England's Michael Adams qualified yesterday for the six-game final match of the FIDE world championship in Tripoli, Libya, eliminating 17-year-old Azerbaijani Teimur Radjabov. Adams will face the winner of today's semifinal tiebreaker between Bulgaria's Veselin Topalov and the Uzbek Rustam Kasimdzhanov.

Modern Tal

Topalov made it to the semifinal on a Bobby Fischer-like performance of nine wins and one draw. But his style of play resembled another great world champion, Mikhail Tal. Topalov needed only a draw against Andrei Kharlov of Russia to advance to the semifinal, but he overpowered his opponent from a worse position by taking risks and sacrificing at will. A truly memorable game!


1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Nf6 3.d3 c6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.0-0 d6 6.a4 0-0 7.Re1 Nbd7 8.Nc3 Nc5 9.d4!? (From the Bishop's opening to the Philidor defense.) 9...exd4 10.Nxd4 a5 11.Bf4 Ng4 12.Be2 Nf6 13.Bf3 Re8 14.Qd2 g6 15.h3 Nfd7 16.Rad1 Bf8 17.g4 Qb6 18.Bg2 Ne5 (After 18...Qxb2? 19.Rb1 Qa3 20.Ra1 Qb4 21.Reb1 Qc4 22.Bf1 white wins.) 19.b3 Qb4 20.Nde2 f6 21.Be3 h5?! (Preparing a fighting knight sacrifice.)

22.f4! (On 22.gxh5 comes 22...Bxh3!) 22...Nxg4!? (Topalov rarely likes to go back.) 23.hxg4 Bxg4 24.Qc1 f5!? (Pressuring the e-pawn. After 25.exf5 gxf5 black will soon play d6-d5, securing a good landing on e4 for his knight.) 25.Rd4 Qb6 26.Qd2 Qc7 27.Bf2 Re6 28.Rc4 Rae8 29.Nd4! (It looks as if Kharlov can force Topalov to retreat.)

29...Rxe4!! (With three pawns for a rook, Topalov can hope to build a pawn wall. And white would have to give something back to break it.) 30.Nxe4 Nxe4 31.Bxe4 fxe4 32.Rc3 d5 33.Rg3 Bd6 34.Be3 Qd7 35.c3 (After 35.Qxa5 black will most likely roll the pawns: 35...c5 36.Nb5 d4 37.Nxd6 Qxd6 38.Bc1 e3.) 35...Rf8 36.Rf1 b6 37.Rf2 c5 38.Nb5?! (Moving the knight to a sideline where it can only observe the battlefield. Better was 38.Ne2.) 38...Bb8 39.Rfg2 g5!? 40.Rf2 (White has two problems: His knight is out of play, and the light squares around his king are weak.) 40...Kg7 41.Qc1 Kg6 42.Qf1 Rf5 (Topalov could have also played 42...Qf5!?, for example 43.fxg5 Bxg3 44.Rxf5 Rxf5 45.Qg2 h4, threatening 46...Rf3, the rook is more effective than the white queen.) 43.Rgg2 Qf7 44.fxg5 Bf3 45.Rh2 Bxh2+ 46.Rxh2 (And what now?)

46...Rf4!! (A brilliant way to enter white's position.) 47.Bxf4 Qxf4 (The black queen is taking care of the dark squares, while the bishop reigns on the light squares. Topalov can create dangerous threats by advancing his passed pawns.) 48.Rg2 (After 48.Qh3 Qc1+ black has a draw.) 48...h4! 49.Qe1 e3 50.Rh2 Qxg5+ 51.Kf1 h3 52.Qb1+? (Loses outright, but after 52.Nd6, black can calmly go for the knight with 52...Kf6.) 52...Be4 53.Qb2 Bd3+ (After 54.Re2 Qg2+ 55.Ke1 Qg1 mates.) White resigned.

Old Magic

Topalov's game resembles a breathtaking performance by Tal against world championship candidate Lajos Portisch of Hungary in the King's Indian defense at the Interzonal tournament in Amsterdam 40 years ago. The sacrifices were not correct, but Tal's play was inventive and magical. Here is a new look on this incredible game.


1.Nf3 Nf6 2.g3 d6 3.d4 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.0-0 0-0 6.c4 Bg4 7.Nc3 Qc8 8.Re1 Re8 9.Qb3 Nc6 10.d5 Na5 11.Qa4 b6 12.Nd2 Bd7 13.Qc2 c6 14.b4 (The retreat 14...Nb7 is fine for black, but Tal likes to ignite fire with a piece sacrifice.) 14...Nxc4?! 15.Nxc4 cxd5 16.Na3 d4!? 17.Bxa8 Qxa8 (Black is down a full rook, but there are not many defenders around the white king. Can Tal get there?)

18.Ncb5 Rc8 19.Qd1 Ne4 20.f3!? (After 20.Nxd4 comes 20...Ba4!) 20...a6 21.Nxd4 Qd5 22.Be3 Rc3!! 23.Ndc2!? Qf5 24.g4 (Portisch is not interested in complications such as 24.Bd4 Nxg3!?, although after 25.Bxg7! [25.hxg3? Qh3 26.Bf2 Be5! gives black a plenty of play to draw] 25...Qg5 26.Bh6! Nxe2+ 27.Kh1 Rxf3!? and now not 28.Bxg5 Bc6! and black draws, but 28.Rxe2! Bc6 29.Rg2 Qxh6 30.Nd4 and white wins.) 24...Qe6 25.Bd4! (It looks as if Tal is done for the evening.)

25...h5!! (An astonishing charge! In the middle of the storm with his pieces hanging, Tal makes calm pawn moves designed to break the pawn cover of the white king.) 26.Bxg7 hxg4!! 27.Nd4 (Portisch must have been confused what to take first, but 27.Bxc3 g3 28.Qd4! wins.) 27...Qd5 28.fxe4 Qxe4 29.Nf3 (Slowly losing the grip: 29.Bh6 still wins.) 29...Qe3+ 30.Kh1 Bc6! (Finally the bishop lands on the right diagonal.)

31.Rf1? (Throwing the win away. After 31.Nc2! Rxc2 [31...Qf2 32.Bd4!] 32.Qxc2 Be4 [or 32...Bb7 33.Qc7!] 33.Qc3! white wins.) 31...Rxa3? (Tal would have gained advantage after 31...gxf3! 32.exf3 Kxg7 33.Nc2 Bxf3+ 34.Rxf3 Qxf3+ 35.Qxf3 Rxf3 with three pawns for a piece.) 32.Qc1 gxf3 33.Qxc6 (After 33.Qxe3? fxe2+ wins.) 33...Qxe2 34.Rg1 Kxg7 35.Rae1 Qd2 36.Rd1 Qe2 (After 36...Qxb4! with five pawns for the rook, black has the advantage. In a mutual time pressure both players repeat the moves.) 37.Rde1 Qd2. Draw agreed.

Solution to today's study by H. Rinck (White: Kb3,Rh7,P:e2,f5; Black: Ka5,Rd2,P:e6): 1.f6 Rxe2 2.Rh5+! Kb6 3.Rf5! exf5 4.f7 and white promotes the f-pawn.

White wins.