Alex Onischuk, enjoying the Kalmykian countryside on a free day.
by GM Alexander Onischuk
In the third and final installment of his Elista letter, Alex analyzes the last four match games as well as all four tiebreakers. He also explains to us why Team Topalov didn't bother to prepare for the playoff and his thoughts when it was all over. In his second letter from Elista, Alex analyzed the high point for Team Topalov, games 8 and 9. The tide was to turn again...
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.g3 Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Be7 6.Bg2 0–0 7.0–0 c6 8.Bf4 Nbd7 9.Qc2 a5 A very rare line 10.Rd1 Nh5 11.Bc1 b5 12.cxd5 cxd5 13.e4 dxe4 14.Qxe4 Rb8 15.Qe2 Nhf6 16.Bf4 Rb6 17.Ne5 Nd5 18.Bxd5 exd5 19.Nc3 Nf6 20.Nxb5 Ba6 21.a4 Ne4 22.Rdc1 Qe8 23.Rc7 Bd8 24.Ra7 f6?? Another big blunder by Topalov. After the normal Bb5 White should have hold the game. What had Veselin missed? I just know that he saw both Nd7 and Qg4 and he also saw that after Bb5 he is not losing and anyway he played f6. 25.Nd7+- the rest is easy 25...Rf7 26.Nxb6 Rxa7 27.Nxd5 Rd7 28.Ndc3 Rxd4 29.Re1 f5 30.Qc2 Rb4 31.Nd5 Rxb5 32.axb5 Qxb5 33.Nc7 Qc4 34.Qd1 Bxc7 35.Qd7 h6 36.Qxc7 Qb4 37.Qb8+ Qxb8 38.Bxb8 Nd2 39.Ra1 g5 40.f4 Nb3 41.Ra3 Bc4 42.Bc7 g4 43.Bxa5 1–0
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 Bg6 7.Nxg6 hxg6 8.Rb1 Another novelty—A completely new idea from Veselin and Paco. 8...Nbd7 9.c5 a5 10.a3 e5 11.b4 axb4 12.axb4 Qc7 13.f4 exf4 14.exf4 Be7 15.Be2 Nf8 16.0–0 Ne6 17.g3 Qd7! Maybe this move is not very difficult, but it is very strong. The idea is to play Ne4 and if White does not take on e4, then Black plays f5. All other moves would give White a much better position. 18.Qd3 Ne4 19.Nxe4 dxe4 20.Qxe4 Qxd4+ 21.Qxd4 Nxd4 22.Bc4 0–0 23.Kg2 The endgame looks a little better for White, but it is tough to gain any serious advantage. Topalov played very aggressively and soon got a worse position.23...Ra4 24.Rd1 Rd8 25.Be3 Bf6 26.g4 Kf8 27.Bf2 Ne6 28.Rxd8+ Bxd8 29.f5?! gxf5 30.gxf5 Nf4+ 31.Kf3 Nh5! 32.Rb3 Bc7 33.h4 Nf6 34.Bd3 Nd7 35.Be4 Ne5+ 36.Kg2 Ra2 37.Bb1 Rd2 38.Kf1 Ng4 39.Bg1 Bh2 40.Ke1 It's clear that White's position got worse in the last 10 moves. In some interview Vladimir said that although he was better in this game, he never had real chances for a win. I dont understand why. As Paco and Ivan mentioned to me during the game, after 40...Rg2 White's position would be really unpleasant and if not lost, then very dangerous. 41.Bxh2 Rxh2 42.b5 Ne5 40...Rd5 41.Bf2 Now White should hold 41...Ke7 42.h5 Nxf2 43.Kxf2 Kf6 44.Kf3 Rd4 45.b5 Rc4 46.bxc6 bxc6 47.Rb6 Rxc5 48.Be4 Kg5 49.Rxc6 Ra5 50.Rb6 Ra3+ 51.Kg2 Bc7 52.Rb7 Rc3 53.Kf2 Kxh5 54.Bd5 f6 55.Ke2 Kg4 56.Be4 Kf4 57.Bd3 Rc5 58.Rb4+ Kg3 59.Rc4 Re5+ 60.Re4 Ra5 61.Re3+ Kg2 62.Be4+ Kh2 63.Rb3 Ra2+ 64.Kd3 Bf4 65.Kc4 Re2 66.Kd5 draw agreed
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 Bg6 7.Nxg6 hxg6 8.g3 Nbd7 9.Bd2 Bb4 This time Veselin is playing this system with Black . Now one can understand the idea of the move a3 he played in the 8th game. Veselin did not like to let Black play this move and once he gets a chance to develop bishop to b4, he does so. 10.Qb3 Bxc3 11.Bxc3 Ne4 12.Bg2 Nxc3 13.Qxc3 f5 14.0–0 Qe7 15.cxd5 exd5 Compared to the classical Karlsbad Black 's structure on the king's side is much worse. It should not be so serious for him, however, and White has only little advantage here. 16.b4 Nf6 17.Rfc1 