A stormy ferocious struggle where Topalov demonstrates his talent for conjuring up an attack from almost nothing. The game is peppered with queen sacrifices as well as rook and knight sacrifices. Somehow Kramnik defends just enough to delay Topalov’s coup de grace. In the complex position both sides make serious blunders. Topalov’s initiative finally runs out of steam, and Kramnik converts the complicated endgame. Kramnik now leads 2-0.
Out of a classical Czech system of the Queens Gambit Slav, Kramnik plays an antiquated variation, and proceeds to button down the hatches on the kingside with 17… f5. After a surprisingly deep 19. Kh1, Topalov tears into Kramnik’s kingside with 20. g4!, and initiates a fierce struggle. Kramnik avoids tempting Topalov sacrificing a knight on e6 gets some active counterplay on the queenside that forces Topalov to retreat slightly. Just when Kramnik is on the verge of taking control of the game, Topalov plays an elegant and surprising 28. Qc2! followed by a sacrifice of his queen, the kingside threats reignites with elevated ferocity. In the complications that follow Kramnik blunders badly with 31… Bxf8?? gifting Topalov a straightforward path to victory, but Topalov returns the complement with a blunder of his own 32. Qg6+?? that luckily retains him a slight initiative in the complicated position. Topalov has some attacking chances in the dynamic unbalanced endgame. Kramnik, however, is merciless, and extracts the full point in the endgame.
An awesome performance from both players. Topalov’s imagination was the centre piece of this game, but right at the moment he should have collected the full point he stumbles. Although he played energetically throughout the game, Kramnik was remorseless – offering Topalov just one chance in the encounter.
- Veselin Topalov (2813)
- Vladimir Kramnik (2743)
- Queens Gambit: Slav
- World Championship 2006, Elista, Game 2
- ECO Code
10… Bxc3 11. bxc3 Nxe4 12. Ba3 stops Black castling kingside, so Black tends to castle queenside, where the open lines give White sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawns.
An old, and rarely tried, continuation
- 14… h6 15. Ne1 (15. Bd2 is innocuous. Iljushin – Kupreichik, IECC 2003, 1/2 (20))
- 15… Bxe1 16. Rxe1 Bg6 Both retreats 17. Bf1 and 17. Be2 leave both sides with a solid position. Beliavsky – Ribli, Bled 2000, 1/2 (50) and Kramnik – Bareev, ECC Final 1999, 1/2 (26)}
- 15… Bg6 16. Bxg6 fxg6 17. Nc2 Ba5 18. Qd3 Kh7 19. f4 a6 20. b4 Bb6 21. g4 White is pushing aggressively on all fronts. 21… Qh4 22. Ne3 Rac8 23. Bd2 h5 24. Rae1 a temporary pawn sacrifice, Black can’t hold his extra pawn. 24… hxg4 25. Re2 Rf7 26. Rg2 Nf8 27. Rxg4 Qe7 28. a5 Ba7 29. Rf3 Kg8 30. Rh3 The White rooks are majestic. 30… Qe8 31. Rgh4 +- Rfc7 32. f5! Kf7 33. Rh8 Qb5 34. fxg6+ Ke7 (34… Nxg6 35. Rf3+ And the knight is lost.) 35. Rf3! Rc1+ 36. Kg2 Bacrot – Gustafsson, Bundesliga 2004, 1-0 (36)
- 15… f5 Trying to drum up counter-play down the f-file to compensate for the weakened kingside. 16. exf6 Qxf6 17. Qg3 (17. Bb5 roughly equal chances. Gelfand – Lautier, Horgen 1994, 1-0 (58)) 17… Rac8 18. Bb5 Nb8 19. Nd3 a6 with a balanced position. van Wely – Pelletier, 49th Spanish Team Ch 2005, 1-0 (84)
- 14… Be7 is another lid continuation for Black. Beliavsky – Ribli, Slovenian Team Ch 2001, 1-0 (69)
- 14… Re8 Berkes – Portisch, 53rd Hungarian Ch 2003, 1-0 (47)
15. Bxg6 fxg6 16. Ng5 Re8 17. Qh3 Nf8 18. Qb3 Petrosian – Smyslov, Bar 1980, 1/2 (18)
A very committal move. But the solid alternatives 16… Nf8 and 16… Rc8 are both aggressively met with 17. g4.
Black needs nerves of steel to defend this sort of position.
18. Qb5 a5 Taking the b-pawn is too risky
18. exf6 Nxf6 += and taking advantage of the weak e6-pawn and e5-square is no easy matter.
Vacating the g1-square for the rook and preparing the way for g4. Its quite possible Rf1-f3 will happen first, followed by a later Rag1.
