GM Rogers on Sofia: Topalov Strikes Back
By GM Ian Rogers   
May 4, 2010
Topalov vs. Anand, Photo Cathy Rogers

The World Championship match between Viswanathan Anand and Veselin Topalov is turning into a classic after a week when challenger Topalov eliminated his deficit and put the defending World Champion under enormous pressure.

When CLO last reported, Anand was in the ascendancy and crowds (or lack of them) at the Military Club in the Bulgarian capital reflected the local hero's struggles; most days only 50-70 of the 250 seats - available at the bargain price of 10 Lev (about US $7) - have been taken.

However Topalov has fought his way back into the match.

Despite playing with Black in games 6 and 7 - a measure introduced to prevent the same player having White after every rest day - Topalov had slightly the better of the draw in game 6 and launched a terrific prepared assault in game 7.

On Tuesday night Topalov went one better, breaking through for his first win since day one in game 8.

Before the game, the security around the match suddenly tightened, with journalists being told that their short post-game interviews with Anand in the corridors of the Military Club were no longer to be permitted. Yet it is still not clear that the announced mobile phone blocker has been turned on, since mobiles work perfectly well in the press room and Topalov's manager Silvio Danailov still walks around the Military Club with a mobile phone seemingly surgically attached to his ear.

One could argue that Anand lost game 8 through pessimism more than anything else; he did not believe that he could hold a difficult ending and therefore failed to find (or perhaps failed to look for) the tricky resource, which would have saved the game.

After the game Anand looked surprisingly upbeat; he even canvassed the possibility that the endgame was simply drawn and that he had stuffed up. However his statement that "Obviously 22...f4 was wrong," would have been tremendously encouraging for Topalov, who until games seven and eight might have believed that Anand's home preparation was all-seeing and all-knowing.

Suddenly the score is back at 4-4 and it is Anand who is looking shaky. Suddenly the five year age difference between the players starts to look relevant; one would expect Topalov, 35, to finish more strongly than Anand, 40.

The free day on Wednesday will come as a relief for the Indian, who desperately needs to at least put pressure on Topalov with White in game 9 to reverse the momentum of the match.

It's time for Anand to make a change.

He could drop the Mr. Nice Guy approach which has seen him allow a triple repetition in all the recent drawn games, rather than embarrass Topalov by forcing the Bulgarian to offer a draw through the arbiter as he did in game 3. (Topalov had declared pre-match that he would not offer or accept any draws, presumably to attempt to tire out the older man.)

And, though chessplayers tend not to be superstitious, there's no point in tempting fate after the game 8 loss.

Perhaps Anand will not change his opening for game 9 - 1.d4 in every game to date - nor his sponsor NIIT's blue shirt, but, having used and abandoned plenty of lucky pens in my day, I know when a new writing implement is needed.

Otherwise Anand may have to look himself in the mirror and say "I have to take responsibility for the horrible move which lost game 8. And therefore... maybe it could happen again..."

Sofia World Championship
Game 5
White: V.Topalov
Black: V.Anand
So far both players have been following their preparation in the boring Slav Defence line that Anand took up in game 3 to shut down Topalov.
In these lines, even the slightest inaccuracy can end any hopes of an advantage. Perhaps Topalov's team thought that White's bishop pair would guarantee a long term advantage, but there are tactical obstacles to overcome first. 22.Rd1! was best.
"A very strong move; I missed this," admitted Topalov.
23.Bxe6 Rc2 and 24.Nxe6 Bf7 25.Nd4 Bxb3 26.Nxb3 Rc2 both work out well for Black.
23...Nxg6 24.g3 Ne5 25.f4 Nc6 26.Bc3 Bb4!
Topalov's winning chances are virtually ended with the elimination of his dark squared bishop and the game was drawn 18 moves later.

Sofia World Championship
Game 6
White: V.Anand
Black: V.Topalov
Opening: Catalan
Anand has succeeded in exchanging queens yet again, but the resulting position is far from a stereotypical endgame.
The start of a remarkable World Championship record sequence of 13 consecutive knight moves.
22...Bf5 23.N7c5 Bb6 24.Nb7 Bd7 25.Nf4 Rab8 26.Nd6 Re5 27.Nc8 Ba5 28.Nd3 Re8 29.Na7 Bb6 30.Nc6 Rb7
"After 30...Bxc6 31.Rxc6 Rxe2 White has plenty of compensation for the pawn," said Anand, who then refuted any theories of him being an all-seeing, all-knowing Chess God by adding "I thought I'd just work it out when I got there."
31.Ncb4 a5 32.Nd5 a4
"Now I realized it had slipped away," said Anand.
33.Nxb6 Rxb6 34.Nc5 Bf5 35.Rd2 Rc6! 36.b4 axb3 37.axb3 b4 38.Rxd4 Rxe2 39.Rxb4 Bh3 40.Rbc4 Rd6 41.Re4 Rb2 42.Ree1!
Avoiding any back rank tricks.
42...Rdd2 43.Ne4 Rd4 44.Nc5 Rdd2 45.Ne4 Rd3
The last trap; if Anand incautiously plays 46.Nc5? then 46...Rf3! is very strong, e.g. 47.Ne4 f5 and White's position collapses.
46.Rb1! Rdxb3 47.Nd2! Rb4 48.f3
and a draw was agreed 10 moves later.

