The play-off between Veselin Topalov and Alexei Shirov for first place in Madrid provided a marvellous encore to what had already been an excellent tournament. After their first 20-minute game had been drawn, the players launched into such an orgy of complications in the second game that another draw seemed the least likely result. Yet, as often happens in the wildest and most imaginative games, the gods decided that neither man deserved to lose.

Black's opening left him with a very dubious position, and his attempt to create counterplay with 13...exd4 seemed to increase the danger. Topalov's 19.Nxg5 was too tempting to resist, but his 22.e5 may have been a trifle hasty. After 23.Rxe5, White threatened 24.Bxf6 Qxf6 25.Qg4+, but 23...Qxd4! 24.Re3 Ng4!! was a brilliant counter since 24.Qxg4 Qxg4 25.hxg4 Bxe3 favours Black.

Shirov found an extraordinary way to bring his other rook into the attack with 25.Rxa5! (when 25...Bxa5? loses to 26.Bh7+) and followed up with the equally startling 26.Bf6!! Since 26...Nxf6 loses to 27.Rg3+ Kh8 28.Rh5+, Black had to take with his queen, leading to a forced draw.

White: Alexei Shirov

Black: Veselin Topalov

1 e4 e5 18 Bh4 g5

2 Nf3 Nc6 19 Nxg5 hxg5

3 Bb5 a6 20 Bxg5 b3

4 Ba4 Nf6 21 Bd3 c4

5 0-0 b5 22 e5 dxe5

6 Bb3 Bc5 23 Rxe5 Qxd4

7 a4 Rb8 24 Re3 Ng4

8 c3 d6 25 Rxa5 cxd3

9 d4 Bb6 26 Bf6 Qxf6

10 axb5 axb5 27 Qxg4+ Qg6

11 h3 0-0 28 Rg5 cxd3

12 Re1 Bb7 29 Rxg6+ fxg6

13 Na3 exd4 30 Qxg6+ Kh8

14 cxd4 Na5 31 fxe3 Rad8

15 Bc2 b4 32 Qh6+ Kg8

16 Nb1 c5 33 Qg6+ Kh8

17 Bg5 h6 draw agreed