Susan Polgar's take on San Luis

10/8/2005 – Halfway through the FIDE World Championship in San Luis a former (women's) world champion, Susan Polgar, gives us her assessment of the eight players, their performances and what we can expect for the rest of the tournament. There are three annotated games in her midway report.

Midway in the FIDE World Chess Championship

By Susan Polgar

V. Topalov (Bulgaria)

We are witnessing one of the greatest chess performances in history during the first half of the FIDE World Championship, at least in my lifetime anyway. While most people thought that plenty of draws will occur due to the high caliber level of players, it has been proven that if the stake is high enough, the players will fight. The no-draw rule does not need to be applied.

Topalov has been the player of the tournament so far. He has shown us something very unique that even top-level players often forget. Deep opening preparation and analysis is important but it is not everything. Topalov has proven that a game can be won in many different ways.

  • He can outplay his opponent in wild open tactical positions.
  • He can outplay his opponent in positional positions.
  • He can outplay his opponent in even or slightly inferior positions.
  • He can outplay his opponent in the middlegame.
  • He can outplay his opponent in the endgame.

What is the difference between him and other players in this tournament? He brought an incredible level of energy and confidence. He has no understanding of the draw concept. He will try to win in any position. He plays like there is no tomorrow. I have not added up the total moves and hours played but I have to believe that he is way ahead of everyone else in both these categories. Perhaps someone should remind him that he is not being paid per move or hour?

What do I expect from Topalov in the second half? I cannot believe that he can continue this torrid pace. However, I fully expect him to continue to fight in every game. A lot are at stake, the FIDE World Championship title and the magical 2800 mark.

I picked him as one of the pre-tournament favorites. I had him in a tie for first or slightly behind Anand and he has performed way above my expectation. I have to give him an A+ for performance, efforts and results at the midway point of the event.

V. Anand (India)

I had Anand as one of the two pre-tournament favorites. He started it out with a bang by scoring 2.5 points in the first three games even though he miraculously pulled out a draw in the game against Topalov. It seemed that he was on his way to a two-way race with Topalov. All of a sudden, he lost badly against the reigning FIDE World Champion Kasimdzhanov and all went down hill since. His first half ended on a sour note by being outplayed by Morozevich. He scored a shocking 1 point in four rounds. He is now tied for third place with Leko, three full points behind Topalov.

What do I expect from Anand in the second half? I expect a much better showing from the pride of India. Even though it is nearly impossible to catch Topalov barring a total collapse, Anand can still move up to second place with a +2 or +3.

P. Leko (Hungary)

Leko had a horrible start by losing to Topalov in a very promising position. That seemed to have a dreadful affect on him in the next few rounds. He had a dismal ½ point in the first three rounds. After his win against my sister Judit in round four, he seemed to have regained his self confidence and stormed back by scoring 3 points in the next four games. He is now tied with Anand for third place.

What do I expect from Leko in the second half? I expect the old Leko back in action to finish with a +1 or +2 at the finish line.

P. Svidler (Russia)

Svidler has long been a world-class player. He won the Russian Championship four times. However, he has never won a tournament this caliber. Therefore, I did not expect him to be in clear second place at the midway point, a full point ahead of Anand and Leko. But he has done very well. He won three games in the first half, defeating Leko, Morozevich and my sister Judit. His only loss came in the hand of Topalov. Who hasn’t?

What do I expect from Svidler in the second half? I expect him to continue his solid play and remain at the +1 or +2 mark.

J. Polgar (Hungary)

This has to be a very difficult tournament for my sister. I know that it was very difficult for me during the 2004 Olympiad to be away from my children for so long. Even though she has not played up to her normal standard, she sure fought valiantly every game, perhaps too optimistically in some games. She may not capture the crown this time but she is still the strongest female chess player ever.

What do I expect from my sister in the second half? I expect her to give her all in every game and not back down from any challenge.

M. Adams (England)

The strongest British player ever is unexpectedly at -3 just as my sister. The biggest problem in an event like this is there are no easy “freebies” to regain self-confidence. Anyone can lose any given game because of the strength of the players. When you are in bad form or lose a tough game, it can rapidly sink you to the bottom. This is the case with Adams. Just look at the streak by Anand 2.5/3 then 1/4 and Leko ½/3 then 3/4). Adams is the only player not to have won a single game so far. He is much better than this. I hope he can forget about the first half and turn things around in the second half.

