Alex's Letter from Elista: Part II.
By Alexander Onischuk   
November 11, 2006
Topalov on a free day in highly supervised target practice.

 The fifth game started like any other. After some preparation and lunch it was 2:30 PM and I took a nap. When I came downstairs at 5 PM I was surprised to see Veselin in "civil clothes". My first thought was that it was some short draw, but Veselin told me about what happened. Kramnik did not play the game.

I will not describe the scandal all over again, most of the facts are known. After coming back to the US and reading some reviews and talking about the issue with my colleagues, I realized that I'm one of the not so many supporters of Topalov in this conflict.

In this article I don't want to argue about who was wrong and who was right. Time will show. I just want to say something that I know for sure, what I felt and I saw from inside and not from reading the Russian press or the ChessBase articles.

1. Nobody in our team considered the match situation catastrophic, not when the score was 0:2 and not when it was 1:3. In fact, we all believed that Topalov had great chances to win the match. Why not? It's well known that Topalov plays better toward the end. His performance in Linares and Sophia proves it. Physically he is much stronger than Kramnik.

2. The manager of Topalov, Silvio Danailov sincerely believed that Kramnik's behavior was suspicious and he suspected him of using outside help, so his protests had a purpose to stop whatever it could be and not just to disturb Kramnik.

3. Topalov is a great fighter and he has never wanted the match to be stopped. All he wanted was fair play.

Game 6

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.Ne5 e6 7.f3 c5 8.e4 Bg6 9.Be3 cxd4 10.Qxd4 Qxd4 11.Bxd4 Nfd7 12.Nxd7 Nxd7 13.Bxc4 a6 14.Ke2 Rg8!!

A remarkable move and the best theoretical idea of Kramnik in the match. Black's position looks pretty bad; he is underdeveloped, the bishop on g6 is very bad, the king cannot castle. If I had to show this game to my students, I would say that this is a perfect example of how not to play the opening. But it's paradoxical, because Black is actually O.K. Don't try to find an advantage for White in this position because there is none. Our team spent a lot of time trying to find some advantage here but we could not.

15.Rhd1 Rc8 16.b3 Bc5 17.a5 Ke7 18.Na4 Bb4 19.Nb6 Nxb6 20.Bxb6 f6 21.Rd3 Rc6 22.h4 Rgc8 23.g4 Bc5 24.Rad1 Bxb6 25.Rd7+ Kf8 26.axb6 Rxb6 27.R1d6 Rxd6 28.Rxd6 Rc6 29.Rxc6 bxc6 30.b4 e5 31.Bxa6

All our team was in a mood after this game. Of course, a draw is a normal result, but this one was almost without a fight. Topalov wasted his White pieces in this game.

Game 7

After a relatively short draw in the sixth game, Topalov decides to change the opening and instead of playing the Slav with ...dc, where Black has many forced lines, to play complicated positions in the Meran.

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Bd3 dxc4 6.Bxc4 c5

With such an unusual move order black transfers the game into Queens Gambit Accepted.

7.0-0 a6 8.Bb3 cxd4 9.exd4 Nc6 10.Nc3 Be7 11.Re1 0-0 12.a4

It is unbelievable, but in this well known position, a4 is a novelty. Veselin did not want to play long theoretical lines and found this move during the game. The idea is simple: not to let Black develop his bishop to b7. Of course the move has its disadvantages too, it gives black the b4 square for the knight.

12...Bd7 13.Ne5 Be8 14.Be3 Rc8 15.Rc1 Nb4 16.Qf3 Bc6 17.Qh3 Bd5 18.Nxd5 Nbxd5 19.Rcd1 19...Rc7 20.Bg5 Qc8 21.Qf3

At this moment Veselin spent only about 20 minutes and he had already huge advantage in time.

21...Rd8 22.h4 h6 23...Bb4 24.Rf1 Bd6 25.g3

25.g4 as many commentators mentioned would be much more dangerous for Black, however, even there Black has a way to escape 25...Bxe5 26.dxe5 Nd7 27.g5 hxg5! (27...Nxe5 28.Qg3; 27...h5 28.Qxh5 Nxe5 29.Qe2) 28.Bxg5 Nxe5 29.Qg3 f6 30.Bxf6 Nf3+! (30...Nxf6 31.Rxd8+ Qxd8 32.Qxe5) 31.Qxf3 Rf7 32.Rxd5 exd5 33.Bxd5 Rxd5 34.Qxd5 Qg4+ 35.Qg2 Qxg2+ 36.Kxg2 Rxf6 with drawish endgame.

25...b6 26.Qe2 26...Ne7 27.Rfe1 Bxe5 Nfd5 28.dxe5 Rxd1 29.Qxd1 Nfd5 30.Bd2 Rc5 31.Qg4 Nf5 32.Qe4 b5 33.h5

33.a5 looks more logical for White and only after 33...b4 34.h5 but Veselin was afraid that Black can play 33...h5 when it is difficult for White to break through.

