Close but not close enough!

There was no Catalan today! Anand varied on move three and the positionally-complex Nimzoindian defence then occurred. In the middlegame Topalov allowed the exchange of both his rooks for Anand's queen and a sharp struggle ensued, but one in which Anand was close to winning. Topalov somehow resisted and held onto a precious half-point.
So it's Anand 4.5 - Topalov 4.5 with three games to go.

Today we saw the longest game of the match after which Anand must have been kicking himself for not converting the advantage. So the match situation stays all square:

1Veselin TopalovBUL2805Viswanathan AnandIND27871-0Grünfeld defence30
2Viswanathan AnandIND2787Veselin TopalovBUL28051-0Catalan opening43
3Veselin TopalovBUL2805Viswanathan AnandIND27870.5-0.5Slav defence46
4Viswanathan AnandIND2787Veselin TopalovBUL28051-0Catalan opening32
5Veselin TopalovBUL2805Viswanathan AnandIND27870.5-0.5Slav defence44
6Viswanathan AnandIND2787Veselin TopalovBUL28050.5-0.5Catalan opening58
7Viswanathan AnandIND2787Veselin TopalovBUL28050.5-0.5Catalan/Bogoljubov58
8Veselin TopalovBUL2805Viswanathan AnandIND27871-0Slav defence56
9Viswanathan AnandIND2787Veselin TopalovBUL28050.5-0.5Nimzoindian defence83

Since the match began the new rating list came out on the first of May. Both players had gained some rating points:

The World's top ten as of the 1st of May:

RankingNameCountryActual RatingPrevious Rating
1Magnus CarlsenNOR28132813
2Veselin TopalovBUL28122805
3Vladimir KramnikRUS27902790
4Viswanathan AnandIND27892787
5Levon AronianARM27832782
6Shakhriyar MamedyarovAZE27632760
7Alexander GrischukRUS27602756
8 (10)Wang YueCHN27522749
9 (16)Pavel EljanovUKR27512736
10 (14)Alexei ShirovESP27422737

The top seven ranking positions remaining unchanged but Wang Yue, Eljanov and Shirov all rose in the ranking table after recently gaining rating points.

There are now quite a few videos covering this event, have you seen them all?

Here's the game:

Viswanathan Anand (2787) - Veselin Topalov (2812)

Sofia WCM (9th game) 06.05.2010

Nimzoindian defence (Rubinstein) (E54)

1.d4 ♘f6 2.c4 e6 3.♘c3

A radical change of approach from Anand as he allows the Nimzoindian defence for the first time in the match.

3...♗b4 4.e3 0-0 5.♗d3 c5 6.♘f3 d5 7.0-0

There are several ways for Black to handle this standard position. Topalov opts for a solid one where he immediately releases the tension in the centre.

7...cxd4 8.exd4 dxc4 9.♗xc4 b6

The double exchange of pawns has left White with an isolated queen's pawn (a potential weakness) but has freed up the development of White's light-squared bishop.

10.♗g5 ♗b7 11.♖e1 ♘bd7 12.♖c1 ♖c8 13.♗d3 ♖e8 14.♕e2


This exchange gives White the bishop pair, but in return Black has sufficient room for his remaining pieces.

Instead after 14...♗e7 15.♗b5 Black is somewhat cramped.

15.bxc3 ♕c7 16.♗h4

After White's alternative plan 16.c4 (trying to seize space and squares with these so-called 'hanging pawns) 16...h6 17.♗d2 ♗xf3!? 18.♕xf3 e5 Portisch,L-Karpov,A Bugojno 1978, and Black obtains counterplay by forcing White's hand in the centre.


Eyeing up the f4 and g3-squares.


Although its worth a look 17.♗xh7+? doesn't quite work: 17...♔xh7 18.♘g5+ ♔g6 19.♕d3+ (19.g4 ♕f4! 20.gxh5+ ♔h6 leaves White's minor pieces rather tangled) 19...f5 20.g4 ♕f4! 21.gxh5+ ♔xh5 and White is the one in trouble (poorly co-ordinated pieces and maybe even the more vulnerable king!).

17...g6 18.♘h3!?

Anand innovates.

The more natural-looking move is 18.♕d2, when after 18...♗d5 19.f3 ♗c4 20.♗b1 ♕f4 21.♕f2 f5 22.♘h3 ♕d6 23.♗g5 b5, as in Psakhis,L-Hillarp Persson,T Torshavn 2000, Black had a good central grip in compensation for White's bishops.

18...e5!? 19.f3 ♕d6 20.♗f2


A surprising decision, Topalov 'sacrifices' his rook pair for White's queen.

He could instead have played 20...♘g7 (defending the rook thus threatening the d-pawn) 21.♕d2 ♘e6 22.♗g3 with slight pressure for White, especially on the dark squares.

21.♕xe8+ ♖xe8 22.♖xe8+ ♘f8 23.cxd4 ♘f6 24.♖ee1

The rook returns home. In many cases judging the relative value of two rooks against a queen is dependant on their potential. For the moment Black is able to thwart any invasion by the White pieces but can he do so for the duration? Otherwise topalov has ambitions of his own to pressurize the d4-isolani.

