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Mig on Chess #86. 21.1.99
Hoogovens 4: The Beast Is Back!

"Four legs good, two legs bad." -- George Orwell, "Animal Farm"

Just call me Migstrodamus, chess seer nonpareil. Just a few hours after I dared hint that 13th World Champion Garry Kasparov, the Beast of Baku, had perhaps lost a little of his beastly growl he got up from the board leaving little pieces of Veselin Topalov all over the place. It was a mess, really, and I pity the janitor who works at the playing hall. Here a patch of hair, there a scrap of tie, oh look, that must be an ear! The Beast, his bloodlust temporarily sated, headed for the analysis room all smiles for a little post-mortem dessert. (Never has the term post-mortem been so aptly used.) In one of the most sensational combinations of his long career, Kasparov unleashed a 15-move sacrificial masterpiece that awed spectators and GMs alike.

Of course it takes two to tango and the ever-combative Bulgarian was the perfect dance partner. He responded to Kasparov’s shocking rook sacrifice in true romantic style, taking all the material offered and walking his king to the guillotine on a4. In fact he could have declined Kasparov’s offer at the very beginning and reached an equal game, but it is to Topalov’s credit, if not his score’s, that he grabbed the bull by horns and took his bloody goring like a man. There was another defensive opportunity along the way, but by that time the mate threats and complications had taken their toll on his brain and his clock and this slip was fatal. The finishing mating combination was as spectacular as the original sacrifice and its geometric precision and composition-like beauty will marvel chess fans for generations. The black king was driven to the first rank by an attractive queen triangulation and was distant from Black’s helpless rooks. Playing the only moves to stave off checkmate Topalov was forced to pay back the material with interest and Kasparov is no poor loan shark. Every move by White in the grand finale was an "only" move worthy of a bouquet of punctuation and Kasparov’s achievement of foreseeing an entire chain of such sensational moves is beyond praise. BRAVO TO THE BEAST AND WELCOME BACK!!! (No shedding on the carpet.)

We’ll take a closer look at Kasparov’s work of art a little later, first we should remember that a work of art is only worth one point and that Vishy Anand’s more prosaic win over Kasimdzhanov was worth the same amount. All of Anand’s wins so far in Wijk aan Zee put proof to Mark Crowther’s recent comment to me that this game is just too easy for him. (For Anand, not Mark.) Black went in for a liquidating sacrifice that left him with a destroyed pawn structure that was quickly shredded further by White. Anand used less than an hour on his clock to clean Kasimdzhanov’s, keeping himself in a tie for first with Kasparov with 3.5/4, already a full point ahead of the pack. If both players continue to show such overpowering form their 10th round clash may well prove decisive for the Hoogovens title. Anand’s wins have been almost effortless, strategic gems against opponents who never seemed to know what was happening until it was already over. It’s true that he has faced weaker opposition than has Kasparov, but this may help him save energy for those final rounds when the heat is on. What’s clear is that there won’t be any of the "get the early lead and cruise" like we saw in Anand’s triumph in Tilburg. Kasparov appears to be exerting himself, but then he always does! Watching him play you can’t imagine that he will have enough energy to play one more game, let alone 10 more, but that has never been a problem.

Vassily Ivanchuk joined the pack at plus one by breaking his drawing streak and crushing Sokolov in a one-sided affair. I have no idea what would attract a player to Black’s position after 12.Ba3, it already seems hopeless! This might be a slight exaggeration, but really, if the best Black has here is horrific moves like 12...e5?! he may as well give up. Black’s king is stuck in the center, his knights don’t have any decent squares, his queen is out of the picture and he’s down a pawn! Yeah, give me two of those with a side of fries, please. Chukky wasted no time in taking advantage of every weakness just named and after 16.e5 it was already over. To speed things up he sacrificed the exchange (24.Rxa1!) to eliminate Black’s only active piece and it ended soon after. In the final position Black loses a piece after 31...Be6 32.Nxe6 fxe6 33.Rb8. A very nice positional crush from the Ukrainian and another terrible opening from Sokolov. (A PPS regarding the Sokolov-Shirov game comes from Fré Hoogendoorn in the Netherlands. The losing opening line that Sokolov played was also covered in Kasparov’s book on his match with Karpov. Just as Karpov in his Grunfeld book Kasparov gives the exact line played by Sokolov and Shirov with "advantage to Black after 18...Qd2!" Buy more books, Ivan!)

