Topalov takes the lead against Nisipeanu

4/9/2006 – After a draw in the first, the second game in the match between Veselin Topalov and Dieter Nisipeanu ended in a white victory for the FIDE world champion. We bring you expert commentary by GM Mihail Marin, plus a pictorial report of the host country, Romania, withe its magnificent architecture and a castle that people say was owned by an unsavoury count.

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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.

Game two

Note that at the time of publication game three has just ended, with a draw in 46 moves. The game is given at the end of the annotated second game. Note too that you can replay the commentary and analysis of GM Mihail Marin on our JavaScript board. Clicking on the moves in the notation will cause the board to follow.

Topalov,V (2801) - Nisipeanu,LD (2693) [D37]
Match Bucharest ROM (2), 07.04.2006 [Commentary by GM Mihail Marin]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5. Nisipeanu refrains from his main weapon against 3.Nf3, the Queen's Indian, probably finding himself under the impression of Topalov's brilliant achievements in this opening during the past years. 4.Nc3 Be7. But only this was meant to be the real surprise for Topalov. Prior to this game, Nisipeanu had played the Orthodox Queen's Gambit only once in his life, at the youth Balkaniad back in 1993. As a coincidence, his opponent in that game was also Bulgarian: Vladimir Georgiev. Topalov might have expected the Vienna variation (4...dxc4) or the Semi-Slav (4...c6), which occured occasionally in the European Champion's games along the past years. For instance, he defeated Topalov's second, Silvio Danailov, in the Meran in the B-group of the Wijk aan Zee festival in 2000. 5.Bf4. From strict strategic point of view, the classical 5.Bg5 might seem sounder, because it increases the pressure over the d5-square. By choosing 5.Bf4, White usually gives up any ambitions regarding the influence over the centre and aims for animated minor piece play instead. We can draw a similar parallel in the open games, between the Ruy Lopez and the Italian Game. The modern history of 5.Bf4 started in 1978, when Kortschnoj repeatedly employed it during his World Championship match against Karpov. In spite of the fact that Karpov generally managed to hold his own, it could be felt that there was a lot of potential behind White's setup. 5...c5. The counter-attack in the centre based on the advance of the c-pawn is a logical consequence of the lack of pressure against the d5-pawn. However, Black usually inserts the moves 5...0-0 6.e3 and only now plays 6...c5 . Topalov had some recent experience against it: 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.a3 Nc6 9.cxd5!? (He also used the classical move 9.Qc2 , Kortschnoj's favourite, but after 9...Qa5 he chose the modern 10.Nd2 instead of the more established 10.Rd1. The game soon took a very interesting course: 10...Bb4 11.cxd5 exd5 12.Bd3 d4 13.0-0 Bxc3 14.Nc4 Qh5 15.bxc3 Nd5 16.Bg3 dxe3 17.Rae1 Be6 18.fxe3 Nde7 19.Nd6 b6 20.Rb1 and White's numerous pawn weaknesses were compensated by his hyper-activity in Topalov-Kasimdzhanov, Linares 2005. Black's queen soon got into big trouble, causing him decisive material losses.) 9...Nxd5 10.Nxd5 exd5 11.Bd3 Bb6 12.0-0 d4 13.e4 Bc7 14.Bxc7 Qxc7 15.h3 Qb6 16.b4 Be6 17.Rc1 h6 18.Qd2 with a more pleasant position for White in Topalov-Morozevich, San Luis 2005. The early attack of the centre by means of 5...c5 chosen by Nisipeanu has never made part of the main stream of theory, but suddenly became popular in 2005. The European Champion might have relied on the fact that his mighty opponent had awarded this variation less time during his home preparation than to the main lines. 6.dxc5 Na6. Black intends to capture the c-pawn without the loss of tempo implied by Be7xc5. 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.Nxd5 exd5.

