Chess

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The Independent Online
The 22-year-old Bulgarian grandmaster Veselin Topalov has been consistently ranked among the world's top half-a-dozen players for the past couple of years. His aggressive and imaginative style has made him one of the most exciting players to watch as well as one of the most successful, yet so far at least he seems to have lacked the all-round strategic depth needed to establish himself as a serious contender for the world title. He can wipe strong players from the board in brilliant style, but he does not seem to win those long, gruelling games that are the mark of a true heavyweight super-grandmaster.

Topalov's win against Loek van Wely in the third round at Wijk aan Zee is typical of his style. Playing Black in his favourite Modern Benoni, he sacrificed a pawn with 9...b5 (routine), then a piece with 11...Nxe4 (fairly conventional), then threw a rook in as well with 13...Qa5 and 14...Nd7 (outrageously imaginative).

The net result was the diagram position, after 16...Rxe8. Black is a rook and a pawn down, but will win the bishop on e4. The important feature, however, is the white king trapped in the centre, thanks to the effect of the bishop on a6. With his king under constant threat, van Wely was never given a chance to co-ordinate his forces and finally had to give back his material gains with interest. I do not know whether Black's play was completely correct, but even if not, it all added up to a highly impressive performance from Topalov.

White: Loek van Wely

Black: Veselin Topalov

1 d4 Nf6 26 Kxc1 Rxf6

2 c4 e6 27 Rd1 Qc6

3 Nf3 c5 28 Kb1 Nxa4

4 d5 d6 29 Qxc6 Rxc6

5 Nc3 exd5 30 Rd8+ Kg7

6 cxd5 g6 31 Rd7+ Kh6

7 h3 Bg7 32 h4 Nc5

8 e4 0-0 33 Rf7 Ne6

9 Bd3 b5 34 Ka2 Ra6+

10 Nxb5 Re8 35 Kb1 Nd4

11 Nd2 Nxe4 36 Rf4 Nf5

12 Bxe4 Ba6 37 Re4 Rd6

13 a4 Qa5 38 Kc2 Ng3

14 Nxd6 Nd7 39 Rg4 Nf1

15 Qc2 f5 40 Kc3 Ne3

16 Nxe8 Rxe8 41 Rg5 Nf5

17 Kd1 fxe4 42 Rg4 Kh5

18 Ra3 c4 43 b4 Ne3

19 Re3 Qxd5 44 Rd4 Rxd4

20 Rxe4 Rf8 45 Kxd4 Nc2+

21 f3 Nc5 46 Ke5 Nxb4

22 Re7 Bf6 47 Kf6 Nd5+

23 Rxa7 c3 48 Kg7 Ne3

24 Rxa6 cxd2 White resigned

25 Rxf6 dxc1(Q)+

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