The fourth decisive game of the day, and the fourth win for white, was Van Wely’s technical execution of Yermolinsky, who’s reputation as an endgame specialist is finding itself under scrutiny in Wijk aan Zee. With this game though, it’s hard to distinguish between opening theory and endgame play as one led directly to the other. Black acquired a fatally weakened pawn in the opening, Van Wely took it, and it was over just like that. The American tried to get some counterplay for his pawn, but it just wasn’t happening and Van Wely got an easy point. I mention opening theory because according to Artur Jussupow’s annotations to his game with Kortchnoi in this line, Black is already losing on move 13! The black c-pawn is just too weak. In the bulletin Yermo was confused as to exactly where he’d gone wrong and 11...Qxe5 (instead of 11...dxe5) was given as an improvement. They give almost the same line Jussupow gives but he plays a little differently and gives a "distinct superiority for White" evaluation to the resulting position. 11...Qxe5 12. Bg2 Bd7 13. 0-0 0-0 14. Rac1 Rac8 with slight advantage for White according to Yermolinsky in the bulletin. 11...Qxe5 12.Bg2 Bf5 13.Rac1 0-0 14.0-0 Rfc8 15.Rc3 with a serious advantage for White according to Jussupow in the ChessBase Megabase 99. I’ll leave it up to you to decide who’s right, but I wouldn’t touch either position for love or pizza.

Timman and Shirov lit up the board in a yet another complicated, popular line of the Grunfeld. Timman is giving lessons in combativeness to the younger crowd so far in Wijk aan Zee; this was his first draw of the event and it was a wild one! He took the fight right to Shirov, not something most players are eager to do, and it looked like he had the Spaniard on the ropes at first. But Shirov had calculated well and walked the tightrope with his naked king to the draw. Timman’s novelty 14.h5! was answered in kind by 14...Ne5!? White kept the initiative with 17.Nf3! and won the exchange for his efforts. Black grabbed a pawn just in time to make any endgame unattractive for White and Timman took the perpetual check.

Piket’s Chigorin Ruy Lopez has been battered a lot recently, including in a recent game against his fourth round opponent. So with black against Svidler he switched to the Breyer system and had no trouble drawing. He reacted well when White gave up the a-file to attempt kingside operations with 27.Rf1?! and established the necessary defensive position.

Kramnik couldn’t break through against Reinderman’s well-played defense. The normal-looking position after 9...Be6 has only been reached a few times, perhaps because theory evaluates this position as equal and White should be looking for more earlier on, probably on his fifth move. Black even had a little plus after Kramnik erred with 20.Bf3?, but nervous play quickly gave away any advantage and Reinderman was more than happy with the draw offer when it came. Two solid draws in a row for the lowest seed, and this one with Black against the world number three! That's the good news. The bad news is Kasparov in round five.

Now back to the Kasparov-Topalov show! Please be kind to my analysis, it’s five o’clock in the morning and I’ve been subsisting on a diet of mineral water and granola bars because I’ve been too busy with Wijk aan Zee to go shopping for food. If I don’t get out of here tomorrow Bagley is going to be worried about his Cat Chow. As usual when the game in question is a tactical brawl I’ve made ample use of modern technology in the form of Junior 5 and Fritz 5.32 chess software from ChessBase. I don’t feel bad as even right after the game in the analysis room press conference Topalov himself said he’d already checked out a few defenses with Fritz! Sorry if some of the lines are incomplete or incoherent, I’ve tried to clean things up as best I can but errors slip in sometimes. Some chess symbol notation doesn’t come out in regular text, so if you have a pgn reader or, much better, ChessBase software that can read CB6 format (which includes cool graphic annotations) you can download this game in either format at the end. Opening commentary and stem games come from the ChessBase Megabase 99. Comments with the players’ names come from the bulletin by Marc Speirings and Richard de Weger, available at the official Hoogovens website. All the rest, for better or for worse, is mine! If you reprint my analysis (or any other part of my columns) please credit the analyst. Thank you and on with the show!

Kasparov,G (2812) - Topalov,V (2700) [B07]
Hoogovens Wijk aan Zee NED (4), 20.01.1999
[Mig; MegaBase 99; Bulletin]

1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.Be3 Bg7 5.Qd2 c6 6.f3 b5 7.Nge2

Topalov probably hoped to surprise a little with his choice of opening. He never plays the Pirc and Kasparov has almost never seen it from either side of the board. Perhaps another example of an opponent taking himself out of his own best game to avoid Kasparov's famed opening preparation.