9.e4!? It appears that it is not so easy to surprise the World Champion in the opening! Topalov played this new move relatively quickly, leaving little doubt about the fact that he had prepared it at home. Previously, 9.e3 had been played, when after 9...Nxc5 10.Bb5+ Bd7 11.Bxd7+ Qxd7 12.0-0 0-0 White retains the more pleasant but not necessarily better position. 9...0-0. However, Nisipeanu had done his homework properly, too, since he played this move rather quickly. We could hardly dream for a more promising start of the game. 10.exd5 Bxc5. This looks like a deviation from Black's initial intentions, but, given the new circumstances, the capture with the knight might have put less pressure on White, allowing him to keep his strong central pawn without having to make any major concessions. After the text move, the white king is vulnerable along the e-file and the e1-a5 diagonal. White has to act carefully. 11.Be2. Played solidly. The attempt to accelerate the rhythm of his development with 11.Bxa6?! would be a typical mistake, allowing 11...Qa5+! 12.Nd2 Qxa6 when White would have serious problems getting castled, while his d5-pawn would lack satisfactory defence. In case of 13.Qe2 , Black could maintain the tension with 13...b6!?; The consolidation of the d5-pawn by means of 11.Bc4 would have allowed Black deprive his opponent from the right to castle in more economic way than in the game with 11...Re8+ . After the apparently modest development of the bishop to e2, it is obvious that Black has compensation for the pawn in view of his slight lead in development. However, finding the right path through the jungle of variations is far from easy for both sides. 11...Bb4+. Instead of trying to win his pawn back, Nisipeanu forces White to give up the idea of castling, hoping that this would ensure him long term compensation. Black had several ways of striving for material equality, but apparently only one of them would have been satisfactory. In case of 11...Nc7?! White could safely give up his active bishop with 12.Bxc7 (12.d6 would not save the pawn after 12...Ne6 13.Bg3 Qa5+ 14.Nd2 Qb4 eventually followed by ...Rd8 if for any reasons ...Bxd6 would not work.) 12...Bb4+ 13.Nd2 Qxc7 14.0-0 and although Black can hope to hold on because of his firm blockade on d6, this looks like a rather one-sided affair.; Going for the b2-pawn with 11...Qb6?! 12.0-0 Qxb2 looks pretty risky in view of 13.Be5 when the black king side starts looking vulnerable, while the d5-pawn considerably restricts Black's activity.; The attempt to improve upon this last line with 11...Qa5+?! 12.Bd2 Qb6 13.0-0 Qxb2 would be refuted by 14.Rc1 followed by Bc3, with similar consequences.; However, the simple 11...Nb4 12.d6 Be6 suggested by IM Mircea Pavlov looks a satisfactory way of solving the opening problems. Black threatens ...Nd5 followed by the capture on d6. It is not very clear whether White could retain even some symbolic advantage in the symmetrical ensuing position. IM Francisc Nemeth suggested 13.Ng5 as a possible refutation of Black's plan, but after 13...Qf6 White risks losing stability. In a brief statement for the Radio made after the game, Nisipeanu mentioned that at some moment he deviated from his initial analysis because he thought that there would be a better possibility for him. Judging from the fact that he invested some time in taking the decision of giving check, we could assume that this was the moment he referred to. 12.Kf1 Bd6.