What do I expect from Adams in the second half? There is no way but up. It would be a difficult task to even get back to the .500 mark but I believe he will win a few games the rest of the way.

A. Morozevich (Russia)

The talented but enigmatic Morozevich started out with two draws. Then he had back to back losses against Topalov and Svidler. He slowed down the damage by drawing his next two games. He ended the first half with a brilliant win against Anand. He is now only –1 with some momentum going into the second half. Morozevich is the dark horse of the event. He is capable of beating or losing to any of the player.

What do I expect from Morozevich in the second half? Perhaps a little better performance but not significantly more.

R. Kasimdzhanov (Uzbekistan)

With the exception of his round 3 game against my sister, he basically was able to hold his own in the first half against the rest of the world’s elite. He even had a beautiful win against Anand and hung around the .500 mark until the final game of the first half when Topalov pulled out a Capablanca-like win in a Rook and Pawns endgame.

What do I expect from Kasimdzhanov in the second half? I expect him to continue to play solidly. However, I don’t expect him to be able to stay near the even score mark.


Annotated games

In the following Susan Polgar gives us here analysis of three important games from the first half of the FIDE World Championship in San Luis. You can replay the games and the analysis on our JavaScript board, where you can click on the notation to follow the moves.

Topalov - Anand (Round 2) San Luis, 29.09.2005

Anand obviously planned that after 48.Be3 Qa6, he will be able to hold on to his material advantage. But here came the surprise! 49.Bxf7+! This was a beautiful combination by Topalov that lead to a winning endgame. 49...Kxf7 was a must. If Black would have played 49...Kg7 50.Bc4 Qb7+ 51.Bd5 Qa6 52.Qe4 and White would have had an easy win. 50.Qd7+ Kf8 51.Qd8+ Kf7 52.Qc7+! This was an important intermediate move to make sure White wins the g6 Pawn. 52...Kg8 53.Qxb6 Qxa2 54.Qxg6+ Kh8 55.Qc6 Qf7 56.g4 Bg7 57.h5 b3 58.Qe4 b2 59.h6 Bf6.

60.Bd4? Here, White should have played 60.g5 Qe7 (60...Bc3 61.g6) 61.Qxe7 Bxe7 62.Bd4+ Kh7 63.Bxb2 Bxg5 64.Bg7+-.

60...Kg8 61.Bxf6 Qxf6 62.Kg3 Qb6 63.Qc4+ Kh7 64.g5 Qg6 65.Qc7+ Kg8 66.Qb8+ Kf7 67.Qb7+ Kf8 68.Qb8+ Kf7 69.Qb3+ Kf8 70.Qf3+ Ke7 71.Qe3+ Kd7 72.Qd4+ Ke6. In this position, Anand missed an opportunity to force a draw by 72...Qd6+ 73.Qxd6+ Kxd6 74.h7 b1Q 75.h8Q Qg1+ 76.Kf3 Qd1+ and White cannot escape the eternal checks because of the unfortunate position of White's Queen on h8.

73.Qxb2 Qxg5+ 74.Kf3 For now White is two Pawns, up and Black cannot capture the h6 Pawn, because of the skewer (with Qb6+). However giving the correct checks Black can save the game. 74...Qh5+ 75.Ke4. The right check was 75...Qg6+ and White cannot hide, except by allowing Black to capture the h6 Pawn with a check.

75… Qf5+ 76.Ke3 Qg5+? Here 76…Qh3 was still good. 77.f4 Qg3+ 78.Ke4 Qe1+ 79.Kf3 Qf1+ 80.Kg3 Qg1+ 81.Qg2 This is a big success for White as after 81...Qe3+ 82.Kg4 there are no more checks! 81...Qb1

81...Qe1+ Also after 82.Kg4 Qd1+ 83.Kg5 Qd8+ 84.Kh5 Black runs out of steam as after 84...Qe8+ 85.Qg6+ forces the exchange of Queens.

82.Qc6+ Kf7 83.Qd7+ Kf6 84.Qg7+ Ke6 85.Qe5+ Here, Topalov missed the winning move 85.f5+! Kd5 (85...Kxf5 86.Qh7+) 86.Qd7+ Ke4 87.Qe6+ followed by the White King marching up along the g-file.

