Topalov beats Nisipeanu 3:1

4/9/2006 – FIDE world champion Veselin Topalov, Bulgaria, outplayed European Champion Dieter Nisipeanu, Romania, in the last game of their match in Bucharest on Sunday. Topalov won both white games to take overall victory with a 3:1 score. A final report will follow, today we bring you extensive commentary on game three.

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A match between FIDE World Champion Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) and European Champion Dieter Nisipeanu (Romania) is taking place in Bucharest. There will be four games, played on April 6th to 9th, 2006, starting at 14:30h local time (= 13:30 CEST). Time controls are 40 moves in 2 hours, then 20 moves in 1 hour, and finally 15 min and 30 sec increment per move for the rest of the game.

FIDE world champion Veselin Topalov outplayed European Champion Dieter Nisipeanu in the final game of their match, a 43-move Sicilian Richter-Rauzer, in Bucharest on Sunday. Topalov won both white games to take overall victory with a 3:1 score.

Notation of game four:

Topalov,V (2801) - Nisipeanu,LD (2693) [B65]
Match Bucharest ROM (4), 09.04.2006
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Bg5 e6 7.Qd2 Be7 8.0-0-0 0-0 9.f4 Nxd4 10.Qxd4 Qa5 11.h4 e5 12.Qe3 exf4 13.Bxf4 Be6 14.Bxd6 Bxd6 15.Rxd6 Rac8 16.a3 Rc6 17.Rxc6 bxc6 18.Be2 Nd7 19.Rd1 Qc7 20.g3 Rb8 21.Qd4 Qxg3 22.Qxa7 Nf6 23.Kb1 h5 24.a4 Bg4 25.Bxg4 hxg4 26.Qd4 Qxh4 27.e5 Nd5 28.Nxd5 cxd5 29.Rg1 Qh2 30.Rxg4 Rc8 31.Rxg7+ Kh8 32.Rg4 Rc4 33.Qd1 Rxg4 34.Qxg4 Qxe5 35.c3 Kh7 36.Qd4 Qe6 37.a5 f5 38.b4 Qe2 39.Qxd5 Kg6 40.Qd6+ Kg5 41.a6 f4 42.Qc5+ Kg4 43.a7 1-0.

Game three annotated

Nisipeanu,LD (2693) - Topalov,V (2801) [B90]
Match Bucharest ROM (3), 08.04.2006 [Commentary by GM Mihail Marin]

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6. In spite of the fact that the Berlin wall resisted pretty well in the first game, the FIDE World Champion decides to switch to his favourite weapon, the Sicilian Najdorf. In doing so, he might have intended to develop his psychological initiative as a consequence of his win from the previous day, although we cannot exclude the possibility that it all made part of the general match strategy. 6.Be3 e5. Over the past few years, Topalov made important contributions to the development of theory in the systems based on 6...e6. 7.Nde2!?

When playing this rare move, Nisipeanu aimed to annihilate his opponent's opening preparation and give the game an independent course from the very beginning. Judging from the time Topalov took for the next few moves, we can suppose that he never examined this move seriously, indeed. 7...Nbd7. During his press conference held right after the game, Nisipeanu confessed that he expected 7...Be7 based on the fact that it was once played by Fischer, who is one of Topalov's idols.] 8.Ng3 [For White it is generally not easy to justify the placement of the knight on e2, where it will face similar problems as in the Sämisch King's Indian. For instance, if 8.h3 (planning g4 and Ng3), then 8...h5!? 9.f4 b5 and the question what to do with the knight remains open. 8...g6! It is better to restrict this knight at once. In case of a neutral move like 8...Qc7 White could regroup in optimal way with 9.Nf5 h5 (By taking the h6-square under control, Black prepares to drive the intruder away. In case of the immediate 9...g6 White would answer 10.Nh6 when castling on either side would become a problem for Black.) 10.Bg5! (Not only putting under pressure one of the key defenders of the d5-square, but also clearing the e3-square for the own knight) 10...g6 11.Ne3 with a big positional advantage for White, who has a perfect control of the d5-square. 9.a4. In case of the immediate 9.Bc4 it would have been not easy for White to maintain the firm control of the d5-square after, for instance, 9...b5 10.Bb3 Bb7 11.a4 b4 12.Nd5 h5 13.Bg5 h4 14.Nf1 h3 15.g3 Be7 when, among others, the white king feels more insecure than his black colleague. 9...Qc7

