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The "Lord Novgorod the Great" tournament in Russia has maintained its exciting pace as its final rounds approach. In most events, the leaders sort themselves out after a few rounds and increase the gap over the rest of the field as those trailing at the back lose heart. In Novgorod, however, the strength of the event is so even that back-markers have been overtaking leaders with great regularity. In the eighth round, Topalov, who had been racing away in front, was defeated by Ivanchuk, who had been in rather a slump, while Short, who had been undefeated until then, lost to Judit Polgar to miss his chance to catch the leader.

Scores with two rounds to go are: Topalov 5; Ivanchuk, Polgar and Short 4; Gelfand and Kramnik 31/2. Only a couple of rounds ago, Polgar was struggling in last place and Kramnik seemed to be racing to the front.

Ivanchuk's win against Topalov was the best game of the event so far. When Black played 16...b5, inviting the white rook down to a7 after an exchange of pawns, he must have believed that it would do no damage there and be easily expelled. Ivanchuk brilliantly proved him wrong.

When the rook was attacked with 23...Nc6? (see diagram) Black must have been surprised by the reply. After 24.g6! hxg6 25.Bg5 f6 (or 25...Qc8 26.Rc7) 26.Bxf6 gxf6 27.Nxf6+ Black must give up his queen to avoid mate.

Ivanchuk's under-promotion at move 27 was a joke, but his excellent finish, with 29.e5! freeing the way for his bishop to join the attack, was totally serious.

At the end, 34...Bxe7 loses to 35.Qf7+ Kh8 36.Qg6. A marvellous attacking game.

White: Vassily Ivanchuk

Black: Veselin Topalov

Sicilian Defence

1 e4 c5 18 Ra7 Qd8

2 Nf3 d6 19 b4 e5

3 d4 cxd4 20 Be3 exf4

4 Nxd4 Nf6 21 Bxf4 Ne5

5 Nc3 a6 22 Nd5 Bg4

6 Be2 e6 23 Qd2 Nc6

7 0-0 Be7 24 g6 Nxa7

8 f4 0-0 25 gxf7+ Kh8

9 Kh1 Qc7 26 Bg5 Qd7

10 a4 Nc6 27 fxe8(N) Rxe8

11 Be3 Re8 28 Qf2 Kg8

12 Bf3 Rb8 29 e5 h6

13 g4 Bf8 30 Nb6 Qc7

14 g5 Nd7 31 Bd5+ Kh7

15 Bg2 Nxd4 32 Be4+ Kg8

16 Bxd4 b5 33 Nd5 Qd7

17 axb5 axb5 34 Ne7+ 1-0