This pawn has to be safely blocked. Besides, the bishop was obviously misplaced on b4. White needs three whole tempi in order to get castled in artificial way, for instance h4, Kg1-h2. This strongly suggests that Black has at least adequate compensation for the sacrificed pawn. However, things are not that simple. First of all, White can do perfectly well without connecting his rooks yet, since he has the plan based on the advance of the h-pawn at his disposal. This could lead to the activation of the rook either directly (after h4-h5 and Rh4) or indirectly (in case of Black's ...h6, there would always be a possibility of a knight jump to g5 sustained by the h4-pawn, when the opening of the h-file would be dangerous for Black. Besides, Black's development is not that impressive yet, while his king's position is quite vulnerable. All these aspects make the position quite difficult to evaluate and, more important, to play over-the-board. 13.Bg5!? White cannot afford to allow Black to develop naturally. With his last move, Topalov underlines the fact that the enemy queen has problems finding adequate squares. The neutral retreat 13.Be3 would have offered Black a good position after 13...Bf5 followed by ...Rac8. 13...Qa5. Only ulterior analysis will reveal the objective merits of this move, but my personal feeling in this moment is that it is one of the main reasons for Black's ulterior problems. The queen will be very exposed on the queen side, allowing White the radical activation of his forces without loss of time. We can see a similar picture after 13...Qb6 14.Nd2 Qxb2 15.Nc4 Qb4 16.Rc1 eventually followed by Bd3 and Bd2-c3, when the black king would start feeling unsafe, while some of the other pieces are hanging.; 13...f6?! is hardly a solution either. The weakness of the e6-square would leave White with a permanent advantage in case of returning the pawn by means of Nd4-e6, followed by g3 and Kg2.; However, the awkwardly looking 13...Qd7!? deserves serious attention. Black plans to concentrate his forces against the d5-pawn with ...b6, ...Bb7, ...Nc7 and, if allowed, ...Rad8. This looks like a rather slow course of events, but we should not forget that White is also several tempi away from completing his development. 14.a3 Nc7. With the queen on a5, this move has obvious drawbacks, by cutting Her Majesty's retreat. In the press centre the normal developing move 14...Bd7 suggested by IM Andrei Cioara was considered to be a satisfactory continuation, and if 15.b4 then 15...Qa4 followed by the occupation of the c-file. Abstractly speaking, this looks very logical. Indeed, Black intends to take advantage by the passivity of the h1-rook by initiating active operation on the opposite wing. However, after 16.Nd2 followed by Nc4 or Ne4 Black would face concrete problems because of his lack of stability on d6. 15.Bc4 b5 16.b4 Qb6 17.Bb3

Generally speaking, Black should be content with the fact that White has made absolutely no progress with the development of his king side yet. However, the quality of development of all his other pieces is better than Black's. For instance, the g5-bishop denies the rooks access to d8, while his colleague exterts some potential pressure along the a2-g8 diagonal, which could count in certain tactical lines. Comparing with the similar position that could have arisen after 13...Qd7, Black's position looks less harmonious. His queen is vulnerable and actually not so active on the left wing. 17...a5 A logical move, activating the a8-rook. 18.Be3. Now that there is a point of tension on b4, White decides to transfer his bishop to the queen side. In the press centre, the main worries were connected with 18.Rc1 when after 18...Bb7 19.Be3 Qa6 20.Ng5 the threat Qd3 with a strong attack would be very unpleasant. In case of 20...h6 , besides jumping with the knight to e4, White could renew his initial threat with 21.h4 when Black's position looks critical. In certain cases, the intrusion of the rook to c6 would reveal the hidden force of the b3-bishop. 18...Qb7 19.Bc5

Topalov chooses a safe continuation, increasing his domination in the centre. The alternative would have been 19.Ng5 with the threat Qd3, when after 19...Bf5 20.g4 Bg6 21.h4 Black could survive with 21...Rfe8 22.h5 Be4 although after 23.Nxe4 Rxe4 White should be better. The only trap he has to avoid is 24.Qf3? Nxd5 25.Qxe4 Nxe3+ winning tones of material for Black. 19...Bxc5!! Nisipeanu played this completely unexpected move after long thinking. The objective merits of the exchange on c5 are hard to judge without thorough analysis, but the double exclaim mark attached to the move refers to Black's courage of changing the generally unfavourable course of events by radical and apparently highly risky means. Consolidating the d6-square would leave White free hands on the opposite wing, for instance 19...Rd8 20.Ng5 Bf5 21.Nxf7! Kxf7 22.Qf3 g6 23.g4 and Black is in dire straits. The careless 23...Bxc5? only makes things worse because of the discovered check 24.d6+ , winning the queen.; Or, similarly, 19...Ra6 20.Qd3 h6 21.h4 axb4 22.Ng5 f5 23.Bxb4 Bxb4 24.d6+ Kh8 25.d7 Bxd7 26.Qxd7 and now, in view of the threat Nf7+ followed by Qxf5+, Black has to play 26...Qc8 defending the f5-square and hoping for survival, although his position still looks precarious because of the weakness of the light squares around his king. 20.bxc5 a4 21.Ba2 b4 22.axb4 Qxb4

