Veselin Topalov is the new FIDE world champion. The Bulgarian grandmaster clinched the title on Thursday in San Luis, Argentina, with one game to spare. His last round draw against Hungary's Judit Polgar seemed like an afterthought. Final standings of the 14-round FIDE world championship: Topalov, 10 points; Vishy Anand of India and Peter Svidler of Russia, 81/2 points; Alexander Morozevich of Russia, 7 points; Peter Leko of Hungary, 61/2 points; Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan and Michael Adams of England, 51/2 points; Polgar, 41/2 points. Anand finished second on a tiebreaker, winning more games than Svidler.
Game Within a Game
Topalov set a blistering pace in the first half of the championship with six wins and one draw. He drew all seven games in the second half and became the only undefeated player. Yet, in many games Topalov was willing to risk defeat. He toyed with the minds of the other players, convincing them that he was prepared to go where they feared to tread. Whether his risks were calculated or created on the spot, they had the desired effect on his venerable rivals. The slight mistakes as well as the big blunders kept coming, allowing Topalov to dominate the field. It was a fine display of how game theory can work in the world of chess. Perhaps not enough to win this year's Nobel Prize for Economics, but close.
Three Bulgarians now hold the highest chess titles. Antoaneta Stefanova is the current women's world champion and Liuben Spassov won the senior world championship this month in Italy.
The world championship in San Luis was fought very hard, and short draws were the exception. There were many exciting games with a rich content where the players split the point. The following French defense game is a good example.
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 (Anand became the FIDE world champion in 2000. At that time he preferred building a strong central pawn chain with 5.Nce2 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.f4.) 5...c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 cxd4 8.Nxd4 Bc5 9.Qd2 0-0 10.0-0-0 a6 11.Nb3 (Two years ago, Vladimir Kramnik beat the young Teimur Radjabov in Linares, Spain, playing 11.Qf2 Nxd4 12.Bxd4 Qc7 13.Bd3 b5 14.Qh4 h6 15.Ne2 f6 16.Qg4 Bxd4 17.Nxd4 Nc5 18.Qg6 with a powerful attack.) 11...Bb4!? (Black tries to provoke white to play a2-a3, creating a target for his marching b-pawn. It is preferable to either 11...Be7 or 11...b6.) 12.Bd3 b5 13.Rhf1 (Preparing to lift the rook to the third rank where it can direct the kingside attack in front of the g and h pawns. Dutch grandmaster Friso Nijboer successfully attacked with 13.g4 Bb7 14. Rhg1, but Anand's move gives white more flexibility.) 13...Nb6 (The game Gallagher-Brynell, Gausdal, Norway, 2001, continued 13...Bb7 14.Rf3 Rc8 15.Rh3 f5 16.exf6 Nxf6 17.Bc5! with white's edge.) 14.a3 Be7 15.Nd4 Qc7 16.Nxc6 Qxc6 17.Bd4 Nc4 (After 17...b4 18.axb4 Bxb4 19.Qe2 white's attack comes first.) 18.Qe2 (Anand is ready to strike with a bishop sacrifice on h7, clearing the third rank for both rooks.) 18...Rb8! (Black threatens to open the b-file with 19...b4, combining attack with defense. Trying the same idea with 18...a5 is dangerous, for example 19.Bxh7+! Kxh7 20.Qh5+ Kg8 21.Rf3 f5 22.Rh3 and now after 22...b4? 23.Rdd3 bxc3 24.Rdg3 the attack can't be stopped; and after 22...Qe8 23.Qh7+ Kf7 24.Rdd3 Rg8 25.Rdg3 Kf8 26.Nxd5! Ra6 27.Rh6! exd5 28.e6! wins.)
19.Bxh7+! (The bishop sacrifice unleashes white's heavy pieces against the black king. It may be good enough for a draw. Preparing the sacrifice with 19.Rf3 works after 19...h6 20.Rg3; or after19...b4 20.Bxh7+! Kxh7 21.Rh3+ Kg8 22.Qh5 f5 23.exf6 Bxf6 24.Qh7+ Kf7 25.Bxf6 Kxf6 26.Rg3 Rb7 27.Nxd5+! wins. But black can prevent all this fun with 19...f5 20.exf6 Bxf6 with a defensible game.) 19...Kxh7 20.Qh5+ Kg8 21.Rd3 (The heavy lifting begins.) 21...f5 (On 21...f6 comes 22.Rg3!) 22.Rh3 Bc5! (Black has to think about defense first. Attacking the white king with 22...b4 backfires after 23.Rff3!, for example 23...bxa3 24.Rfg3! axb2+ 25.Kd1 b1Q+ 26.Nxb1 Rxb1+ 27.Ke2; or 23...bxc3 24.Rfg3 cxb2+ 25.Bxb2 and white's attack breaks through.) 23.Rff3! (Timing is more important than the bishop on d4.) 23...Bxd4 24.Rfg3 (Threatening to end it with 25.Rxg7+! Kxg7 26.Qh7 mate.) 24...Rb7! 25.Qh7+ Kf7 26.Qxg7+ (Anand goes for the more elegant finish. But 26.Rxg7+ was possible, too, e.g. 26...Ke8 27.Qg6+ Kd8 [Not 27...Rbf7? 28.Rxf7 Rxf7 29.Rh8+ Ke7 30.Qg5+ Kd7 31.Qd8 mate.] 28.Qg5+ Ke8 29.Qg6+ repeating the moves.) 26...Ke8 27.Qxf8+! (Leads to a pretty draw by perpetual check: 27...Kxf8 28.Rh8+ Kf7 [On 28...Ke7? 29.Rg7 mate.] 29.Rh7+ Kf8 30.Rh8+ etc.) Draw.
Alex Barnett and John Meyer shared first place at the fifth Arlington Open, played during the first October weekend. They scored 41/2 points in five games. In the key game Barnett beat GM Jaan Ehlvest. The event attracted 65 players. Solution to today's problem by J. Kotrc (White: Kc3,Qf6; Black: Ka1,Ne5,P:d6,f4): 1.Qg7! Nd3 2.Kc2+ Ne5 3.Qa7 mate; 1...f3 2.Kc2 and 3.Qa7 mate; 1...Kb1 2.Qb7+ Kc1 3.Qh1 mate; 1...Ka2 2.Qg2+ Ka3 3.Qa8 mate.