Sofia World Championship
Game 7
White: V.Anand
Black: V.Topalov
Opening: Catalan

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 Bb4+
The first new try given that 4...dxc4 has not worked out well for Topalov to date.
5.Bd2 Be7 6.Bg2 0-0 7.0-0 c6 8.Bf4
8.Qc2 is safer, for reasons that become apparent.
8...dxc4 9.Ne5
An ingenious exchange sacrifice, first played by Vassily Ivanchuk at the Nice exhibition tournament earlier this year.
10.Nxc6 Nxc6 11.Bxc6 Bd7!
However this is Topalov's own work - or rather the work of his second Ivan Cheparinov, as Topalov freely admitted after the game.
Ivanchuk had played 11...Ba6, with the idea of later setting up a battery along the long diagonal (after 12.Bxa8 Qxa8) involving ...Qc6 and ...Bb7. Topalov has other ideas for his light-squared bishop.
12.Bxa8 Qxa8 13.f3 Nd5 14.Bd2 e5! 15.e4 Bh3!
"Maybe I shouldn't have ended up here," was Anand's understated comment after the game. Later he admitted to an ‘Oh, no!' moment, - the sinking feeling that comes when you  realize you have walked into some major home preparation - but Anand soon calmed his nerves and recovered his bearings.
16.exd5 Bxf1 17.Qxf1 exd4 18.a4!
The only chance for freedom; without this move White's pieces on the queenside may never emerge.
18...Qxd5  19.axb5 Qxb5 20.Rxa7 Re8 21.Kh1!
Finally causing Topalov to start thinking; he had only used three minutes to this point to Anand's hour. "I'm not sure if this is best," admitted Anand, but, if 21.Kg2 was what Topalov had expected, Anand has already achieved something in forcing Topalov onto his own resources. In fact 21.Kh1 seems good enough to hold the game, so it is no worse than 21.Kg2, and Anand's move has the merit of not allowing a later ...Re2 to happen with check.
Playing for a win. 21...Qxb2 22.Qe1! h6 23.Rxe7 would lead to a draw.
22.Rc7 d3 23.Bc3 Bd6 24.Ra7 h6
Played after further cogitation. "Luckily after 24...Qh5 25.Nd2 Bxg3 I have 26.Qg1!," said Anand.
The obvious move, but it meets a very nasty reply. 25.Qh3, as advocated by Kasparov, keeps White out of danger and might even allow him to play for an advantage.
25...Bb4! 26.Ra1!
Remarkably, after 26.Ne4 Bxc3 27.bxc3 f5 28.Nd6 Qb6! 29.Rxg7+ Kxg7 30.Nxe8+ Kf7, White is helpless in the resulting queen endgame.
26...Bxc3 27.bxc3 Re2 28.Rd1 Qa4 29.Ne4 Qc2
30.Rc1! Rxh2+ 31.Kg1 Rg2+ 32.Qxg2 Qxc1+ 33.Qf1
Now Topalov could and should force a draw with 33...d2 34.Nxd2 Qxd2 35.Qxc4. Instead, inexplicably, Topalov allows Anand to keep the game going.
33...Qe3+ 34.Qf2 Qc1+ 35.Qf1 Qe3+ 36.Kg2 f5 37.Nf2 Kh7 38.Qb1 Qe6 39.Qb5
This endgame is probably not winning for White as his dream of exchanging queens on the e4 square probably cannot be realized.
Many small improvements for White have been offered: Anand's suggested 39.Qb7, Karpov wanted to try 42.Qc5 and, most seriously, Shipov examined 42.Qa4 in great depth.
While it is true that preventing ...d2 gives White more chances, no one has yet demonstrated a clear win against best defense.
39...g5 40.g4 fxg4 41.fxg4 Kg6 42.Qb7 d2!
Now Anand's knight is tied down and he can make no progress, a fact he accepted 15 moves later.

Sofia World Championship
Game 8
White: V.Topalov
Black: V.Anand
As he had done in his two previous games with Black, Anand had headed into an endgame straight out of the opening but this time Topalov secured a serious initiative. Anand managed to give up a pawn to reach an opposite colored bishop endgame and for 20 moves Topalov had managed to make little progress, though he had constant vague threats.
Then something extraordinary happened...
"Of course this is a blunder," said Anand, "but I didn't see a clear draw. White can create two passed pawns and then come over to the queenside."
Topalov also thought that the endgame was winning -although he admitted to not being 100% sure - yet in fact the position appears to be a clear draw!
Had Anand studied ‘The Lazy Player's Guide to the Endgame' he would have known that king's belong in front of passed pawns and played
54...Ke8! 55.g4 Kd7 56.f4 Bd3 57.f5 exf5 58.gxf5
and now the move that probably neither player foresaw...
58...h6+! 59.Kf6 Bc2
The only way for White to untangle and push the f-pawn is
60.Bh2 Bd3 61.Ke5 but after 61...h5! 62.f6 Bc4 63.Kd4 Bf7 64.Kc5 h4 65.Kb6 Bd5 66.b4 h3
Black is hanging on, because the thematic break
67.b5 axb5 68.f7? Bxf7 69.Kxb7? actually loses after 69...b4.
Instead after
55.Kh6 Kg8 56.g4!
Anand realized that he had allowed a simple win and resigned. He understood that after 56...Bd7 47.g5 Be8 everything would be fine for Black were it not for 48.Bg7! Now Black has run out of moves so he must allow White to play 49.g6, whereupon the White king reaches e7 and wins the bishop.