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Kamsky-Topalov g7: Topalov the Challenger!

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It was as messy a game as Kamsky could have hoped for needing a win to level the match. He had his chances but again didn't give himself enough time to find them when it counted most. Topalov, always the gambler, once again rolled a seven and outplayed his opponent in complications. After some pawn sacrifices Kamsky handled very well, the Bulgarian made the penultimate mistake in a razor-sharp position and won the game and the match. It's almost irrelevant to say that had Kamsky found 31..b4 he would have won the game. Or that the amazing queen sacs with 32..Bd3 or 32..Be4 probably hold the draw. The real mistake came with 25..Ba4, which is a perfectly reasonable move, but one that took him around half an hour to play. (..Bc8 and ..Kf7!?! were computer options.) That left him with less than 15 minutes to play as many moves. Topalov is the world's best at maintaining complications and he did so here, despite risking a loss.

After a couple of blunders with seconds left Kamsky reached time control and had all day to contemplate his rook-down position. He actually made a few more moves after a long think, more to clear his head than to actually test his chances for a draw. In the press conference Topalov said he'd gone in planning to avoid taking any big risks today! Kamsky sounded relaxed, even relieved, despite the painful conclusion today. He certainly didn't sound like someone who was contemplating a second retirement, which is of course good news.

Final score 4.5-2.5 and Veselin Topalov is now the official challenger for Vishy Anand's world title. The WCh match is supposed to take place this year, but with such a delay in getting this candidates match off the ground it's not clear to me how that's going to happen. We can hope.

A strange match all round, with Kamsky doing better in the openings and Topalov showing the better nerves when the opposite was expected. It's hard to say Topalov played well, but he played well enough and in a match that's all that matters. Kamsky had stretches of great chess and showed he could stay in the ring with the world #1. His play with black was phenomenal. We'll see if he can use this as a launching point to get back into the top 10. Lots of good stuff from Macauley Peterson on the ICC Blog. He's expecting an interview with Topalov tomorrow. Official site.


Congrats for World №1 GM Topalov! Bravo Gata! You played well!

I think that 4.5/7 is exactly what the ELO difference predicted.

When Gary goes to the Supernationals are you going to be there too?

Congratulations to Topalov!!

Either would have been an interesting opponent for Anand, but maybe Topalov-Anand slightly more exciting. Apart from the fact that it's a crime and a disgrace that Vishy has to defend the title so often.

Too many title defenses indeed. But it would have been the same no matter who won. Only Kramnik held the ever present danger of walking away, but that possibility has been squashed now. The road to the WCC Unification was messy.


"Apart from the fact that it's a crime and a disgrace that Vishy has to defend the title so often." - chesshire cat

I am of the opinion that Anand has yet to defend his title.

Agreed, Anand only just took the undivided title for the first time. It's definitely a "crime and a disgrace" the ersatz match scheduled for later this year will take place, but FIDE is managed by criminals, so it's also business as usual.

" undivided title" , hahaha ,

Anand has not had his title for a full year yet - he is yet to defend it.

Of course the match with Topalov should be delayed a little, is not fair for the champ to defend the title so soon.

It's quite funny reading these people saying Anand only won the title last year, when Kramnik's own web site says "World Champion 2000-2007" and of the Anand match it says, "Anand wins the match to retain his title".

But I've no problem with another defence this year. These multiple championships are part of the fallout from the unification, and it's got to be squeezed in somewhere.

Even we Kamsky fans have to admit 4.5/7 is a whomping. Kudos to Topalov.

"The WCh match is supposed to take place this year, but with such a delay in getting this candidates match off the ground it's not clear to me how that's going to happen."

I wonder if it depends on who are playing for the WCh. Isn't a match between Anand and Topalov more attractive for organisers, sponsors, etc.?

I'm talking about mass appeal, any chess enthusiast will follow any WCh match, regardless of who is playing.

Mig says, "It's hard to say Topalov played well, but he played well enough and in a match that's all that matters. Kamsky had stretches of great chess and showed he could stay in the ring with the world #1. His play with black was phenomenal."

