Game 5 — Power outage, Topalov bangs his head against the wall

by admin on April 30, 2010

Hi chess fans! As I promised yesterday, here is my quick translation of GM Sergei Shipov’s annotations for game 5 of the Topalov-Kramnik match. Actually, it’s not clear to me that I need to do this, because Shipov’s site actually has a link to an English translation. Of course, the link is in Russian, so English readers might not realize it’s there! Look under the link for  Game 12, it’s the first line of blue type. The link will take you to

Anyway, I promised you my translation. So here goes. You can compare the two and see which you like better.  😎

Greetings, esteemed viewers! Grandmaster Sergei Shipov is once again at his battle station, in front of the computer monitors, the keyboards and the mouses, in his home laboratory. Some good quiet music, hot tea, chocolate and a love of chess — that’s all that you need for full immersion into the games of the best chess players in the world. In the current match, an unusually fascinating battle is unfolding. Can you remember any time in the history of world championship matches when in the first four games there was only one draw? Off the top of my head I can only remember Reykjavik 1972, but that includes Fischer’s forfeit, in other words the second game simply never happened. In Sofia, thank god, the adversaries for the time being are calmly playing chess… Of course, at this moment it is impossible not to remember the fifth game of the match in Elista [Translator’s note: Topalov-Kramnik, 2006 — DM], which also never took place — but that theme has already been so thoroughly chewed over in discussions on the forums that I have no desire to repeat it. What happened, happened. I hope that we will not have any reason to recall the details.

Let’s talk instead about Anand’s pathfinding thread. [Translator’s note: I think this is a reference to Shipov’s analogy with Theseus in the last game.] Have you noticed how he is playing with White? He inevitably sacrifices a pawn for positional pressure! That is, he forces the dyed-in-the-wool attacker Topalov to defend for a long time.  That is a very effective psychological weapon. At the same time, unlike Kramnik, Anand is maintaining a high pitch of battle, not limiting himself only to technical measures. If necessary he will transpose into a superior endgame, but if there is a chance, he will give mate.

The main problem for Topalov at this moment is how to obtain his kind of game. How can he force his opponent to defend, in a complex position, and not (as in the third game) in a position where the board was for the most part a desert, where there were no queens and drawing tendencies dominated. The answer to the riddle is hidden in the opening! Both as White and Black Veselin needs to change his serve. To stubbornly bang his head against the wall is senseless — in that case the match will end in a defeat without honor. To make a long story short, we expect some changes!

1. d4 …

This move was made not by Topalov but by the honorary guest of the match under the eye of the TV camera. Of course, Veselin told him what move to make… It would be annoying to not play the opening you had prepared because of a mistake by your intermediary!  🙂

1. … d5 2. c4 c6

The Slav Defense.

3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 dc 5. a4 Bf5 6. Ne5 e6 7. f3 c5

Still the same Smyslov Variation.

8. e4 Bg6! 9. Be3 …

Let me show you, for variety, the possibility 9. d5. Nowadays it is considered to be not dangerous for Black. For example, after 9. … ed 10. Nxg6 hg 11. e5 Nh5 12. Nxd5 Nd7 13. Qe2 Qh4+ 14. Qf2 Qxf2+ 15. Kxf2 O-O-O 16. f4 g5! 17. Be2 Nxe5 18. fe Rxd5 19. Bxg5 Rxe5 in the game Salem, A. – Savchenko, S./ Warsaw 2008 White was standing at a broken trough.

In recent games, after 9. d5 ed people often play 10. ed, but in this case also Black is able to hold the defense. [I’ll skip the rest of this analysis, he refers to a game Bareev, E. – Mastrovasilis, D. from Rijeka 2010. — DM]

9. … cd 10. Qxd4 Qxd4 11. Bxd4 Nfd7

And so Topalov intends to bang against the same wall as in the third game. Let’s see what kind of wall-banging weapons he has prepared this time …

[Unfortunately I have to go now; the rest of the translation will come later today. — DM]

[Okay, I’m back. The rest of the translation will go on without interruption. By the way, if you’re just here to find out the result, it was very unsurprisingly a draw. But there is still some good play and some fascinating commentary left. — DM]

12. Nxd7 Nxd7 13. Bxc4 a6

Nothing new yet. Except for one annoying thing — some broad-shouldered correspondents are constantly blocking the video broadcast on the official site. You can’t see the players or the board!

14. Rc1 …

Again the same clever, subtle move. The rook on h1 remains in its place. Maybe Veselin will place his king not on e2 but on f2, and unlike me sees some sort of advantage in this change? But in the meantime Anand has paused an unexpectedly long time! He is trying to guess ahead — where has the opponent prepared a trap for him? Maybe it is precisely at this moment that Black has a reasonable alternative. And Vishy is thinking, wouldn’t it be better to turn off the main road in order to avoid the danger that lurks beyond? Basically, it’s all psychology.

