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You can tell the great players by their eye movements. An average club player's eyes dart about hopelessly, never knowing quite where to look for the next move. A grandmaster focuses rapidly on the critical area of the board.

It is a rare genius that looks, as Vassily Ivanchuk does for much of the game, at the ceiling. And when he is not perusing the ceiling, he often stares blankly at the audience. His 24th move in this game, however, surely came from the ceiling.

White: Vassily Ivanchuk

Black: Veselin Topalov

Novgorod 1996

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e6 7.0-0 Be7 8.f4 0-0 9.Kh1 Qc7 10.a4 Nc6 11.Be3 Re8 12.Bf3 Rb8

For White's next move, looking at the board is no help. One either has the courage to play g4, or one does not.

13.g4! Bf8 14.g5 Nd7 15.Bg2 Nxd4 16.Bxd4 b5!? 17.axb5 axb5 18.Ra7 Qd8

In accepting the invitation to advance to a7 with his unsupported rook, White seems to be scattering his forces ineffectually. His next move creates weaknesses, but is vital in the fight for the initiative.

19.b4! e5 20.Be3 exf4 21.Bxf4 Ne5 22.Nd5!

After 22.Bxe5 dxe5! (Rxe5 is also good) 23.Qxd8 Rxd8 24.Rfxf7 Rd2 Black stands perfectly well.

22...Bg4? 23.Qd2 Nc6? (see diagram)

A weak player as White would now stare at his attacked rook on a7; a stronger player would stare at f7, looking for a way to get at Black's king. Look at the ceiling, however, and this is what you find:


Splendid! Now 24...hxg6 is met by 25.Rxf7! Kxf7 26.Bg5+, while 24...fxg6 25.Bg5 leaves Black in great trouble.

24...Nxa7 25.gxf7+ Kh8

Again 25...Kxf7 loses to Bg5+.

26.Bg5 Qd7 27.fxe8=N(!)

A queen would have been captured without any thought.

27...Rxe8 28.Qf2 Kg8 29.e5!

This lets the g2-bishop join the attack with decisive effect.

29...h6 30.Nb6! Qc7 31.Bd5+ Kh7 32.Be4+ Kg8 33.Nd5 Qd7 34.Ne7+! 1-0

34...Bxe7 35.Qf7+ Kh8 36.Qg6 forces mate next move.