Is it really hard to say Topalov played well? And was Kamsky really phenomenal with the black pieces?-----------I guess the wrong guy won.

1) Congratlations to Topalov on winning the match. 2) Condolences to Kamsky. A little less time used here, one different move there, and things might well have been different. But, as we all know, that is often the case in matches. 3) I agree with Dimi: "Too many title defenses indeed. But it would have been the same no matter who won. Only Kramnik held the ever present danger of walking away, but that possibility has been squashed now. The road to the WCC Unification was messy." I would only point out that Kramnik in fact did NOT walk away. I do think that Kramnik respects the historic significance of the World Championship title. Speaking for myself, I would be happiest if Big Vlad were still World Champion. (I would also probably be happiest if we still had the 3-year zonal-interzonal-candidates-world championship system that I grew up with years ago, though I know that that is gone forever). 4) Nevertheless, we have in Anand a unified champion who is a credit to chess by virtue of both his play and his character, and who is, moreover, the man who beat the man who beat the man... etc. Here's hoping that he's able to savor his achievement for more than a few months.

Yeah, one can speak of missed chances n'all, but at the end of the day it's about who produced the goods ON the day, and that was Topalov. Here's to a cracking Anand-Topalov match!!
On a side note I am most happy to see the KID making a comeback. I left chess for some years in the 90s and when I returned no-one was playing the KID much at top level anymore, even Kaspy had given it up. It's such an interesting and principled opening, I hope it's back for good. Can someone tell me, was it mainly the Bayonet Attack that killed it back then? Was that why Kasparov gave it up? I think I remember reading some interview where he said something like it was too much bother battling with the ever-changing theory when he could get a playable position with another opening..any comments Mig?

Don´t know what the thruth is , but for what i know Kasparov stoped playing it after two painfull loses to Kramnik...

While it's admittedly unfair to Anand to have to defend his title after such a short time, I have to admit (selfishly, I suppose) I'm thrilled that we'll be able to have another great match so soon. 3 years always seemed like an interminable time, back in the old days (though I preferred the longer matches, i.e., of 24 games). And when one compares it to other sports, they're generally a year or less between championships; in boxing, for example, title fights are held every few months in each weight division. A few months' prep seems about right for chess as well, and I think also serves to help the popularity and newsworthiness of the game and its star players for the public.

On another (current) note, does anyone have any idea - I haven't read anything about this - as to why Grischuk's suddenly emerged into such phenomenal form? True, Linares is only half over and he could still be overtaken, but he's far exceeded everyone's expectations, probably including his own! Could one element be that the others have been underestimating him?! Or is he just simply playing better chess?

Playing well with black doesn't mean every move you made with the black pieces was fantastic. It refers to the relevance of the color. That is, the opening. Kamsky came out of two sharp Grunfelds equal if not better and two Frenches with few problems. That was entirely unexpected considering his problems in the openings and Topalov's deservedly famous preparation. Topalov was outprepared and said as much himself.

Topalov played better than Kamsky when it mattered, obviously. He won. Just because he won doesn't mean he played particularly well -- for him of course. He played below his usual level and it was still enough. Be happy with that if you're a Topalov fan instead of trying so hard to make it sound like you didn't see any of the games.

It was an exciting match. We don't want or expect perfection. It does highlight how well both Anand and Kramnik played in their match. Topalov will have to be much better than this to beat Anand, surely. And he can be, so it should be good.

I for one feel good for Anand; Kamsky is Anand's arch nemesis who he can never beat when he has to. Kamsky winning the title would mean yet another cycle of confusion as he is barely in the top 10 rated players.

I am surprised at the level of preparation shown by Topalov against Kamsky. It almost makes us think that Kamsky was better prepared than even Kramnik in facing Toppie! Was Topalov expecting a walk-over against Kamsky (surely the most tenacious of the top players after Karpov and Korchnoi)? I hope Topalov stops messing around and sits down to solidify his openings. Such risks against Anand (who plays really fast and is often conservative while defending) would be tantamount to a devastating loss! I wouldn't be surprised to see Topalov lose 3-5 against Anand if he keeps playing this risky!!