14. … Rg8

No, he decided to stay on the path. As if to say, all right, Veselin, show us what you’ve got.

15. h4 h5

A novelty! The bishop on g6 is out of danger. But for the moment out of the game. Do you remember how long it took him to get away from h7 in the third game? It was a whole epoch… So Anand has decided not to banish him to that square again. From g6 he can more quickly free himself after f7-f6. And so, one move later the world champion has declined to repeat the previous line. Now the challenger has something to think about… The clocks are showing 1:49-1:47. The most natural objection to h7-h5 in such positions is the maneuver Nc3-e2-f4. But the problem is that Black will have time to defend the square f4 with Bf8-d6. From there the idea presents itself to guarantee the knight this promising outpost by playing Bd4-e3! One only needs to think over the proper move order…

[Here Shipov once again goes over the moves of game 3 for anyone who missed it. But let’s continue. — DM]

16. Ne2 …

But really, what is there to think about! Let’s move our knight to f4 and let our opponent do the thinking. Indeed, it seems as if Black comes up one tempo short of completing the rearrangement Bf8-d6, Ke8-e7, f7-f6, and Bg6-f7.

16. … Bd6

So. Everything is going according to plan. The knight won’t go to f4 for the moment. I suggest you look at 17. Be3! and let Black decide which bishop to exchange for the active White knight. In this case, White’s advantage will become strategic and long-term.

17. Be3 …

Of course. In this case I do not have any sense of accomplishment in guessing Topalov’s plan. The idea is as simple as two times two equals four. It’s true that after the attack 17. … Ne5 White also will have a bishop under a knight’s attack, and after all you can’t move him back to b3, leaving the square d3 undefended. But exchanges in the center, at a first impression, will make it easier for White’s rooks to enter the Black camp. Did Anand consider all of this in his preparation? I have to admit, one sad thought even occurred to me … No, it can’t be! Could it be that such an accomplished chess player would make a mistake when making the pawn move, and instead of moving it one square, move it two? Such horrors are typical for chess fans. However, for professionals they occur extremely rarely.

Vishy continues to think intensely. I have rarely seen a case where he held his head in his hands — but now is such a time… The time is now 1:44-1:33. The longer the champion thinks, the more I am convinced in my analysis that … he has nothing to worry about! In fact, he has to bring his knight to e5, exchange off the white bishop and calmly prepare for further simplifications. The exchange on g6 is no tragedy…

Meanwhile the official website is exhibiting symptoms of death. There are problems with the broadcast. Wait! … According to the latest, unconfirmed information, there are problems with the electricity in the playing hall! There’s the fifth game for you. It’s as if something is fated to go wrong… According to the reports of eyewitnesses, the lights went out in the whole building! Of course, in such conditions, in the infernal darkness, it’s impossible to keep playing. The game has been interrupted and they are seeing what they can do about it. We will summon our patience…

17. … Ne5

The game continues. Hooray! Maybe this is just the last move of a dying transmission? The video has not been restored, so I can’t yet see the action with my own eyes… Here it is! Now it’s back. Topalov is sitting and thinking about his reply. The incident has run its course. We will continue our chess work.

18. Nf4 …

The logical continuation of the maneuver already begun. The bishop on g6 and the pawn on h5 are under attack. But is this so scary? One can simply move the king to e7, allowing the rook on g8 to get in the game. Or start chopping wood … For example, take now on c4, and then advance the pawn to b5. One could even start with the impudent 18. … b5!? In my initial estimation, Black has time to untangle his position and simplify the game to a nearly drawn condition. The clock shows 1:40 – 1:22. Evidently, in fact almost certainly the clock was stopped during the power outage.

The limp move 18. Kf2 would have allowed the drawing combination 18. … Bxe4! 19. fe Ng4+ 20. Kf3 Ne6+ 21. Kf2 Ng4+ and neither side can avoid the perpetual check.

18. … Rc8

Anand, the experienced contrarian, finds a hidden path. When defending a slightly worse position, he as a rule avoids even the slightest complications. If that is possible, of course. Everything that Topalov was thinking before this move gets thrown in the trash bin.

In the variation 18. … Nxc4 19. Rxc4 b5 20. Rc2 Ke7 21. Nxg6+ fg 22. Bg5+ Kf7 23. Ke2! Vishy might not have liked the threat of White’s rooks to infiltrate on d7.

And after 18. … b5 19. Be2! ba 20. Kf2 Ke7 21. Ra1 Rgb8 22. Rhb1! a new focus of tension has arisen on the queenside.

19. Bb3 …

Now the exchange of rooks is begging to be played, then Ke8-e7 and Rg8-c8. It appears that Black does not have any big problems. Especially if you consider that no ambitious plans are visible for White.

