Morelia R3: Aronian-Topalov 123-move battle

2/21/2006 – Reigning FIDE world champion Veselin Topalov played a fine game, with the black pieces, taking his Armenian opponent Levon Aronian to the brink of defeat. But then the tables turned and suddenly Topalov found himself in a lost endgame, which he managed to save. All four games were drawn. Full report with analysis and videos.

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Round three report

Round 3: Monday, February 20th

Peter Svidler 
½-½
Peter Leko
Etienne Bacrot 
½-½
Francisco Vallejo
Levon Aronian 
½-½
Veselin Topalov
Teimour Radjabov 
½-½
Vassily Ivanchuk

Standings

In spite of the fact that three games ended relatively quickly – all together they contained half the number of moves of the fourth game – we can hardly call the third round "peaceful". All the games started in a promising way, with sharp, unbalanced openings. In Svidler-Leko and Radjabov-Ivanchuk the draw came as a logical result after a short but intense fight. The only regret from the spectator's point of view is that Bacrot and Vallejo didn't play a bit more in what looked like an irrational position. We should hope that the day off will help players to recover their fighting mood from the first two rounds.

We come to the games. Note that there is a JavaScript replay board available for all the annotated games. These will open in a separate window, and have a index of the games on the left. Note that you can click on the notation to follow the moves on the board.


Peter Svidler vs Peter Leko


Peter Svidler about to make his fifth move

Svidler,P (2765) - Leko,P (2740) [B90]
XXIII SuperGM Morelia/Linares MEX/ESP (3), 20.02.2006
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e5 Leko has included the Najdorf in his repertoire only recently and we can feel the inheritance of his long practice with the Sveshnikov still: with the first given opportunity, he drives the enemy knight away from the centre, without caring about the relative weakness of the d5-square too much. 7.Nf3 Be7 8.Bc4 0-0 9.0-0 Be6 10.Bb3 Nc6 11.Bg5 Nd7 12.Bxe7 Qxe7 13.Nd5 Qd8 14.c3 Na5 15.Re1 Rc8 16.h3

16...b5 This is a significant improvement over Leko's previous game in this variation. 16...Nb6 17.Nxb6 Qxb6 18.Bxe6 fxe6 19.Re2 Rc6 20.Qd3 Qc7 21.Rd1 Nc4 22.b3 Nb6 23.c4 Nc8 24.Red2 and Black found himself in a very passive position, Anand-Leko, Wijk aan Zee 2006. The idea behind the novelty is to cut off the support provided by the b3-bishop to the central knight.

17.Nh2 Nc4 18.Bxc4 bxc4 19.b4 cxb3 20.axb3 Bxd5 21.Qxd5 Rxc3. Mutual weaknesses compensate each other in the final position. ½-½. [Click to replay]


Svidler's scoresheet, with long Russian algebraic


Peter Leko uses very neat short Hungarian notation


Peter Leko and Peter Svidler analysing after their game



Etienne Bacrot vs Francisco Vallejo Pons

Bacrot,E (2717) - Vallejo Pons,F (2650) [E49]
XXIII SuperGM Morelia/Linares MEX/ESP (3), 20.02.2006
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.a3 Bxc3+ 5.bxc3 Nf6 6.e3 0-0 7.cxd5 exd5 8.Bd3 c5 9.Ne2

Since Botwinnik, this structure has been considered favourable for White. Vallejo comes up with an intersting move that, withoug being an absolute novelty, has never been played at high level so far. 9...Bg4 Black's idea is to transfer the bishop to g6 in order to make White's thematic advance of the e-pawn more difficult. Vallejo might have been inspired by the following classical and well forgotten game: 9...Nc6 10.0-0 Bg4 11.f3 Bh5 12.Rb1 b6 13.Nf4 Bg6 14.g4 cxd4 15.cxd4 Rc8 16.Rb2 Bxd3 17.Qxd3 Ne7 18.g5 Ne8 19.e4 Ng6 20.Ne2 f6 21.gxf6 Nxf6 22.e5 Nh5 23.f4 Qh4 24.Qf3 Kh8 25.Be3 and a draw was agreed in Reshevsky-Fischer, Los Angeles 1961. Postponing Bg4 until White has castled seems to make sense, because it inhibits the plan chosen by Bacrot, but on the other hand White can play 10.f3 first, forcing Black to return to the normal lines of the Sämisch Attack.