Kamsky winning the title would mean that he is the champ , nothing less .
What kind of champ? , thats another story (i guess it dependes on what you do with the title) but a worthy champion indeed.

Preparation in such a short match is something of a lottery, as we saw in Kramnik-Anand. You can be prepared up to your eyeballs and you still have to guess right. No doubt Topalov, like Kramnik, was armed to the teeth in many lines they expected but never saw. Really only in game one did Topalov get to drop one of his big novelties with e5, and Kamsky handled it very well despite the surprise factor. And in game two Topalov's surprise with the ..Bc5 Berlin variation worked in getting Kamsky into deep time trouble trying to refute it over the board.

I was expecting something spicy from Kamsky against the Caro-Kann and he got nothing. He must have done quite a bit of work on the French, which he'd never played before. It will be interesting to keep an eye on how he does with it ongoing.

General comments:

Topalov didn't have good match history. It is very likely that he was
getting the jitters big time, just at the thought of losing,
particularly because he was a favorite by a big margin and also
because he played at home. In Elista he became victim of his
significantly lesser match experience than Kramnik. Hopefully this
match will help him overcome that weakness and make him feel very
much at home playing that setting.

It is a relief that the match was scandal free and none of the
cheating nonsense surfaced.


RF - maybe it is Grischuk's new brown suit, he usually wears jeans and a t-shirt. The brown is ugly (at least on video) and the suit seems too big, so maybe Natalie will pick a better one for him next time. A slim guy like Grischuk should look sharp in a tailored suit, like Jack Skellington, King of Halloween.

But maybe his suit, like his new marriage, signal a new seriousness about chess. I hope so. It's so depressing to hear him make comments about how he gets no pleasure at all from 'slow chess', as he calls it. I cheer for him anyway!

If more people would play the French now, that's a noteworthy outcome of the match! Spot on synopsis by Mig btw. Topalov got creamed in the openings novelty department by his standards, except that one Berlin.

@Leo (and Mig): I guess the surprise element is very important when it comes to openings and opening preparation, and surprises can start with move 1, long before one gets a chance (or not) to use prepared novelties. With black, I propose that Kamsky consistently surprised Topalov ... in two different ways:
1) Sticking to the Grunfeld, which he has played before. But many experts predicted that it would be too risky against Topalov, both because of his excellent score and because of the potential for crushing novelties. So I speculated elsewhere that most of Topa's preparation might have been for the Slav.
2) Playing the French, which he has never done before - so Topalov couldn't possibly prepare ... . And here it is not clear (a matter of taste?) to what extent Kamsky's two losses resulted from the opening.
Topalov also surprised with black (no Najdorf at all), with mixed results: win, loss and draw - I would say all of those can be 'blamed' on the opening choice.

And on the KID: Only Mig can ask Kasparov why he gace up that opening, but I also think "it was Kramnik's fault" and indeed the Bayonet (b4) line. BTW, I think Kramnik also discouraged Kasparov from playing the Grunfeld ... both refers to the relatively distant past, but so much about recurrent remarks on the (poor) level of Kramnik's opening preparation.
Maybe Radjabov was most responsible for the later revival of the KID. He never avoids theoretical discussions with Van Wely (and others) in the very Bayonet line, having mixed results. It is an interesting (almost philosophical?) question who should get more praise: Radjabov for being principled and persistent, or Kasparov for being flexible?
And (again) BTW: It seems that the KID always had the reputation of being risky, maybe somewhat dubious (but fun). Who said "Gosh, my form is terrible - my opponent played the KID and I didn't even win!"? I think that's from the 1960's.

We've covered that to death here, mostly reiterating what Garry said himself when asked that question regularly back in 2000-2001. I'm sure google searching this site for a few of the terms you use would produce the answer. (The very short version: Kramnik losses partially, but more that weaker players were also getting very good positions against him in the KID. Was also taking way too much work combined with also playing the Najdorf, which was more reliable an investment. Could play 1..d5 and get playable positions and still keep winning chances with black.)

Radjabov is entirely responsible for bringing it back to the top level. A few players tossed it out on rare occasions, mostly in rapid. But seeing two KIDs in Linares on a day when Radjabov had white, that's a new wave. Glad to have it back, that's for sure. It's the only response to 1.d4 that virtually guarantees a fight.

