Veselin Topalov Takes the Crown - 2005
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takes the crown
Bulgarian GM Veselin Topalov is FIDE's new world champion, clinching the
title with a round to spare at the title tournament in San Luis, Argentina.
Topalov held a tough draw with Black against former champ Rustam
Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan in Thursday's Round 13, giving him an
unassailable 11/2-point lead over his chief pursuers, GMs Peter Svidler of
Russia and Viswanathan Anand of India, with a round to go.
The Bulgarian rocketed out of the gate with six wins in his first seven
games in Argentina, and has overcome a couple of dicey positions to preserve
his lead in the second half of the double-round robin event. The big
question now is whether a match can be arranged between Topalov and Russian
Vladimir Kramnik, who holds the other half of the disputed crown and refused
to play in the FIDE event.
Topalov may well have clinched the title as early as Round 5, when he took
on Svidler, his closest challenger, with the black pieces. Not content with
a draw, the Bulgarian twice unbalanced the play with adventurous ideas,
earning a full point when his opponent faltered in the stretch.
Topalov's opening preparation for Argentina was superb, and in this Najdorf
Sicilian, he gets in the first novelty with 14. Ne3 Qa5+!? (14...0-0 and
14...Qe7 had been played here before) 15. c3 Nf3+!? (Topalov consistently
took the sharpest option in the tournament, with excellent practical
results) 16. Qxf3 Bxc3+ 17. Kd1 Qa4+, when 18. b3?? permits 18...Qd4+ 19.
Kc2 Qd2+ 20. Kb1 Qb2 mate.
By 21. axb3 Bxa1 22. Nxa1, Black has a rook and two pawns for two bishops,
but Svidler's minor pieces struggle to find useful employment. Black strikes
again as White drifts: 30. Be3?! (English GM Nigel Short, analyzing on the
Chessbase.com Web site, said this move showed Svidler was losing the thread
of the position) Nf5 31. Bf2 Nh4! 32. Bxh4 gxh4 33. Nc2 h5.
Black's humble h-pawns do a magnificent job of holding back White's kingside
pawns, and a nasty pin on the c-file clinches things for Black: 35. Kc3 a5
(Rxg2!? 36. Ne3 Rxd3+ 37. Kxd3 Rh2 was an interesting alternative) 36. Bc4?
(axb5 looks tougher, as White emerges badly from the ensuing tactical melee)
Rc8! 37. Ne3 Rb5 38. Kd3 (too late now is 38. bxa5 d5 39. Rd1 Ke7 40. Rd4
dxc4 41. Rxc4 Rxc4+ 42. Nc4 Rg5, winning) Rxb4 39. Bxe6+ (cute, but Black
stays in control) Kxe5 40. Nc2+ Kd5 41. Nxb4+ axb4.
Black's pawns may not be pretty, but there are two more of them than White
has, and the ending poses little problems. With the White king cut off from
the queenside, Svidler gives up after 43...Rc3+ 44. Kd2 Rc4!, as 45. Rxh5+
Kc6 46. Rg5 b3 47. Rg4 b2 48. Rxc4+ bxc4 49. Kc2 c3 50. f4 Kd5 is hopeless.
• • •
Bulgaria claimed a second world champion this month when GM Liuben Spassov
won the 15th World Seniors Championship in Lignano Sabbiadoro, Italy, on
tiebreaks over Czech GM Vlastimil Jansa.
Maryland expert Denis Strenzwilk, a longtime friend of this column, turned
in a very credible plus-two result in the event, scoring two wins and a draw
in his final three games to land in a tie for 29th place.
His closing kick included a nice upset of Swiss FM Peter Hohler -- Hohler's
only loss in the event. Strenzwilk trots out a rare King's Gambit sideline
and his opponent proves unequal to the defensive task.
White loses castling privileges in just five moves, but comfortably
recovers his gambit pawn on 10. h3 Qh5?! (Qf5 makes White work harder) 11.
Bxf4! d5 12. Bb5+, when 12...c6? proves toothless after 13. Nd6+ Kd8 14.
Ne5! Qxe2+ 15. Bxe2 Rg8 16. Nef7+ Kc7 (Kd7 17. Bg4+) 17. Nb5+ Kb6 18. Bc7+
Ka6 19. Nbd6+ b5 20. a4, and 21. axb5 mate can't be stopped.
By 19. Nxd3 Ng6 20. Kg2, Black has done well just to hold the position
together, but he appears to underestimate the power of the open central
files and the shakiness of both his king and queen: 20...Be7?! (Qd7 was more
prudent, as this developing move is too casual for the position) 21. Rhf1
Qe8 (Qg8 22. Nb4! keeps the pressure on; e.g. 22...bxb4 23. cxb4 Nxb4? 24.
Ne5 Nxe5 25. Qxe5 and mate is inevitable) 22. Qe6!, picking off the d-pawn
as 22...Qd7 unfortunately hangs the knight on g6.
Black's 26. Nc5 Rxf3 is sheer desperation in the face of White's
numerous threats, but on 27. Nxb7+ Kc8 28. Rxf3 Kxb7 29. Rxe7 Qxe7 30. Qxg6,
White is two pawns to the good. Strenzwilk ends things efficiently with 37.
Bg3 Nc5 38. c8=Q+!, when 38...Kxc8 39. Rc7+ picks off the Black knight.
And a quick note of congratulations to U.S. GM Hikaru Nakamura. The
17-year-old New Yorker finished in a tie for second behind Armenian GM Levon
Aronian in a strong Category 17 invitational tournament in Karabakh,
Armenia. Nakamura finished ahead of such veterans as GMs Vassily Ivanchuk of
Ukraine and Russian GM Alexey Dreev.
All see: Bobby
Fischer Wants to Face Bulgaria's Topalov
Bobby Fischer Games