10.Qd3!? Not a typical way of development in the Sicilian. Nisipeanu rejected 10.a5 (with the intention of sustaining the development of the bishop to c4 with Ra4) because of 10...h5; He also mentioned that he saw in a flash such a drawing variation, without ever considering it seriously: 10.Nd5 Nxd5 11.exd5 f5 12.Nxf5 gxf5 13.Qh5+ Kd8 14.Bg5+ Be7 15.Bxe7+ Kxe7 16.Qg5+ with perpetual.; The most exotic of Nisipeanu's ideas during the game is 10.Qb1 planning Qa2 followed by Bc4. If White would reach that regrouping, his advantage would be out of any question, but the temporary passive queen's position allows Black to carry out the thematic break in the centre 10...d5 with good counterplay for instance 11.Nxd5 (11.exd5 leaves the knight exposed after 11...Bb4) 11...Nxd5 12.exd5 f5!? (The immediate recuperation of the pawn with 12...Qa5+ 13.c3 Qxd5 allows White bring his queen back into play with 14.Qe4 , maintaining a slight lead in development.) andn now, the line suggested by IM Doru Ionescu 13.a5 f4 14.Bb6 Nxb6 15.axb6 , aiming to install the knight on e4, fails tactically to the intermediate check 15...Bb4+! for instance 16.Kd1 (16.c3 does not solve the problem because of 16...Bxc3+) 16...Qxb6 17.Ne4 Bf5 18.Bd3 Bxe4 19.Bxe4 Qd4+ with a huge attack for Black. 10...Nc5 11.Qc4. In the press centre, we could not guess any of White's moves in this phase of the game. For instance, we expected here 11.Qd2 aiming to prove that the knight is not too well placed on c5, being unstable and failing to support his f6-colleague in case of an eventual Bg5. In this line, the g3-knight would be useful by over-defending the e4-pawn, which would give coherence to White's previous play. 11...Be6 12.Nd5 As a platonic consolation, we could unanimously predict this and the following move. 12...Bxd5 13.exd5 Rc8

14.b4. Played after a long thinking, this move might be not the best. White's main plan consists of the massive advance of the queen side pawns, indeed, but he should never forget about lack's possibility of undermining the c5-square by means of a well timed a5. In the press centre, we expected 14.a5 which would radically solve this problem. Nisipeanu rejected it because of 14...h5 (we thought that Black should use the given tempo to avoid the exchange of queens with 14...Qd8 in order to maintain chances for a king side attack.) 15.b4 (Maybe 15.Be2 deserves attention, taking the g4-square under observation and clearing the f1-square for the knight, in view of its further activation via d2-b3.) 15...Ncd7 16.Qxc7 Rxc7 when White cannot connect his hanging pawns with 17.c4 because of 17...h4 when the knight has no favourable squares for retreat.; Another interesting possibility would have been 14.Ra3 , preventing 14...Qd8 in view of 15.Rc3, as suggested by IM Nemeth. In this case, the critical continuation would be 14...Ncd7 15.Qxc7 Rxc7 16.c4 a5 After having blocked the queen side, Black intends to consolidate with ...Nc5. In order to maintain chances of successful opening of the play on this part of the board, White should hurry to occupy the b5-square with his rook with 17.Rb3 Now, if he will manage to regroup with Bd3-c2, Ke2, Rb1 (eventually f3 and Bf2 as an answer to ...h5 and ...Bh6) his position would be entirely viable, but Black seems to have a safe way to prevent it with 17...h5 18.f3 Bh6 19.Bf2 Nxd5! 20.cxd5 Rc1+ with perpetual. 14...Ncd7 15.Qxc7 Rxc7 16.c4.