I think Topalov just didn't want to bet half the games on whose team could come up with the best work in the Najdorf. He considered himself the better player so better to fight at the board than in the Sicilian laboratory. And this paid off, though he looked atrocious trying to play that Zaitsev against a Spanish master like Kamsky. In such a short match you have to have supreme confidence (and a bit of luck) to rely on the Najdorf and though I'd bet on Topalov in such positions most of the time, this did seem like a practical decision to make. Of course had he lost we'd be saying he was foolish to avoid his preferred opening and true style, naturally!

As a 20-year KID player, for the good and for the bad, for the spectacular attacks and for the what-does-this-Bishop-on-g7-suppose-to-do-behind-all-those-(d6,e5,f4,g5,h6)pawns - I'm happy with this Radjabov movement.
What so beautiull with this opening? Look at this Linares - in most cases white getts a slight plus from the opening, but later in the game makes some inaccuracies and it's a draw or a black win.

It's also possible that Topalov was fairly confident about beating Kamsky and preferred to keep his Najdorf powder dry for Anand. Or that he wanted to make Anand's preparation more difficult in general. Zaitsev and Bc5 in the Berlin: smokescreen or serious repertoire change?

I doubt it. Topalov never seems to hold back with novelties and going all out for a win (see Bilbao and Nanking in the run-up to this match).

Maybe it's easier for him as most of his novelties are just fairly average (even poor) but unusual moves that get the opponent out of book early and playing in a position that's been heavily analysed by Topalov and his team/computers. It's not like e.g. Kasparov, whose novelties would usually be objectively the strongest moves in a position - and hence much less numerous.

Got my interviews. It'll be posted over the weekend to http://Chess.fm/blog

I thought Kasparov gave up the KID after a loss to Ivanchuk (maybe even in a Fianchetto line, though my memory is hazy), though Kramnik's Bayonet wins were also a factor. Kramnik does seem to be responsible for Garry Kimovich discarding the Gruenfeld.

If near the end of a blitz game I have a winning position, it's clear who played better. But if I only have 1 minute left to 4 for my opponent, it's also clear why. If I then go on to mess it up in the time scramble, who's to blame? As far as I'm concerned, Topalov did not win this match, Kamsky lost it, but who played the best chess is unclear.

Mig wrote: {"You can be prepared up to your eyeballs and you still have to guess right."}

Maybe there is an indirect element of 'luck' in elite chess.

I just want to mention of couple of things:

1. Kasparov's last serious Grunfeld was against Kramnik in Astana, 2001 and that ended in a draw. So Kramnik was definitely not responsible for Kasparov giving up the Grunfeld back then.

2. Topalov's play in this match might not be his best level and that, I believe, was mainly because he was not too familiar with the positions that arose from those different openings. Surely, Topalov and his team wouldn't have expected the French. The Berlin was always Topalov's least successfully opening and the positions that arose in that Zaitsev game wasn't exactly in accordance with his style. So conclusion, Topalov's appeared lower than usual performance was mainly due to the opening choices rather than form. It's just like Kramnik against Anand in last year's match.

Siva | February 27, 2009 12:18 AM | Reply
I for one feel good for Anand; Kamsky is Anand's arch nemesis who he can never beat when he has to. Kamsky winning the title would mean yet another cycle of confusion as he is barely in the top 10 rated players.
I agree. As much as I like Kamasky, it would have been a disaster had he won the match. Gata is lucky to finish in the top half of any supertournament. He's an incredible matchplayer, but it would be problematic to have such a world champion.

Similarities and differences between Topalov-Kamsky and Kramnik-Leko concerning the second-last scheduled game:
Kamsky played for a win with black with an unfamiliar opening (I consider it quite irrelevant that he played the French ONCE before). He reached a complex middlegame, at some stage he was objectively winning but all three results were still possible, the rest is known ... .
Kramnik played for a win with black with an unfamiliar opening (apparently the only Benoni in his entire career). He reached a difficult rook endgame, he was better but maybe not quite winningg, two results were possible and it ended in a draw.

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