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    Entries in Veselin Topalov (14)

    Monday
    Jun092014

    Norway Chess, Round 6: Four Draws and a Kramnik Loss

    To Veselin Topalov, naturally. No matter what Vladimir Kramnik says in this interview pretending that he isn't affected by Topalov over the board, his fairly poor results against him since their world championship match tell a different story. Kramnik used to own him, but now, no matter how bad Topalov's form is in any given event, he is even looking like a favorite against him.

    With the loss, the Norway Chess tournament now has three co-leaders: Kramnik, Magnus Carlsen (who drew a Berlin ending with Black against Sergey Karjakin), and Fabiano Caruana (who drew with Black against Simen Agdestein). Their draws were "clean" - no one had a serious advantage at any point, and the same goes for the other two draws. Levon Aronian had White against Anish Giri, but ultimately had the (not-too-difficult) task of forcing a draw while a pawn down. Finally, Alexander Grischuk and Peter Svidler drew quickly.

    The games are here (without notes), and tomorrow's round 7 pairings follow:

    • Svidler (2.5) - Agdestein (3)
    • Carlsen (3.5) - Grischuk (3)
    • Giri (3) - Karjakin (3)
    • Kramnik (3.5) - Aronian (2.5)
    • Caruana (3.5) - Topalov (2.5)

    Wednesday
    Mar192014

    Candidates 2014, Round 6: Anand Still Leads; Kramnik and Svidler Lose

    What was looking like a four-man race has transformed significantly after today's sixth round at the Candidates' tournament. It seemed like a prime opportunity for the chase pack to catch the leader, Viswanathan Anand, after he failed to achieve anything with White in a Berlin ending against Sergey Karjakin, but as it turned out all three of his closest pursuers stumbled.

    The most interesting game from a psychological perspective was the renewed hatefest between Veselin Topalov and Vladimir Kramnik, going back to the "Toiletgate" controversy from their world championship match back in 2006. Whether this affected either man's play for better or worse I don't know, but Kramnik played pretty badly in this game. His plan with ...f7-f5-f4 wasn't very good and was criticized by Topalov, the commentators and the computers, and 13...a5 seems to have been inaccurate as well. White won a pawn with the tactical sequence starting with 19.Nxd5, and Kramnik didn't manage to put up much resistance after that. As a result Topalov jumped and Kramnik fell to 50% overall in the tournament.

    The same happened with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Peter Svidler. Svidler surprised Mamedyarov with the Dutch, and came out of the opening smelling like a rose. If he had played 22...Qd7 he would have been comfortably better, but instead made three errors in a row, culminating in the odd sac/blunder 24...h6, after which he was lost. Svidler's resignation might raise some eyebrows for those looking at the computer's evaluation, but White's winning method is pretty simple; it just takes a lot of moves to finish the job.

    Finally, Levon Aronian was winning against Dmitry Andreikin, but let his opponent slip out with a draw. 28.Bxe4! was an outright winner, while 31.Bxe4 Rxd2 32.Ra7 was probably a technical win. By move 38 it wasn't quite as clear, but what does seem clear is that 38.Bxe6 was an error. White can't simultaneously anchor his kingside while keeping the a-pawn protected, and Black's counterplay is in time in case White's king heads for the queenside.

    Today's games (with my comments) are here. Tomorrow is a rest day, and on Friday the first cycle concludes with the following pairings (player scores in parentheses):

    • Karjakin (2.5) - Aronian (3.5)
    • Svidler (3) - Anand (4)
    • Kramnik (3) - Mamedyarov (3)
    • Andreikin (2) - Topalov (3)

    Thursday
    Jul042013

    Beijing Grand Prix, Round 1: Topalov Beats Gelfand

    It's only round 1, but Veselin Topalov must be very happy to beat one of his main competitors, Boris Gelfand, and with the black pieces too. It's a nice way for him to start his final grand prix event of the current cycle.

    Other round 1 results in Beijing: Karjakin won with Black against Giri, Grischuk won with Black against Kamsky (so much for the fourth of July!), and the other three games (Morozevich-Wang Yue, Ivanchuk-Wang Hao and Leko-Mamedyarov) were drawn.

    Saturday
    May252013

    Thessaloniki Grand Prix, Round 4: Seven Lead!

    Two players won today in round 4 of the FIDE Grand Prix in Thessaloniki, Veselin Topalov and Leinier Dominguez, and as a result they share the lead with five others going into the first rest day.

    Topalov blitzed Vassily Ivanchuk off the board in just 21 moves, but this was primarily Ivanchuk imploding rather than a collapse due to his opponent's heavy pressure. Topalov had a small initiative after 17.dxe6, but it shouldn't have been anything too worrisome after 17...Nxe6 18.Qa4+ Kf8. Black's king isn't where it wants to be, but White's kingside structure isn't a dream come true either. Instead, Ivanchuk played one bad move after another, and his reward was a lost piece and a terrible king.