10.f3 Bh5 11.Nf4 Bg6 12.Be2 Nc6 13.h4 h5 14.0-0 Ne7 15.dxc5 Qa5 16.Nxg6 fxg6 17.Rb1 Qxc5 18.c4 dxc4

This does not look like a typical drawish position. While it is easy to understand the players reluctance to embark in an irrational fight, from the spectator's point of view it is a bit dissapointing that they didn't play on. White's pair of bishop is compensated by his inferior development and I suspect that in principle the position is balanced indeed. ½-½. [Click to replay]


French GM Etienne Bacrot



Teimour Radjabov vs Vassily Ivanchuk

Radjabov,T (2700) - Ivanchuk,V (2729) [D84]
XXIII SuperGM Morelia/Linares MEX/ESP (3), 20.02.2006
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Bf4 Bg7 5.e3 0-0 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.Nxd5 Qxd5 8.Bxc7

This pawn grabbing is hardly seen nowadays. It is known to be relatiely harmless since a long time, but it might work out well as a surprise weapon, since the position is rather unbalanced strategically. 8...Na6 9.Bxa6 Qxg2 10.Qf3 Qxf3 11.Nxf3 bxa6 12.Rg1 f6 A multi-puprose move, restricting the sphere of action of White's minor pieces, preparing the submination of the white centre with e5 and clearing the f7-square for the rook in order to maintain the seventh rank defended. In practice, 12...Bb7 has been played much more frequently. 13.Rc1 Rf7 14.Ke2 Bd7 15.Nd2 e5 16.d5 Bb5+ 17.Kf3 f5 18.b3 e4+ 19.Kg2 Bb2 20.Rc2 Bd3 21.Rc6 Bb5 22.Rc2 Bd3 23.Rc6 Black's position looks nice, but the strong d5-pawn invites him to be prudent. Therefore, he cannot be criticized for not playing on. ½-½. [Click to replay]


Vassily Ivanchuk, wondering what the game will bring?


In the audience the seconds of Leko, Aronian and Topalov look on anxiously



Exciting roller-coaster game Levon Aronian vs Veselin Topalov

Aronian,L (2752) - Topalov,V (2801) [E55]
XXIII SuperGM Morelia/Linares MEX/ESP (3), 20.02.2006
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0–0 5.Bd3 c5 6.Nf3 d5 7.0–0 dxc4 8.Bxc4 Nbd7 9.a3 cxd4 10.axb4 dxc3 11.bxc3 Qc7 12.Be2 Nd5 13.Bd3 Qxc3 14.Ra3 Qf6 15.Qc2 h6 16.b5 Nb4 17.Bh7+ Kh8 18.Qb1 a5 19.Be4 Nc5 20.Bd2 Bd7 21.Bxb4 axb4 22.Qxb4 Rxa3

One important facet of Topalov's style of play is the ease with which he can sacrifice the exchange, for the most varied purposes, be them of defensive or aggressive nature. He did that quite frequently in San Luis and no less than twice in his previous game against Aronian in Wijk aan Zee earlier this year. In this game we shall see the players changing parts: it will be Aronian who will give up both his rooks for Topalov's minor pieces. Besides the natural desire to take a bit of revenge on this territory, this might look like a tribute payed to the greatest expert of exchange sacrifice from chess history, Tigran Vartanovich Petrosian, who was Armenian, too. Aronian's decision in the diagrammed position must have been dictated by the unwillingness of leaving Black with a strong knight on c5, but is not likely to offer an objective advantage.

23.Qxc5 Rfa8 24.Ne5. 24.Bxb7 would have led to more interesting play. After the game continuation it will be only Black who can play for an advantage. 24...b6 Obviously playing for a win. Black would have no chances of breaking White's fortress after 24...Bxb5 25.Qxb5 R3a5 26.Nxf7+ Qxf7 27.Qxb7. 25.Qc7 Bxb5. Topalov needed only three moves to get the score even. White has to capture the a8-rook, of course.

