Final impressions from Elista

by ChessBase
10/16/2006 – Game eleven, game twelve, the tiebreak, with everything imaginable at stake. FIDE champion Veselin Topalov loses his title in the very last game to classical chess champ Vladimir Kramnik, who becomes the unified FIDE champion. Our Elista correspondent Misha Savinov has sent us final impressions in a giant pictorial report.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Veselin Topalov vs Vladimir Kramnik

Twelve games, played from September 23 to October 12 in Elista, Kalmikia. The games start at 15:00h (3:00 p.m.) local Elista time, which translates to 11:00h GMT, 13:00h CEST, 12:00h London, 7 a.m. New York.

Live coverage is available on the official FIDE site and on (with live audio commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan for ten Ducats per day). You can buy them in the ChessBase Shop.

Final impressions from Elista

By Misha Savinov

The 11th game was almost the last chance for Topalov to turn the course of the match in his favor. He once again surprised Vladimir with a new move in the opening, making a novelty in a position in which White previously tried 11 different moves! Topalov (or someone from his team) created the 12th… Indeed the Bulgarian team did a great job, but this may also be a sign of general durability of Kramnik’s black openings.

Veselin Topalov vs Vladimir Kramnik after 9.c5 in game eleven

Veselin pressured throughout the game, but Vladimir did not look disturbed defending. The breakdown of Games 8 and 9 was clearly behind him. And equalizing against Topalov often means obtaining certain winning possibilities. It seems the Bulgarian tends to overestimate his chances due to overconfidence. He does not assess his positions wrong, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to produce top results, but he is too confident in his ability to outsmart the opponent. It helps sweeping weaker opposition with perfect, but backfires against equals.

Kramnik after the doping test...

...straight to the game eleven press conference

Anyway, the game ended in a draw, although White’s position looked precarious at some point. After that, there was the doping control. The procedure consumed a lot of time, so the press conferences started with considerable delay.

Veselin Topalov and Berik Balgabaev at the press conference

Signing autographs for fans

An unexpected holiday happened on the next day. Our team of bulletin workers spent it in sleeping (mostly), eating, walking, sightseeing.

A building contructed for the Chess Olympiad in 1998

Sunset in Elista

Game 12 also ended peacefully. Kramnik played White, and considering his large advantage over Topalov in any kind of speed chess, he was reluctant to allow any risk. After six minor pieces left the board, it seemed like White got exactly what he wanted, but Topalov showed remarkable creativity to develop his own play against the king. The game became double-edged and ended in a draw by perpetual check after Black sacrificed a rook. At the press conference Veselin once again confirmed his objectivity problems, saying that for some time he thought he was winning.

Game twelve, Kramnik vs Topalov, after the move 7...hxg6

Correspondents at work: Dirk Poldauf and Ali Nihat Yazici (TCF)

Dirk Poldauf of the German chess magazine Schach with Sergei Rublevsky

Kramnik at the game twelve press conference

Veselin Topalov facing the questions of journalists


Tiebreaks – is this really all about nerves? Well, almost… The playing styles also have some impact. Kramnik’s classical style is more suitable for quick play. In most cases Vladimir does not invent – he knows. This allows maintaining good quality of moves without spending much time. Veselin plays less sound positionally (there aren’t many of those surpassing Kramnik in this matter), but during the match he clearly seemed calculating quicker and deeper. Utilizing unique features of their styles – this was a key issue. And nerves, of course…

Kramnik clutching two pawns for the drawing of colours

Topalov picked white and prepares for the first tiebreak game

FIDE (and Kalmykian) President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, right, follows the games
with the official match commentator GM Vladimir Belov

...and together with Ali Nihat Yazici chats with visitors on the Playchess server

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was an attentive spectator of all games. He discussed the moves with grandmaster Belov, and took part in Playchess chat, with help of Ali Nihat Yazici, President of the Turkish Chess Federation.

Game 1 was drawn after a lively play. I am aware of Kasparov’s deprecating comments about it, but for us it was lively. In the end Kramnik could play for a win, but secured a draw instead. Wise choice – did he know that White will win all the remaining games?

Game 2 was an example of Kramnik’s endgame technique. Vladimir turned his skill on in an equal position, and outplayed the opponent on positional subtleties. Ambitious play of Veselin once again turned against him. How typical…

Start of the second tiebreak game

This was the first decided tiebreak game – Kramnik won

Veselin Topalov after the game two loss

Game 3: Topalov shows his teeth. This was easily the most spectacular game of the match. Kramnik defended confidently, and White’s activity looked just temporary to anyone including computer engines. But after a few energetic moves by Topalov the evaluations quickly went up for White. An excellent win by the Bulgarian!

Vladimir Kramnik about to go down in tiebreak game three

Game three: Topalov has equalised – the entire match hinges on game four

Game 4: another splendid positional performance by Kramnik, which secured him the title. To win this game, Vladimir had to find 21.Rab1!! – an amazing move with fine tactical justification. It had a stunning effect on Topalov, who started taking time and eventually lost ground.

Preparing to start the final game of the reunification world championship

Kramnik or Topalov, who will take the title?

Watching the game in the hall, I felt sorry for Veselin – losing the last game was clearly painful to him, and especially losing from such an innocent-looking position. He took on c5 – an obvious blunder even for untitled spectators, and closed his eyes. Kramnik hesitated for several seconds, as if enjoying the climax of the match, and delivered a deadly check. Topalov resigned. The crowd shouted. Everything suddenly became messy.

The crowd is on its feet after Kramnik's win

Kramnik relieved and happy at the press conference

FIDE Ex-Champion Veselin Topalov after his traumatic loss

2.5-1.5, and the Russian Vladimir Kramnik becomes the unified world champion! A full analysis of the situation will follow later, maybe in a couple of weeks, after Kramnik has considered all his options and announces his next steps. Right now it is only obvious that this result is a big blow for Topalov and especially Danailov.

Topalov manager Silvio Danailov

The latter looked really dark. After a short stay at the closing ceremony (none of the grandmaster team members attended) he picked several loyal journalists for a midnight interview with Topalov. The Bulgarians left Elista on Saturday morning on the president’s private jet. Kramnik and his team will fly to Moscow tomorrow, together with journalists and FIDE officials. On Monday he will give a press conference in the Central Chess House.

Pictures from the closing ceremony

Topalov, Ilyumzhinov and Kramnik at the closing ceremony

Kalmykian folklore

Black and white kings and queens

The two main actors on the stage

The President and his new Champion

All pictures by Misha Savinov


Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register