(1) Kamsky,G (2725) - Topalov,V (2796) [B12]
World Chess Challenge Sofia BUL (6), 24.02.2009
[Mihail Marin]

1.e4 c6
This is almost as big a surprise as Kamsky's 1...e6 from the previous game. True, Topalov had played the Caro-Kann in a few previous occasion, but this opening never was one of his main weapons. The experience of the second and fourth game must have taught Topalov that his opponent knows how to develop the initiative in the Ruy Lopez (despite his suicidal management of time in the second game!), but it remains a miracle that we have seen no Sicilian yet... Generally speaking, both players seem to have done extensive preparation for this confrontation and one can only regret that the match is so short.

2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nf3 e6 5.Be2 c5 6.Be3 cxd4 7.Nxd4

This looks like an improved French for Black, because his potentially bad bishop has been developed outside the pawn chain. There are two elements that cause Black some problems, though. He has lost a tempo with his c-pawn and the bishop is rather exposed on f5.

7...Ne7 8.Nd2 Nbc6 9.N2f3 Bg4
Black is interested in giving up the bishop for a knight, in order to reduce his control over the e5- amnd d4-squares. White would never capture on f5 unless he spoils Black's structure, so Topalov spends another tempo in order to carry out the favourable exchange.

10.0-0 Bxf3 11.Nxf3

An interesting novelty. In previous games, Black moved away with his e7-knight, weakening the control over the d5-square, which may cause some problems after c2-c4.

[This move fully justifies Topalov's choice of the opening. Kamsky's instinct for the initiative misguids him in this occasion. He probably wanted to take advantage of the enemy king's prolongued presence in the centre, but with a black knight on e7 the opening of the centre rather favours Black. Soon, White will find himself struggling. He should have continued his development with 12.Qd2 Bg7 13.Bf4 0-0 14.Rfe1 Qc7 (The thematical break 14...f6 leaves the black centre vulnerable after 15.exf6 Bxf6 16.Rad1 , eventually followed by c2-c4.) 15.Bd3 Rac8 16.h4 Black's position remains solid, but he has not quite equalised yet. In the long run, the e5-pawn may contribute to a slow, but powerful kingside attack.]

12...Bg7 13.cxd5 Nxd5 14.Bc5

Kamsky probably connected his hopes with this move, which temporarily prevents the black castle, but Topalov continued to play quickly and convincingly. There is little to wonder about that, since computers like the idea of 12.c4, which makes us think that this was one of the main lines he had analysed when preparing the novelty...

14...Bf8 15.Qc1 Rc8!
The opposition of the black rook and the white queen will lead to further simplifications.

16.Bxf8 Nd4 17.Qd1 Nxe2+ 18.Qxe2 Kxf8 19.Rac1 Kg7

Black has castled artificially and the dominating position of his knight offers him better chances. White's e5-pawn is mor of a weakness, as are the squares left behind by this pawn.

This hardly causes Black any troubles in this concrete position.

20...Qb6 21.g3 h6 22.a3 Rc5 23.Rc2 Rhc8 24.Rfc1 a5 25.Qd2 Rxc2 26.Rxc2 Rc5 27.Qc1 Rxc2 28.Qxc2

This ending is very nice for Black, but during the period before his temporary retreat from chess Kamsky was known for successfully defending much more unpleasant positions. The relative ease with which he drew the present game proves that he has preserved this ability. At the same time, it is understandable that Topalov condinuet playing for a win, because this was the only way to maintain the psychologycal initiative in the match. Leko's systematic mishandling of such situations in the Brissago match is too recent to be forgotten.

28...Ne7 29.Qc3 Nc6 30.b3 Qd8 31.a4 Qd1+ 32.Kg2 Qe2 33.Qe3

[After 33...Qxe3 34.fxe3 the possibility of rapid centralisation of the king compensates him for the structural deffect.]

34.Nd2 Nb4 35.Nc4 Nc2 36.Qd2 Qb1 37.Qf4 Ne1+ 38.Kh2 Qxb3

Topalov has managed to win a pawn, but Kamsky has a perpetual check already.

39.Qf6+ Kg8 40.Qd8+ Kh7 41.Qf6 Kg8
[41...Qf3 prevents the perpetual check, but does not avoid a draw after 42.Qxf3 Nxf3+ 43.Kh3 Nd4 44.Nxa5 b5= ]

42.Qd8+ Kh7 43.Qf6 Kg8 1/2-1/2