    Dominguez beat Peter Svidler after the latter failed to preserve his king in a queen and rook ending. Svidler needed to play the overtly passive 26...Qf8 rather than the more active-looking 26...Qb7. The question is which White piece to contain, and it turned out that it was more important to keep White's queen off e8 than White's rook from a7. 29.f5 left Svidler in trouble, but the game wasn't decided until Black played the natural but erroneous 33...Kh8. Understandably, Black wanted to avoid allowing Qxe6 to come with check; the more important detail was that Black needed to keep extra control over f7. Thus after 33...Kh8 34.f6 White threatens 35.Ra8+ Qxa8 36.Qxg7#. If Black played 34...Rc8, then 35.f7 wins right away thanks to the threat of 36.Qh5#. This wouldn't be a factor had Black played 33...Kg8, as 34.f6 Rc8 35.f7+ just blunders the pawn: 35...Qxf7. Black tried 34...Rc7 instead, but after 35.Rf1 (threatening to take on g7 and continue 37.Rf8+, mating) 35...Rf7 36.Rf3 White is mating; the only question is how much material Black wants to throw into the wood chipper to delay it by a few moves.

    Of the four draws, I'll take note of two. Kamsky-Ponomariov was even throughout, except for one fascinating moment right after the first time control. Kamsky should have played 42.Rxc5, when he should be able to neutralize Ponomariov's pressure after 42...Rxe4 43.Qb1 (e.g. 43...Re2 44.Qf1, or 43...Rd4 44.Rd5 Rxc4 45.Rd8+ Kh8 46.Qb2 etc.). Instead he played 42.Nf6+, but after 42...Qxf6 43.Rxc5 he was fortunate that Ponomariov missed 43...Qe7, which basically wins on the spot. Black threatens White's rook, and also threatens 44...Qe1+ 45.Kg2 Re2, when White cannot save his queen and cover the mate threat starting with ...Qxf2+. 44.Rc6! is the best try, aiming to meet 44...Qe1+ 45.Kg2 Re2 with 46.Rxg6+! If Black takes the rook, White has perpetual check; if he tries instead 46...Kf8? White wins with 47.Qf5.

    Fortunately for Black in this variation, but unfortunately for Ponomariov, who must rue the missed opportunity, Black can improve with 44...Qb7! Now the rook sac is in vain: 45.Rxg6+ fxg6 46.Qxg6+ Qg7, forces a queen trade. If the rook retreats, however, e.g. 45.Rc5, then Black forces a speedy mate with 45...Re1+ 46.Kh2 Qf3. Instead of the winning 43...Qe7, Ponomariov instead returned the queen to f3, and Kamsky managed to hold starting with 44.Qd2.

    The other especially noteworthy draw was the mind-boggling battle between Morozevich and Nakamura. Rather than give any hints or clues about it, I'll leave it to you to replay, analyze and simply enjoy it on your own. I'll note only that it was a remarkably well-played game considering its wildness.

    Tomorrow (Sunday) is a rest day, and on Monday round 5 will occur with these pairings:

    • Ponomariov (2) - Grischuk (2.5)
    • Ivanchuk (.5) - Kamsky (2.5)
    • Svidler (1.5) - Topalov (2.5)
    • Kasimdzhanov (2.5) - Dominguez (2.5)
    • Nakamura (1) - Caruana (2.5)
    • Bacrot (1.5) - Morozevich (2.5)

    Tuesday
    Apr302013

    Topalov On Top At Zug; Zugs Up In The New Rating List

    He's baaaaack! Veselin Topalov closed out the Grand Prix tournament in Zug, Switzerland in emphatic fashion, Actually, that may overstate things a bit. He won today (in what was the only decisive game of the round) almost in self-defense against Sergey Karjakin. Topalov needed only a draw to clinch clear first (a loss combined with a win by Hikaru Nakamura would leave them tied for first), but Karjakin got ambitious after coming out of the opening with an edge. He was justified in that ambition, but on this occasion his reach exceeded his grasp, and he was soon punished. Thus Topalov finished with a very impressive +5 score (and a 2929 TPR), gained 22 rating points and jumped up to #4 on the brand new rating list, not too far below the 2800 barrier he had traversed in the mid '00s.

    Even more good news for Topalov is that he leads in the overall Grand Prix standings. He has played in two of the three Grand Prix events held so far, and in addition to his clear first in Zug he tied for first (with Boris Gelfand and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the other, in London last year). There will be three more such tournaments in the current series, with each player participating in four of them. The overall winner and runner-up will receive automatic berths into the next Candidates' event, so while plenty of time remains his chances are looking extremely good at the moment. Of course, if he keeps playing like this, he may manage to qualify by rating even if somehow two players manage to squeak past him by the end of the series.

