Home Page arrow Chess Life Online arrow 2009 arrow February arrow Kamsky Loses in Round Five
Kamsky Loses in Round Five Print E-mail
By GM Ian Rogers   
February 23, 2009
The  Kamsky-Topalov match venue. Photo Cathy Rogers

The night before the crucial fifth game of his Candidates Final against Gata Kamsky, Veselin Topalov had a quiet meal at a top restaurant on the highest hill in Sofia.

The world number one – having foregone the excitement of James Blunt’s only Bulgarian concert date that night, held, like his match, at the National Palace of Culture - looked relaxed and chatted happily to a friend.

The restaurant staff was very pleased that Bulgaria’s pride and joy had chosen their establishment to eat – so much so that when ‘American Pie’ came on the restaurant soundtrack just after Topalov had left, the bartender attempted to turn the unpatriotic song off. (Well, probably that was the reason - though it might just have been that he could not abide Chris de Burgh’s cover version of the legendary song.)

In any event, Topalov arrived on Monday looking relaxed and determined and his first move, 1.e4, elicited some surprised gasps of “E chetiri” from the crowd.

Kamsky’s French Defence was also a surprise – even more so for the world’s best live text commentator Sergey Shipov on Crestbook, who had started the game with colors reversed and was trying to explain why Topalov would choose the French Defence!

Kamsky headed for a line with an isolated d pawn – passive but defensible (especially if your name is Korchnoi).

However the American began to drift, eschewing a chance to exchange queens and allowing Topalov to build up the pressure in peace.
Kamsky had fallen behind on the clock early but he still had 20 minutes left for six moves when he committed a horrible blunder – the worst of the match (although Gata believed it was comparable to his miscalculation in missing …Nexf4! in game 2).

Kamsky’s brain explosion cost a pawn and the game, and he saved himself some trouble by losing a second pawn a few moves later.
Kamsky’s manager Emil Sutovsky looked downcast, a change from his usual jovial manner. Earlier in the day Sutovsky had objected -  in the friendliest possible way - to some of the negative connotations of his comments quoted on my previous CLO Sofia blog. “The Bulgarians have got the big things right here – the hotel and the playing hall are great.”

Also, after the drama in Aeroflot yesterday, it is pleasing to report that it would be almost impossible for any form of cheating to take place in Sofia.

In fact the security at the National Palace of Culture is so tight that it borders on paranoia. The audience are carefully metal checked and no photographers or video journalists are allowed to be in the hall after the first five minutes.

The reason given was to avoid any hint of scandal by allowing an electronic device into the playing hall. Even members of the audience were explaining to a photographer that they did not want a scandal such as occurred in Elista to happen in Sofia.

Fierce and protracted arguments from photographers and FIDE representatives that the media should be allowed to cover the match action were finally trumped by the organisers presenting a copy of the match contract which gave them all media rights. The contract covered all media - a cease and desist letter to ChessBase yesterday has apparently had the effect today of ending ChessBase’s live coverage of the match. (Luckily the match regulations allowed photos in the first five minutes.)

Yet, curiously, after the first time control of game 5, the security guards unexpectedly allowed a photographer into the playing hall. When other photographers tried to follow they were told that no cameras were allowed into the hall until the game had finished. “What about the first guy?” the photographers wondered aloud. “He’s OK – he’s Topalov’s photographer.” (An attempt to claim that Kamsky’s official Chess Life photographer should also be allowed in fell on deaf ears.)

Topalov’s official photographer undoubtedly obtained a happy snap of his player: after 55 moves and four hours, Topalov was probably humming James Blunt’s lines “My life is brilliant!” while Kamsky could have moved along further in the song and paraphrased “Now it’s time to face the truth - I will never win b3”.

In any case, Kamsky resigned, to modest applause – probably the crowd was still stunned by Kamsky’s rapid demise. As Kamsky resigned, a new crowd entered the Palace of Culture for a performance of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night’s Dream in Bulgarian – James Blunt had moved on to Belgrade.  Kamsky did not stay for the play, though no doubt he would have understood, in any language, Puck telling Oberon “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

Whether Kamsky’s brain explosion on Monday will have cost him the match will be known soon – only three games remain. Kamsky will play with the white pieces on Tuesday and anything less than a victory will leave him in dire straits.


