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Kamsky-Topalov g2: Clock Flop

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Watching game two of the Kamsky-Topalov candidates final match was like living in one of those Salvador Dali paintings with the melting clocks. On Chess.FM Nick de Firmian and I were gobsmacked by Kamsky's self-destructive clock handling from start to finish. That finish, by the way, was the American's loss on time on move 32, not something you see very often at the top level. Perhaps along with his listed seconds Kamsky is also getting advice from Ivanchuk? Topalov was good, but this time the immovable object wasn't Kamsky, it was his clock.

The position was completely lost for White by the time his flag fell, so no surprises there. What was shocking was seeing Kamsky continue his time-management issues from game one and blow them into a total crisis right at the start. The time-per-move log, in its entirety after the jump, shows how bad it was. Kamsky seemed taken aback by Topalov's choice of 4..Bc5, skipping the usual instant-endgame version of the Berlin. But Kamsky had a similar position against Adams a few weeks ago at Corus (different order, so no 5.Nxe5 possible) and one of Topalov's seconds, Vallejo, played it three times last year, including twice against Topalov!

Okay, you can't know it all, but you can be practical. Kamsky spent 20 minutes before taking on e5 on move 5, a move far less popular than 5.c3, which was likely Kamsky's point. Then another 25 minutes to get through the choices, admittedly intriguing ones, on the next few book moves. By this point Topalov must have smelled blood and he used literally less than a minute during all this time. Kamsky gave up a pawn but GM de Firmian agreed he had fine compensation with the central files and bishop pair. Perhaps desperate to finally get the well-prepared Bulgarian out of his book, Kamsky spent nearly a half an hour before playing the slightly wild 10.Qh5, when 10.Be3 was expected. It's to Kamsky's credit that he consistently avoided the queen exchanges and played for the attack, but at the same time it looked almost nuts to go into complications down over an hour on the clock and still with 25 moves to go before control.

This time, unlike round one, the time handicap + Topalov was too much to overcome. Kamsky refused to grab his pawn back and bail out with moves like 9.Bf4 or 15.Bxg6. Already well below a minute per move he went for it with 15.f4 and then the tactical shot 17.Bf5?! Here we first thought Black had a pretty queen sac win with 17..Nexf4! 18.Rxf4 dxc3! and the queen is immune because a white rook falls after 19.Be6+ Bxe6 20.Qxc5 cxd2. Cool. White isn't lost after 19.Be3 Qd5 (19..Qd6!?) (19..Qe7!?) 20.Bxg6 hxg6 21.Qxg6 cxb2 22.Bd4. Kamsky was basically blitzing by this point and fell into the bizarre situation of having a chance to win a piece with 22.Nxc8, but this would have given Black a huge amount of play with his rooks. Instead Kamsky lashed out with 22.c4 and got pushed off the board in short order by Topalov's commanding play. Kasparov suggested alternatives on move 19 with 19.Ng3 or 19.c4?!, which looks very nice until the computer cure-all 19..dxc3 20.Bxc3 Nc7!

So what to say? Kamsky again looked outprepared and unwilling to trust known lines and his instincts. You can't spot the world #1 an hour on the clock in every game and hope things will turn out well for you. One must credit his fighting spirit, looking to play the best moves instead of bailing out even when the clock must have been telling him it was the wrong way to go. Topalov's killer instinct was apparent; he picked up the tempo to push Kamsky's clock even harder, playing natural strong moves. Kamsky has a day to rest up before having to defend the black pieces on Friday. Meanwhile, Linares starts up on the first match off day and Aeroflot is in full swing.

[I should have mentioned these times are approximate from a relay, but very close. According to those watching the webcam Topalov actually did think on the recapture on g6, for example. But of course his times aren't the ones to watch here!]

