Kramnik – Topalov, World Championship 2006 (12)

Topalov adopts Kramnik’s preferred Slav Defence for the last game of the match, but converts it into a Stonewall formation with 13… f5?!. Kramnik goes for a minority attack on the queenside (16. b4 and 19. b5) and infiltrates the queenside with his heavy pieces (21. Qe2 and 26. Qa6). He gains entry on the eighth rank, but can’t make use of it. Topalov counters with an attack down the h-file, and sacrifices a rook (45… Rh2+) to force a perpetual check.

The match score stands at 6-6, so the match goes into a rapid-play tiebreak.

Vladimir Kramnik (2740)
Veselin Topalov (2810)
Queen’s Gambit: Slav
World Championship 2006, Elista, Round 12
ECO Code

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

Both players mirror their opponent’s opening schemes – following the previous game and game 9. This suits Topalov perfectly, since it sidesteps any Kramnik preparation in the last game of the match.

8. g3

Kramnik is the first to divert.

8… Nbd7 9. Bd2 Bb4

and into new territory.

10. Qb3 Bxc3 11. Bxc3 Ne4 = 12. Bg2 Nxc3 13. Qxc3 f5?!

Position after 13...f5?! Topalov is in a provocative mood.

14. O-O

But Kramnik is cautious. He choses against plans of castling queenside and playing against the weakened black kingside pawn structure.

14… Qe7 15. cxd5 exd5

Sensibly keeping the c-file closed.

16. b4

Kramnik opts for a minority attack against Black’s queenside – by creating weaknesses in Black’s queenside, Kramnik will then be able to apply pressure right across the board.. The alternative was a central break with a prepared e3-e4 (perhaps even with f2-f3), which would expose all of Black’s weak pawns. Topalov’s plan is to lock down the centre, and expand on the kingside. First he needs to get his knight into a better osition.

16… Nf6 17. Rfc1 Ne4 18. Qb2 O-O

Although Topalov’s knight is well placed, White’s proposed breakthrough on the queenside is enough to encourage him his king is safer on the kingside.

19. b5 Rac8 20. bxc6 bxc6 21. Qe2

Re-centralising the queen, which now threatens entry on a6 as well as keeping watch on the kingside.

21… g5 22. Rab1 Qd7 23. Rc2 Rf6 24. Rbc1 g4

Topalov aims to lock down the pawn structure around the White king – preventing the White queen from entering the position, so he can concentrate on fending off the queenside pressure.

25. Rb2

White has a free hand on the queenside, and Kramnik plans to infiltrate via the b-file, taking aim at the b7 square.

25… Rh6

Topalov hasn’t given up all hope of a kingside attack. The h-file is the most obvious option of applying a little pressure, especially when combined with …Qd7-f7-h4. White can’t protect his h2 pawn very easily.

26. Qa6 Rc7 27. Rb8+

The feint on entering the seventh rank forces Topalov to conceed the back rank.

27… Kh7 28. Qa3

Position after 28.Qa3. Threatening entry at f8.

28… Rb7 29. Qf8 Rxb8 30. Qxb8 =

White has temporarily run out of steam, and Topalov takes over the initiative.

30… Qf7 31. Qc8 Qh5

Threatening Nd2 first, locking off the White king’s escape route. The h2-pawn is dead.

32. Kf1

Only move

32… Nd2+ 33. Ke1 Nc4 34. Bf1

Black’s initiative has also fizzled, and now he needs to draw back and defend again.

34… Rf6

Defending the f5 pawn which holds the Black kingside together.

35. Bxc4 dxc4 36. Rxc4 Qxh2 37. Ke2

37. Rxc6?? Qh1+ Forks the king and rook.

37… Qh1 38. Rc5 Qb1

Threatening to bring his rook in via the now-vacated h-file, and the White king is then trapped in a mating net, as well as defending the f5 pawn.

39. Qa6 Qb2+ 40. Kf1 Qb1+ 41. Ke2 Qb2+ 42. Kf1 Rh6 43. Qd3

Bringing the queen back in defence of the king, Kramnik also directly threatens the f5-pawn, and with it the Black king.

43… g6 44. Qb3 Rh1+

Topalov steers directly towards the draw by perpetual check.

45. Kg2 Rh2+ 46. Kxh2 Qxf2+ 47. Kh1 Qf1+
1/2 – 1/2
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