This is the position White had been aiming for. He only needs one tempo to consolidate his queen side with a5 in order to consolidate his advantage of space. However, with the successive advance of his lateral pawns, Topalov will manage to cast some doubt about his opponent's previous play. 16...h5. As in a previous note, the concrete threats of ...h4 and ...Ng4 have only a secondary character. The main strategic purpose of the advance of the h-pawn is to enable ...Bh6, offering the exchange of the dark-squared bishops, which, after the new planned structural modifications (see the next move) would generally favour Black. It should be mentioned that Topalov played this whole phase of the game very quickly, giving the impression that he used the big amounts of time spent by his opponent on each move in very efficient way. 17.f3 Preventing the knight jump to g4 and enabling Ne4 if necessary. 17...a5! Also played almost instantaneously. Advancing the h-pawn even further with 17...h4 would only give White the necessary time to consolidate his position, for instance 18.Ne4 Nxe4 19.fxe4 f5 (In fact, even here 19...a5 might be better, although after 20.Rb1 Black has bigger problems to achieve a favourable queen side configuration than in the game, because of the pressure against the b7-pawn.) 20.Bd3 (Giving up the tension with 20.exf5 would unnecessarily open the g-file for the black rooks, for instance 20...gxf5 21.Bd3 f4 22.Bf2 Nf6 23.0-0 Rg7 with strong king side pressure.) 20...fxe4 (20...Nf6 leads to similar consequences after 21.a5) 21.Be2!? Nf6 22.a5 and White's queen side majority can cause Black problems in the long run.; The immediate exchange of the bishops with 17...Bh6?! 18.Bxh6! Rxh6 would be a mistake because after 19.a5! Black would have not sufficient dark squares at his disposal for his knights. After Topalov's strong move, the centre of the fight will gravitate around the c5-square, implying many hidden nuances as we shall see. 18.bxa5 Bh6.

19.Bb6. Under the new circumstances, the exchange of the bishops with 19.Bxh6 Rxh6 would offer White little hope for an advantage, in spite of the fact that the h6-rook will need a lot of time to be re-activated. For instance 20.Bd3 Nc5 21.Ke2 Rh8 22.Rhb1 Ke7 23.Rb5 Ra8 24.Ne4 Nfd7 25.Rab1 Ra7 and in spite of the fact that his pressure against the b7-pawn seems to allow White to hope for maintaining the equality, it would be only Black who could think about playing for a win, because of his mobile king side majority. 19...Nxb6. Considering the fact that Topalov is one of the biggest specialists of exchange sacrifices, I did not discard the possibility of 19...Rc5!? If White rejects the sacrifice, then his further choice would be more restricted than in the game after 20...Nxb6, while after 20.Bxc5 Nxc5 he does not seem to risk too much, because of his almost absolute stability on dark squares, for instance 21.Rb1 Kd7 22.Rb5 Kc7 23.Be2 Ra8 24.Kf2 h4. 20.axb6.