[7.h4 A) 7...Qc7 8.Bh6 Bxh6 9.Qxh6 Be6 (9...b4) 10.Nh3 Bxh3 11.Rxh3 Nbd7 12.0-0-0 Nb6 13.Kb1 0-0-0 14.Qe3 e5 15.a3 Adams,M-Wolff,P London 1990; B) 7...h5 8.a4 b4 9.Nd1 a5 10.Nh3 (10.Nf2 Ba6 11.Bxa6 Nxa6 12.Ne2 Nd7 13.0-0 c5 14.Rad1 cxd4 15.Bxd4 Bxd4 16.Nxd4 Qb6 17.b3= Topalov,V-Gurevich,M Elenite 1994) 10...Bxh3 11.Rxh3 Nbd7 12.Nf2 0-0 13.g4 c5! 14.Bb5! cxd4 15.Bxd4 Rc8 (15...Qc7!?) 16.0-0-0 Van der Wiel,J-Nijboer,F Nederland (ch) 1995 64/108 [Van der Wiel,J]; 7.g4 h5 A) 8.g5 Nfd7 A1) 9.Nge2 Nb6 10.b3 N8d7 11.f4 b4 12.Nd1 c5 13.Bg2 Ba6 14.Nf2 Bxe2 15.Kxe2 cxd4 (15...0-0) 16.Bxd4 Bxd4 17.Qxd4 0-0 18.Qxb4 e5 19.Qxd6 exf4 20.Qxf4± Vogt,L-Tischbierek,R Duetschland 1994 60/(109); A2) 9.f4 9...Bb7 10.Bg2 Nb6 11.b3 N8d7 12.Nh3 0-0 13.f5 Re8 14.0-0 e5 15.d5± Magam Badals,J-Izeta,F Pamplona 1993; B) 8.gxh5 8...Nxh5 9.Nge2 Nd7 10.Rg1 (10.a4!?) 10...Qc7 11.Ng3 Bb7 12.0-0-0 a6 13.f4 b4 14.Nxh5 (14.Nce2 Nhf6 15.e5 Ng4) 14...Rxh5 15.Ne2 c5! Beliavsky,A-Chernin,A Reggio Emilia 1995 66/85 [Beliavsky,A]; 7.0-0-0 0-0 8.g4 Qa5 9.Kb1 Be6 10.b3 b4 11.Na4 c5! 12.g5 Nh5 13.dxc5 Nc6 14.Bh3 Rad8 15.Bxe6 fxe6 16.Qe1 dxc5 Yudasin,L-Anand,V Munich 1991] 7...Nbd7 8.Bh6 [8.Nf4 I have no game in my Database with Nf4 maybe this is a novelty 8...Bb7 9.Nd3 A) 9...e5?! 10.dxe5 Nxe5 (10...dxe5 11.a4) 11.Nxe5 dxe5 12.Qxd8+ Kxd8 13.a4 b4 14.Na2 a5 15.Bc4; B) 9...a5 ˝-˝ Galkin,A-Zakharevich,I/Perm 1997/CBM 58/[Har Zvi] (24); 8.g4 Nb6 9.Ng3 Qc7 10.0-0-0 Bb7 11.g5 Nfd7 12.h4 0-0-0 13.h5 Rhg8 14.Qf2 b4 15.Nb1 c5‚ Gdanski,J-Hennigan,M Wch-U20 Santiago 1990]

8...Bxh6 9.Qxh6 Bb7

[9...e5 10.Qd2 a6 11.Nd1 Bb7 12.Ne3 Qe7 13.Rd1 d5 14.exd5 Nxd5 15.Nxd5 cxd5 16.dxe5 Nxe5 Blatny,P-Piket,J Groningen Eu-chJ]


[10.Nc1 e5 11.dxe5 dxe5 12.Nb3 a6 13.0-0-0 Qc7 14.Qg7 Rf8 ˝-˝ Moroz,A-Yurasov,A/Simferopol 1991/TD (37)]

10...e5 11.0-0-0 Qe7 12.Kb1 a6 13.Nc1 0-0-0 14.Nb3 exd4 15.Rxd4 c5 16.Rd1 Nb6 17.g3 Kb8 18.Na5 Ba8 19.Bh3 d5 20.Qf4+ Ka7 21.Rhe1 d4 22.Nd5 Nbxd5 23.exd5 Qd6 24.Rxd4!!

UNBELIEVABLE!!! Kasparov punishes Black's ...d4 in the most spectacular way possible. Combination of the decade, anyone? (Played by Fritz5.32 in 2:30, but it evaluates it as a draw.) Later Kasparov said that he had seen this sacrifice back on move 19 when he allowed Black to play ...d4.

