- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2006

He can break quickly out of the gate, or he can be strong in the homestretch. Either way, the odds are that Bulgarian world champ Veselin Topalov will be first at the finish.

When he won the FIDE world title tournament last year in Buenos Aires, the electrifying Bulgarian GM went 61/2-1/2 in the first seven rounds, coasting to victory in the second half of the event.

But in the just-concluded Category 20 Mtel Masters Tournament in his hometown of Sofia, a Round 6 loss with White to Russian star Peter Svidler left Topalov in a deep hole, two full points behind tournament leader Gata Kamsky of the United States with just four rounds to go.

But in a stunning turnaround, Topalov won his final four games to nip Kamsky at the wire to win the Mtel title for a second straight year. During his closing kick, Topalov beat Kamsky, Indian GM Viswanathan Anand, Ukraine’s Ruslan Ponomariov, a former FIDE champ himself, and Frenchman Etienne Bacrot.

The victory over Anand was particularly sweet: The Indian and the Bulgarian are neck and neck in the battle for the world’s highest rating, and Anand had defeated his archrival earlier in the double-round robin event.

There’s no doubt a mountain of Najdorf Sicilian theory behind the game’s first dozen moves, which we won’t pretend to scale, but it does appear that Anand’s novelty 9. Na4 Nbd7 10. c4?! doesn’t deliver what he hoped. The game turns when Topalov sizes up the positional consequences of a short tactical flurry better than his opponent.

Thus: 15. 0-0 Qb8! (a nice multifunctional move, anticipating White’s idea) 16. Nf5!? Qe5 17. Ng3 Bb4! 18. Qxb4 Qxe3+ 19. Kh1 Rb8 20. Qd6. Black’s king can’t castle, but it turns out that White’s queen is the more exposed piece after 20…Rb6! 21. Qc7 Rc6! 22. Qb7 Rc2 23. Qxa6 0-0.

White’s extra pawn offers little compensation for his poorly placed pieces. Topalov’s pieces, by contrast, occupy maximally effective posts, and Black soon turns his positional edge into a concrete material gain with 27…h5! 28. Ne2 (Nxh5?? is beyond foolhardy after 28…Qh4 29. Ng3 Ng4! 30. fxg4 [h3 Qxg3 31. hxg4 Qxg2 mate] Rxg2 31. Rxd5 Qxh2 mate) Qe3 29. a4 Rb2 30. Qd6 Rc8 31. Rde1 (see diagram) Nxf3! 32. gxf3 Bxf3+.

With 36. Kg1 Qxb3, Black has secured two pawns and a rook for his two minor pieces, and Anand can’t hold off the enemy passed pawns in the long run. A trade of queens doesn’t ease White’s dilemma and his a-pawn never emerges as a serious counterthreat.

It’s over after 60. Kf3 f5 61. Bd7 h3, threatening simply 62…h2. Anand resigns as 62. Nxf5 h2 63. Ng3 Ra3+ 64. Kg2 Rxg3+! leaves him facing a hopeless ending.

The Brooklyn-based Kamsky’s second-place finish is also cause for celebration, his best result since coming back last year from nearly a decade of inactivity.

The 37th Chess Olympiad got under way this week in Turin, Italy, with a strong U.S. squad including Kamsky and U.S. junior star GM Hikaru Nakamura hoping to challenge perennial powers Russia and Ukraine.

While the money matches are due up this week, the Olympiad is already notable for the return to competitive play of ailing Russian classical world champion Vladimir Kramnik, who has been battling a severe form of arthritis. Kramnik’s play has suffered since his great match win over longtime champ Garry Kasparov six years ago, but he flashed his old solid form in his very first game back, dominating talented German GM Arkady Naiditsch.

Black already looked loose coming out of this Catalan, and he reacts badly when White applies early pressure: 12. Nxd5 Nxd5 13. Nf5!? (this idea works out better for White here than it did in Anand-Topalov) 0-0? (if Black has to give up a pawn — and it looks like he does — the better way was 13…Qf6 14. Qxb7 Rc8 15. Ne3 Ne7, with some compensation) 14. Nxg7! (simple tactics, based on the unguarded Black bishop; if 14…Kxg7, White regains the piece with 15. Bxd5 exd5 16. Qc3+ Qf6 17. Qxc5) Nf6 15. Bh6.