33...bxa4 34.Qxa4 Rb5 35.Rc1 Qb7 36.Bc2 Nb6! 37.Qg4 Rxb2 38.Be4 Qd7 39.Be1 Nd5 40.Bd3 40...Nb4!

The time control has passed and now White has to be careful not to get in trouble. Topalov finds one of a few good ways to hold the position

41.Bf1 41...Nd3 42.Qd1 Nxe5 43.Qxd7 Nxd7 44.Rc8+ Kh7 45.Rc7 Rb1 46.Rxd7 Rxe1 47.Rxf7 a5 48.Kg2 Kg8 49.Ra7 Re5 50.g4 Nd6 51.Bd3 Kf8 52.Bg6 Rd5 53.f3 e5 54.Kf2 Rd2+ 55.Ke1 Rd5 56.Ke2 Rb5 57.Rd7 Rd5 58.Ra7 Rb5 59.Bd3 Rd5 60.Bg6

Game 8

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Bd3 dxc4 7.Bxc4 b5 8.Be2 Bb7 9.0-0 b4 10.Na4 c5 11.dxc5 Nxc5 12.Bb5+ Ncd7 13.Ne5 Qc7 14.Qd4 Rd8 15.Bd2 Qa5 16.Bc6 Be7!

Veselin told us that he checked this line during his pre-match preparation. I do not know, however, where exactly his analyses stopped.

17.Rfc1 Bxc6 18.Nxc6 Qxa4 19.Nxd8 Bxd8 20.Qxb4 Qxb4 21.Bxb4 Nd5 22.Bd6 f5 23.Rc8 N5b6 24.Rc6 Be7 25.Rd1 Kf7 26.Rc7 Ra8 27.Rb7 Ke8 28.Bxe7 Kxe7 29.Rc1 a5 30.Rc6 Nd5 31.h4?!

After the game we all thought that the endgame is quite unpleasant for white, being under the impression of the result. On the next day Veselin told us that probably opening the h-file was a big mistake. If Kramnik did not do so, his position should be just fine.

31...h6 32.a4 g5 33.hxg5 hxg5 34.Kf1 g4 35.Ke2 N5f6 36.b3 Ne8!

A great move! It is hard to believe, but White's position is already very difficult. We came to this conclusion with Paco after playing it for awhile.


First I thought that this move is a big mistake, but actually it is not clear what else white could have done.


now Black gets another plan to move his rook to h2

38.Rc1 Nef6 39.f4

Again, this move looks terrible, but what else? The game is lost.

39...Kd6 40.Kf3 Nd5 41.Kxg3 Nc5 42.Rg7 Rb8 43.Ra7 Rg8+ 44.Kf3 Ne4 45.Ra6+ Ke7 46.Rxa5 Rg3+ 47.Ke2 Rxe3+ 48.Kf1 Rxb3 49.Ra7+ Kf6 50.Ra8 Nxf4 51.Ra1 Rb2 52.a5 Rf2+ 0-1

Game 9

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 Bg6 7.Nxg6 hxg6

Once, shortly before this game I came over to Paco's place and found him and Veselin sitting at the chess board and deeply thinking in this position. I was surprised: "Are you guys looking for new moves on the move 8"? "We are looking for some new ideas" replied Veselin.


Before this game the move a3 was played only once, in a game of Benjamin Finegold's. In his next White game Topalov played another novelty in this position!

8...Nbd7 9.g3 Be7 10.f4

And this is already a real novelty found by Paco. After the game Kramnik called it a strong novelty at least for one game; later he said that the novelty is actually poor. I dont know exactly what is a refutation of White's plan, but I guess because Topalov did not repeat it in other games Black should have some strong improvement.

10...dxc4 11.Bxc4 0-0 12.e4 b5?

A mistake after which Black's position gets very dangerous. 12...c5 looks much better for Black.

13.Be2 b4 14.axb4 Bxb4 15.Bf3 Qb6 16.0-0 e5 17.Be3

After the game Vladimir said that he wanted to resign at this moment. Maybe it would be a little bit too early, but it is true that the position is already bad. The rest of the game does not need any comments.

17...Rad8 18.Na4 Qb8 19.Qc2 exf4 20.Bxf4 Qb7 21.Rad1 Rfe8 22.Bg5 Be7 23.Kh1 Nh7 24.Be3 Bg5 25.Bg1 Nhf8 26.h4 Be7 27.e5 Nb8 28.Nc3 Bb4 29.Qg2 Qc8 30.Rc1 Bxc3 31.bxc3 Ne6 32.Bg4 Qc7 33.Rcd1 Nd7 34.Qa2 Nb6 35.Rf3 Nf8 36.Rdf1 Re7 37.Be3 Nh7 38.Rxf7 Nd5 39.R7f3 1-0

The match quickly took a turn for the worst for Topalov and his team. Alex's final report will analyze the last crucial games and days in Elista.

Topalov with seconds Ivan Cheparinov and Paco Vallejo.