20...Rc5?! Black's desire to accelerate the activation of his rooks with ...Ke7 and ...Ra8 is quite understandable. However, his last move has the significant drawback that it deprives his own pieces of the important c5-square. As first highlighted by Nimzowitsch, one should use his minor pieces for the purpose of blocking the enemy pawns, since the major pieces tend to be unstable if submitted to the attack of the enemy forces. From this point of view, the more modest 20...Rc8 might have been better, for instance 21.Kf2 (The immediate 21.a5 would allow the transfer of the enemy bishop to the best diagonal with 21...Be3 followed by ...Bc5) 21...Ke7 22.a5 Ra8 23.Bd3 Nd7 24.Rhb1 Nc5 25.Bc2 Ra6 and White's extra-pawn compensates for Black's positional advantage but not more. 21.Bd3. The only way to question the correctness of Black's previous move consisted of the daring advance of the a-pawn with 21.a5!? Ke7 22.a6 We can suppose that both players underestimated this possibility because of the fact that White is underdeveloped yet. However, many of Black's already developed pieces do not take active part to the fighting operations yet, in first line the c5-rook. For instance, after 22...bxa6 23.Rxa6 Ke7 24.Bd3 (threatening Ke2 and Rb1, when White would safely defend the extra-pawn) 24...Nd7 25.Ne4! White retains his material advantage. Nisipeanu confessed that he feared that after 22...Ra8 23.a7 Be3 he would lose both his far advanced pawns, giving the following illustrative line: 24.Bd3 (In fact, 24.Ra3! seems to highlight the main drawback of the presence of the rook on c5. The bishop would not have sufficient squares available along the g1-a7 diagonal, for instance 24...Bd4 25.Ne2 Rxc4 26.Nxd4 Rxd4 and now the spectacular blow 27.Ba6! gives White decisive material advantage.) 24...Rcc8 25.Rb1 Nd7 26.Ke2 (Even here, White can maintain approximate equality with the spectacular 26.Bf5! , taking advantage of the geometrical placement of the black king and bishop and achieving the important aim of exchanging the enemy knight, for instance 26...Bxb6 27.Bxd7 Ba5+ 28.Ke2 Kxd7 29.Rxb7+ Rc7 30.Rxc7+ Kxc7 31.Ra1 followed by Ne4.) 26...Bxb6 with advantage for Black. 21...Be3 22.a5. The advance of this pawn comes one tempo too late. 22...Bd4! 23.Ra3. In the press conference there were some intense discussions about the tempting exchange sacrifice 23.Kd2 Bxa1 24.Rxa1 suggested by IM Sergiu Grünberg. This possibility did not escape Nisipeanu's attention either, but he rejected it because of the following long line: 24...Ke7 25.a6 (Since the defence of the a5-pawn with 25.Kc3? followed by Kb4 is not possible because of 25...Nxd5+! the advance of the a-pawn is forced.) 25...bxa6 26.Rxa6 Rb8 (The only way to question the viability of White's sacrifice. After 26...Nd7 27.Ne4 Rb8 28.Ra7 Rxb6 29.Nxc5 dxc5 White has no reasons for worry,; while 26...Rcc8?! is even risky in view of 27.Ra7+ Nd7 28.Ne4 Ra8 29.c5!! Rxa7 30.cxd6+ when the king has to retreat to the back rank, obstructing the own remaining rook and allowing White consolidate his queen side domination with bxa7 and Bb5-c6.) 27.Ne4 Nxe4+ 28.fxe4 Kd8! (The king must rush to attack the enemy pawn. 28...Rb7 29.Kc3 Rc8 30.Kb4 is certainly not worse for White.) 29.Kc3 Kc8 30.Bc2 Kb7 31.Ra7+ Kxb6 32.Rxf7 Ra5

Analysis diagram

True, when he reached this point during the press conference he could not remember what he had planned after 33.Rd7 but it must have been 33...Ra3+ 34.Kb4 (Otherwise ...Kc5 with a decisive attack on dark squares) 34...Ra7 with a decisive advantage since 35.Rxd6+ loses immediately to 35...Kc7+ 36.Kc5 Ra5#. 23...Rxa5 24.Rxa5 Bc3+ 25.Ke2 Bxa5.

Black has managed to win the pawn back and threatens to eliminate the b6-pawn as well. In order to avoid a worse ending, White has to find a way of converting his minimal advance in development into something more concrete. 26.Rb1! In case of 26.Ra1 Bxb6 27.Rb1 (or, similarly, 27.Ra8+ Bd8 28.Rb8 b6 29.Ne4 Nxe4 30.fxe4 Kd7) 27...Bc5 28.Rxb7 0-0 White would have little reasons for joy. Black's better pawn structure and the more active bishop would offer him good winning chances, although the process would most likely take several dozens of moves. At top level, an almost identical situation (without knights) has been seen in the game Polgar-Kramnik, where White eventually managed to survive after 97 moves. 26...Nd7. This was the first moment when Topalov spent a lot of time on making a decision between the game move and 26...Ke7 . While the World Champion was thinking, Nisipeanu managed to work out the following variation: 27.Rb5 Ra8 28.Ne4 Nxe4 (28...Nd7 also leads to a draw after 29.c5 Nxc5 30.Nxc5 dxc5 31.Rxc5 Bxb6 32.Rb5 Ra2+ 33.Kd1 . White has no reasons to be worse.) 29.fxe4 Bc3 30.c5! (Otherwise, ...Bd4-c5) 30...dxc5 31.Rxc5 Ra2+ 32.Kf1 Rf2+!? Black's last hope. 33.Kxf2 Bd4+ 34.Kf3 Bxc5 and now the tricky 35.d6+! clears the d5-square for the bishop and enables the capture of the b7-pawn, with an obvious draw. 27.Ne4?! This move allows Black maintain some winning chances. White should have developed his initiative with 27.Rb5 Bxb6