Down a pawn, Black has to accept another weakness at c6 after 16. Qf3 Bc6 17. Qf4, because 17…Bxg2? loses to 18. Nf5! exf5 19. Qg5+ with mate to follow. When the dust settles after 20. Qh4 Ng8 21. Qxe7 Bxe7 22. Nxe6 Nxh6 23. Nxf8 Bxf8 24. Rxc6, Kramnik has three pawns and a rook for knight and bishop and the competitive portion of the game is pretty much passed.

Keeping Black’s minor pieces under constant attack, White brings home the point after 32. Rb7 Nd6 33. Rd7!, threatening simply to pin and win with 34. e5. Black can’t save his piece with 33…Kf6 (equally bleak is 33…Rd2 34. e5 Ne4 35. Rxd2 Nxd2 36. Rxa5) because of 34. f4 Ke6 35. Rb7 Rd2+ 36. Kf3 Rxh2 37. e5, again picking off the knight. Naiditsch resigned.

We’ll have Olympiad updates and more highlights in the coming weeks.

Mtel Masters, Sofia, Bulgaria, May 2006

Anand Topalov

1. e4 c5 32. gxf3 Bxf3+

2. Nf3 d6 33. Rxf3 Qxf3+

3. d4 cxd4 34. Kg1 Qe3+

4. Nxd4 Nf6 35. Kf1 Qf3+

5. Nc3 a6 36. Kg1 Qxb3

6. f3 e6 37. Qe5 Rd8

7. Be3 b5 38. Qc3 Qxc3

8. Qd2 b4 39. Nxc3 h4

9. Na4 Nbd7 40. Re4 Rb3

10. c4 bxc3 41. Ne2 g5

11. Nxc3 Bb7 42. Re5 Rd5

12. Be2 d5 43. Rxd5 exd5

13. exd5 Nxd5 44. Bc6 Ra3

14. Nxd5 Bxd5 45. Nd4 Kg7

15. 0-0 Qb8 46. Bxd5 Rd3

16. Nf5 Qe5 47. Nf5+ Kf6

17. Ng3 Bb4 48. Be4 Rd1+

18. Qxb4 Qxe3+ 49. Kg2 Rd2+

19. Kh1 Rb8 50. Kf3 Rxh2

20. Qd6 Rb6 51. Ne3 Ra2

21. Qc7 Rc6 52. Bc6 Ra3

22. Qb7 Rc2 53. Kf2 Ra1

23. Qxa6 0-0 54. Bd7 Ke5

24. b3 Ne5 55. Kf3 Ra3

25. Rae1 Qd2 56. Kf2 Ke4

26. Rd1 Qf4 57. Bc6+ Kf4

27. Bb5 h5 58. Ng2+ Ke5

28. Ne2 Qe3 59. Ne3 Ra2+

29. a4 Rb2 60. Kf3 f5

30. Qd6 Rc8 61. Bd7 h3

31. Rde1 Nxf3 White resigns

37th Chess Olympiad, Turin, Italy, May 2006

Kramnik Naiditsch

1. Nf3 Nf6 18. Bxc6 bxc6

2. c4 c5 19. Rac1 Bd6

3. g3 d5 20. Qh4 Ng8

4. d4 cxd4 21. Qxe7 Bxe7

5. Bg2 e6 22. Nxe6 Nxh6

6. 0-0 dxc4 23. Nxf8 Bxf8

7. Nxd4 Nd5 24. Rxc6 Rd8

8. Qa4+ Nd7 25. Rfc1 Kg7

9. Qxc4 N7b6 26. R1c2 Nf5

10. Qb3 Bd7 27. e3 a5

11. Nc3 Bc5 28. Ra6 Rd5

12. Nxd5 Nxd5 29. e4 Rd1+

13. Nf5 0-0 30. Kg2 Nd4

14. Nxg7 Nf6 31. Rc7 Nb5

15. Bh6 Qe7 32. Rb7 Nd6

16. Qf3 Bc6 33. Rd7 Black

17. Qf4 Kh8 resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at [email protected]washington times.com.

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