Veselin Topalov - Magnus Carlsen

Round 8
Grand Slam Final


Both opponents lost yesterday their games but nevertheless, are still in the lead. The winner of this game is most likely to finish first in Bilbao. The question is who had better recovered from his loss. In their first encounter Veselin demonstrated good opening preparation, finding a blind spot in Carlsen's repertoire - Queen's Gambit Declined. It is quite probable that he had done similar work for today. Magnus seems to benefit the most from the 3 points as his play here is much sharper than usual and almost every game of his is decided. One thing is clear - a great chess fight is to be expected between two so uncompromising players.

1.e4 Obviously Topalov considers that Carlsen has more problems dealing with this opening move.

1... c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 Once again the Dragon. Against Anand Carlsen deviated from his new pet line and surprised him with Ruy Lopez, Jaenisch.

6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 O-O 9.Bc4 Bd7 10.O-O-O Rc8 11.Bb3 Ne5 12.Kb1 a6 13.h4 (13.Rhe1 was tested in round 2 in Ivanchuk - Carlsen.) Topalov prefers to follow Anand's play from a rapid game a couple of mounts ago in which the Indian defeated Magnus.

13... h5 14.g4 hxg4 15.h5 Nxh5 16.Rdg1 Rc5 (16... Qa5 was played in the above mentioned game as well as in Karjakin - Radjabov, Sochi 2008. Carlsen sure did some repairs and we see the result - the Rook goes to a typical for this line square, in order to protect the 5th rank.)

17.Bh6 Kh7 Clock readings: 1.13 1.26. The Norwegian is definitely still following his home preparation.

18.Bxg7 Kxg7 19.f4 Nc4 ( White's moves after the novelty were forced. What has Carlsen prepared against 19... Nc4 20.Bxc4 Rxc4 21.f5 is soon to be seen.)

20.Bxc4 Rxc4 21.f5 As expected. I guess the analysis continues with 21...e5

21... e5 Without losing even a second. Time: 0.53 1.24. Now Topalov has to choose between 22.fxe6 and 22.Nde2. ( A sample line: 21... e5 22.Nde2 Rh8 23.fxg6 fxg6 24.Qxd6 Qe8 planning Qe6 and Black seems OK.)

22.Nde2 (22.fxe6 fxe6 23.Nde2 e5 leads to similar situation.) At last Magnus is spending some time over the board.

22... Rh8 As there is no evident way to launch a direct attack against the Black King, maybe a quite move like 23.b3 deserves some attention.

23.b3 ( Up to now it was easy to guess the moves. After 23.b3 Rc8 24.fxg6 (24.Qxd6 Bxf5 25.Qxd8 Rcxd8 26.exf5 gxf5 and 4 passed pawns are quite a menace.) (24.Rxg4 Nf6) 24... fxg6 25.Qxd6 Re8 a position of dynamic equality may arise.) (23.Rxg4 Bxf5)

23... Rc6 Carlsen prefers to hold on to the 'd6' pawn instead of connecting the Rooks.

24.Rxg4 Nf6 25.Rgg1 In case of 23...Rc8 Black would be able to play 25...Qe7

25... Rxh1 26.Rxh1 Ng4 ( A forced move, but it does not solve Carsen's problems. 26... Ng4 27.Ng3 planning Nd5 and f5-f6 is quite unpleasant.)

27.Ng3 Time: 0.34 0.54

27... Kg8 28.Nd5 Rc5 29.Ne3 (29.c4 seems simple enough but probably Topalov had calculated everything.)

29... Nxe3 30.Qxe3 (30.Qxe3 Qf6 31.Rh6 Qg7 32.Qg5 f6 33.Qxg6 Qxg6 34.Rxg6+ Kf7 35.Nh5 is forced and has to be easily won for White.)

30... Qf6 31.Qh6 A bit inaccurate.

31... Qg7 32.Qg5 f6 33.Qd2 Rc6 34.Kb2 (34.Qa5 was winning easily.)

34... gxf5 35.Qa5 Qe7 36.Qd5+ Be6 37.Qd1 (37.Nxf5 is met by the stunning 37... Rxc2+)

37... Qg7 38.exf5 Bf7 39.Ne4 Kf8 40.Nxd6 Ke7 41.Nxb7 Qg8 42.Qd2 (42.Rh7 was strong and impressive.)

42... Rb6 Topalov missed several times the winning continuations but his position is overwhelming. He has just to concentrate to finally end this game.

43.Rd1 Qc8 44.Nd6 Qd7 45.Nxf7 Qxd2 46.Rxd2 Kxf7 47.c4 Ke7 48.Kc3 Black resigned. After playing the first 20+ moves blitz-like, Carlsen failed to feel the peculiarities of the position and carelessly played 23...Rc6? which lead him into trouble. Topalov got decisive advantage and though he could win in a much faster way, didn't mis his chance to take the lead in the tournament. 1-0