26.Bxa8 Rxa8 27.Rd1. This was not a good moment for leaving the rook en prise, since this would have weakened the back rank in a decisive way. Aronian will have to wait for ten more moves until he will be given an opportunity to trade his rook for Black's remaining minor piece. Otherwise, Black is much better now. White's king is relatively unsafe, while his pieces lack stability. The extra-pawn is more or less doomed, but the time spent by White on eliminating itwill allow Black start a dangerous attack.


FIDE World Champion Veselin Topalov

27...Ba4 28.Rd4 Be8 29.g3. White needs to keep his rook on an active square, in order to threaten the f7-pawn. In case of 29.Rd1 Black could consolidate his pawn already with 29...b5. 29...Kh7 30.Kg2. The point behind Black's previous move is that after 30.Rf4 Qd8 31.Qxd8 Rxd8 White captures on f7 without check, 32.Nxf7 allowing 32...Rd1+ 33.Kg2 g5 34.Rf6 Kg7 trapping the knight. 30...Ra5 31.Nc4 Ra2 32.Rf4 Qc3 33.Qxb6 Ra1 34.Qb7 Qc1 35.Kh3.

35...f6? The correct idea carried out in a bad form. Topalov prepares the activation of his bishop through g6, in order to give even more force to his attack. In doing so, he might have missed White's next move (since 37.Rxg6 should be just too natural for him). Before weakening the seventh rank, he should have played 35...Rb1 when the queen would have been forced to abandon the seventh rank, in order to maintain the g2-square under observation. After that, Black could have safely played 36...f6, or, in some cases, even 36...f5 as, for instance, after 36.Qe4+ , in order to play ...g5 next. Lowering of concentration in practically won positions tend to occur from times to times in Topalov's practice, especially when the opponent puts up resistance and the swituation is slightly irrational. Two recent examples are Topalov-Leko Linares 2005 and Topalov-Anand San Luis 2005. The main difference is that in the previous games he never got into danger of losing, which cannot be said about the present game.

36.Rg4 Bg6 37.Rxg6! The score stands 2–1 for Aronian now and, what is even more important, the black king starts feeling very unsafe. 37...Kxg6 38.Qe4+ Kf7 39.Nd6+ Ke7 40.Nf5+ Kd7. This is not playing for a win already. In case of 40...Kf7? , apart from giving perpetual check, White can mate with 41.Qb7+.


GM Levon Aronian from Armenia

41.Nxg7 Qf1+ 42.Kh4 Qxf2 43.Qxe6+ Kc7 44.Qc4+ Kb7 Sad necessity. The king has to exile himself far from his few remaining pawns, since crossing the d-file back would lose the rook to Qd4. 45.Qe4+ Kb8 46.Qf4+ Qxf4+ 47.exf4 The endgame looks very dangerous for Black, whose king is quite far from the main theatre of events. 47...Ra2 48.h3 Kc8 49.Kh5 Ra3 50.Nf5 Kd7 51.Kxh6 Ke6 52.Kg6 Ra5 53.Ng7+ Ke7 54.h4 Ra6 55.Nh5. White does not find the best regroupment. 55.Nf5+ Kf8 56.g4 would have posed more problems, for instance 56...Ra4 (passive strategy would fail after 56...Rb6 57.Ng3 Ra6 58.Nh5 Ke7 59.f5 followed by ¢g7 and g5.) 57.Ng7 f5!? Same trick as in the game, but in a worse situation. 58.Ne6+ Ke7 59.gxf5 and White might be winning already. 55...Ra8 56.Ng7 Ra6 57.g4.

