Gashimov Memorial 2017: Topalov wins brilliancy

by Albert Silver
4/23/2017 – The opening salvo of rounds at the Gashimov Memorial have certainly been with their fair share of surprises. Winning his second straight game, this time against Pentala Harikrishna, Ukrainian Pavel Eljanov has taken the early lead in round two with a perfect 2.0/2. Still, the crowd-pleaser of the round was unquestionably Veselin Topalov's spectacular win over Radoslaw Wojtaszek with his trademark sacrifices to win a beautiful game. Analysis by GM Aleks Lenderman.

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.


Now in its 4th edition, the Gashimov Memorial brings an attractive lineup of top players such as Wesley So, winner of pretty much anything he entered in the last many months, then Vladimir Kramnik who has been sitting pretty with his 2811 Elo since the London Classic, Sergey Karjakin, and of course last year’s winner, local hero Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.  


Vugar Gashimov (1986 - 2014)

Wesley So 2822
Vladimir Kramnik 2811
Sergey Karjakin 2783
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2772
Michael Adams 2761
Pentala Harikrishna 2758
Pavel Eljanov 2751
Radoslaw Wojtaszek 2745
Veselin Topalov 2741
Teimour Radjabov 2710

Vugar Gashimov (1986 - 2014)

The stage, the players (click image for high-res) | Photo:

Pavel Eljanov played an excellent game against Pentala Harikrishna and put up a second win to take the early lead with 2.0/2 | Photo:

In many ways, it reminds one of Eljanov's amazing opening run at the previous World Cup when he notched six straight win in six games. Can he do this again in such a rarefied field? | Photo:

Topalov vs. Wojtaszek | Photo:

Without question, the game of the day was Veselin Topalov's inspired win over Radoslaw Wojtasezek. Be sure to enjoy it in all its glory with Aleksander Lenderman's excellent notes.

Radoslaw Wojtaszek vs Veselin Topalov (annotated by GM Aleksandr Lenderman)