85...Kf7 86.Qh5+ Kf6 87.Qg5+ Kf7 88.Qh5+ Kf6 89.Qh4+ Kf7.

90.h7? The final mistake! Topalov could not have played here 90.Qh5+ because after 90…Kf6, that would result in draw by three fold repetition!

However 90.Qg4 still gave hope. 90...Qe1+ Now, the White King has no hiding place from the countless checks. 91.Kg4 Qd1+ 92.Kg5 Qd8+ 93.Kh5 Qd5+ 94.Qg5 Qh1+ 95.Qh4 Qd5+ 96.Kg4 Qd1+ 97.Kg3 Qe1+ ½-½. [Click to replay]


Anand – Adams (Round 3) San Luis, 30.09.2005

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0–0 9.h3 Bb7 10.d4 Re8 11.Nbd2 Bf8 12.a4 h6 13.Bc2 exd4 14.cxd4 Nb4 15.Bb1 c5 16.d5 Nd7 17.Ra3 c4 18.axb5 axb5 19.Nd4 Qb6 20.Nf5 Ne5 21.Rg3.

This has been played a number of times before. 21...g6. Black got in trouble quickly after 21...Kh7 22.Nf3 Nbd3 23.Be3 Qc7 24.Bxd3 Nxd3 25.Bxh6! g6 (or 25...gxh6 26.Ng5+! Kh8 27.Nxh6!) 26.Bxf8 Rxf8 27.Qd2 1–0 Kotronias - Fox (Cork, 2005). 22.Nf3. A more ambitious and better move than 22.Nf1 which was tried in game between Wang Zili - Yang Wuming (China, 1987) 22...Ned3

23.Qd2. The novelty! The previously played move was 23.Be3. 23...Bxd5. This is an immediate mistake. It would have been interesting to see what Anand has prepared against the natural 23...Nxe1. There are different ways for White to get enough attack to give perpetual checks (with a sacrifice on g6) but I am not sure if there is more. Here are some variations 24.Nxe1 (24.Nxh6+ Bxh6 25.Qxh6 Nxf3+ 26.gxf3 Qd4 27.e5) 24...Ra1 25.Nxh6+ Bxh6 26.Qxh6 Re5 (26...Rxb1 27.Rxg6+ fxg6 28.Qxg6+ Kh8=) 27.Bd2 Rxb1 28.Bxb4.

24.Nxh6+ Bxh6 25.Qxh6 Qxf2+ 26.Kh2 Nxe1. Beside this obvious move, Black had two other reasonable looking moves but White comes out ahead anyway. 26...Bxe4 27.Be3 Qxb2 28.Bd4; or 26...Re5 27.Nxe5 dxe5 28.Ree3 Qf4 (28...Nxc1 29.Rxg6+ fxg6 30.Qxg6+ Kf8 31.Rf3+) 29.Rxd3 Qxh6 30.Bxh6 Nxd3 31.exd5 Nxb2 32.Bg5 and White's d-Pawn is very strong.

27.Nh4!! Now Black has many different options at his disposal but nothing seems to really help:

27...Ra7 28.Nf5 Qxg3+ 29.Nxg3 Bc6 30.Bg5 Re6 31.e5 dxe5 32.Nh5
27...Re7 28.Nf5 Qxg3+ 29.Nxg3 Bb7 30.Bg5 Re6 31.e5 dxe5 32.Nh5 gxh5 33.Qh7+ Kf8 34.Qh8#
27...Bxe4 28.Bxe4 Rxe4 29.Nxg6
27...Re6 28.exd5 Nxd5 29.Nxg6 fxg6 30.Bxg6 Ra7 31.Bh7+ Kf7 32.Bg8+
27...Nf3+ 28.Rxf3 Qd4 29.exd5 Qg7 30.Nf5

This is how the actual game ended 27...Ned3 28.Nxg6 Qxg3+ 29.Kxg3 fxg6 30.Qxg6+ Kf8 31.Qf6+ Kg8 32.Bh6 and Black resigned because of 32...Ra7 33.Qg6+ Kh8 34.Qxe8+. 1-0. [Click to replay]


Svidler - Topalov (Round 5), San Luis, 03.10.2005

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 Ng4 7.Bg5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Bg3 Bg7 10.h3 Ne5 11.Nf5. In round seven, Svidler tried the following line against Judit Polgar 11.f3 Nbc6 12.Bf2 Ng6 13.Qd2 Qa5 14.0–0–0 Bd7 15.Kb1 Rc8 16.g3 Nxd4 17.Bxd4 Bxd4 18.Qxd4 Qe5 19.Qf2 and here Judit made an over-ambitious exchange sacrifice with 19...Rxc3 20.bxc3 Qxc3 and later lost. 21.Rd3 Qa5 22.Qe3 Be6 23.Ra3 Qb4+ 24.Ka1 Kd7 25.Be2 Qc5 26.Rb1 Qxe3 27.Rxe3 Rb8 28.Bxa6 White won in 59 moves.