24...♘e6 25.♗c4 ♗d5

The imprudent 25...♘xd4?? loses to 26.♖cd1.

26.♗g3 ♕b4

If 26...♕d8 then perhaps 27.♗a6 with annoying threats.

27.♗e5! ♘d7

After 27...♗xc4 28.♗xf6 Black's king will be chronically in danger, so Topalov avoids this but has to allow his king's defences to be loosened anyway.

28.a3! ♕a4

Otherwise 28...♕a5 29.♗xd5 ♕xd5 30.♖c8+ ♘df8 31.♘f2! looks suspicious for Black.

29.♗xd5 ♘xe5

If White now captures on e5 Black has ...♕d4+ recuperating material. So...

30.♗xe6 ♕xd4+ 31.♔h1 fxe6 32.♘g5

It's not just that Black has a weak e-pawn, the main problem is that his king is now open to the winds along the seventh and eighth ranks. Any counterplay on the queenside looks likely to be slow in the face of a combined attack by White's three pieces.

32...♕d6 33.♘e4

Anand isn't worried about his a-pawn, he wants to attack Black's king!

33...♕xa3 34.♖c3 ♕b2 35.h4!

Releasing any potential first rank mate problems and supporting a knight leap to g5.

35...b5 36.♖c8+ ♔g7 37.♖c7+ ♔f8

After 37...♔h6 38.♘g5 one understands a key point behind 35 h4.


The attack looks very dangerous for Black's king.


My computer prefers 38...♔g8, but Topalov wants to run away from his kingside.


The reasoning behind the Bulgarian's last move becomes clearer following 39.♖c5 ♘d3 40.♖xe6+ ♔d7 41.♖d5+ ♔c7 42.♖e7+ ♔b6 and Black seeks sanctuary on the queenside, noting that 43.♖xd3?? loses to 43...♕b1+.



Better is 40.♖e4! (a great central outpost) when Black's king is perilously placed: 40...a5 41.♘xe6 b4 42.♖c7 ♕a1+ 43.♔h2 b3 44.♖b7 (44.♖d4? ♘f7! isn't so clear) 44...a4 45.♘c5 and White should win (the queenside pawns are nothing like as dangerous as White's attack).

40...♔d7 41.♖h7+ ♔c6 42.♖e4 b4 43.♘xe6

Threatening ♖c7+.

43...♔b6 44.♘f4 ♕a1+ 45.♔h2 a5 46.h5

Despite this move being played on the kingside it opens up channels towards Black's king.

46...gxh5 47.♖xh5 ♘c6 48.♘d5+ ♔b7

Anand was again getting short of time, but again kept winning chances alive.

49.♖h7+ ♔a6 50.♖e6 ♔b5 51.♖h5 ♘d4 52.♘b6+ ♔a6 53.♖d6 ♔b7


It seems that 54.♘d5! would have been a better square as after 54...♘xf3+ (54...b3? 55.♖h7+ ♔c8 56.♖c7+ ♔b8 57.♖d8# is mate) 55.gxf3 ♕a2+ 56.♔h3 White keeps his knight very active.


The best shot, as now White loses time to regroup.

55.gxf3 ♕a2+ 56.♘d2 ♔c7 57.♖hd5?!

Stronger could be 57.♖hh6! e.g. 57...a4 58.♔g3 ♕a1 59.♘e4 with chances of a mating attack.

57...b3 58.♖d7+ ♔c8 59.♖d8+ ♔c7 60.♖8d7+ ♔c8 61.♖g7

Not for the first time, Anand may have had a more testing continuation: 61.♖a7!? a4 62.♔g3! ♕a1 63.♔f2! for example 63...♕a2 64.♔e2 b2 65.♖e5 ♔d8 66.♖b5 ♔c8 67.♖b4 a3 68.♖b6 ♕a1 69.♖g6 ♔b8 70.♖f7 and wins.

61...a4 62.♖c5+ ♔b8 63.♖d5 ♔c8 64.♔g3 ♕a1 65.♖g4 b2 66.♖c4+ ♔b7 67.♔f2!?

Giving up the knight in order to limit Black's king.

...b1♕ 68.♘xb1 ♕xb1 69.♖dd4

But not 69.♖xa4?? ♕c2+ and ...♕xa4.

69...♕a2+ 70.♔g3 a3 71.♖c3 ♕a1

If 71...♕b2 then 72.♖dd3!.

72.♖b4+ ♔a6 73.♖a4+ ♔b5 74.♖cxa3

Finally picking off the a-pawn. Anand had clearly forseen this idea when sacrificing his knight, however with his rooks on the wing it's no surprise that Black has a perpetual check. 74...♕g1+ 75.♔f4 ♕c1+ 76.♔f5 ♕c5+ 77.♔e4 ♕c2+ 78.♔e3 ♕c1+ 79.♔f2 ♕d2+ 80.♔g3 ♕e1+ 81.♔f4 ♕c1+ 82.♔g3 ♕g1+ 83.♔f4


No joy in converting the advantage. @ official site.

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