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A Couch Potato's Guide to Topalov-Anand Print E-mail
By GM Ian Rogers   
April 21, 2010
The Russian church across the street from the venue, Photo Cathy Rogers
The long awaited match between Viswanathan Anand and Veselin Topalov begins in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on Saturday.

The venue – Topalov’s home territory - is controversial.

The starting date has been the subject of a week of argument after Anand became stranded at Frankfurt airport due to the volcanic ash cloud over Europe and requested a three-day delay. In the end, the match was delayed by a single day with Topalov playing White in the first game.

The source of the 2m Euro prize fund – divided 60/40 between winner and loser – is the subject of speculation after it was learned that the main chess benefactor in Bulgaria, mobile telephone company Mtel, was withdrawing from chess sponsorship.

The pre-game interviews have also seen the locals slagging off Anand at every opportunity, for being too old, too conservative, disrespectful, derogatory, trying to trick the organisers by pretending he was in Sofia and, worst of all, failing to foresee the disruption the volcano would cause his travel plan.

Suffice it to say that Bulgaria is seeing a match between their national hero and an inconsiderate, arrogant and pompous World Champion.

Of course the rest of the world sees the match a little differently.

They see a modest Indian World Champion, forced to take a gruelling two day land journey between Frankfurt and Sofia, being insulted and provoked mercilessly by Topalov and his Machiavellian manager Silvio Danailov and shown scant regard by the supposedly impartial organisers.

Whichever way you view the contenders, intense rivalry – rather than the love-fest which was Anand-Kramnik 2008 - provides the perfect scenario for an exciting world title match; a match which can be enjoyed from your living room thanks to the wonders of the internet.

Here is a guide to making the most of the battle between the defending World Champion and the villain from Toilet Wars 2006.

Before the Game

Some fans prepare to watch a World Championship game by checking out betting sites – Anand was a firm favourite but after his travails Topalov’s odds have shortened, though Anand remains favoured to win - and noting the predictions from respected pundits such as Mig (www.chessninja.com.)

However the dedicated fan should go a lot further in their quest for the true World Championship experience.

The night before a game one should get into the spirit of the match by downloading and watching a Bulgarian movie; for example, The World Is Big and Salvation Lurks around the Corner which reached the final 9 in the Oscar foreign film nominations for 2010. (The background of moving from Germany to Bulgaria is also strangely appropriate for Anand, although Topalov will be hoping that the memory loss theme in the film will also be apposite for Anand.)

During a long World Championship game sustenance is also essential, and what better than home-made Bulgarian fast food? The following simple instructions will enable you to feast on banitza – a breakfast pastry treat similar to the Turkish burek – and a dish which is particularly appropriate given the US starting time of the games (8am AEST).

You’ll need to have picked up a few items from the supermarket the day before the game – filo pastry, feta cheese, butter, eggs and soda water.

Place a double layer of filo pastry on a greased baking tray; pour some melted butted and crumbled feta on the filo and cover with a new layer of filo. Repeat the process four times and place a double layer of filo on top. (You should have used up about a pound of cheese and a small block of butter.)
Before you place the tray in the oven (for about 40 minutes at 350F), mix three eggs with a little salt and soda water and pour it over the top of the filo.

You should now have enough Bulgarian munchies to last through even a seven-hour game.

During the Game

The official web site, at first sought to claim exclusive rights to transmission of the moves live – as did the organizers of Bonn 2008. In 2010 the Bulgarians are asking for 15,000 Euros from any site wishing to share the live coverage but they have since backed down. Only Internet Chess Club and ChessBase are financially strong enough to contemplate such a request but nobody is likely to pay since chess moves, as a matter of record, are regarded as non-copyrightable.

Commentary on the games as they happen is where the most entertainment and instruction can be had.

ICC (www.chessclub.com) leads the way for audio commentary with a game day show hosted by Mig or Macauley Peterson and featuring a wide range of Grandmaster commentators, mostly excellent.
ChessBase (www.playchess.com) also has audio commentary with two stars, Yasser Seirawan and Danny King, working separately. Seirawan and King have a laid-back style, which works well; as with cricket commentary, where the games go for 30 hours, if you leave for half an hour and come back, most likely you haven’t missed anything. Note that Chess Base has in the past been intimidated by legal threats into not broadcasting moves live from Sofia. However the German firm is hardly likely to wimp out this time.

Editor's Note 4.23.10- the following paragraph was temporarily deleted last night--chessdom.com disputes GM Rogers' summary below. Chessdom objections to the paragraph below include,1.the site is not Balkan but international, 2.the analysis features world-class players and is not reliant on engine analysis and 3. they are objective reporters of the match, not pro-Topalov. CLO encourages readers to visit chessdom.com to form their own opinion.

Chessdom www.chessdom.com, the Balkan site which has consistently been breaking news about the match – albeit consistently with a pro-Topalov spin – has a team of mostly GM commentators but the style is often rather dry and you will already have seen most of the suggested ideas if you are running your own Fritz or Rybka engine in the background. (If you don’t have a chessplaying engine, ChessDom does the job for you with a clever innovation – using ChessBomb they provide computer assessments of the positions for all to see.)

The advent of instant translation programs for web pages, while far from perfect, has opened up many possibilities for those seeking quality text annotations. Excellent Russian sites such as www.chesspro.ru/  and www.crestbook.com, featuring the legendary Sergey Shipov are now accessible to English speakers.

After the Game

You will of course want to know what the experts thought about the games and, even better, what the players thought about their moves.

So if the official site gets their webcast of the post-game press conferences up and running, this is the place to go as soon as Anand and Topalov have shaken hands.

Europe Echecs can be relied on to provide interesting material including interviews with the players and also speedy daily round-ups of the key moments of that day’s game. Their first videos  (in both
English and French) are already to be seen at this link.

For those prepared to wait a little longer, the stand-out web site to visit after the games is www.chessvibes.com, which provides videos of some live action and the post-game press conferences. ChessVibes takes a while to edit and polish their videos but their production qualities are excellent.

ICC would normally have Macauley Peterson providing quirky videos on site but at the moment, it appears that Macauley will be absent from Sofia for at least the start of the match. Couch potatoes may have to settle for ICC’s ‘Game of the Day’, where a GM commentator explains that day’s contest in audio form.

Of course Chess Life Online will also cover the match, with updates about every game and blogs by yours truly from Sofia on the ups and downs of the two contenders.

So, once you have watched the games, eaten the banitzas, viewed the press conferences, read the commentary in the blogosphere and perhaps even the mainstream media, and grabbed a little sleep, you should be ready to wake up bright and early for the next game!


Game 1 Saturday April 24 (Starting at 5pm = 10.00am AEST)
Game 2 Sunday April 25 (All remaining games start at 3pm = 8.00am AEST)
Game 3 Tuesday April 27
Game 4 Wednesday April 28
Game 5 Friday April 30
Game 6 Saturday May 1
Game 7 Monday May 3
Game 8 Tuesday May 4
Game 9 Thursday May 6
Game 10 Friday May 7
Game 11 Sunday May 9
Game 12 Tuesday May 11
Tiebreaks (if needed) Thursday May 13

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