Shredder 7: 19. Qb5 Be7 20. Qxb7 Qb8 21. Qxb8 Raxb8 22. Ra2 Rb3 23. Bd2 Reb8 24. Bc3 Bxg5 25. fxg5 Kf7 [0.62/14]
After long thought. Bolstering protection for the f5-square, as well as hitting the a4-pawn, which hopefully should slow down White’s other rook from entering the fray. Shredder 7:
- 20… h6 21. Nxe6! Rxe6 22. gxf5 Rec6 (22… Re7 23. Rg1 Kh8 24. Rg3 Nh7 25. f6 gxf6 26. Rag1 Qe8 27. Qf5 Rec7 28. b3 Qc6 [0.59/14]) 23. Rg1 Kh8 24. f6 gxf6 25. f5 h5 26. Qe2 Qc7 27. Qg2 Qf7 [0.59/15]
- 20… Qd7 21. gxf5 exf5 22. Rac1 g6 23. b3 Ba3 24. Rxc8 Rxc8 25. Bd2 Be7 26. Rg1 Bxg5 27. Rxg5 Kh8 28. Qh3 Rc2 29. Qh6 [0.73/15]
- 20… fxg4 21. f5 Be7 22. Nxe6 Nxe6 23. fxe6 Qb6 24. Qf5 g3 25. Rac1 Qxb2 26. hxg3 Kh8 27. Rxc8 Rxc8 28. Bg5 g6 29. Bf6+ Kg8 30. Qh3 [1.09/15]
- 20… g6 21. gxf5 exf5 22. Qb5 a5 23. Qxb7 Be7 24. Nf3 Rb8 25. Qc6 Rxb2 26. Rab1 Re2 [1.41/15]
Black has stemmed the tide of White’s kingside attack.
The sting behind this move only becomes apparent two moves later. What looks like desparation to commentators is part of an exceptionally beautiful manoeuvre that breathes fire into White’s attack.
With the threat of …Qb5 swopping off White’s perfectly position queen.
Grandmaster commentators at this point were noting that Topalov had lost his head, and Kramnik would steamroller to another win.
By shifting from the queen exchange, White’s threats on the kingside suddenly flair to life again.
Only move to avoid the immediate crushing mating attacks. Shredder 7:
- 29… Nxg6 30. Qxg6+ hxg6 31. Rxg6+ Kh7 32. R6g3 Qf1 33. Rxf1 Rg8 34. Rh3+ Kg7 35. f5 exf5 36. Rg1+ Kf8 37. Bh6+ Kf7 38. e6+ Kxe6 39. Rxg8 a5 40. Rg6+ Kd7 41. Ne5+ Kc7 42. Rc3+ Kb8 43. Rc1 [5.46/14]
- 29… Rxc2 30. gxh7+ Kxh7 31. Rg7+ Kh8 32. Rg8+ Kh7 33. R1g7+ Kh6 34. f5+ Bg5 35. Rxg5 Qf1+ 36. Ng1! +-
31… Kxf8 32. Qg6 Qe2 33. Qxg4 +/- Threatening mate on g7 and g8.
32. Rxg4+ Bg7 33. Qc7! +-
33. Ng5 and White has at least a draw by perpetual check
33… exf5 34. Ng5 Qc6 35. e6 +-
34. Ng5 is not good enough 34… Qe2 -+
Black is walking a tightrope.
Shredder 7: 36. Qh5 b5 37. Rg3 Qd1+ 38. Bg1 Rc2 39. fxg7 Qxf3+ 40. Rxf3 Rc3 [1.18/13]
Smothering White’s attack. Now the play switches into a complicated endgame.
37… Qxc2 = Perhaps its preferable to keep the White king cut off from his pieces.
The king has a big part to play in the resulting endgame. Its amazing Topalov is still retains his composure and will to win even after the previous set-backs he’s faced in this game.
Overprotecting the f6-pawn. The perennial threat is the advance of the e6-pawn, and the connected passed pawns can easily outmatch even a rook
Black has to divert one of the White minor pieces – and this passed pawn is the key.
Pulling the knight away from behind the White pawn centre.
Shredder 7: 45. Nd2 Rc7 46. Nb3 Rc3 47. Nc1 b5 48. fxg7 b4 49. e6 Kxg7 50. Na2 Rf3+ 51. Kg4 b3 52. e7 Kf7 [-0.34/17]
Covering the important dark-squares, and protecting the a-pawn to prevent the White bishop from decisively entering via the queenside.
Shredder 7: 45… a2 46. Bb2 b5 47. Ng5 Ra7 48. fxg7 a1=B 49. Bxa1 Rxa1 50. Kf6 Rf1+ 51. Kg6 Re1 52. Ne6 b4 53. Nf4 [-1.07/18]}
47. e7 Bxe7 48. fxe7 Rxe7 The a-pawn is untouchable because of …Re3!
Topalov’s final throw of the dice is three connected passed pawns versus the rook.
49. Kxd5 is slightly better, but Black is still on top. 49… Rf1 50. e7 Bxe7 51. fxe7 Kf7 -+
Now the White king can’t approach the black pawn.
The rook is splendidly placed, and White can make no further progress.