This is the position Nisipeanu was aiming for. White's pawns look impressive, but because of his delay in development they could become vulnerable, too. In the following phase of the game, the World Champion proved his ability of adapting himself to the new circumstances by returning one of the pawns at the right moment in order to complete his development and maintain an edge. 23.Qd4 Na6 24.c6 Qxd4 25.Nxd4 Nb4 26.Ke2!! Even though we cannot draw any definitive conclusion about the concrete position on the board, I believe that it is safe to consider this to be the key move of the game. The d5-pawn will be lost, but for the first time in the game it will be White who will enjoy the better development, because of his more active king. Finding himself in slight time trouble already, Nisipeanu will fail to find satisfactory ways in what could be a defensible position. One of the merits of White's last move is that it refrains from "winning" a piece with 26.d6 Rd8 27.d7 . Indeed, after 27...Bxd7 28.cxd7 Rxd7 29.Nf3 Nxa2 30.Rxa2 Rd1+ 31.Ne1 Re8 32.Re2 Ra8 White's developing problems would persist and Black would have little trouble forcing a draw, for instance 33.f3 Ra1 34.Kf2 a3 35.Rf1 a2 36.Nc2 Rxf1+ 37.Kxf1 a1Q+ with complete equality. 26...Nxa2 27.Rxa2 Ba6+ 28.Kd2 Bc4 29.Ra3 Bxd5

30.c7! White needs to keep the d8-square under control, preventing Rfd8 in order to ensure the knight's stability in the centre. Besides, this pawn will be a permanent threat for Black. If White will manage to install his knight on d6, Black would be completely paralysed. 30...Be6. The regrouping initiated by this move fails to solve all Black's problems. Capturing the g2 pawn with 30...Bxg2 would have made some sense. Black would probably not be able to sacrifice the exchange for the c-pawn, but in certain cases giving up his bishop and starting a king side counter-attack might be just sufficient for a draw. The presence of the a-pawn would also cause White some loss of time during the process of defending his other wing. However, from a practical point of view it is rather difficult to take such a decision. 31.Nb5 Bd7. This move does not really cross White's plans. More stubborn seems to have been 31...Ra5 32.Rb1 Bd7 33.Nd6 Ra6 when the white king would be too far from the centre yet to ensure the stability of his knight. 32.Nd6 g6. Black decides to activate his king and avoid any back rank problems at the same time. The counterplay initiated by 32...Ra6 33.Rd3 a3 would fail to the simple 34.Nc4 Be6 35.Nxa3. 33.Rc1 Kg7 34.Rc4!? White intends to keep both wings under control. Just as after the opening, Black has to permanently watch the possibility of possible rapid king side attacks. However, the immediate activation of the white king was also possible, for instance 34.Ke3 (Avoiding the d-file in order to prevent ...Ra6, which could be answered now by the simple c8=Q) 34...Kf6 35.Kd4 Ke7 36.Kc5 Ra6 and now the simple 37.Re1+ reduces Black's previous efforts of centralisation to nothing. 34...Ra6 35.Rd4!? Another interesting moment. Topalov probably rejected 35.c8N because of 35...Rd8 when Black could hope to give up one of his rooks for the enemy knights at the right moment and then defend his a4-pawn by placing his bishop on b3, which would lead to a draw. 35...Ra7