Move  Kamsky         Topalov     
----  ----------------   ----------------
  1.  e4       (0:00)    e5       (0:05)  
  2.  Nf3      (0:06)    Nc6      (0:06)  
  3.  Bb5      (0:06)    Nf6      (0:07)  
  4.  O-O      (3:57)    Bc5      (0:06)  
  5.  Nxe5     (21:10)   Nxe4     (0:06)  
  6.  Qe2      (4:23)    Nxe5     (0:08)  
  7.  d4       (11:20)   Qe7      (0:07)  
  8.  dxc5     (8:58)    Nxc5     (0:06)  
  9.  Nc3      (1:22)    Ng6      (0:08)  
 10.  Qh5      (27:05)   c6       (13:32) 
 11.  Bg5      (5:09)    f6       (0:03)  
 12.  Rae1     (3:25)    Ne6      (2:45)  
 13.  Bd3      (3:09)    O-O      (1:05)  
 14.  Bd2      (3:43)    d5       (6:07)  
 15.  f4       (8:56)    Qc5+     (0:05)  
 16.  Kh1      (1:49)    d4       (0:05)  
 17.  Bf5      (0:04)    Rf7      (2:01)  
 18.  Ne4      (3:24)    Qd5      (0:04)  
 19.  Bxg6     (0:22)    hxg6     (8:58)  
 20.  Qxd5     (0:07)    cxd5     (0:04)  
 21.  Nd6      (0:01)    Rc7      (7:47)  
 22.  c4       (5:09)    dxc3     (1:53)  
 23.  Bxc3     (0:22)    d4       (2:59)  
 24.  Bb4      (1:02)    Bd7      (0:25)  
 25.  Rf2      (0:25)    a5       (1:01)  
 26.  Ba3      (0:09)    b5       (0:10)  
 27.  b3       (0:32)    b4       (2:34)  
 28.  Bb2      (0:05)    Ra6      (0:04)  
 29.  Ne4      (0:04)    Rac6     (0:21)  
 30.  Kg1      (0:51)    Rc2      (0:33)  
 31.  g3       (0:05)    d3       (1:32)  
 32.  Rd1      (0:05)    f5       (1:17)  
       {Black wins} 0-1


Awful performance by Gata today, he needs to pick up the slack if he's to have any chance now.

I can't understand these Kamsky-haters. It was not a "massacre" - Gata could have played it safe with 5.c3 but decided to find the principled continuation. He got good play and it would have be an exceptional game if not for the time trouble. These kinds of things happen - Anand lost the first game against Kamsky in Las Palmas on time! - and I'm quite impressed with the high level of play Gata is showing.

I'm not sure there are any Kamski-haters here. The word massacre is
improper. But you should understand that people judge the terminal
events far easier than the subtleties leading to them.


I cant understand these people who don't understand the language, but have no hesitation advising others. Massacre is appropriate for a game where somebody is down to 5 mts or thereabouts after some 15 moves, and gets blown off the board. Exactly like Amateur vs Professional. Amateur doesnt know theory, struggles through the opening, reinvents the wheel on every move after the first four, and might as well call it a day a few moves into the middle game. Never has a chance from day 1. Been there, done that. With me on the Amateur side that is, unfortunately. Not something you expect to see in a candidate's final.
I also dont understand these people who bandy words like "hate" so freely. It was a massacre on the chess board, i.e. a game. Not in real life. In real life, two perfectly personable gentleman came and sat down to the board, played their game, shook hands and went away. Dont equate chess analysis with life philosophies.

d_tal, that was an exceptionally logical and principled post to see in a chess forum. You're a gentleman and a scholar.

"Find the principled continuation???" Are we supposed to applaud a 2700+ GM for struggling through theory in a main line Lopez from move 5 on? And then losing due to terrible time trouble? Nothing about being pro or contra Kamsky, any GM playing like this at this level will be spanked.

I would say 'massacre' implies either "judging the game by the result" or (the essence of d_tal's comment) taking the clock situation into account. Otherwise, playing through the game without knowing the [clock] context one may have the impression that white was (more than!?) fine after the opening, and only then things went terribly wrong.