    Final Standings:

    1. Topalov 8 (out of 11)
    2. Nakamura 6.5
    3-4. Ponomariov, Caruana 6
    5-6. Kamsky, Morozevich 5.5
    7-9. Giri, Leko, Karjakin 5
    10-12. Radjabov, Mamedyarov, Kasimdzhanov 4.5

    Monday
    Apr292013

    Zug Grand Prix, Rounds 9 & 10: Lots Of Action; Topalov Leads

    I'm a bit too tired to offer a substantive report on the goings-on at the FIDE Grand Prix in Zug, Switzerland; so I'll confine myself to "just the facts" comments and a few links. The last two rounds have been something of a bloodbath with three decisive games (of six) in round nine and four of six in round 10. This is at least partially due to a pretty fair number of blunders.

    The most important decisive games in round 9 were Kamsky-Caruana (a well-played win for Caruana [send him back!] in a Closed Ruy and Nakamura-Morozevich (in which Morozevich self-destructed, going from much better to worse to dead lost and resigning in a game of just 34 moves; that was his third consecutive loss). After the round Topalov (who drew with Mamedyarov) still led, but by just half a point over Caruana; Ponomariov, Karjakin and Nakamura were a further half a point behind. (For further, fuller reports on the round there are plenty of options including the official site and TWIC.)

    So what pairing headlined the tenth round? Caruana-Topalov, naturally. The played a Byrne Attack Najdorf that saw Topalov eschew the eponymous Topalov Variation (8...h5) with one featuring an eventual ...a5. That's not the most common approach in the Byrne Attack, and the players agreed afterwards that White had some advantage. (Though they seemed to differ about how large the advantage one - Caruana seemed more sanguine.) Topalov played the second half of the game much more accurately and incisively than Caruana, however, and managed to grind out the full point. He thus increased his lead over the field, but only to a full point rather than a point and a half. That's because Nakamura won his second straight game, and even more quickly than in round 9. Nakamura defeated Mamedyarov in just 22 moves. (There is some feeling that Mamedyarov may have resigned prematurely, but his position was clearly inferior in any case.)

    Standings After Round 10:

    1. Topalov 7
    2. Nakamura 6
    3-4. Ponomariov, Caruana 5.5
    5-7. Kamsky, Karjakin, Morozevich 5
    8-9. Giri, Leko 4.5
    10-12. Radjabov, Mamedyarov, Kasimdzhanov 4

    Final Round Pairings:

    • Leko - Kasimdzhanov
    • Kamsky - Giri
    • Topalov - Karjakin
    • Nakamura - Caruana
    • Radjabov - Mamedyarov
    • Ponomariov - Morozevich

    Saturday
    Apr202013

    Zug Grand Prix, Round 2: Champions' Day!

    Maybe their FIDE World Championship titles don't rank as high as those associated with the historical lineage through Kasparov, but Veselin Topalov, Ruslan Ponomariov and Rustam Kasimdzhanov are all great players capable of taking down any opponent on a given day. In round 2 of the Grand Prix in Zug, they and only they were successful in bringing home the full point - though not without some trouble.

    Topalov in particular was at times in serious trouble against Peter Leko, but the latter's time trouble errors on moves 39 and 40 brought Topalov from much worse to much better. Leko erred a final time, in the second time control, and that left Veselin victorious.

    Kasimdzhanov likewise had some anxious moments in his game before winning. Like Topalov, Kasimdzhanov had the white pieces but wound up outfoxed in the complications. I don't know if Kamsky ever had a serious advantage, but he was the one pressing through most of the middlegame. The imitation also carried over in the negative way too, though: like Leko, Kamsky went awry in time trouble, and Kasimdzhanov enjoyed a fairly easy technical task in the second time control.

    The third winner was Ponomariov, who showed Fabiano Caruana and all watching the considerable technical prowess that allowed him to become the FIDE World Champion back in 2002 as a mere 18-year-old.

    In other games, Hikaru Nakamura (lightly) pressed Anish Giri for a long time, but only because of the rule against draw offers. (As an editorial note: when a player as renowned for his ferocious fighting spirit as Hikaru Nakamura says that such a rule is dumb, as he did in the post-game press conference, it might at least incline one to suspect that it really is dumb, and that other critics of the rule aren't necessarily objecting because they pine for the days of the 30-move draw. In fact, in that same press conference Nakamura offered his general approval of the idea of not having draw offers before, say, move 40.)

    Finally, Alexander Morozevich and Teimour Radjabov both enjoyed some advantage on the white side of the Gruenfeld against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Sergei Karjakin, respectively, but little slips let their opponents reach safety.