57...f5+!! The saving move. Black needs open ranks in order to harrass the enemy king. White will soon have to give up one of his pawns, eading to a drawn position according to the Nalimov Tablebases. Topalov defended accurately for more than 60 moves, even though in some cases he had to play only moves. 58.Kxf5 Kf7 59.Nh5 Ra5+ 60.Ke4 Ra3 61.g5 Rh3 62.Kf5 Rxh4 63.g6+ Kg8 64.Kg5 Rh1 65.Nf6+ Kf8 66.Nh5 Rg1+ 67.Kh6 Rh1 68.f5 Kg8 69.Kg5 Rg1+ 70.Kf6 Rg4 71.Ng7 Ra4 72.Ne6 Ra5 73.Nc7 Kf8 74.Ke6 Ra7 75.Nb5 Re7+ 76.Kf6 Rd7 77.Nc3 Rd6+ 78.Kg5 Kg7 79.Nb5 Rd5 80.Nc7 Re5 81.Ne6+ Kg8 82.Kf6 Ra5 83.Nc7 Rc5 84.Ne8 Rc1 85.Nd6 Kf8 86.Ne4 Rc6+ 87.Kg5 Rc4 88.Ng3 Rc3 89.Ne4 Rc4 90.Nf6 Rc1 91.Nd7+ Kg8 92.f6

92...Rf1! Once the pawns have advanced to the sixth rank, this is the correct defensive method: the rook has to watch the events "from behind". 93.Ne5 Rg1+ 94.Kf5 Rf1+ 95.Ke6 Re1 96.Kd6 Re2 97.Nc6 Rg2 98.Ke6 Re2+ 99.Kd7 Kf8 100.Kd6 Rg2 101.Ne5 Rd2+ 102.Ke6 Re2 103.Kf5 Rf2+ 104.Kg5 Rg2+ 105.Kh4 Rf2 106.Ng4 Rg2 107.Ne5 Rf2 108.Kg5 Rg2+ 109.Kf4 Rf2+ 110.Nf3 Rf1 111.Ke3 Kg8 112.Kf4 Kf8 113.Ke4 Kg8 114.Ke3 Ra1 115.Kf4 Rf1 116.Kg4 Rf2 117.Kg3 Rf1 118.Kf4 Rf2 119.Ke4 Rf1 120.Ke3 Ra1 121.Kd4 Rf1 122.Ke4 Rf2 123.g7 Rg2 ½–½. [Click to replay]


Topalov and Aronian analysing at the end of the game


... and drawing conclusions after 6:45 hours of play

Report and analysis by GM Mihail Marin, photos by Frederic Friedel


Schedule and results

Round 1: Saturday, February 18th

Francisco Vallejo 
0-1
 Peter Leko
Peter Svidler 
1-0
 Veselin Topalov
Etienne Bacrot 
½-½
 Vassily Ivanchuk
Levon Aronian 
1-0
 Teimour Radjabov

Round 2: Sunday, February 19th

Peter Leko 
1-0
Teimour Radjabov
Vassily Ivanchuk 
1-0
Levon Aronian
Veselin Topalov 
½-½
Etienne Bacrot
Francisco Vallejo 
0-1
Peter Svidler

Round 3: Monday, February 20th

Peter Svidler 
½-½
Peter Leko
Etienne Bacrot 
½-½
Francisco Vallejo
Levon Aronian 
½-½
Veselin Topalov
Teimour Radjabov 
½-½
Vassily Ivanchuk
Free day: Tuesday, February 21st

Round 4: Wednesday, February 22nd

Peter Leko 
  Vassily Ivanchuk
Veselin Topalov 
  Teimour Radjabov
Francisco Vallejo 
  Levon Aronian
Peter Svidler 
  Etienne Bacrot
GamesReport

Round 5: Thursday, February 23rd

Etienne Bacrot 
  Peter Leko
Levon Aronian 
  Peter Svidler
Teimour Radjabov 
  Francisco Vallejo
Vassily Ivanchuk 
  Veselin Topalov
GamesReport
Free day: Friday, February 24th

Round 6: Saturday, February 25th

Levon Aronian 
  Peter Leko
Teimour Radjabov 
  Etienne Bacrot
Vassily Ivanchuk 
  Peter Svidler
Veselin Topalov 
  Francisco Vallejo
GamesReport

Round 7: Sunday, February 26th

Peter Leko 
  Veselin Topalov
Francisco Vallejo 
  Vassily Ivanchuk
Peter Svidler 
  Teimour Radjabov
Etienne Bacrot 
  Levon Aronian
GamesReport
Transfer to Linares, Spain

Links



Topics: Linares 2006
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