(1) Topalov,V (2813) - Kramnik,V (2743) [D27]
WCh Elista RUS (7), 04.10.2006

Topalov could not get any significant advantage from his (practically) third game with White in a row. His only chance for attack consisted of a more resolute advance of the g-pawn on the 25th move. Later, he sacrificed two pawns in order to get some activity, but his initiative was just sufficient to maintain the balance even.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3
Both players remain consequent to their match strategy displayed so far. Kramnik sticks to the same openings (well, the fifth game was an exception; we can hardly call it "a Catalan") while Topalov tries to find the Achilles' heel in the opponent's preparation by permanently changing the systems of development.

4...e6 5.Bd3 dxc4 6.Bxc4 c5
But this is a deviation from the mentioned pattern already: although the game started as a Slav, it transposed now to a genuine... Queen's Gambit Accepted! I suppose that Kramnik did not play 2...dxc4 in order to avoid the sharp lines based on 3.e4, consequent to his policy of playing solid, though sometimes passive positions with Black.

7.0-0 a6 8.Bb3 cxd4 9.exd4 Nc6 10.Nc3 Be7 11.Re1 0-0
Kramnik has considerable (and rather successful) experience with this position as... White! It might seem as if Topalov intended to confront his opponent with the difficult psychological situation of playing "against himeslf", but the next move clearly speaks against this hipotesis.

12.a4
A practically unexplored move. White usually develops his queen's bishop to f4 or g5. The position bears some similarity with those arising after the 6.a4 system, but I feel that the small differences tend to favour Black. After 6.a4 (well, it would actually be 7.a4 with the move order from this game), the bishop would be placed on c4, allowing the transfer of the a1-rook to the king side in certain cases. Besides, the queen would stand on e2 and the king's rook on d1, creating the permanent threat of opening the centre with d5. On the other hand, after 6.a4 Black is not forced to capture on d4 and open the c1-h6 diagonal. The plan based on ...Qc7 and ...Bd6 is considered to be more solid. Be that as it may, Topalov's last move suggests that he does not necesarily aim for an advantage from the opening, but hopes to outplay his opponent in a complicated middlegame.

12...Bd7 13.Ne5 Be8
By this temporary retreat, Black puts the d4-pawn under pressure, preventing the early development of the c1-bishop on an active square such as g5.

14.Be3 Rc8 15.Rc1 Nb4
Now that the queen side development has been completed, Black releases the pressure against d4. If White will play Bg5, he will lose a tempo just as Black will do by playing ...Bd7-e8-c6.

16.Qf3 Bc6 17.Qh3 Bd5 18.Nxd5 Nbxd5 19.Rcd1 Rc7 20.Bg5 Qc8 21.Qf3 Rd8
Black has completed his regroupment and has a very solid position. White's chances for a king side attack are rather vague yet.

22.h4 h6
This move might not threaten to capture the bishop in view of the weakness of the f7-square, but it certainly prevents a further advance of the White h-pawn, when ...h6 could be answered by Bh4 already.

23.Bc1 Bb4 24.Rf1 Bd6 25.g3
[Actually, I was expecting 25.g4 with some attacking chances for White. True, such a resolute advance of the g-pawn involves certain amount of strategic risk, but after Topalov's over-cautious move, White will not get even close to such a possibility.]

25...b6 26.Qe2 Ne7 27.Rfe1 Bxe5 28.dxe5 Rxd1 29.Qxd1 Nfd5
The material situation (and, to a certain extent, the structure) is similar to that from the dramatical 5th game of the match Karpov-Kortschnoj, Baguio 1978. In that game, Kortschnoj had an advantage with White and eventually missed a simple mate just before the second time control. The main difference here consists of Black's firm control of the c-file. Under these circumstances, his knights, enjoying stable squares in the centre, are a worthy match for the white pair of bishops. White's main problem is that he cannot build up a mating battery along the b1-h7 diagonal.

30.Bd2 Rc5 31.Qg4 Nf5 32.Qe4 b5 33.h5 bxa4 34.Qxa4 Rb5 35.Rc1 Qb7 36.Bc2 Nb6 37.Qg4 Rxb2 38.Be4 Qd7 39.Be1
In order to get some activity, Topalov sacrificed the relatively insignifiant b2-pawn. However, he is far from creating dangerous threats yet.

39...Nd5 40.Bd3 Nb4 41.Bf1 Nd3 42.Qd1 Nxe5 43.Qxd7 Nxd7
Black has won a second pawn but his initiative has been completely extinguished. It will be White who will do the attacking now, but this will only compensate for the considerable material deficit.

44.Rc8+ Kh7 45.Rc7 Rb1 46.Rxd7 Rxe1 47.Rxf7
In view of the activity of his rook and of the weak position of the black king, White is out of the danger of losing, in spite of Black's extra pawn.

47...a5 48.Kg2 Kg8 49.Ra7 Re5 50.g4 Nd6 51.Bd3 Kf8 52.Bg6 Rd5 53.f3 e5 54.Kf2 Rd2+ 55.Ke1 Rd5 56.Ke2 Rb5 57.Rd7 Rd5 58.Ra7 Rb5 59.Bd3 Rd5 60.Bg6 1/2-1/2