11...Bxf5 12.exf5 Nbc6 13.Nd5 e6 14.Ne3. In round 4, White chose successfully 14.fxe6 fxe6 15.Ne3 0–0 16.Be2 Qe7 17.0–0 Rad8 18.Bh5 Kh8 19.Re1 d5 20.a4 Nc4 21.Nxc4 dxc4 22.Qg4 Qb4 23.Qxe6 Rd2 24.Rad1 Nd4 25.Qe4 Nf5 26.Be5 Rxf2 27.Bf3 Rd2 28.Bxg7+ Kxg7 29.Qe5+ Rf6 30.a5 Nh4 31.Qc7+ Rf7 32.Qe5+ Rf6 33.Bh5 Ng6 34.Bxg6 Rxd1 35.Rxd1 Kxg6 36.Qe4+ Kg7 37.Rd7+ Kg8 38.Qh7+ 1–0 Kasimdzhanov -Anand, San Luis 2005.Obviously Topalov, did not think that the opening was the cause of Anand's loss in this game.

14...Qa5+ 15.c3

Here, Topalov pulled out of his hat a nice combination. 15...Nf3+! 16.Qxf3 Bxc3+ 17.Kd1 Qa4+ 18.Nc2. If 18.Kc1 Bxb2+ 19.Kxb2 Qb4+ 20.Kc1 Nd4 21.Qd1 Qc3+ 22.Kb1 Qb4+ 23.Kc1 Qc3+ with at least perpetual checks. 18...Bxb2 19.fxe6. 19.Rb1 would lose after 19...Qxa2.

19...fxe6 20.Qb3. This move forced the trade of Queens but gave up on the Rook in the corner. After 20.Qh5+ Ke7 White still has the same problem with the Rook on a1. 20...Qxb3 21.axb3 Bxa1 22.Nxa1. White has two Bishops for a Rook and two Pawns. Black is slightly better.

22...Ke7 23.Bd3 Rac8 24.Re1 Nd4 25.f3 Rc3 26.Kd2 Rhc8 27.Rb1 R3c5 28.b4 Rd5 29.Bf2 Kd7 30.Be3 Nf5 31.Bf2 Nh4. This is a questionable decision. 32.Bxh4 gxh4 33.Nc2 h5 34.Re1 Rg8 35.Kc3 Indirectly protecting the g2 Pawn. However, I would prefer the simpler 35.Re2. 35...a5. If 35...Rxg2 36.Ne3 although 36...Rxd3+ 37.Kxd3 Rh2 was also interesting

36.Bc4? The mistake! White should be able to hold on to a draw after 36.bxa5. 36...Rc8 37.Ne3. Getting out of the pin does not help because of 37.Kb3 a4+! winning the Bishop. 37...Rb5 threatening d6-d5. 38.Kd3 Rxb4. Now White is lost. 39.Bxe6+ Kxe6 40.Nc2+ Kd5 41.Nxb4+ axb4. Black has two pairs of doubled Pawns but they are extras! 42.Re7 b5 43.Rh7 Rc3+ 44.Kd2 Rc4 and White resigned 0-1.

White is lost but I would have played on just a few more moves...The following could have been the continuation 45.Rxh5+ Kc6 46.g3 b3 [with idea of 46...hxg3 47.Rg5 b3 48.Rxg3 b2 49.Rg1] 47.Rxh4 Rc2+ 48.Kd3 [or 48.Kd1 Rc3] 48...Rf2 49.Ke3 [or 49.Kc3 b2 50.Rb4 Kc5 51.Rxb2 Rxf3+ 52.Kd2 Rxg3 53.h4 Rh3] 49...b2 50.Rb4 Kc5 51.Rb3 Kc4. [Click to replay]

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