[24.Nc6+ Bxc6 25.dxc6 Qxf4 (25...Qxc6 26.Re7+ Ka8 27.Rxf7) 26.Re7+ Kb6 27.gxf4 Kxc6]


Always ready for a fight, the Bulgarian takes the rook. Declining the sacrifice with 24...Kb6 (or 24...Rhe8?!) for an even game was probably better. Easy to say in hindsight!

[24...Qxf4 25.Rxf4 Nxd5 26.Rxf7+ Kb6 27.Nb3±; 24...Rhe8 25.Rxe8 Nxe8 26.Qxd6 Rxd6=; 24...Kb6= Kasparov; Junior 5.0: 24...Kb6 25.Nb3 g5 26.Qd2 g4 27.Rxg4 Nxg4 28.Bxg4 Bxd5 29.Qe3 Bxb3 30.cxb3]

25.Re7+ Kb6

...Qxe7 is mate in four and Black has some other spectacular ways to lose after ...Kb8. Check out the amazing line B) below.

[25...Qxe7?? 26.Qxd4+ Kb8 27.Qb6+ Bb7 28.Nc6+ Ka8 29.Qa7#;

25...Kb8 26.Qxd4 Nd7

A) 27.Rxd7? Rxd7 28.Bxd7 Rg8 A1) 29.Bc6 Qc7 30.Qb4 Bxc6 31.Nxc6+ Ka8 32.a4 Qb7 33.axb5 Qxb5 34.Qe7 (34.Qxb5?! axb5 35.b3 Kb7 36.c4 Kb6) 34...Qb7 35.c4±; A2) 29.Nc6+ ;

B) 27.Bxd7! (winning) 27...Bxd5 (27...Qxe7?? 28.Qb6+ Bb7 29.Qxb7#) 28.c4!! The key move! Now if ...bxc4 Black won't have ...Ba2+ (!!!) (28.Nc6+? Qxc6 29.Bxc6 Ba2+ 30.Kxa2 Rxd4 31.Rb7+ Kc8 32.Rxf7 unclear) 28...Qxe7 (28...bxc4 29.Nc6+ Qxc6 30.Bxc6+- Now, with the pawn on c4 Black doesn't have the equalizing ...Ba2+; 28...Rxd7 29.Rxd7 Qxd7 30.Qxh8+ Kc7 31.cxd5+-) 29.Qb6+ Ka8 30.Qxa6+ Kb8 31.Qb6+ Ka8 32.Bc6+! Bxc6 33.Nxc6+- Rd7 (33...Qb7?? 34.Qa5+ Qa6 35.Qxa6#) 34.Nxe7 Rxe7 35.Qc6+ Rb7 36.cxb5+-]

26.Qxd4+ Kxa5?

Topalov continues in true romantic style, taking all the offered material. We can all thank him for his contribution to Kasparov's brilliancy, but the boring 26...Qc5 might have survived. (?)

[26...Qc5 27.Qxf6+ Qd6 A) 28.Qd4+ Qc5 (28...Kxa5?? 29.b4+ Ka4 30.Qc3+- Same line as in the game, but minus the black knight on f6.) 29.Qf6+ Qd6 Now White can repeat the position or enter the main sub-line with Qxf7, which looks like a draw.; B) 28.Qxf7 …Re6 28...Rhf8 B1) 29.Qg7?! Rfe8 30.b4!? (30.Qd4+ Qc5 31.Rb7+ Bxb7 32.Qxc5+ Kxc5 33.Nxb7+ Kxd5 34.Nxd8 Rxd8÷) 30...Qxd5÷ (30...Rxe7?? 31.Qd4+ Kc7 32.Qa7+ Bb7 33.Qxb7#; 30...Qxe7?? 31.Qd4+ Kc7 32.d6+ Rxd6 33.Qa7+ Bb7 34.Qxb7+ Kd8 35.Qc8#) 31.Nb3 Qd6 32.Rf7 Re1+ 33.Kb2 Qe5+ (33...Qd1?? 34.a4!! bxa4 35.Qc3 Qd6 36.Rf6+-) 34.Qxe5 Rxe5 35.Rf6+ Kc7 36.Nc5; B2) 29.Qxh7 29...Rfe8 30.Rxe8 Rxe8 31.Nb3 Re1+ 32.Ka2 Bxd5 33.Qg7 Bxb3+ 34.cxb3 Qd1 35.Qxg6+ Kb7 36.Qh7+ Kc6 37.Qg6+ Kb7= (37...Kc5?? 38.b4+) ]


[27.Qc3+? Kb6 28.Qd4+ Qc5 29.Qxf6+ Bc6!]