    Morozevich, Ponomariov and Topalov are the early leaders with 1.5/2; here are the round 3 pairings:

    • Mamedyarov - Kasimdzhanov
    • Caruana - Morozevich
    • Karjakin - Ponomariov
    • Giri - Radjabov
    • Leko - Nakamura
    • Kamsky - Topalov

    Wednesday
    Oct032012

    London Grand Prix: Gelfand, Mamedyarov and Topalov Tie For First

    The first leg of the current FIDE Grand Prix has come to an end, with three players sharing first (no tiebreaks) in the inaugural leg in London. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov came into the round in clear first, but whether due to a lack of ambition or simply good prep from Peter Leko he got nothing with the white pieces and finished quickly (in terms of time) with a 41-move draw.

    That gave Boris Gelfand, Veselin Topalov and Alexander Grischuk the chance to catch him in a tie for first, if they could win in the last round, and two of them did. Grischuk had White against Hikaru Nakamura, but despite that and the latter's generally poor form in the tournament he held a draw without much trouble. Nakamura repeated a relatively minor line of the Dragon he used as a surprise weapon against Anish Giri in Wijk aan Zee earlier this year. Grischuk was probably prepared and varied first, but may have been surprised anew by Nakamura's 18...Rab8 (18...b4 is usual). Grischuk didn't get much, and after 24.Bxg7 (the engine claims that 24.axb4 may offer White a very small edge...maybe) it was equal and the players were satisfied with an unforced (but reasonable) draw by repetition.

    Veselin Topalov won a Carlsen-like game. Anish Giri had a very small pull with White in a Queen's Gambit Declined sideline, but it looked for all the world like it was heading for a quick draw. It was an even ending, but Giri started to drift. His 30th and 31st moves weren't so bad, but they sowed the seeds of his later troubles. The bishop remained shut out on a5 for a long time, while 31.h4 allowed Topalov to break up the kingside and eventually create a pair of central passers. For whatever reason, Giri was badly outplayed in the endgame, and Topalov won (or at least tied for first) in a major event for the first time in some years.

    Another player who had gone quite some time without winning a round-robin event was Boris Gelfand, but with an impressive win over Rustam Kasimdzhanov, he did it. Generally speaking, it was a convincing victory, but as he admitted after the game he "blundered" 14...Bc6. (Linguistic note: there's a strange trend I've only noticed over the past year or so, but it seems to be everywhere now, and that's using the word "blundered" as a synonym for "overlooked". That isn't what the word means!) Fortunately for him, Kasimdzhanov "blundered" it too, and Gelfand went on to win in style. Kasimdzhanov blundered (correct usage!) into a forced mate at the end, but even without the helpmate White's win was routine.

    Final Standings:

    1-3. Topalov, Gelfand, Mamedyarov 7
    4. Grischuk 6.5
    5. Leko 6
    6. Wang Hao 5.5
    7-8. Ivanchuk, Adams 5
    9-10. Kasimdzhanov, Dominguez 4.5
    11-12. Giri, Nakamura 4

    Friday
    Sep072012

    Olympiad, Round 10 Game of the Day

    It's not the game of the day in my opinion, as its significance for the medal standings at the Olympiad was nil, but Rustam Kasimdzhanov's quick and overpowering win over Veselin Topalov was an impressive and noteworthy game. So consider it noted, and have a look at IM Andrew Martin's quick presentation (it's mostly a theoretical overview of the variation, with bonus coverage of a game Tregubov-Savchenko, but that's largely because Topalov fell apart so quickly!) here (near the bottom of the page).

    Sunday
    Jun102012

    Other Events: Vallejo Wins Rapid Match vs. Topalov; Karpov-Seirawan Game 1 is Drawn

    The 6-game rapid match between Francisco Vallejo Pons and former FIDE world champion Veselin Topalov finished today in a 3.5-2.5 victory for the Spaniard. Vallejo won game 5 with the white pieces to clinch overall victory. Topalov won the last game after Vallejo blundered at the end of a long defense, but it wasn't enough to save the match. Vallejo certainly isn't a bad player, but whatever Topalov had going for him in the mid-2000s still seems to be gone, long gone. I haven't rooted for Topalov since "Toiletgate", but while I admit to feelings of schadenfreude it's still a pity to see such a great player become a mere shadow of his former self.

    Meanwhile, as one match featuring a former world champion (of sorts) finishes, another match with a former world champion begins. The tripartite classical/rapid/blitz match between Anatoly Karpov (he's the former world champion, for the younger internet crowd) and Yasser Seirawan started earlier today in St. Louis, and game 1 was a long and hard-fought draw. Karpov had White in a 4...Bg4 Slav, and for a while had a very slight edge. At a certain point he was a bit careless, however, and then it was Seirawan's turn to torture him for a few hours. Karpov eventually lost a pawn, but defended well despite a permanent time shortage. They'll play a second classical game tomorrow, and the next day things will start speeding up.