Sofia R3: Game three drawn in 37 moves

by ChessBase
2/20/2009 – Gata Kamsky was not afraid to repeat his Grünfeld opening from round one. This time it was a Botvinnik with a black pawn sacrifice with tremendous complications. That got Veselin Topalov thinking and once again Kamsky had the initiative with the black pieces. But he seemed to play it safe and the game ended in a draw. Full commentary 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 three report

GM Mihail Marin in his analysis kitchen at home in Romania

The following commentary has been provided by Romanian grandmaster Mihail Marin, who is the author of a number of very popular ChessBase training CDs and articles for ChessBase Magazine. GM Marin will study the games of the World Championship tournament in much greater detail and provide the full results of his analysis in the next issue of ChessBase Magazine.

Topalov,V (2796) - Kamsky,G (2725) [D81]
World Chess Challenge Sofia BUL (3), 20.02.2009 [Commentary Mihail Marin]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.Qb3

The queen is usually developed on this square only after 4.Nf3. After the text move, transpositions to the main system are possible if White plays Ng1-f3 in the near future. Topalov will choose a rather extravagant approach, leaving the knight on its initial position until the 22nd move! 4...dxc4 5.Qxc4 Bg7 6.e4 0-0 7.Be2. One of the points behind this move order is to avoid the possible structural damage after 7.Nf3 Nfd7 8.Be3 Nb6 9.Qb3 Bg4 10.Rd1 Nc6 11.d5 Ne5 etc. Still, such an unnatural way of developing is likely to allow Black the possibility of obtaining excellent counterplay. 7...a6 8.Bf4 b5!? 9.Qxc7 Qxc7 10.Bxc7

A pawn is a pawn, but in this case it costs White a lot of time. Everything is prepared now for Black to get quickly mobilized. 10...b4 11.Na4 Nc6 12.d5 Nd4 13.Bd3 Bd7. For the first time in the match, Topalov had spent more time than Kamky at this height of the game. We may assume that the Bulgarian grandmaster was taken out of his home preparation rather early, but can only guess until which point Kamsky was on familiar paths, since he soon started thinking a lot. 14.Nb6 Bb5! A strong move, aimed to eliminate the defender of the e4-pawn and c2-square. 15.Be5

15.Bxb5 axb5 16.Nxa8 is too risky because of 16...Nc2+ 17.Kd1 Nxa1 18.Nb6 Nxe4 The a1-knight is impossible to trap while White is underdeveloped still. 15...Nxe4. This is a rare case when Kamsky played his move almost instantly. Curiously it was precisely the moment when he had a worthy alternative. His move leads to a position where Black needs to play carefully in order to maintain equality, while 15...Bxd3 would have offered him chances to fight for the initiative, for instance 16.Bxd4 Rab8 17.e5 (The more solid 17.f3 fails to stabilize the position. 17...Bb5 Taking the d7-square away from the b6-knight and threatening to trap it with Ne8 or Nh5. 18.Rc1 Preparing the return of the knight with Nc4. 18...Nh5 19.Bxg7 Kxg7 20.Nc4 f5 Black is two tempi ahead in development and the white centre is vulnerable.) 17...Rxb6 18.Bxb6 Nxd5 19.Bd4 Rc8 Black has strong initiative for the sacrificed exchange. I suspect Topalov would have liked to switch sides, since he is a great specialist in sacrificing exchanges himself. When choosing the simplifying continuation, Kamsky may have found himself under the impression of the previous game in which he failed to convert his advance in development and initiative into anything concrete. This time, he preferred to play with equal pawns... 16.Bxg7 Kxg7 17.Bxe4 Rab8 18.0-0-0 Nf5 19.Bxf5 gxf5 20.d6 Rxb6 21.dxe7

21...Re8. It is difficult to say whether the intermediate 21...Rc8+ would have been better. The pros of this move are that the king is driven away from the centre and forced to occupy a light square, which may allow an intermediate bishop check later. 22.Nf3 Rxe7 23.Nd4 Bd7 24.Rhe1 Rxe1 25.Rxe1

The position looks dangerous for Black. If White manages to advance his pawns to f4 and g3 and consolidate his knight with the help of his king, he could blackmail his opponent with the threat of exchanging queens. In a pure knight versus bishop ending, all the black pawns would remain vulnerable. 25...Rh6! 25...Rd6 would be premature because of 26.Rd1 and White's stability would not be threatened in any way. 26.Re7. White is not willing to weaken his structure with 26.h3 Black would continue with 26...f4, leaving the g2-pawn vulnerable. 26...Rd6! Black has managed to drive the annoying knight away from the centre, which offers some freedom of action to his king. 27.Ne2 Kf6 28.Re3 Ba4 29.b3 Bc6 30.Nf4 a5 31.g3 Be4 32.f3 Bc6 33.h4

Both sides have achieved almost absolute stability and a draw is the most likely result. 33...Rd4 34.Kc2 Bb5 35.Nh5+ Kg6 36.Nf4+ Kf6 37.Nh5+ draw. [Click to replay]


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

Chess It Out!

Paul Hoffman on Topalov-Kamsky in NPR, February 20, 2009 · Only two Americans have ever made it to the very pinnacle of championship chess, and both of them were crazy.Our country's current best hope for chess supremacy is a 34-four-year-old resident of Brooklyn named Gata Kamsky, who this week began an eight-game match in Sofia, Bulgaria, for the right to challenge the world chess champion, Viswanathan Anand, later this year. In today's game — the third of the match — Kamsky came out swinging wildly. Pieces and pawns were flying all over the board. Ultimately, though, after 37 moves, the game petered out to a draw. Kamsky is now trailing in the match by 1 point.

Kamsky, for sure, is the underdog in Sofia. He is ranked No. 17 in the world, and his opponent, 33-year-old Veselin Topalov, is ranked No. 1. The two players have vastly different styles. Topalov loves to create chaos on the chessboard, even sacrificing his own men to open lines so that he can assault the opposing monarch. Kamsky normally has a more patient approach, wearing his adversary down by nursing tiny structural advantages for hours. Today, though, he played as aggressively as if he were Topalov.

Kamsky is hungry. He has deferred a career in law for a shot at the world chess title. He has spent months preparing for Topalov, studying hundreds of the Bulgarian's games, sussing out his strengths and weaknesses.


Monday February 16: 18:00h Opening
GM Commentary
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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