A rare move. White usually continues his development with 9.Be3 ; or 9.Be2. 9...h6 10.Nge4. White was successful with 10.Qh5 in the game Kramnik-Miles, London 1995, but later it was established that Black could obtain a good game with 10...g6 . Apparently, Kramnik had the same feeling, since in the very next game against the same opponent he did not repeat the experiment with 9.Ng5. 10...axb5 11.Rxa8 Nxa8 12.Nxb5 Nb6. White has won his pawn back and maintains the more compact structure. However, the firm control of the d5-square offers Black reasonable play. 13.Be3 Nc6 14.Be2 Bb4+ 15.Nbc3 0-0.

16.g4? In certain positions, the slight weakening of the black king side provoked by ...h6 justifies such radical attacking moves. However, this hardly is the case now, when the centre is not blocked. Vallejo might have overlooked the threat created by Black's natural reply. 16...Bb7. Completing the development and threatening to win a pawn with ...Nxe5. 17.0-0. Admitting the complete failure of his attacking plans. Once he was more or less forced to castle, White would gladly spend another tempo in order to retreat his pawn to its initial square, if only allowed by the regulations.. 17...Ne7 18.Nd2 Bxc3 19.bxc3 Ned5 20.Qc1 Nxe3 21.fxe3 Qg5 22.Rf4 Nd5 23.Re4 Ne7 24.Rf4 Ng6 25.Rf2 Qxe3 26.Nb3 Qxc1+ 27.Nxc1 c5 28.Bxc4 cxd4 29.Rb2 Bf3 30.cxd4 Rc8 31.Rc2 Be4 32.Nd3 Nf4 33.Rd2 Nh3+ 0-1. [Click to replay]

Topalov,V (2801) - Aronian,L (2752) [E20]
XXIII SuperGM Morelia/Linares MEX/ESP (10), 05.03.2006
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3. A first interesting psychologic moment. Topalov refrains from his favourite Queen's Indian, with which he had defeated Aronian in Wijk aan Zee. He might have feared that in case of 3.Nf3 his opponent would deviate with 3...d5, as he did against Radjabov, earlier in this tournament. 3...Bb4 4.Nf3 c5 5.g3. Couple of years ago, Topalov seems to have discovered the hidden potential of the systems based on the king's fianchetto, irrespective of the opening. His spectacular achievements in the Queen's Indian are familiar to everybody, while in San Luis he induced new life to a variation of the English Hedgehog in the game where he had White against Adams. Topalov's most frequent way to meet the Nimzo Indian so far has been 4.Qc2. However, he used the Romanishin system a couple of times already, against very high class players (twice against Karpov and the same against Kramnik). 5...cxd4 6.Nxd4 0-0 7.Bg2 d5. Theory considers this to be the safest continuation. Black occupies the centre and reduces the influence of the white light-squared bishop. 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Qb3. Topalov was successful with the older line 9.Bd2 in his game against Karpov, in Monte Carlo 1999. 9...Qb6.

10.Bxd5. A modern treatment of the fianchetto system. White gives up his proud bishop in order to obtain the stable control of the d4-square, which will be the main theme of his play in this game. We shall soon see that the relative weakness of the d5-pawn is a less relevant aspect. 10...exd5 11.Be3 Bh3. Black's main alternative is 11...Qa5 Topalov had some experience with it: 12.Rc1 Nc6 13.a3 Bxc3+ 14.Qxc3 Qa6 15.Nxc6 Qxc6 16.Qxc6 bxc6 17.Kd2 Topalov-Karpov, Wijk aan Zee 2003. In spite of the presence of opposite coloured bishops, White's position is microscopically better, because of his better pawn structure and the stable control of the dark squares. However, there are no constructive pawn breaks available and in spite of Topalov's insistence for more than 50 moves, the game ended peacefully. 12.Rc1!? The main stream of theory consists of 12.g4 but Topalov has completely different plans in mind than such an early attack. 12...Nc6. The most logical continuation. Black completes his development taking advantage of a small tactical detail. However, the long-term consequences are hard to anticipate yet. 13.Nxc6 Qxc6 14.f3 The b4-bishop was taboo in view of the discovered attack ...d4. With his last move, White not only renews the threat, but prepares Kf2 and g4 in order to harrass the other bishop as well. 14...Qc4 15.Kf2 Be6.