36.Ne8+! A simple tactical operation, leading to a very promising double-rook ending. 36...Rxe8 37.Rxd7 With the simple threat of Rd8 37...Raa8. The most stubborn answer. In case of 37...Rc8 White would launch an irresistible attack with 38.Rf3 a3 39.Rdxf7+ Kh6 (39...Kg8 allows 40.Rf8+ when the c-pawn would promote.) 40.Rh3+ Kg5 and now 41.f4+ Kg4 42.Rg3+ followed by Rxh7 leads to mate. 38.Kc3 The decisive centralisation. 38...Kf6 39.Kb4 Ke6 40.Rd4. From practical point of view, this looks like the safest method. White threatens Re3+, followed by the exchange on e8 and Rd8, ensuring the promotion of the pawn. However, the apparently double edged 40.Rad3 would have been sufficient for a win, too after 40...a3 41.Rd8 a2 42.Rxe8+ Rxe8 43.Re3+ Kf6 44.Rxe8 a1Q 45.c8Q and the white king will hide from checks on the eighth or seventh rank of the queen side. 40...Ke5?! This last move in time trouble makes things easier for White. At some moment, it was considered to be the decisive mistake in a difficult position, but apparently other moves did not save the game either. 40...Rec8 would have given White the possibility of displaying impressive rook activity with 41.Re3+ Kf6 42.Rf4+ Kg7 43.Re7 a3 (or 43...Rf8 44.Ka3 followed by Rxa4, with a winning rook ending. Black's king would be just one step too far.) 44.Rfxf7+ Kg8 (44...Kh6 leads to a curious mating attack after 45.Rxh7+ Kg5 46.h4+ Kg4 47.Re4+ Kf5 48.Rhe7!! threatening g4 followed by R4e6 mate.)

45.Rg7+ Kf8 46.Rxh7 Kg8 47.Reg7+ Kf8 48.Rd7 Kg8 49.Rhe7 a2 50.Re1 when the least White will obtain would be a winning rook ending with two extra pawns.; Or if 40...f5 , clearing the f7-square for the king, then 41.Re3+ Kf7 42.Rd7+ Kf8 43.Rxe8+ Kxe8 44.Rxh7 again with an obvious win. 41.Rc4 Rec8 IM Mircea Pavlov suggested 41...Ke6 42.Kc5 Kd7 43.Kb6 Kc8 in order to block the pawn with the king, as generally recommended in the endgame. However, this method would not have saved the game here because of Black's complete passivity. After 44.Re3! suggested by IM Nemeth, Black cannot avoid mate on the eighth rank (either on e8 or d8). Remarkably, Black would have maintained chances to save the game in case of the absence of his a-pawn, which would have allowed starting efficient counterplay based on ...Ra1. 42.Kb5 Kd5 43.Rc2 and being reduced to complete passivity, Black resigned. 1-0. [Click to replay]

Game three was a hard-fought 46-move draw. Commentary to follow.

Nisipeanu,LD (2693) - Topalov,V (2801) [B90]
Match Bucharest ROM (3), 08.04.2006
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e5 7.Nde2 Nbd7 8.Ng3 g6 9.a4 Qc7 10.Qd3 Nc5 11.Qc4 Be6 12.Nd5 Bxd5 13.exd5 Rc8 14.b4 Ncd7 15.Qxc7 Rxc7 16.c4 h5 17.f3 a5 18.bxa5 Bh6 19.Bb6 Nxb6 20.axb6 Rc5 21.Bd3 Be3 22.a5 Bd4 23.Ra3 Rxa5 24.Rxa5 Bc3+ 25.Ke2 Bxa5 26.Rb1 Nd7 27.Ne4 Ke7 28.c5 Nxc5 29.Nxc5 dxc5 30.Ra1 Bxb6 31.Rb1 Bc7 32.Rxb7 Kd6 33.Ra7 Rb8 34.Bc4 f5 35.Kd3 Rb4 36.Ra6+ Bb6 37.Kc3 e4 38.fxe4 fxe4 39.Ra8 Kd7 40.Rg8 Ba5 41.Rg7+ Kc8 42.Rg8+ Kc7 43.Ra8 Ra4+ 44.Kb3 Rb4+ 45.Kc3 Ra4+ 46.Kb3 ½-½.


