SPRAGGETT ON CHESS
Topalov’s play today in game 9 reminds me of Robert DeNiro in the following scene from Scorsese’s Raging Bull (1980)….he taunts his opponent and invites him do his worse…trying to prove some bizarre point… known only to himself….but refusing to be knocked down.
The longest game of the match so far (83 moves and more than 6 hours of play), certainly the most exciting, the most watched, the most BRUTAL, the most nerve-racking, the most HEROIC….and probably the DECISIVE game of the match between defending Champion Anand and challenger Topalov… Despite having Topalov against the ropes time and time again, the Bulgarian proved that he is unbeatable! Anand must be psychologically devastated this evening…
Today being a national holiday in Bulgaria–St. George’s day–holiday of the army and fighting spirit (I kid you not!), Topalov went into the game thinking of the Sofia Rule (an anti-draw rule) and what his patriotic duty must be playing in front of his home town. Today the pride of all of Bulgaria weighed on Veselin’s shoulders. Today Topalov would only play for victory in the game and in the match…and if he should lose in trying to do this…then so be it! He would still have 2 Whites in the final 3 games.
Anand had varied his opening choice and entered into a not very dangerous line of the Nimzo-Indian, probably quite willing to make a colourless draw. The tension in this match had been incredible so far, and the Indian found himself winless in 4 games. A quiet game would have its advantages…
But instead the Bulgarian hero tempted fate at numerous points in the game, first needlessly giving Anand 2 Rooks for the Queen when he could have just sat on his already comfortable position from the opening. .
POSITION AFTER WHITE’S 19th MOVE
In this position White threatens nothing. Black can play solidly with 19…Qb8!? (defending the Rook on e8 and threatening …ed4). After the logical 20.Qb2 Topalov could now play 20…Qd6! as he did in the game. Or if Topalov wanted, he could get a superior version of the 2-Rooks for Queen with 19…ed4!?. Analysis with engines shows that Black is quite ok. One of the differences is that after White takes the second Rook on e8 with his Rook, his Rook on c1 would be pinned (…Qc7).
Instead, the Bulgarian grandmaster played the immediate 19…Qd6!? and after Anand’s 20.Bf2 we arrive at the following position:
Here Topalov opened up the position with 20…ed4, giving the Indian 2 Rooks for the Queen. Instead, Topalov could easily sit on the position. For example, 20…Ng7 (defending the Rook on e8 and threatening to take on d4). Should Anand play 21.Bg3, which looks quite strong, with the pin on e5), then Topalov could gain the advantage with the surprising 21…Rxc3!
The Indian swapped the 2 Rooks for the Queen and held a small but firm positional advantage. In this position the 2 Rooks are superior (and more dangerous) than the Black Queen. Perhaps Topalov was counting on some counterchances against the White King, but as we see convincingly all during the game, the White King’s position is unassailable.
Never the less, Topalov’s position is quite defensible. After some more moves, however, Topalov again provokes unnecessary complications! Rather than sit back and defend with 26…Qd7, he speculated with the risky 26…Qb4. And then ,once more, instead of the reasonable 28…Qa5 or 28…Qb2 he threw caution to the wind with 28…Qa4. It is not surprising then that soon Topalov found himself in a lost position
POSITION AFTER BLACK’S 32nd MOVE
The White King position is very secure; Topalov’s Queen and Knight can not get at the White monarch. Black’s King, however, is wide open and exposed. It is exactly in this type of position that the 2 Rooks are much superior to the Queen: mating threats are easy enough to create.
In this position (above) Anand can achieve a technically won ending with 33.Ne6 and after Black takes this Knight White recovers the material with 34.f4 and 35.fe5, creating a passed pawn. Together with the 2 Rooks, White should experience only minor problems advancing this pawn and winning handily enough.
Perhaps Anand was worried about 33…Nd3 (instead of taking the Knight with his Queen), but in that case White has 34.Rc8ch , 35.Ng5ch, and 36. Ree8 (!). Black would have nothing better than achieving a similarly lost 2 Rook vs Queen ending, as computer analysis has shown.
(ps. Later it has been suggested that 33.Rc8!ch is the most precise way to win)
Instead Anand played the pedestrian and super-safe 33.Ne4 which allowed the Bulgarian star to almost immediately equalize the position. Unbelievable! The commentators were astounded!
And then they were even more astounded when Topalov tried to play for a win (!) while Anand was short of time and got his Queen misplaced over on the Queenside. Soon Anand had the Black King desperately trapped on the back rank and the position was once more winning for the Indian, though in this case technique would not be necessary: the Black King would probably get mated!