[Event "Gashimov Memorial"] [Site "?"] [Date "2017.04.22"] [Round "2"] [White "Wojtaszek, Radoslaw"] [Black "Topalov, Veselin"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "D12"] [Annotator "Aleksandr Lenderman"] [PlyCount "68"] [EventDate "2017.??.??"] {Welcome everyone! This is GM Aleksandr Lenderman presenting you round 2 game of the day. Once again the choice was a no-brainer, since this game by Veselin Topalov is one of the most beautiful games I've ever seen. So, with great pleasure I will go through this game with you.} 1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 Bf5 {One of the many possible moves for Black here.} 5. Nc3 e6 6. Nh4 Bg6 ( 6... Be4 {Be4 is slightly more common, but Bg6 has been played more than once by Topalov, including in big games, such as the 2016 Candidates in Moscow, against Hikaru Nakamura.}) 7. Nxg6 hxg6 8. Bd3 $5 (8. Rb1 $5 {Has been played by Nakamura.} Nbd7 9. c5 {The point of Rb1. Now White's idea is to play b4 and be able to protect his space on the queenside.} a5 10. a3 Be7 11. g3 e5 12. Bg2 e4 13. b4 axb4 14. axb4 Nf8 15. b5 Ne6 16. Bd2 O-O 17. Na4 $14 {White won the opening game and then won the game after the complications. I'm sure Topalov had improvements though.1-0 (39) Nakamura,H (2790)-Topalov,V (2780) Moscow RUS 2016}) 8... c5 $5 {Quite a rare move, so probably the first small surprise for Wojtaszek. The only high level game from this position was between Kramnik and Gelfand from 2005.} 9. Qb3 {Kramnik also played it. Since the game was in 2005, it's possible that Topalov had even analyzed this position back when he was preparing for his match against Kramnik.} Qd7 {So far Topalov hass played very quickly.} 10. cxd5 exd5 11. dxc5 Nc6 $146 {According to my database, a novelty, and a very interesting, dynamic one, not to mention very good. Black is sacricing a pawn for the initiative. Now Black has a practical edge, since he not only has the initiative, but also is probably better prepared than his opponent in this rare territory.} (11... Bxc5 {was played by Gelfand but he got a somewhat worse position where he might've had to suffer, had Kramnik played a bit more precisely.} 12. Qb5 Qxb5 13. Nxb5 Kd7 14. O-O Nc6 15. Rd1 Ke7 16. Bd2 Bb4 17. Nc3 (17. Bxb4+ Nxb4 18. Be2 $14) 17... Rac8 18. Rac1 Rhd8 19. a3 Bd6 20. Ne2 (20. Be2 $14 {Was better for White.}) 20... Ne5 { The game was agreed to a draw here. I still prefer White. Maybe Kramnik clinched a tournament win with this draw. 1/2 (20) Kramnik,V (2744)-Gelfand,B (2724) Saint Vincent 2005}) 12. Bd2 {Wojtaszek had his first big think here, for about 15 minutes. He had alternatives here.} (12. Na4 $5 {Trying to hold on to the pawn. } Ne4 $1 13. Bxe4 dxe4 $44 {Would lead to good compensation for Black, since Black has annoying threats like Ne5, Qg4, and he can castle quickly with 0-0-0, while White's pieces are uncoordinated. White's only move not to be worse now is...} 14. Nc3 O-O-O (14... f5) 15. Nxe4 Rh4 16. f3 f5 17. Nf2 Bxc5 { And from a practical stand point of view I prefer Black, even though the position is dynamically equal.}) (12. Qa3 Qg4 $1 13. Kf1 (13. O-O $4 Rxh2 14. Kxh2 Qh4+ 15. Kg1 Ng4 $19) (13. g3 Be7 $36) 13... Be7 $44 {With good compensation for the pawn.}) 12... Bxc5 {Now Black was able to avoid the queen trade, and therefore avoid the slightly unpleasant endgame.} 13. Rc1 (13. Ne2 { Might be a little bit more solid.} O-O-O $132) 13... Rd8 (13... d4 $5 14. Na4 ( 14. Ne4 dxe3) 14... dxe3 15. Nxc5 exd2+ 16. Kxd2 Qd6 17. Rhe1+ Kf8 18. Nxb7 Qf4+ 19. Kd1 Ne5 20. Nd6 Qd4 21. Rxe5 Qxd6 {With very complex play. Of course this is just a sample line and not all the moves are forced here.}) 14. Na4 (14. Ne2 {Again, Ne2 might be safer, but Wojtaszek is an ambitious player.} ) 14... Bd6 15. Nc5 Bxc5 16. Rxc5 d4 $6 {This move helped Topalov win an excellent game, but perhaps objectively it's slightly inaccurate.} (16... Kf8 $5 {Keeps the balance. Naturally Black doesn't want to castle since he doesn't want to give up control of the h-file.}) (16... g5) (16... Ne4 {Are also viable alternatives.}) 17. Bb5 $2 {But this move is probably asking more from the position than it can offer. White is moving the same piece twice, and falling behind on development and allowing an initiative is very dangerous, especially against Topalov.} (17. e4 $14 {Not completely sure what Black's plan was against the simple e4. Black's knights don't have a good outpost square, and in the long run, White's two bishops and strong center should prove a nice advantage, while the bishop on d3 blocks the passed pawn on d4, and it can't be dislodged easily.} Ng4 18. Rd5 Qc7 19. h3 {Is better for White.}) 17... O-O $1 {Playing for initiative.