28.c5! depriving Black from the perfect blocking c5-square once and forever, for instance 28...dxc5 (In case of 28...Bxc5 29.Rxb7 Ke7 30.Bb5 Rd8 31.Ne4 Black could not free himself in any way and it would be only White who could hope for a win by means of activating his king.) 29.Ne4 with strong compensation for the missing pawns in view of his active pieces, the strong d-pawn and the stable control on dark squares. 27...Ke7 28.c5! Better later than never! White creates himself a passed pawn and prevents the occupation of the c5-square by an enemy minor piece. 28...Nxc5 29.Nxc5 dxc5 30.Ra1. Only not 30.Rb5?? Bb4 trapping the rook. 30...Bxb6 31.Rb1 Bc7 32.Rxb7 Kd6.

Black has manged to consolidate somehow, but the passive position of his bishop makes further progress quite difficult. 33.Ra7! White cannot afford to allow the occupation of the a-file by the enemy rook. 33...Rb8 34.Bc4 f5. Black would not get anything with 34...Rb2+ 35.Kd3 Rxg2 because after 36.Ra6+ Ke7 37.Ra7 Kd7 38.Bb5+ Kd6 39.Ra6+ the only way to avoid perpetual check would be the suicidal 39...Kxd5?? allowing mate in one with 40.Bc4#. 35.Kd3 Rb4 36.Ra6+ Bb6. Aiming to restrict the enemy rook, but placing the bishop on a unattractive square. True, after 36...Kd7 37.Kc3 e4 38.fxe4 fxe4 39.Re6 White would have little to worry about. 37.Kc3 e4 38.fxe4 fxe4 39.Ra8 Kd7.

Black's last chance consists of the transfer of the bishop to the long dark diagonal, but the exposed position of his king and the active white rook will prevent this plan. 40.Rg8 Ba5. Setting up some unpleasant tactical threats based on discovered check. In case of 40...Bc7 White can keep things under control with 41.Rg7+ Kd6 42.Rxg6+ Ke5 43.d6! (Only not 43.Re6+? because of 43...Kf5 44.d6? Rxc4+! 45.Kxc4 Kxe6 46.dxc7 Kd7 as given by IM Nemeth) 43...Ba5 44.Re6+ Kf5 45.Rh6 and Black has no useful discovered check. 41.Rg7+ Kc8. The black king cannot easily find an escape. A better practical chance would have possibly been 41...Ke8 42.Rg8+ Ke7 43.d6+ Kxd6 44.Rxg6+ Ke5 (44...Kc7 leads nowhere because of 45.Re6) 45.Rg5+ Kf4 46.Rxc5 Rb5+ 47.Kd4 Bc3+ 48.Kd5 Rb2 although after 49.Ke6 (attacking the h-pawn) the reduced material remained on board would entitle White hope for a draw. The worse he could get would be a R versus R + B ending, which would have probably prolonged the game for the required 50 moves. 42.Rg8+ Kc7.

43.Ra8! A well timed switch of plans. Now that the a5-d8 diagonal has been temporarily blocked by the king, White attacks the bishop without fearing its transfer to the deadly a1-h8 diagonal. If he had continued checking, the king would have hidden to a7 with 43.Rg7+ Kb8 44.Rg8+ Ka7 when the white rook would have had no way of hiding from the double attack, while defending it with 45.d6 would have cost White the important d-pawn after 45...Rb6+. 43...Ra4+ 44.Kb3 Rb4+. If 44...Ra1 then 45.Ra6 defending the rook in order to threaten the perpetual pursue Kb2-b3, which would have been impossible to start immediately because of ...Bc3!+. 45.Kc3 Ra4+ 46.Kb3 1/2-1/2. [Click to replay]

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