SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
The 4th round saw Bulgaria pull off a great upset against pre-event favourites Russia, 3-1, with no draws!
While former world champion V.Topalov said afterwards in an interview (below) ”We were lucky…” , I think a closer look at the games reveals that Bulgaria was more lucky to be strong rather than lucky at luck! All 4 games were hard fought and very interesting affairs. Bulgaria got off to a good start and seemed to be heading to a match win…regardless of whether Topalov would have won or drawn.
The Topalov encounter with the current Russian champion Peter Svidler no doubt will go down as one of the great match ups in this team event. The game featured a topical Spanish Opening, an opening that both sides are experts at. It became evident early on that a tense, complex struggle was about to ensue when the Bulgarian superstar played his 10th move:
White indicates his intention to withdraw his Bishop to a2 (keeping the a2 to f7 diagonal under watch) instead of the routine 10.c3, allowing for the withdrawal of the Bishop to the customary c2 square. In recent times White has not had much success retreating to c2.
By move 20 a critical position had arisen:
With only one pawn exchanged so far, the position could explode at any moment. I prefer this kind of position with the White pieces, where guerrilla tactics often take the prominent role in the course of play. Here White can virtually repeat the position with 21.Nh4 Qh5! 22.Nf3 Qg6!. However, as Topalov mentioned in the post-game interview, since his team mates had good positions at this point, he felt confident about playing a bit loose:
This entirely logical move requires some courage since it opens the White King position and subjects him to some counterplay with moves such as 21…h5. HOWEVER, careful analysis of the position reveals that after 21…h5(?!) 22.Nh4 Qh7 23.Ng5! Qh8 (what else?) 24.Qe2! the presence of the White Queen on the K-side is dangerous for the Black King.
THEREFORE, Svidler reacts with more restraint:_________________________________________________________
21… Nf6!? 22. Nh4! Qh7
Here Topalov lets pass an opportunity to get the edge: 23. g5! hg?! (23… Nxe4 24. g6! is embarrassing for Black; but 23…Nd5 is the best try to keep White at bay) 24. Bxf7! Kf8 25. Ng6 Kxf7 26. Nxg5 Kxg6 27. d4! e4 28. Nxh7 Kxh7 29. Bg5 and White is on top, though the position is still not won.
INSTEAD, Topalov played the less precise (but much more complicated) 23.Nf5 and the game seemed to swing back and forth in no-where land until the following position was reached after White’s 27th move:
White is attacking f7. Black should now play the cold blooded 27… Rf8! when if 28. Nf5 Nxf5! 29. gf Rd6! 30. Be3 g6! 31. Bxb6 Rxb6 32. Rad1 gf Black is keeping his head out of the water and the game is completely wild with chances for both sides.
INSTEAD, Svidler played indecisively with 27…g6?! and after the energetic 28. g5! Rd6?! 29. gh! the Bulgarian superstar started to dominate the play, maintaining a grip on the position.
Everything seemed to indicate that Topalov had good chances for victory when time control was reached at move 40:
POSITION AT MOVE 40 :
After such a tense and complicated fight it is difficult to change gear and play computer-perfect techical chess! Here 41.Qd5! is a finesse that must have escaped Topalov. After 41… Qxd5 (41…Kh7 42.Qxd6 is hard to meet) 42. ed Rc8 (42…Ra8 43.Ra5!) 43. Rxa6 Rxc3 44. Rxd6 White will probably win without much problem…
HOWEVER, Topalov played the imprecise 41.Qxb5 (?!) which ALMOST gave the Russian champ chances to crawl back into the game. The critical position would arise after White’s 52nd move:
DID SVIDLER MISS A DRAW?
Here Black might be able to achieve a well known theoretical draw with 52… Rh5! 53. Kg3 Rxh6 54. Rb7? 54… Rg6! 55. Kh2 Rf6!. (Diagram, right) To avoid the repetition, White must pull back his Rook with 56.Rb3, but this allows Black to bring up his King with 56…Kg7! and after the logical 57. Kg3 Ra6! activates the Rook.
HOWEVER, instead of 54.Rb7 White can gain a vital tempo and play 54.Rb8! Kh7 55.Rb7!! when , according to the latest tablebases, White wins!
SO INFACT, THE ENDGAME WAS LOST IN ANY CASE!
Svidler, exhausted, played the natural 52…Kh7 which after 53. Rb6! Rd2 54. Kg3 Rd1 55. f4 Black resigned.
It is only a draw if the h6 pawn is not on the board!
A GREAT FIGHT!
Svidler and Topalov in postmortem analysis
[blip.tv http://blip.tv/play/AYLc1RcC width=”480″ height=”350″]