It will be interesting to see whether Topalov repeats this line, or if it was a one-game experiment, a one-game success. IF Topalov plays the same line again and Kamsky again spends an hour on the first ten moves, Gata really needs to consult a psychiatrist ,:).

@jaideepblue: I think 5.c3 is "the principled continuation", in no way less dangerous than 5.Nxe5. This is notably based on my own experience (at amateur level) with various -Bc5 Ruy Lopez's against well-prepared opponents.

@chesshire cat: "any GM playing like this at this level will be spanked." Not completely true, Ivanchuk had similar "stunts" at MTel 2008, including his game against Topalov, and got away with it even winning in the end. Well, Chucky may be a special case, and Corus 2009 demonstrated that he (in his own words) "cannot always be lucky".

I think this second game tells a lot about Kamsky's preparedness or under-preparedness rather for a match of this level. I wouldn't be surprised if Topalov repeats this variation in his next black.

I am obviously Topalov fan, but I wish Kamski was given an extra hour when his time trouble started. It’s a pity that such a game will go down in history with an asterisk – severe time trouble for Kamski, robbing Topalov of deserved credit. Maybe a match rule for an extra hour which the players can take when they choose would be a nice idea. Most probably not, but just a thought ...

'Massacre' seems apt here. After all, while Kamsky had very nice compensation, I doubt it was ever much more than that, and it soon went downhill with accelerating pace.

Taking a long think - even something like 30 minutes or maybe more - when surprised in the opening is fine. That is not really so excessive. But to have used 80!! minutes already after 10 moves, 107 after 15 etc.. is criminal.

In hindsight everything is easy, but I suggested even early on in the game that under the circumstances Kamsky should simply have traded down to a fairly certain draw instead of falling for the trap of thinking you have to win with White, especially when you just get four of them, just to see it backfire due to a hopeless clock situation. It was just so very dangerous. Very classic mistake.

Thomas, on repeating the line, yes I think he may very well do that. Maybe it's even more interesting to see if he goes for the same Grünfeld line in the next game. Since 17.e5 doesn't seem to give White anything (either), it seems based on current evidence that Black is just doing fine in this line with ..Na5 ..b6. Unless I've been missing something? But surely Topalov might be armed with plenty of new ideas.

"Watching game two of the Kamsky-Topalov candidates final match was like living in one of those Salvador Dali paintings with the melting clocks. [...] Perhaps along with his listed seconds Kamsky is also getting advice from Ivanchuk?"


Extraordinary how often in matches psychological issues determine the outcome, and this it's-a-short-match-I-have-White-I-mustn't-back-down machoism is one of the most prevalent. That was how Kramnik lost so badly to Anand.

Still, Anand-Topalov will be a very interesting match.

I don't know about giving Kamsky credit for playing in a principled way, either. Sport is about making decisions which give the best chance of a successful outcome, not about entertaining the spectators. Petrosian would have done better.

Actually, Kramnik lost to Anand because he was outprepared and outplayed. Nothing to do with "it's-a-short-match-I-have-White-I-mustn't-back-down".

How can you be unpreprared like this against Topalov's defense number 2 againt 1.e4?

I wish Gata would win, but Topalov is amazingly strong player, he's "only" 2812 ELO now, after this match he could be something like 2820-30?!

Also, Topalov is trying to prove he has a place in the chess world by playing chess, which in my opinion makes it likely he won't stop until he has breaken Kasparov's record, mark my words, LOL!

Now, BOTH in game 1 and game 2 we saw the same symptom from Kamsky, which is spending an enormous amount of time in the opening. On the other hand, Topalov played through the openings
in both games relatively quickly. In the first game, Kamsky could get a better game at some point and in the second game, the time trouble was simply too much for him to handle.

At the super GM level,the lack of opening preparation is just as a weakness as not playing accurate moves. Let's hope that we will see more
of a fight from Gata in the rest of the tournament.

When black makes two "sideline" moves (3...Nf6 and 4...Bc5), Kamsky should have been able to find a slight edge in a safe position, possibly avoiding principled continuation. Instead he chooses the continuation that is supposed to give him an edge, gets into time trouble and blows it away.

