Sofia R2: Topalov draws first blood, wins with black

by ChessBase
2/18/2009 – In a Ruy Lopez Berlin Defence Veselin Topalov surprised his opponent on move five – at least it set Gata Kamsky, USA, thinking for a protracted period of time. Starting around move 15 the Bulgarian took over the initiative and tore into the opponent's defences with super-accurate moves. Thursday is a free day. We bring you game two with annotations by GM Mihail Marin.

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The Kamsky-Topalov FIDE World Championship Qualifier is taking place from February 16th to 28th in the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria. The Match consists of eight games and if necessary tie-breaks. It has a prize find of US $250,000 which will be shared equally by the players. The winner qualifies for a World Championship Match against Viswanathan Anand, scheduled for later this year.

Round two report

Kamsky,G (2725) - Topalov,V (2796) [C65]
World Chess Challenge Sofia BUL (2), 18.02.2009 [Mihail Marin]

1.e4 e5. Experience may have taught Topalov that his peak of form usually arises in the second part of important matches and tournaments. During his unlucky match against Kramnik, he did not seem to take this detail into account and went for sharp and uncompromising fight from the very first game. As a result, he suffered two defeats instead of what could otherwise have become two of his best games ever. His opening choice in the second game against Kamsky looks more cautious. Instead of his beloved Sicilian, he chose the solid Ruy Lopez. Will it be a boring Berlin Variation?! 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Bc5!?

A big surprise on the 4th move already! Topalov had developed the bishop to c5 before, but only as an answer to 4.d3. 5.Nxe5. Kamsky decides to set up forced play from an early stage of the game, instead of the strategically more constructive 5.c3 followed by d4. 5...Nxe4 6.Qe2 Nxe5 7.d4 Qe7. The previous sequence of moves looks completely chaotic, but has been played before. White will retrieve the temporarily sacrificed piece, but he aims to do it in the best form. 8.dxc5. 8.Qxe4 allows Black maintain the material equality with 8...Nc6. 8...Nxc5 9.Nc3

White has excellent compensation for the sacrificed pawn. He is far ahead in development and has an active pair of bishops. The only thing that will not be compensated in any way is the slowness with which Kamsky effectuated his moves and which inevitably led him to a hopeless time-trouble. Until this moment, Topalov had spent only a minute, but after White's last move he started thinking longer. 9...Ng6 10.Qh5 c6 11.Bg5 f6 12.Rae1 Ne6 13.Bd3 0-0 14.Bd2

Over the past few moves, White has considerable activated his pieces. Black mainly relies on his lack of weaknesses, which offers him chances to resist. 14...d5! This is the only move that keeps Black in the game. Since his main problem is the delay in development, he needs to open the h3-c8 immediately. In case of 14...Qf7, aiming to meet f2-f4 with f6-f5, White would consolidate his lead in development with 15.Ne4 when the occupation of the d6-square would leave Black paralyzed after, for instance 15...Ne5 (The exchange of queens with 15...Ngf4 16.Qxf7+ Rxf7 would not bring the desired relief after 17.Bxf4 Nxf4 18.Nd6 Nxd3 19.cxd3 Rf8 20.Re7 and Black is in trouble.) 16.Qh3 Nxd3 17.Nd6! An important intermediate move. 17...Nef4 18.Bxf4 Nxf4 19.Qg4 followed by Qxf4 with a clear advantage for White. 15.f4 Qc5+! This move repells White's attack and leads to the simplification of the position. At this height of the game, Kamsky had about eight minutes left on his clock. Quite a difficult situation... 16.Kh1?! After this over-cautious move White will find himself struggling. 16.Be3 was necessary, taking the d4-square under control, for instance 16...d4 17.Bxg6 hxg6 (Black should go for the opposite coloured bishops. In case of 17...Qxh5 18.Bxh5 dxe3 19.Rxe3 White retains a small edge.) 18.Qxc5 Nxc5 19.Bxd4 Ne6 . Black should not have problems completing his development and gradually equalizing. 16...d4 17.Bf5

With little time on his clock, Kamsky may have overrated the effects of this move, which threatens to win the queen with Bxe6. 17...Rf7?! This move deserves being criticized only because there was an even better one: 17...Nexf4! 18.Rxf4 (18.Bxf4 allows 18...Qxf5) 18...dxc3 Black will emerge a pawn up, because 19.Be6+? does not work in view of 19...Bxe6 20.Qxc5 cxd2 with a decisive material advantage. 18.Ne4 Qd5 19.Bxg6 hxg6 20.Qxd5 cxd5 21.Nd6

It may seem that White is on the top again. After the "/portals/all/_for_legal_reasons.jpg" 21...Re7, defending the knight, White maintains strong initiative with 22.Bb4. 21...Rc7!! A fantastic move, starting a powerful counterplay. 22.c4? This is premature panicking with less than 3 minutes left. He should have accepted the sacrifice with 22.Nxc8 Raxc8 23.Rxe6 , although after 23...Rxc2 Black has sufficient material compensation and strong initiative for the bishop. Another important aspect is that the black king is safer than his colleague. White's position looks dangerous, but he would have remained in the game. 22...dxc3 23.Bxc3 d4

Everything is over now. Kamsky is a clear pawn down and had practically no time left on his clock. 24.Bb4 Bd7 25.Rf2 a5 26.Ba3 b5 27.b3 b4 28.Bb2 Ra6 29.Ne4 Rac6 30.Kg1 Rc2 31.g3 d3 32.Rd1 f5. A tragic game for Kamsky, but quite interesting to follow from the spectators' point of view. 0-1. [Click to replay]


  Nat. Rtng.
Kamsky, Gata USA 2725
Topalov, Veselin BUL 2796


Monday February 16: 18:00h Opening
Tuesday February 17: 15:00h Game 1
Wednesday February 18: 15:00h Game 2
Thursday February 19 Rest day
Friday February 20: 15:00h Game 3
Saturday February 21: 15:00h Game 4
Sunday February 22 Rest day


February 23: 15:00h Game 5
Tuesday February 24: 15:00h Game 6
Wednesday February 25 Rest day
Thursday February 26: 15:00h Game 7
Friday February 27: 15:00h Game 8
Saturday February 28 Tiebreaks


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