Ne4 18.Qb2 0–0 A very interesting moment in the game. Usually in Karlsbad Black plays a6 first, so he can exchange the "a" pawns. I wonder why Topalov did not play a6. The most likely explanation is that even in this position he was looking for complications. His play proves it.19.b5 Rac8 20.bxc6 bxc6 21.Qe2 g5 22.Rab1 Qd7 23.Rc2 Rf6 24.Rbc1 g4 25.Rb2 Rh6 26.Qa6 Rc7 27.Rb8+ Kh7 28.Qa3 Rb7 29.Qf8 Rxb8 30.Qxb8 Qf7 31.Qc8 Qh5 Kramnik did not play very convincingly after the opening. He lost some tempos making maneuvers with his rooks and Topalov got strong counter play. At some point it looked like Black had a strong initiative, but it turned out to be not enough 32.Kf1 Nd2+ 33.Ke1 Nc4 34.Bf1 Rf6 35.Bxc4 dxc4 36.Rxc4 Qxh2 37.Ke2 Qh1 38.Rc5 Qb1 39.Qa6 Qb2+ 40.Kf1 Qb1+ 41.Ke2 Qb2+ 42.Kf1 Rh6 43.Qd3 g6 44.Qb3 Rh1+ 45.Kg2 Rh2+ 46.Kxh2 Qxf2+ 47.Kh1 Qf1+ draw agreed
Topalov seconds Alexander Onischuk and Ivan Cheparinov clearly know the value of relaxing.
Veselin did not prepare for tie break before the match and he did not prepare for it after the classical part was finished. After the scandal, which took 4 days, a free day between the classical and the rapid part had disappeared from the schedule, so there was simply no time. We also worried that preparing for this would take too much energy.
In any case, it was clear that a tiebreak victory does not hinge on openings. In rapid Veselin was better in sharp positions, but Kramnik played better endgames. In the last game Topalov first missed a good chance to get an advantage and then to make a draw.
Playoff Game 1
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.a4 Bf5 6.e3 e6 7.Bxc4 Bb4 8.0–0 Nbd7 9.Qe2 0–0 10.e4 Bg6 11.Bd3 Bh5 12.e5 Nd5 13.Nxd5 cxd5 14.Qe3 Re8 This line was already played in the second game of the match. In that game Kramnik played Bg6 instead of Re8. The difference is not big. Now White could transpose to the second game after 15.Ng5 Bg6 or maybe Kramnik was going to play 15..Nf8 first? and after 16.f4 Qb 15.Ne1 Rc8 16.f4 Bxe1 17.Rxe1 Bg6 18.Bf1 Rc2 19.b3 Qa5 20.Bb5 Rd8 21.Re2 Rcc8 22.Bd2 Qb6 23.Rf2 a6 24.Bf1 Rc6 25.b4 Rc2 26.b5 Another good plan for White was to play 26.a5 Qc6 27.Be2 with the idea to play Rff1 and Rc1. White's position should be better after that. He has two bishops and more space. Also the knight on d7 cannot get in play quickly 26...a5 27.Bc3 Rxf2 28.Qxf2 Qa7 29.Qd2 Ra8 30.Rc1 Nb6 31.Bb2 Nxa4 32.Ba3 h6 33.h3 Be4 34.Kh2 Nb6 35.Bc5 a4 36.Ra1 It looked like Topalov outplayed Kramnik. Kramnik did not get any advantage from the opening and then Topalov's position became better and better. 36...Nc4! But Vladimir finds the best move in position that allows him to escape 37.Bxc4 b6 38.Qe3 [38.Bb3 is losing after 38...axb3!!] 38...Rc8! 39.Bf1 bxc5 40.dxc5 Qxc5 41.Qxc5 Rxc5 42.b6 Rc6 43.b7 Rb6 44.Ba6 d4 45.Rxa4 Bxb7 46.Bxb7 Rxb7 47.Rxd4
Playoff Game 2
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.e3 Nbd7 6.Qc2 Bd6 7.b3 0–0 8.Be2 b6 9.0–0 Bb7 10.Bb2 Re8 11.Rad1 Qe7 12.Rfe1 Rac8 13.Bd3 e5 14.e4 dxc4 15.Bxc4 b5 16.Bf1 g6 17.Qd2 Rcd8 18.Qg5 a6 19.h3 exd4 20.Nxd4 Qe5 21.Qxe5 Nxe5 22.Nc2 Objectively White did not get any advantage from the opening, but the game is more difficult to play with Black because White has a clear plan to play f4 and e5. 22...g5 Veselin prevents f4, but now Black has some other weaknesses. 23.Bc1 h6 24.Be3 c5 25.f3 Bf8? [25...c4!?; 25...Ng6!?=] 26.Bf2 Bc8 27.Ne3 Be6 28.Ned5 Bxd5 29.exd5 Ned7 30.Rxe8 Rxe8 31.a4 Black 's position is already very dangerous 31...c4 was suggested here as the best chance, after the text move his position is lost 31...b4? 32.Ne4 Nxe4 33.fxe4 Nf6 34.d6 Nxe4 35.d7 Rd8 36.Bxa6 f5 37.a5 Bg7 38.Bc4+ Kf8 39.a6 Nxf2 40.Kxf2 Bd4+ 41.Rxd4 cxd4 42.a7 Ke7 43.Bd5 Kxd7 44.a8Q Rxa8 45.Bxa8 1–0