} 18. Bxc6 bxc6 19. f3 $6 {Mistakes often come in pairs. When White played the move Bb5, he left behind the key e4 square, and now tries to cover that mistake up by defending it. But here we have a classical situation where the cure is worse than the disease. Black doesn't have Ne4 anymore, but now White's king is fatally weakened.} (19. Qc2 {Still kept White in the game.} Ne4 $1 20. Re5 $1 (20. Qxe4 dxe3 21. Qxe3 Rfe8 22. O-O Rxe3 23. Bxe3 $17 {Might also offer White drawing chances.}) 20... Rfe8 21. Rxe8+ Rxe8 22. O-O d3 23. Qd1 $15 {And even though Black is better with his strong passed pawn on d3, White is still in the game.}) 19... Qe7 (19... Rb8 20. Qa3 dxe3 21. Bxe3 Nd5 22. O-O Nxe3 23. Qxe3 Rxb2 $17 { was also very promising for Black.}) 20. Rc2 (20. Rxc6 dxe3 21. Bb4 Qd7 22. Rd6 Qc7 23. Qc3 Qb8 24. Qd4 Nd5 $1 25. Rxd8 Rxd8 26. Ba5 Nb6 $17 {Is very dangerous for White. Here the e3 pawn is very strong.}) 20... Nd5 21. Kf2 Rb8 22. Qa3 Rxb2 $5 {A very nice exchange sacrifice which shatters White's defenses and from here on White is under heavy pressure. The only reason I don't give this move a double exclamation point is because objectively there were other good solutions for Black here, arguably even a bit better.} (22... Qh4+ $1 23. g3 dxe3+ 24. Bxe3 Qh3 $40 {Would've also been very strong for Black but this isn't so obvious from far away. However, here White is kind of stuck to come up with a good plan.}) 23. Qxb2 $1 (23. Qxe7 $6 Rxc2 {was Black's point.} 24. Qe5 Rxd2+ 25. Kg3 Nxe3 26. Kh3 Nxg2 {Black ends up getting a rook, knight, and two pawns for the queen, and also a very strong initiative against the White king. White is lost.}) 23... dxe3+ 24. Bxe3 Qxe3+ 25. Kg3 $2 {The final mistake. Kf1 still kept White in the game.} (25. Kf1 Nf4 $1 {Stopping Re2. Here the king looks very bad, but still White can try to defend here, for example...} 26. Qc3 Qb6 $1 {Otherwise White is fine.} 27. Qb3 (27. Qb2 Qa6+ 28. Kg1 Nd3 29. Qb3 Re8 $36) 27... Qd4 $1 28. Qc4 $1 {Giving back some material to get rid of the dangerous initiative.} Qd1+ 29. Kf2 Nd3+ 30. Kg3 Qxh1 31. Qxd3 Qe1+ 32. Kh3 Qe6+ 33. Kg3 $17 {is the best line for both sides according to Stockfish 8. Black has good winning chances of course with the extra pawn, but White can still put up a good defense.}) 25... Qf4+ (25... Qg5+ {Was also good. } 26. Kf2 Nf4 27. g3 (27. Kf1 Re8 $19) 27... Nd3+) 26. Kf2 (26. Kh3 $2 g5 { is mate in a few moves.}) 26... Rb8 $1 {The last piece joins the fray. Without this move, Black is not even better. Now, however, Black's attack is unstoppable. Av typical situation when three pieces attack the exposed king and the king can't defend succesfully.} 27. Qc1 Qd4+ 28. Kg3 Ne3 $19 29. Rc5 (29. Rd2 Nf5+ 30. Kh3 Qh4#) 29... Rb2 30. Rg1 Rxa2 31. h3 Qd6+ 32. f4 Qd3 33. Kh2 Qe4 34. Rg5 Rc2 {And White resigned since he's about to lose the f4 pawn and Black will have both a material advantage and an unstoppable attack, which will lead to more and bigger material gains. Beautiful game by Topalov. I love the move Rxb2! since from a practical standpoint of view it's very strong even if objectively it's not the best. The reason is, it becomes much more difficult for the opponent to play when he has to defend against the initiative. Also a very nice opening surprise by Topalov which led to a fresh position, a dynamic position, where Topalov feels in his comfort zone, and also a position, which Wojtaszek didn't get a chance to analyze deeply since it was so rare. Wojtaszek normally has excellent opening preparation, since he helped Anand a few times in his World Championship matches. So, outpreparing him is already a big accomplishment in itself.} 0-1

Sergey Karjakin is ever the great fighter, and it will be interesting to see how he fares | Photo:

Vladimir Kramnik | Photo:

More than just being in the 2800 club once more, there is another big question riding on Vladimir Kramnik's result. As it stands, there are only two spots in the next Candidates tournament that get a free ride by virtue of rating. This rating is the average over a period of 12 months, but right now there are three clear potential beneficiaries, not two: Wesley So, Fabiano Caruana and Vladimir Kramnnik. All their results now, and in the next months will affect their chances. If one of them misses their spot, they will need to ensure their qualification from one of the other events such as the FIDE Grand Prix cycle (Sharjah, Moscow, Geneva, and Palma de Mallorca), or the World Cup.


You can use ChessBase 14 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs to replay the games in PGN. You can also download our free Playchess client, which will in addition give you immediate access to the chess server

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register