I don't know whether this qualifies for a "massacre", but when I first had a look at the game-they were already around move 15, my first thought was "this is a harakiri".

Congratulations to Kamsky. He may have found the ultimate way of losing to Topalov.

xtra, I'm sure Kamsky wasn't unprepared against the Berlin mainline with 4..Nxe4. 4..Bc5, which Topalov has never played before, is a completely different kind of game, and there was no reason to expect him to play that. You can't prepare for everything.

I wouldn't rule out that Topalov repeats the same line of the Ruy Lopez, but then I hope (for Kamsky and everyone else, maybe excluding hardcore Topalov fans) that Kamsky is better prepared next time .... . BTW, have there been many examples from high-level matches where black scored two consecutive wins with the same opening line? Kramnik-Anand is a "fresh" one, anything else?
About the Grunfeld: First it will be interesting if Kamsky plays it again tomorrow. After all, the Slav is probably a safer choice - and while equalizing the match immediately is a best-case scenario for Kamsky, losing game #3, the worst-case scenario, would more or less mean "match over".
Then (only then) Topalov has to react .... . Acirce wisely put "based on current evidence" but there may be surprises to come. In the given line, I do not see how Topalov could sacrifice an exchange ,:) - the only 'obvious' possibility is Ra1-b1-b5xa5 but that is slow, not forced and doesn't look convincing.
A bit of research on chessgames.com: Both Topalov and Cheparinov consistently played the same line against the Grunfeld in the recent past [Cheparinov 'copying' his boss is probably neither a coincidence nor irrelevant for the match preparation ,:)]. Well, there is one exception - Topalov-Cheparinov, MTel 2008 (no need to go into detail why this is a different story). But earlier (1998-2001) Topalov also used 7.Bb5+ in the exchange variation and the Russian system (with Qb3). The first line seems to be relatively forgotten, maybe it's time for a revival?
BTW [end of my theory lesson - while I play the Grunfeld myself I obviously cannot compete with 2700+ or other professional players ,:)]: 7.Pf3 c5 8. Bb5+ is quite a different story. As acirce [sic ,:)] and others pointed out on chessgames.com, that was essentially a drawing weapon in Gustaffson-Kramnik, Dortmund 2008.

And a shorter comment from a German native speaker on acirce's other post (with the link). For those who don't understand German, he clearly meant the picture. The caption ("Die Geisel 'Zeit' kann im Schach grausam sein!") means - losing a bit in translation "Time trouble can be cruel".
For those who do understand German, the article contains other provocative statements, such as "Teimour Radjabov, Garry Kasparov's self-proclaimed successor from Baku with similar behavior and 'habitus'[appearance?]". OK, this is a bit off-topic.

The interesting thing is that bookmakers odds on somebody losing on time in this match were 16:1. Make what you will out of that...

acirce: You are right we can't be prepared against everything, but you have to have a line prepared against 4... Bc5.

Even if it's not the line Kamsky specifically prepared for the match because he was surprised, he's got a general knowledge of this opening.

xtra, yes, a general knowledge, but just as you say, nothing specifically prepared. So it makes sense to stop and think for a while. Should not be such a controversial issue.

Thomas, thanks for those good posts. I was slightly surprised that Kamsky played the Grünfeld in the first game, even though it is one of his main openings. But it's not like that game should scare him off from playing it again, and you are not likely to prepare many different openings for a short match. Not that a Slav would shock.

Slight addition: Topalov's other seconds (Vallejo and L'Ami) seem to have a preference for Bg5 lines against the Grunfeld - but somehow I think this doesn't fit well with Topa's style.