Playoff Game 3
It's tough to say without deep analysis where Kramnik made his decisive mistake in this game. 1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 Bg6 7.Be2 Nbd7 8.0–0 Bd6 9.g3 dxc4 Again Topalov played a very rare set up without taking on g6 and Black 's last move is already a novelty. 10.Bxc4 Nb6 11.Be2 0–0 12.Nxg6 hxg6 13.e4 e5 14.f4 exd4 15.Qxd4 Qe7 16.Kg2 Bc5 17.Qd3 Rad8 18.Qc2 Bd4 19.e5 Nfd5 20.Rf3 Nxc3 21.bxc3 Bc5 22.Bd2 Rd7 23.Re1 Rfd8 24.Bd3 Most players would play Bc1 in this position, especially in rapid. The move Topalov played is much better. It prevents Qe6 with the idea of Nc4 because Qe6 now is well met by f5. Topalov plays positions like this one very well. 24...Qe6 25.Bc1 f5 26.Qe2 Kf8 27.Rd1 Qe7 28.h4 Rd5 29.Qc2 Nc4 30.Rh1 Na3 31.Qe2 Qd7 32.Rd1 b5 33.g4 With this move White opens his bishops. I don't think Black can defend his position now.33...fxg4 34.Rg3 Ke7 35.f5 gxf5 36.Bg5+ Ke8 37.e6 Qd6 38.Bxf5 Rxd1 39.Bg6+ Kf8 40.e7+ Qxe7 41.Bxe7+ Bxe7 42.Bd3 Ra1 43.Qb2 Rd1 44.Qe2 Ra1 45.Qxg4 Rxa2+ 46.Kh3 Bf6 47.Qe6 Rd2 48.Bg6 R2d7 49.Rf3 b4 50.h5 1–0
Playoff Game 4
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 Be7 10.e4 b4 11.e5 bxc3 12.exf6 Bxf6 13.bxc3 c5 14.dxc5 Kramnik chooses a very solid line without much risk. I wonder if he had some improvements in main lines after 0-0, or he just wanted to make a draw after a loss in a previous game.14...Nxc5 14...0–0 15.Ba3 Be7 is how Black usually equalizes in this position 15.Bb5+ Kf8 16.Qxd8+ Rxd8 17.Ba3 Rc8 18.Nd4 Be7 19.Rfd1 a6? A very important moment, after 19...Ne4 Black would have been better. 20.Nxe6+ (20.Bxe7+ Kxe7 21.Ne2 Rhd8 with a quite unpleasant position for White; the best move for White, which is very tough to make in rapid game would be 20.Bb4 and despite slightly worse endgame White should hold) 20...fxe6 21.Bxe7+ Kxe7 22.Rd7+ Kf6 23.Rxb7 Nd6–+ 20.Bf1 Na4 21.Rab1 Be4 22.Rb3 Bxa3 23.Rxa3 Nc5 24.Nb3 Ke7 25.Rd4 Bg6? 25...Nxb3 26.axb3 Bb7 would lead to only slightly worse position for Black . 26.c4 Rc6?! 27.Nxc5 Rxc5 28.Rxa6 With a pawn down Black 's position is worse. Kramnik shows good technique in the endgame. 28...Rb8 29.Rd1 Rb2 30.Ra7+ Kf6 31.Ra1 Rf5 32.f3 Re5 33.Ra3 Rc2? [33...Bc2!?] 34.Rb3 Ra5 35.a4 Ke7 36.Rb5 Ra7 37.a5 Kd6 38.a6 Kc7 39.c5 Rc3 40.Raa5 Rc1 41.Rb3 Kc6 42.Rb6+ Kc7 43.Kf2 Rc2+ 44.Ke3 Rxc5? final mistake in a lost position 45.Rb7+ 1–0
The match was over. We did not go to the closing ceremony and I saw Veselin only late at the evening. He looked quite upset, but not depressed. On the next morning everyone from our delegation went to Sophia in the Bulgarian president's plane and I was left alone in the big cottage to wait another day for my flight to Moscow. The place felt abandoned and I did not want to stay there. Then, I passed through a hole in a fence in the back side of the chess city and went to walk into borderless Kalmikyan prairies, thinking about the past month.
The unification is finished. Kramnik became a new FIDE champion. He returned the crown back to Russia. Knowing him one can be confident it will stay there for many years.