The retreat of the bishop was more or less forced. By unpinning the knight, White had put under immediate pressure the d5-pawn, while the threat g4 followed by Kg3 became quite real. However, 15...Qxb3 16.axb3 Be6 was a significant alternative. Although the exchange on b3 can be regarded as a concession from a general point of view, the relative weakness of the b-pawns would have considerably restricted White's winning chances. 16.Qxc4. A slightly paradoxical decision. Why would White cooperate to the improvement of Black's pawn structure? I have mentioned already that the main purpose of the exchange on d5 had been to ensure White almost absolute stability on the d4-square. Moreover, apart from the fact that Black's structure becomes more compact now, the d5-pawn is simply driven away from the centre, leaving White with a mobile king side majority. Black's queen side majority is by far more difficult to advance, because of the perfect placement of the white knight. 16...dxc4 17.Rhd1.

17...Bxc3. It is hard to give a definitive evaluation to this move. The drawish tendency of opposite-coloured bishops endings in general is to a certain extent annihilated by the presence of rooks. As we shall see, the following phase of the game will be rather one-sided because of White's more flexible pawns structure. I suppose that Aronian was aware of the aforementioned game Topalov-Karpov, Wijk aan Zee 2003, but he might have focused only on the opening phase. Otherwise, Topalov's efforts to win a basically drawn ending should have warned him about the fact that the Bulgarian firmly believes in his chances in such type of positions. Besides, Aronian himself had won an opposite-coloured bishop ending (without rooks!) in the World Cup. Although it was later discovered that his opponent (Bacrot) resigned in a drawn position, Black's practical problems in defending an inferior position were obvious. Black´s main alternative was 17...Rfd8 when play could have continued 18.Nb5 a6 19.Nc7 Rxd1 (Necessary, in order to avoid the loss of the c4-pawn) 20.Rxd1 Rc8 21.Bb6 (21.Nxe6 looks premature in view of 21...fxe6 22.Rd7 b5 23.Bd4 Bf8 when the strong queen side majority seems to compensate for White's more active position and better king side structure.) 21...Bf8 (Defending in advance the g7-pawn) 22.a4 (Once again, 22.Nxe6 fxe6 23.Rd7 would lead nowhere in view of 23...Rc6 when 24.Rxb7? loses to 24...Rxb6) 22...h5 (Securing the king against back rank problems) 23.a5 Bc5+ 24.Bxc5 (If the king retreats to a more passive square, Black could consider returning with the bishop to e7 in order to put the b2-pawn under pressure.) 24...Rxc7 . This ending is less promissing for White than that from the game, since Black can occupy the d-file after 25.Bb4 Rd7 . In any case, such variations are far from easy to evaluate (and, most probably, there are some improvements on the way) but, as mentioned already, the position obtained after the exchange on c3 is rather one-sided.

18.bxc3 b6. Aronian probably relied on the solidity of his position and placed his pawns in such a way to restrict the enemy bishop. However, the more active 18...b5 followed by ...a5 would have put White under more pressure. 19.Rd4 White plans to exchange one pair of rooks, in order to avoid any possible counterplay. This explains why Topalov occupied this square with the rook, as a preliminary stage before installing the bishop here. 19...Rfd8 20.g4 Rd5. It is hard to say which would be Black's best way to resiston the king side. Aronian decided to follow the classical recomandation according which one should not move the pawns on the wing where his position is inferior. Anyway, in case of 20...f6 21.h4 play might have more or less transposed to the game. 21.g5 Rad8 22.h4 Kf8 23.Rb1 Ke7 24.Rb2 R8d6.

Neither of the players was willing to release the tension in the centre, in order to avoid losing time. Now everything is more or less prepared for White to effectuate the exchange of one pair of rooks, in order to place the bishop on d4 and start the king side attack. 25.Rxd5 Rxd5 26.Bd4 f6 27.e4 Ra5 28.f4 Bd7. Black intends to play ...Rb5 in order to activate the rook along the first rank (since the exchange of rooks would lead to an obvious draw). With his next move, White proes that he is just in time to maintain his initiative. 29.Ke3 Rb5 30.Rg2 Kf7 31.h5! Threatening to exchange on f6 and play h6, in order to occupy the seventh rank with the rook. 31...fxg5 32.fxg5 g6. Necessary prophylaxis. If 32...Rb1?! then 33.g6+ hxg6 34.Rxg6 winning an esential pawn.

