A hand for Topalov

6/7/2003 – They've put away the computers in León, Spain, and the only thing advanced are your feelings of age when you look at the face of 13-year-old GM Sergey Karjakin. The "advanced chess" experiment might be over but the Ciudad de León tournament is still going strong with this 16th edition. Topalov, Ponomariov, Vallejo, and Karjakin play. Report and games

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Topalov eliminates Karjakin in León


León Semifinal #1
Official siteEvent introGame replay/download page

For the past five years the Grandmasters playing in the annual León tournament have not played alone. They had the assistance of the latest ChessBase software running on cutting edge hardware. (Some said that the computers had the assistance of a top Grandmaster.) This was "Advanced Chess," a creation of Garry Kasparov. After so many famous battles against computers, in 1998 Kasparov decided it was time to join them instead of trying to beat them.

This quest for perfect chess had a few fans and many critics but the big names did not shy away. Kasparov beat Topalov in the inaugural event and then abandoned the experiment after falling out with the organizers. Anand took over from there, winning the next three events before falling to Kramnik last year.

 

This year there is no "Anand+Fritz" or "Topalov+Junior" on the player list. The GMs are going it alone in a traditional rapid event in a knock-out format. Veselin Topalov faced Sergey Karjakin in the first four-game semifinal and the tomorrow's will bring Ruslan Ponomariov against Paco Vallejo.

Rapid chess has always been considered a young player's game and top teens improve so quickly that only a nut would expect a 2550 performance from Karjakin regardless of his rating. He confirmed his talent, promise, and inexperience all at the same time in his first match game against Topalov.

 


Yes, he CAN reach the eighth rank.

The young Ukrainian introduced a novelty in the Petroff, handled the white pieces impressively and came through complications with an extra pawn against the world number five. It was unlikely that Topalov was going to lose this position but he didn't have to worry about it because Karjakin suffered a major delusion.

He played 50.Bd5?? and must have thought he was winning if 50..Bxd5 51.e7. Now if 51...Kxe7?? 52.Kxd5 and White wins. (Mate in 28 according to Fritz.) The problem was 51...Bc6 and Karjakin had to resign. Oops.

Things continued downhill in the next game. Topalov played a powerful Maroczy Bind squeeze out of an unorthodox English and finished off well in the endgame to take a 2-0 lead in the match. Karjakin staved off elimination by holding on to win the third game after another fine performance by Topalov. The Ukrainian's tough defense kept him in the game until Topalov slipped in the endgame and was soon lost.

Topalov held serve with white to take the match 2.5-1.5. Karjakin shuffled around in a drawn bishop endgame until move 112 hoping for a miracle. It was a tough match for both players. Karjakin was outclassed but showed he has moxie by the pound. There is little doubt he'll be a powerful addition to the already superb Ukrainian Olympiad team in 2004.

The second semifinal looks like a mismatch. Ponomariov has completely owned Vallejo in their encounters so far (4.5/5) so it will be a tough test for the Spaniard despite the home crowd. A Topalov-Ponomariov final would be a match-up of the trainee and trainer from Ponomariov's FIDE title match in 2002. (Karjakin was also part of that team.)

 

Karjakin-Topalov photo courtesy of León press officer GM Zenón Franco.


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