(1) Topalov,V (2780) - Ivanchuk,V (2751) [B90]
Topalov and Anand are marching through in Morelia. The Bulgarian is leading with 2,5 points out of three (3000+ Elo performance!), the world champion has half a point less. Together they scored four wins so far. No one else has a plus score after the first three rounds.
Another impressive victory for the ex-world champion. Just like in the first round win against Aronian, Topalov used opponent's few inaccuracies in the opening to take over the initiative, after which at no point of the game there were any doubts left about the final result.
Ivanchuk chooses the always combative Najdorf Variation, which used to be Kasparov's preferred weapon against 1.e4. It is curious that in the last game before his retirement from active chess (March 2005), Kasparov facing Topalov didn't go for his favourite variation, deciding to play 2...Nc6 instead.
[Earlier this year Topalov himself preferred to prevent the advance of White's g-pawn: 8...h5
Leko,P (2753)-Topalov,V (2780)/Wijk aan Zee 2008) 9...Bxd5
Anand,V (2799)-Topalov,V (2780)/Wijk aan Zee 2008]
Taking into consideration that White is going to hide his king on the queenside, Black starts active actions there before castling short.
But the move has a drawback too: it turns out that White is happy to play on the queenside.
[The main continuation is 15...0-0
used among others by Kasparov and Anand. White continues 16.0-0-0
with a sharp game.]
This somewhat surprising decision is typical for the ex-world champion though: he doesn't seem to care about finding a secure place for his king in the future. A quick initiative in order to put an immediate and concrete pressure on the opponent is more important for Topalov.
The justification of 16.a3 is that White can quickly build pressure after opening the files on the queenside.
[Considering that White doesn't have a safe king, Black should rather seek for counterplay by playing at some moment f7-f6.
From this point of view preferable looks 16...0-0
after which most likely White must castle as well: 19.0-0
points out the weaknesses in white structure: the pawn d5 is hanging.) 19...f6
with a complete mess and chances for both sides.]
White can be happy: the queenside is open and Black must solve concrete problems.
Ivanchuk protects the rook and attacks pawn b2 at the same time. But as mentioned before, opening the files on the queenside favours White. [19...Qa5
keeps an eye on a much more important pawn d5. A possible follow up is 20.c3
and the knight is pinned) 20...Rb8
White's king will soon become more vulnerable than his black colleague) 21...Ra8
(the computer prefers 21...Rb4
but for a human is scary to pin the pieces like that. After 22.Qc3
threatening Nb3 22...Nc5
followed by Rhb1 White is slightly better) 22.b4
is again a position where any result is possible.]
Possibly Vassily underestimated White's possibilities here. Topalov's play is very simple: the rook from h1 comes to b1, the queen goes to c6 and the knight to c4. Due to White's pressure and very active queen Black will have to exchange pieces, but the endgame will be difficult anyway.
In a bad position all moves are bad. [22...0-0
with a clear advantage in endgame]
The Ukrainian succeeded avoiding the exchange of rooks. The rook on c7 is very important for defense: it controls the seventh rank and the important c-file.
White must find a way to exchange the rook c7. How to do it? Watch the next two elegant moves:
[The alternative was to open another file: 24...Rxc3
followed by the winning check on a8.) 26.Rc1!
and White wins a piece.]
The rook cannot retreat to c7 again due to 26.Rb8. Which means that White achieves his plan. Which means that Black can't avoid a bad endgame. Which means that is in deep troubles.
Having understood the situation, Ivanchuk tries to get at least some squares for his pieces. But... see above the comment after Black's 22nd move. [25...0-0
followed by Rb7 is also hopeless.]
Mission completed. A pawn up, poor king and bishop for Black, plus the fact that the knight e5 can be always challenged by White means that the rest is an easy technical matter for Topalov.
In the past two years everybody got used to the fact that Topalov starts tournaments badly and finishes them in force. Unfortunately, this highly intriguing, but at the same time risky "strategy" can't last forever, as the Corus tournament showed recently. It is great to see that in Morelia Topalov found a good form right from the start.
After the World Championship in 2005 Topalov never started a tournament so strongly again. However, the temptation to make a parallel with the San Luis tournament will have to wait. In Argentina scoring 2,5 points out of three was just a prelude for the future world champion, who in the next rounds produced four consecutive wins. So let's wait a little bit to see if in Morelia Topalov will continue in the same impressive fashion. 1-0