33.Rf2+ Ke8 34.hxg6 hxg6 35.Bf6 Rb1 36.Kd4 Now that the bishop has obtained a new outpost on f6, the essential d4-square is transited by the king. 36...Rd1+. Black wisely decided not to protect his c4-pawn. After 36...Be6 37.Rh2 Rd1+ 38.Ke5 the bishop would face problems finding a good square. The only move that would not lose material is the awkwardly-looking 38...Bg8 but after 39.a4 threatening a5, White will soon open a file for his rook, which is a warranty for further progress. 37.Kxc4 In the next phase of the game, Black will have to permanently prevent the king's infiltration to d6. However, the king has an additional target, the black queen side pawns. 37...Be6+ 38.Kb5 Ra1 39.Rh2 Rxa2 40.Rh7 Bd7+ 41.Kc4 Rd2 42.Bd4. The bishop is back on d4, in order to enable the activation of the king with Kd5. 42...Be6+ 43.Kb5 Bd7+ 44.Ka6 Bc6.

Black suddenly threatens mate in one. He could have avoided the loss of his queen side pawns, but after 44...Ra2+ 45.Kb7 Bb5 46.Kc7 followed by Kd6 White's position looks quite threatening. 45.Kxa7 Bxe4 46.Kxb6. In spite of the reduced number of pawns remaining on board, Black faces a dificult defendsive task. His king has problems finding a safe place, while the c-pawn is not easy to prevent from advancing. 46...Rb2+ 47.Kc5 Rb7 48.Rh4 Rc7+ 49.Kb4 Rb7+ 50.Kc4 Bf5 51.Kc5 Rc7+. This seems to be the last moment when Black could have put up some more resistance with 51...Kd7 , keeping White's activity under control. 52.Kd6 Rd7+ 53.Kc6 Re7 54.Bf6 Re4 55.Rh8+ Kf7 56.Rh7+ Kg8 57.Rg7+ Kf8 58.Kb5 Re8 59.c4.

Once the pawn has started to advance, Black has little chance for survival left. 59...Rb8+ 60.Ka5 Ra8+ 61.Kb4 Rb8+ 62.Kc3 Rc8 63.Ra7 Be6 64.Be7+ Kg8 65.c5 Bd5 66.Kd4 Bg2 67.Ke5. White has complete domination. Black cannot defend against the further advance of the c-pawn and the mating threats at the same time. 67...Ra8 68.Rc7 Ra1 69.Kf6 Be4 70.Rc8+ Kh7 71.Rd8 Ra6+ 72.Kf7 Bf5.

73.Rd4! White makes use of this square for one more and last time. I am pretty sure that Topalov was not aware of the fact that it is mate in 20 already, but this is what Fritz9 claims. 73...Be6+ 74.Kf8 Ra8+ 75.Bd8 Bg4 76.c6. After the further advance of the pawn to c7, Black will not be ale to defend against the rooks's simultaneous attacks along the seventh rank and the h-file. Therefore, Aronian resigned. 1-0. [Click to replay]

Ivanchuk,V (2729) - Radjabov,T (2700) [E92]
XXIII SuperGM Morelia/Linares MEX/ESP (10), 05.03.2006
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.Be3 exd4 8.Nxd4 c6 9.f3 Re8 10.Bf2 d5 11.exd5 cxd5 12.0-0 Nc6 13.c5.

White has achieved a relatively stable blockade on d4. The mutual maneouvring in the next phase of game will be oriented towards the control of this crucial square. 13...Nh5 14.Qd2 Be5 15.g3 Ng7 16.Rfd1 Be6 17.Bb5 Qd7 18.Rac1 a6 19.Ba4 Rad8 20.b4 Bh3 21.Qh6 Be6 22.a3 Qc8 23.Qg5 Qc7 24.Qd2 Rf8 25.Bc2 Bc8 26.Bb3 Ne6.

