Topalov – Kramnik, World Championship 2006 (9)

Topalov’s opening novelty subdues Kramnik, and he finishes Kramnik off in typical Topalov fashion.

Another variation of the Slav Defence sees Topalov taking an unusual sideline – a virtually unplayed 8. a3. He follows this up with a bold and original idea, invented by Vallejo, one of his seconds. After a series of pawn moves Topalov erects a powerful White centre. Kramnik is subdued and his search for an active continuation (12… b5?) shatters his queenside leaving himself with a passive position. The opening phase concludes in Topalov’s favour as he winds his way through Black’s temporary activity, and he uses it to methodically improve his position and activate his pieces. Kramnik can only stand by and watch, his position allows him no active countermeasures. Topalov piles pressure on Kramnik’s queenside, particularly the c6 pawn (27. e5). A quick switch to the kingside by Topalov, and Kramni cracks under the pressure (35. Nf8?), allowing Topalov to crown his win with a flourish with 38. Rxf7!.

Although both players have now won 2 games, the forfeit of game 5 is now more important than ever. Kramnik is in serious trouble after now losing two games in a row.

Veselin Topalov (2813)
Vladimir Kramnik (2743)
Queen’s Gambit: Slav
World Championship 2006, Elista, Game 9
ECO Code

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 Bf5 5. Nc3 e6 6. Nh4 Bg6 7. Nxg6 hxg6 8. a3

A virtually untried move in this position. 8. Qb3 is the popular continuation. It stops the natural development of Black’s dark-squared bishop to b4.

8… Nbd7 9. g3

Another unusual pawn move in the early stages. White is holding back on developing his bishops, but Black isn’t in a position to take advantage of it.

9… Be7 10. f4 =

Yet another pawn move – this time trying to bind the centre and prevent Black’s freeing …e5. After the game, Topalov credited this opening idea to Vallejo.

10… dxc4

Shredder 7: 10… Nb6!? with the idea of rerouting the knight Nb6-c6-d6-e4, taking advantage of White’s weak e4-pawn.:

  • 11. c5 This gives Black a target to play against, particularly the …b6 break, opening up the queenside files. 11… Nc8 12. Bg2 b6 13. Qa4 Qd7 14. cxb6 Nxb6 15. Qd1 Rc8 16. g4 c5 17. dxc5 Nc4 18. b3 Qd6 [-0.34/15]
  • 11. b3 Nc8 12. c5 b6 13. Ba6 Qc7 14. b4 Bd8 15. g4 Nd7 16. g5 Ne7 17. Bb2 Nf5 [-0.54/15]
11. Bxc4 O-O?!

Kramnik allows Topalov a free hand to finish setting up his powerful pawn center. Topalov doesn’t need to be asked twice.

11… Qc7 12. e4 =

Shredder 7: 11… Nb6 12. Be2 Nbd5 13. O-O Qa5 14. Bd2 Nxc3 15. bxc3 Rd8 16. c4 Qf5 17. g4 Qe4 18. Qb3 a6 [-0.23/15]

12. e4

Position after 12.e4. White has a long term advantage in his pawn centre.

12… b5?

Kramnik lashes out, but this pushes the White light-squared bishop to a better position, heading for f3, where it exposes this last move as a serious weakening of Black’s queenside. Black needed to stay solid, but he has no positive plan of action at his disposal.

13. Be2 b4?!

Allowing White to open the a-file. Black’s queenside is effectively demolished, but there’s no easy way to halt the slide toward a substantial White advantage.

14. axb4 Bxb4 15. Bf3 Qb6

Shredder 7: 15… c5 is more stubborn, immediately harassing the White centre. 16. Be3 Qe7 17. O-O cxd4 18. Bxd4 e5 19. fxe5 Nxe5 20. Nd5 Nxf3+ 21. Qxf3 Nxd5 22. exd5 Bc5 23. Qf2 Bxd4 24. Qxd4 Qe2 25. Rxa7 Qe3+ 26. Qxe3 [0.33/15]

16. O-O!

White has effectively caught up in development, and thanks to his centre he has a rather sizable advantage.

16… e5

An enterprising option, taking advantage of the pin down the b6-f1 diagonal.

17. Be3! Rad8

In the press conference after the game, Kramnik admitted that the game was basically already decided at this point. 17… exd4 18. Na4 an important zwigenzug that dismantles Black’s pressure down the b6-f1 diagonal.