27...Ka4 28.Qc3! Qxd5 29.Ra7 (diagram) 27...Bb7

[29...Rd6?? 30.Kb2!! Threatening mate in two with Qc3+. Now it's a forced mate. 30...Qd4 31.Qxd4 Bd5 32.Qe3 Rhd8 33.Qb3+ Bxb3 34.cxb3# Spectacular!!]


30.Qc7 was White's last chance to force Black to take a repetition draw. Now if he hasn't calculated perfectly he'll lose. (Need I say that he calculated perfectly?) [Junior 5.0: 30.Qc7?= Qd1+ 31.Ka2 Qd5+ 32.Kb2 Qd4+ 33.Kb1 Qd1+ 34.Ka2 Qd5+]


Now Black loses spectacularly but it's hard to fault Topalov for missing what now happens. 30...Rhe8 would have reached a most likely drawn ending. Now observe the Swiss-watch precision of the white pieces. All four (remember the king!) play crucial roles, with a little help from the pawn on c3! It's absolutely amazing that Kasparov could weave a mating web with so few pieces on the board and see the one exact move that would win in every line. Most of White's moves are "only" moves, that is, anything else loses.

This adds considerably to the beauty of the game, it's like acrobatics without a net! (This is easily checked with computer assistance. You can set the machine to examine the TWO best moves for White in each position instead of just the best move. In most cases for the next 10 moves the best move wins and the second-best loses!)

[30...Rhe8! Topalov 31.Rb6 Ra8 A) 32.Rxf6 Qc4 33.Qxc4 bxc4 34.Kb2 (34.Bd7+ Kxa3 35.Bxe8 Rxe8 36.Rxa6+ Kxb4) 34...Re7 35.Rc6 a5 36.Rxc4 axb4 37.Rxb4+ Ka5=; B) 32.Be6! Rxe6 33.Rxe6 Qc4 34.Qxc4 bxc4 35.Rxf6 Kxa3 36.Rxf7 c3 37.Rc7 Kxb4 38.Rxh7]

31.Qxf6 Kxa3

[31...Rd1+ 32.Kb2 Qd4+ 33.Qxd4 Rxd4 34.Rxf7+- Due to the fact that White can threaten mates with both the rook and the bishop individually, Black has no hope. He must give back the exchange and enter a completely lost endgame. 34...Rd6 only move 35.Re7 Ra8 36.Be6 Rxe6 37.Rxe6 a5 38.bxa5 Kxa5 39.Re7+-]

32.Qxa6+ Kxb4 33.c3+!

[33.Bd7? Rxd7 34.Rxd7 Rc8 35.Qd6+ Rc5 36.Qd2+ Qc3 37.Qxc3+ Kxc3 38.Rxf7±]

33...Kxc3 34.Qa1+

A beautiful triangulation: Qf6-a6-a1


[34...Kb4 35.Qb2+ Ka5 (35...Kc5 36.Rc7+ Kd5 37.Rxc4 bxc4 38.Qb7++-) 36.Qa3+ Qa4 37.Ra7+ Kb6 38.Rxa4 bxa4 39.Qb4++-]

35.Qb2+ Kd1

[35...Ke1 36.Re7+ Kd1 37.Bf1 Rd2 38.Be2+ Rxe2 39.Rxe2 Rd8 40.Rc2 Qxc2+ 41.Qxc2+ Ke1+-]

36.Bf1! (diagram)

The bishop lives!! It moves back to its home square to threaten mate, prevent any checks by Black and offer itself for sacrifice. Does he perform exorcisms, too? Sure this is a great move, and the only move, but Kasparov had to have seen it long ago. Now everything is forced.


[36...Qxf1?? 37.Qc2+ Ke1 38.Re7+ Qe2 39.Qxe2#]

37.Rd7! Rxd7 38.Bxc4

Black can't move his h8 rook because of the dual mate threats on c1 and e2.

38...bxc4 39.Qxh8

Now it's mop-up time.

39...Rd3 40.Qa8 c3 41.Qa4+ Ke1 42.f4 f5 43.Kc1 Rd2 44.Qa7 1-0

[44.Qa7 h5 45.Qe3+ Kf1 46.Qxc3]

You can’t see it, but I’m giving a standing ovation to both players. Truly a game for the ages and a fine reason why as long as Garry Kasparov needs chess, chess needs Garry Kasparov.



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