Although White's position looks preferable, there is no easy way to make further progress. Black is perfectly regrouped, too while the weakness of the own king's position invites White to prudence. 27.Nde2. Ivanchuk decides to release the blockade, forcing the enemy pawn to advance and hoping to make use of the squares that will become available. 27.Nce2 would have been more solid. 27...d4 28.Nd5 Qb8 29.f4 Bg7 White maintains a slightly more active position, but his king side weaknesses have become more notable in the meanwhile. With his next two moves, Ivanchuk allows the enemy pawn to advance even further, which suddenly turns the situation to Black's favour. 30.Qd3?! The queen is traditionally known to be a bad blocker. 30...Nc7. A slightly paradoxical knight retreat, inviting the opponent to almost stalemate the black queen... 31.Nb6?! ... which he cannot refrain from. The knight will be out of play on this generally nice square. Besides, Black will get a crucial tempo to unblock his pawn. 31...Bf5 32.Qd2 d3 33.Nc3 Nd4 34.Bxd4 Bxd4+ 35.Kg2 Rfe8.

With his king's position wide open, White is in deep trouble now. Remarkably, Black will be able to create decisive threats without the help of the queen. 36.Re1 Bxc3 37.Qxc3 Be4+ 38.Kf2 d2 39.Rxe4 Rxe4 40.Rd1 Red4 41.Bc4 Ne8 42.Qe3 Kf8 43.Qe5 Qxe5 44.fxe5 Nc7 0-1. [Click to replay]

Commentary by GM Mihail Marin
Pictures by Jesús J. Boyero

Mihail Marin, 41, Romanian Grandmaster, three times national champion (1988, 1994, 1999), nine times member of the Olympic team, participant in two Interzonals (Szirak 1987 and Manila 1990). In 2005 Marin was the second of Judit Polgar at the FIDE world championship in San Luis. Highest rating: 2604. Author of the ChessBase opening CDs English 1.c4 e5 and The Catalan Opening and the books: Secrets of Chess Defence, Secrets of Attacking Chess and Learn from the Legends. Graduate from the Polytechnic Institute Bucharest (Specialty Electrotechnic) in 1989.

Schedule and results

Round 8: Friday, March 3rd

Peter Leko 
½-½
Francisco Vallejo
Veselin Topalov 
1-0
Peter Svidler
Vassily Ivanchuk 
0-1
Etienne Bacrot
Teimour Radjabov 
½-½
Levon Aronian

Round 9: Saturday, March 4th

Teimour Radjabov 
½-½
Peter Leko
Levon Aronian 
½-½
Vassily Ivanchuk
Etienne Bacrot 
0-1
Veselin Topalov
Peter Svidler 
½-½
Francisco Vallejo

Round 10: Sunday, March 5th

Peter Leko 
½-½
Peter Svidler
Francisco Vallejo 
0-1
Etienne Bacrot
Veselin Topalov 
1-0
Levon Aronian
Vassily Ivanchuk 
0-1
Teimour Radjabov
Free day: Monday, March 6th

Round 11: Tuesday, March 7th

Vassily Ivanchuk 
  Peter Leko
Teimour Radjabov 
  Veselin Topalov
Levon Aronian 
  Francisco Vallejo
Etienne Bacrot 
  Peter Svidler
GamesReport

Round 12: Wednesday, March 8th

Peter Leko 
  Etienne Bacrot
Peter Svidler 
  Levon Aronian
Francisco Vallejo 
  Teimour Radjabov
Veselin Topalov 
  Vassily Ivanchuk
GamesReport
Free day: Thursday, March 9th

Round 13: Friday, March 10th

Veselin Topalov 
  Peter Leko
Vassily Ivanchuk 
  Francisco Vallejo
Teimour Radjabov 
  Peter Svidler
Levon Aronian 
  Etienne Bacrot
GamesReport

Round 14: Saturday, March 11th

Peter Leko 
  Levon Aronian
Etienne Bacrot 
  Teimour Radjabov
Peter Svidler 
  Vassily Ivanchuk
Francisco Vallejo 
  Veselin Topalov
GamesReport
End of Tournament
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Topics Linares 2006

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