POSITION AFTER BLACK’S 39th MOVE
Imagine the situation: Anand is very short of time and has to make one more move to reach the first time control. All he needs to do is find 40.Re4! and then leisurely find the most effective way to get his Rook into the fray. Black’s King would not survive long! INSTEAD, Anand gives a check with his Rook on h7 (40. Rh8??) and allows the Black King to escape and once more achieve an almost balanced game!!
As a dejected Anand said after the game at the press conference, ”I botched it….I had a win somewhere but obviously I did not see it.”
But the spectators were yet to see more action –another 43 moves of roller-coaster , non-stop action as Topalov continued to play riskily and provocatively (trying to win) and Vishy Anand refusing–or unable– to take advantage of the golden opportunities to win that he was being served! Commentators were amazed! They had not seen such a wild-west shoot out at the world championship level for years!
Everybody was fascinated and could hardly believe their eyes! Here we see (standing, left to right) Topalov’s team Cheparinov, Ami and Smeets. Sitting (centre) CHESSVIBES’ Peter Doggers and my old friend Ian Rogers (journalist and grandmaster)
I won’t bother here to show these opportunities–undoubtedly in the coming days you will find hundreds of sites that will carefully walk you thru the house of horrors (!) until the game was finally declared drawn by the arbiter—and will instead just give you the moves:
When it was all over, we were treated to the usual post-game press conference. Topalov looked relieved and Anand could not hide his dismay. Once more the Indian’s body-language said it all for him.
Anand’s left hand on his face indicates his nervousness
It was a relatively short press conference. Both players were clearly tired. However, Topalov could not hide his relief and satisfaction that he had miraculously drawn the game! On numerous occasions a grin or smile appeared as he answered the journalists’ questions.”It was a very difficult game…I agree with Anand that he missed several wins…but we make our own luck in chess.”
said the Bulgarian superstar.
HERE IS TODAY’S ACTION AS REPORTED BY CHESSVIBES!
WHAT IT ALL MEANS, FOLKS
I have heard that when Topalov won the title of World Champion in 2005 in San Luis, Argentina, that as he was being presented the offical trophy, that none of the participants of the Candidates’ Tournament applauded.
Topalov had done something that had not been seen since the time of Bobby Fischer–he dominated the entire field and crushingly deserved to win. Topalov’s colleagues , all familiar faces in today’s super-tournaments, could not hide their envy.
During the tournament nasty rumours were spread (probably by his opponents) that Topalov was being helped with a computer during play(!). All nonsense, ofcourse…just the product of the petty jealousies of Topalov’s victims. No one wanted to admit
that he was that
This match, here in Sofia, is proving to the world that while Topalov may not (yet) be a Bobby Fischer, his fighting spirit and incredible will to win is absolutely phenomenal. Even Bobby Fischer would be proud! Topalov is the only grandmaster in the world today who is willing to risk losing the world championship title in order to prove that he deserves to be world champion!
In a situation where a draw would be happily accepted by Topalov’s colleagues, Topalov would prefer to play all or nothing!
But returning to Sofia, 2010, the match between title holder V.Anand of India and V.Topalov of Bulgaria, we find the score tied after 9 games: 4.5 points each. Each player has won 2 games and drawn the rest. There remain 3 games left. The first to score 6.5 points wins the title of World Champion!
While anything can still happen, and either player has mathematical chances to become the winner of the match, it should be very clear to my readers that Topalov wants to become World Champion much more than Anand. He is willing to die
to become the next world champion!
Vishy Anand has had a terrible week. He has not tasted victory in 5 games. He has suffered, endured and been teased…he has been provoked and robbed of victory when it seemed inevitable. And now he is tired, confused and needs a rest before the next game. Instead, Anand must play the 10th game tomorrow afternoon, with the Black pieces against a rejuvinated and hungry opponent.
And we fans must give both players all the respect that they are due. Both Anand and Topalov are great champions and model sportsmen. They have been locked in a battle of witts for more than 2 weeks now, and before then there was 6 to 8 months of solid preparation for Sofia. Both breath, dream and eat chess. This match is historic. Who ever wins in the next 3 games will be remembered for as long as the human race exists and records the achievements of its best.
Tomorrow will be a great game. If Anand can come back after all that he has endured, then he deserves to be World Champion! And if not…then give the man his due!
SPRAGGETT ON CHESS