My main point now: "you are not likely to prepare many different openings for a short match."
Thanks for this ,:) because it gives me a reason to write something I wanted to post in another (now 'expired') thread:
For a long match (20 games or more) players may well want to or need to prepare 4 or 5 different openings - to have surprises left for the second half, if their preferred choices don't work out or if the opponent avoids them. Given that the level of modern opening preparation is much higher than in the past (I would say still including the K-K matches), this is near to impossible. For a short match, players and their seconds take maybe six months to prepare - would we really want them to be more or less out of competition (not playing much, or hiding their opening preparation) for a whole year? IMHO this is a large tradeoff compared to the 'added value' of a longer match.

Bless. I can't decide whether your determination to smear Kramnik at every opportunity, or your childlike naivete about the game, is more appealing.

I think Gata's basic problem is that he needs to prove he deserves to be on the same stage as Topalov. He certainly has the spirit; but he really has not done that yet...ever.

Gata certainly has nothing left to prove, having been on the world stage at the highest levels back at 19 years old.

I will admit it sometimes seems like he is someone else now, someone new, or a Rip Van Winkle, having disappeared from the chess scene for 10 years, and now re-appearing as from a long sleep.

Is he the same guy? What could he have been, without the lost 10 years? Who ever knows? The statistician Elo was fascinated by cases like this, and examined the lifetime ratings of several players who had periods of chess inactivity, due to war, illness, prison, etc. Is Kamsky's absence the only self-imposed period of inactivity of a top GM?

In the years 19 to 29 years old, most GMs accumulate a huge wealth of games and experience. They think through all the intricacies of many different openings, even weird ones. They work through endgames. They study to correct mistakes. Kamsky missed all this. It must matter to who he is as a chess player, to have omitted this part of his career.

Maybe the missing 10 years is the best explanation for Kamsky's clock handling.

Opponents would be wise to choose openings and lines that were popular and worked over during Kamsky's lost years, as he will not have participated in those lines' formational period.

rdh, one benefit of Anand winning his match is that we are spared your gloating supercillious comments, and your incredibly naive interpretation of chess, with "kramik = positional = good chess" being the overiding criterion of assessment. Please go back deep into your hole, and look for like-minded trolls there.

rdh you gloating supercillious incredibly naive jerk stop slamming d-tal and stop trying to make excuses for your stupid hero kramnik. It doesnt make any difference how long is the match when kaspy got surprised in 2000 even when he was losing the match he had the brains and guts to go for short draws. If kram had any guts or brains he'd have done the same against the vish. Instead he tried to figure it out at the board like a dope got behind on time like kamsky and got squashed. ha ha ha.

Interesting opinion , i might add that there has to be a good side from that period of inactivity too (other than not dealing with the dark forces of chess :) .
All those years he was watching his rivals from the dark , while he was out of sight , maybe he has some surprises on his pocket.
I have the same posture as him while playing on a real board , i find it very confortable and good for my back.
I am watching his game now , i think Topa is in big trouble.

Why no Sicilian from Topalov??

"All those years he was watching his rivals from the dark ..."
IF he was watching, if he was still (passively)interested in top-level chess - no evidence available to prove Manu either right or wrong ... . But his comment would clearly make sense if Kasparov makes a comeback after all, because Garry is still watching his (past and potentially future) rivals.

haha thats what i call a "massacre" 2-2.

Not a massacre but a massage ... which can also be painful.
BTW, I liked Susan Polgar's live comment after move 11: "Both players are playing quite fast up to this point. Kamsky has done a much better job handling his clock"

Can somebody pls tell me what is happening in game 4? Game viewers don't work on my mobile

Kamsky won in 73 moves - that's what jaideepblue and me were referring to .... .

I saw on chessbase that Kamsky had won. I haven't seen the game but great stuff. Way to go gata, showing he belongs here and putting the game 2 debacle behind him

I saw on chessbase that Kamsky had won. I haven't seen the game but great stuff. Way to go gata, showing he belongs here and putting the game 2 debacle behind him

And this win is most impressive (IMO) than Topalov´s , because he won in his own (python) style .
Topa still hasnt show his form in this match , i hope he can impose his style too , at least in one of the remaining games.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on February 18, 2009 6:53 PM.

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