1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 c5 4.Ngf3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nc6 6.Bb5 Bd7 7.Nxc6 Bxc6 8.Bxc6+ bxc6 9.c4 Bd6

The first new move. Black wants to place his knight on e7 and on c5 the bishop can be vulnerable to a later Nb3.
10.cxd5 cxd5 11.exd5 exd5 12.0–0 Ne7 13.Nf3

White has a very slight advantage, typical of these lines, but the drawing tendency is high. "Boring would be fine for us today," admitted Kamsky's manager Sutovsky.
13...0–0 14.Qd3 Qd7 15.Rd1 Rfd8 16.Be3 a5 17.g3 h6 18.Bb6 Rdc8 19.Bd4

"I had some slight advantage after the opening but nothing special," said Topalov. "but after the exchange of bishops I had a lot of pressure."
 "I don't know why he didn't just exchange queens with [19...Qf5 ," said Sutovsky, "and then it will be a draw. All the rook endgames will be a draw."]
 20.Bc3 Bb4 21.Be5 Bd6 22.Rd2!

"Now [I have] the bishop exchange in a very improved version," explained Topalov. "My knight goes immediately to e5 and Black is very passive. That is the point [behind my last three moves]."
22...Bxe5 23.Nxe5 Qd6 24.Re1 Rc7 25.Qf3 Rf8 26.Kg2 Rb7

 Sutovsky was not happy with this choice, preferring [26...g6 followed by 27...Kg7 and 28...Qf6.]

27...Qb4 0.33 28.Ree2 Qa4
Black's only active plan is to provoke a queenside weakness and then exchange a pair of pawns via ...a4.
 29.b3 Qb4 30.Nd3 Qd6 31.h5 Rc7 32.Nf4
"I probably could have played better, rather than allow 32...d4," admitted Topalov.
32...d4 33.Re4 Nc6 34.Nd3 0.21 34...Rd8?! 0.21
34...Re7 would instigate an exchange which would move Black a little closer to a draw, although long hours of defense would lie ahead.
The pressure along the c file is very annoying and there is no easy way to neutralize it. However, just after Sutovsky refuted a dumb journalist's suggestion of 35...Nb4?? with 36.Nxb4 axb4 37.Rxd4!, Kamsky reached out and played...

Kamsky spent just a minute on this disastrous move and for the first time in the game he was ahead of Topalov on the clock. Unfortunately his position is about to collapse." I just blundered everything," bemoaned Kamsky after the game. "I completely forgot about 37.Rxd4! for some reason.

Kamsky head in hands, thinks for two minutes before recapturing.
36...axb4 37.Rxd4 Qf8?!
Position after 37...Qf8

Played after 10 painful minutes working out that the rook endgame after [37...Qxd4 38.Rxc7 Qd5 39.Rb7 will be hopelessly lost."37...Qf8 was also a big mistake," said Topalov, " but I think objectively the position was already lost. However Kamsky's choice only makes matters worse.
38.Rxd8! Qxd8 39.Rxc7 Qxc7 40.Qa8+ Kh7 41.Qe4+ Kg8 42.Qxb4

These endgames are usually winning even with only one queenside pawn, so Kamsky would not have been criticized for resigning immediately.
 42...Qc6+ 43.Kg1 Qc1+ 44.Kh2 Qc2 45.Qe1 Kf8 46.a3 Qb2 47.Qb4+ Kg8 48.Kg2 Qe5 49.Qg4 Qb2 50.Qc8+ Kh7 51.Qc4 Qxa3 52.Qxf7 Qb4 53.Qc4 Qb7+ 54.Kg1 Qf3 55.g4 1–0

In such a short match, this puts major pressure on Gata, who will play White tomorrow. Originally, CLO, like many websites, mistakenly wrote that Kamsky would get White in round five. As Macauley Peterson reported on his Chess.FM blog, the official website had the wrong information, and the players had both agreed in Dresden to switching colors after each game. 

Root on a Kamsky comeback tomorrow, Tuesday, 2/24/09 at 8 AM EST. You can watch on the Internet Chess Club,the official website, or chessdom, where there will be live GM coverage.