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    Entries in Veselin Topalov (48)

    Friday
    Jun192015

    Norway Chess 2015, Round 3: Nakamura, Topalov Win, Lead

    Hikaru Nakamura has enjoyed a very good career score against Fabiano Caruana, and although Caruana made up some ground by beating Nakamura in St. Louis last year Nakamura struck back today against his countryman. It was a strange win, however, as Caruana was doing just fine and had reached an equal rook ending that seemed headed for a reasonably quick and straightforward draw. Near the end of the first time control, things got out of hand for the Italian-American (and in favor of the American who spends more time in Italy thanks to his Italian girlfriend) when he hit upon the dubious 38...b5 and the outright terrible 40...g5. Both moves weakened Black's structure, and the latter also invited White's rook in to cause lethal damage.

    That put Nakamura at 2.5/3 (and to #2 in the live ratings), the same score enjoyed by Veselin Topalov (now the world's #3). Topalov won with great ease against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave on the black side of a Meran Semi-Slav, thanks to MVL's choosing a mistaken tactical idea starting with 20.Bd2. That move may not have been so bad in itself, but the plan to go for Nd5 and Ba5 failed completely. Two moves later, Black was winning, and White resigned after a further six moves were played.

    The remaining games were drawn, and that left Anish Giri alone in third place with 2/3. He was completely lost to Magnus Carlsen, whose lucklessness against Giri is a source of endless mirth to the young Dutchman. The only positive for Carlsen is that it wasn't a third straight loss.

    Levon Aronian was very happy with his position out of the opening against Jon Ludwig Hammer, but to his dismay Hammer played very well after that and managed to hold the game, with some effort. Some, but especially after 34.Re4 h5!, it wasn't too tough to save the game. White's rook was stuck for the rest of the game.

    Finally, Viswanathan Anand enjoyed an advantage against Alexander Grischuk much of the way, but didn't manage to convert it into anything substantial. Anand has been getting good positions, but his opponents have been slipping away.

    Tournament site here, games here (but without notes today).

    Here are the round 4 pairings:

    • Grischuk (1) - Hammer (1)
    • Topalov (2.5) - Aronian (1)
    • Caruana (1.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (1.5)
    • Giri (2) - Nakamura (2.5)
    • Anand (1.5) - Carlsen (.5)

    Friday
    Jan302015

    Gibraltar, Round 4: Four Perfect Scores, Plus Topalov's Master Class

    The ranks of the perfect are dwindling in the Masters section of the Gibraltar Chess Festival, and now there are just four. Hikaru Nakamura leads the way after a powerful victory over Nils Grandelius, Reinier Vazquez [sic] Igarza upset Maxim Rodshtein, Wei Yi defeated his countrywoman Ju Wenjun and Baskaran Adhiban beat former women's world champion Antoaneta Stefanova to complete the quartet. There is plenty of competition in the next score group, half a point back, including Veselin Topalov, Peter Svidler, Yu Yangyi, Pentala Harikrishna, current women's world champion and women's #1 Hou Yifan, and American player Aleksandr Lenderman is there too.

    All the top boards can be replayed here, and I'll leave you to replay and analyze them as you see fit. Instead, I'll invite you to have a look at Veselin Topalov's "Master Class", filmed after the round, which sees him presenting a nice and instructive old victory against Alexei Shirov from Linares 2004. Afterwards he took a lot of questions from the audience and from host GM Stuart Conquest as well, so it's an interesting hour all from start to finish. Here it is - enjoy:

    Sunday
    Aug312014

    Sinquefield Cup, Round 5: Caruana 5-0 (Updated)

    Prior to this round Fabiano Caruana was 0-3 against Hikaru Nakamura in decisive games played with a classical time control, but that didn't stop the golden boy of the Sinquefield Cup. He outplayed his opponent with the black pieces, and while he could have won a little more easily it was still a convincing victory overall, and he now enjoys a remarkable 5-0 score at the halfway point.

    Two other players won today, and share second place. Magnus Carlsen slowly ground out a win in a rook ending against Levon Aronian (winning, like Caruana, with Black) while Veselin Topalov won on the white side of a Najdorf against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Both players looked very good in winning, and as both Carlsen and Topalov are very dangerous once their confidence levels go up it's too soon to hand first prize to Caruana. On the other hand, Caruana will have White against both players in the second cycle, making it that much more difficult for them to catch up.

    This is especially so with tomorrow's rest day, which might serve to break Caruana's rhythm a bit. So far, however, this is one of the great starts in tournament chess history, going 5-0 against the world's #1 and #2 (former #2 now) and three other players in the top ten.

    Round 6 pairings (Tuesday): Nakamura (1.5) - Aronian (1.5), Caruana (5) - Topalov (2.5), Carlsen (2.5) - Vachier-Lagrave (2)

    Games later.

     UPDATE: Games here. I've annotated Nakamura-Caruana in some detail and offered a brief explanatory note at the end of Topalov vs. Vachier-Lagrave.

    Monday
    Aug252014

    Starting Wednesday: The 2014 Sinquefield Cup

    The opening ceremonies and such begin tomorrow (Tuesday), but the real action begins on Wednesday. It's a double round-robin with six great players:

    • Magnus Carlsen
    • Levon Aronian
    • Fabiano Caruana
    • Hikaru Nakamura
    • Veselin Topalov
    • Maxime Vachier-Lagrave

    The average rating is over 2800! More info about the Sinquefield Cup here.

    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