A Legendary History

The very name "Romania" reminds us that ancient Rome exercised a decisive influence on this country and on the monuments of that era. There are feudal fortresses, Byzantine decorated monasteries and adorned village houses to be admired, while "Dracula's" castle is only one among many other fascinating castles and palaces.

The Ateneu Român (Romanian Athenaeum)

Living Cultural Traditions

You can see folk festivals in Transylvania that are genuine expressions of local culture, not merely staged for visitors. When you buy local woodcarvings or pottery you buy things made to give pleasure while in use, not just valueless souvenirs.

One of the many extraordinary aspects of this country is its vibrant rural culture. For decades the outside world heard little about it. Not that Romania's heritage is simply one of folk art! Bucharest used to be called the "Little Paris", and with good reason, too!

Today first class opera and concert halls, permanent art exibitions, like that of the sculpturer Brancusi, fine museums and galleries are all specific for Romania's new sophisticated artistic sensitivity.

Modern Facilities and Affordable Prices

Better still this is all backed up by the comfort of a widening range of hotels and restaurants, good domestic transportation by air, train and bus, and surprisingly low prices. Going to the opera is quite affordable, let alone local dishes and wines. Romania is fun to visit. Come and see for yourself.

Central Library, Revolution Square

Things to do while in Romania

The choice of activities and places to visit is extensive. You can ski in traditional or purpose-built mountain resorts or laze in the hot sun on the beaches at the Black Sea, comparable to those on the Mediterranean.

You can hike through unspoilt landscapes, where rivers run clear, or go boating in the 5,640 sq km (2,200 sq miles) water wilderness of the Danube Delta. Out of this total surface 4,340 sq km (1,695 sq miles) are to be found in Romania. There one can see pelicans and other endangered birds among floating iles overgrown with reeds. One can also enjoy the architecture, museums and galleries of the cities.

The National Theatre in Bucharest

The Danube Delta – a living paradise

At the end of the great river Danube's 2,860 km (1788 miles) journey from the Black Forest mountains in Germany to Romania's Black Sea coast a natural paradise spreads out. Over countless centuries the silt brought down by the river has enlarged the Delta into a network of channels, lakes, reed isles, tropical woods, pastures and sand dunes that now cover nearly 5,640 sq km (2,200 sq miles).

This amazing wetland shelters over 300 species of birds, countless species of fish from royal sturgeon to carp and perch, while its 1,150 kinds of plants range from sinuous lianas in oak forests to water lilies. It is no wonder that UNESCO designated the Delta a "Reservation of the Biosphere".

The People's Palace in Bucharest, now the parliament building

The Monasteries in Bucovina

The decorated monasteries are the major attraction in Bucovina because of the vivid frescoes on their churches. The latter depict Biblical and other religious scenes, designed in segments almost like strip cartoons to stir the imagination of the local people and so educate them in the Orthodox spirit. The churches stand in the centre of the monastery complex and all of them have high pitched roofs and little sunlight comes inside. There are five main monasteries of this kind.

The Bran Dracula's Castle and the Royal Resort of Sinaia

A trip to take from Brasov is to the castle of Bran, supposed to have been the home of Prince Vlad Tepes, who inspired Dracula's legend. Also, don't miss the castle of Peles, fancifully built in 1883 at the foot of a mountain side for King Carol I, in Sinaia. This resort was first made popular by the King and it is worth a stay either in summer for its glorious mountain scenery, hiking and riding, or in winter for skiing, not to mention health cures.

Bran Castle in Transylvania, the location for the Dracula legend

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