18. Na4 +/- Qb8?!

The queen has no real prospects here.

19. Qc2

Moving out of the pin on the d-file, now the pawn on …e5 is forced to declare its intentions. White has a very strong position.

19… exf4 20. Bxf4 Qb7 21. Rad1 Rfe8 22. Bg5

Threatening to exploit the pinned knight with e4-e5.

22… Be7 23. Kh1

Stepping out of the firing line – a typical Topalov prelude to an attack on the Black king.

23… Nh7

23… Qb5 24. Be3 +/-

24. Be3

Preserving the two bishops, another common theme to Topalov’s games. Black is making no headway against the White centre, and his pieces are falling further and further back up the board.

24. Bxe7 Rxe7 25. e5 Rc8 +-

24… Bg5 25. Bg1!

Like a spring tightly coiled, White is building up the energy in his position. The f-file is slowly opening up.

25… Nhf8 26. h4 Be7 27. e5

Position after 27.e5. Advanced at the moment Black can’t react by putting a knight on d5, and so the c6-pawn is now under fire which provokes another Black retreat. White has a space advantage and threats on both sides of the board, not to mention he has the further advance of his centre as potential threats.

27… Nb8 +- 28. Nc3

Or 28. Qc4 Bb4 29. d5 with a co-ordination of attacks on the c6-pawn, the f7-square and threatening to overrun Black’s position with his centre pawns.}

Also there’s 28. h5 Bb4 29. hxg6 Nxg6 30. Be4 with co-ordinated attacks against the c6-pawn, down the f-file and against Black’s king. If the g6-knight moves away, White has the manoeuvre Qc2-h2 at his disposal which hits the Black king down the h-file.

28… Bb4 29. Qg2

Not the most direct of moves, but it still keeps the pressure on. Black is in no position to launch any counterplay. 29. Ne4

29… Qc8

unpinning the c-pawn, and opening up the possibility of …c5.

30. Rc1

Setting up another potential pin against the c6-pawn. 30. Ne4 was still playable as a precursor to an increase in kingside activities after h4-h5.

30… Bxc3

30… Qb7 31. Be3 +/-

31. bxc3 +-

31. Rxc3 wins the c6 pawn outright.

31… Ne6

31… c5 32. Be3 +-

32. Bg4

Topalov switches his focus to the e6-square, and now starts building some pressure on the f-file.

32… Qc7 33. Rcd1 Nd7 34. Qa2

The pressure on th e6/f7 complex of light squares brings the Black king into the target range.

34… Nb6 35. Rf3 Nf8?

This exposes Black’s kingside to the White queen’s pressure down the a2-f7 diagonal. Better is 35… Qd7 +- but Black still has a difficult position to defend.

36. Rdf1 Re7 37. Be3

With the threat of Bg5 winning the exchange.

37… Nh7

37… Rde8 38. Bg5 Qb7 39. Bxe7 Rxe7 +-

38. Rxf7!

Position after 38.Rxf7! Demolishes the pawn shield around the Black king.

38… Nd5

38… Rxf7 39. Rxf7 and the rook is untouchable because of Bg4-e6 exploiting the pin.

39. R7f3

A smooth victory for Topalov, finished with a Topalov flourish: 39. R7f3 c5 40. Bc1 cxd4 41. cxd4 +-

Better is 39. Be6 which secures the win, the Black rook on e7 has its hands full as the pinned piece along the seventh rank to his queen, and thus the e6-square is undefended. The idea behind this move is to win the f7-square as an entry point for the other White rook – by pushing the Black king away from the defence of the square. 39… Kh8 and now the f7-square is safeguarded, White can now exploit the seventh rank pin by 40. Bg5 +-


This entry was posted in Analysis, Chess, Kramnik, Queens Gambit, Slav, Topalov, World Championship. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Topalov – Kramnik, World Championship 2006 (9)

  1. Dave says:

    Hi Isofarro, great analysis work on the World Championship!!!!

    I still can’t believe that the Slav (and it variants) became the battleground for probably the most important match in 2 decades. And then it all came down to one 30 minute blitz game!!

    The guys over at have challenged me to a chess game and I was wondering if you could let me know which platform we should use to play the game. I remember using ICC a few years ago but not sure of any others. Your help would be appreciated, and if you’re keen you and I can team up and play in the North team (UK based Saffa’s) vs the South team (All 3 guys at Ideate play).


  2. Tom Chivers says:

    Interesting, although quite a lot has happened since then :)

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