19. … Rxc1+

Clearly weaker was 19. … Ke7 20. Ke2!, and White can battle on equal terms for the key c-file.

20. Bxc1 Ke7

What’s so scary about the trade on g6? For the moment, nothing. White has to find some way to make use of the awkward position of the Black bishop. So far I cannot find any way to do that.

21. Ke2 …

The kings have freed the way for their rooks in unison. But the Black rook takes the first step …

21. … Rc8

Correct. The only question is, what to do next? You can’t move the bishop to h7, for you must have pity on the pawn at h5. It’s hard to play f7-f6 because of the weakness of the pawn on e6 … That is, in one of the variations there is a tactical possibility, but White has to cooperate. I have in mind the variation 22. Be3?! f6! in which because of the threat of penetrating with the rook to the second rank, Black is able to free himself. But White has a stronger move — 22. Rd1. Then the little trick doesn’t work.

22. Bd2?! …

This looks like an inaccuracy. Doesn’t Black still have the opportunity to create a flight square for the bishop from g6 by playing 22. … f6! — that’s the question. Now, because of the importance of the moment, Vishy has to forget about his contrarian nature and calculate some variations in detail. In other words, here is the idea: sacrifice the e6 pawn, stick the rook on c2, seize the initiative, and see what comes of it. There is still more than enough time for serious work: 1:28 – 0:58.

[Paragraph of analysis of 22. Be3?! f6! skipped. — DM]

I still insist that 22. Rd1! was stronger, when 22. … f6? would have been mistaken because of 23. Nxe6! Bf7 24. Nxg7! Bxb3 25. Nf5+ Kf8 26. Bh6+! and White wins at least a pawn. And more likely two.

22. … f6!

Yes. He did it! Anand is a mental giant. And, unquestionably, the father of modern chess. [Translator’s note: Giggle. I have to think Shipov is pulling our leg with this over-extravagant praise. — DM] The bishop on g6 has ceased to be a prisoner. In some variations he escapes to freedom and becomes a true Indian elephant. [Translator’s note: Pun alert. “Bishop” in Russian is the same word as “elephant.” Also note the reference to Anand’s nationality.] I won’t be so harsh as to say that Topalov blew an advantage (in some lines there still might be some nuances that are unpleasant for Black), but the fact that he is out of his comfort zone is unquestionable. Vishy got up from the table and went for a walk, to lift the accumulated tension off of his shoulders. Take a breather, relax for a minute. A very useful activity! Meanwhile, Veselin has sat down to work… But for the moment it’s not apparent how White can take the pawn and keep Black on a short leash. But if you let the bishop on g6 peacefully withdraw to f7, then you can’t even talk about an advantage. Clock display: 1:18-0:57.

23. Nxg6+ …

An admission that the opponent was right.

Accepting the sacrifice would lead to a strong initiative for Black. A completely simple line is 23. Nxe6 Bf7 24. Nd4 Bxb3 25. Nxb3 (a check on f5 here, without the pressure of a rook at d1, is completely pointless) 25… Rc2 26. Rb1 Nc4 27. Kd3 (27. Rc1 Nxd2!) Rxb2! and White had better start thinking about how to survive.

A little bit more complicated is 23. Bxe6 Rc2 24. Rb1 (or 24. b3 Be8! (with the threat of … g7-g5!) 25. Bd5 Nxf3! and Black steals a pawn with good play) 24 … Nc4 25. Bxc4 Bxf4 26. Rd1 Rxb2, and it’s obviously equal.

23. … Nxg6

And so White has the advantage of the two bishops. But the position has a closed character, so the bishops have trouble stretching their legs and showing their power.

24. g3 …

A subtle move. White intends to put a pawn on f4, restricting the minor pieces of his opponent.

24. … Ne5

Before the barrier is raised! Anand has started to play easily and with confidence. It is obvious that he has caught a second wind. He has survived much worse positions than this… And Topalov is working away, not lifting his eyes from the board.

It goes without saying that Black should not hang a piece with 24. … Bxg3? 25. Rg1 Nf4+ 26. Kf1 Rd8 27. Bb4+!

[To be continued … I have to eat lunch … — DM]

[Back from lunch. Now for the conclusion — I was going to say “thrilling conclusion,” but you can be the judge of that. — DM]

25. f4 …

A sharp move. It appears to give Black some decent counterplay.

I would still have traded rooks by playing 25. Rc1, in order to exdert pressure on the Black position in somewhat more comfortable circumstances. True, it would not have been simple to outplay Anand …

25. … Nc6!

The best answer. On g4 the knight would have played a merely decorative role. But from here it yearns to go to d4, a5, b4, and god knows where else.

26. Bc3 …

In essence this is an admission of the complete success of Black’s defense. Now the possibility has arisen to trade dark-squared bishops with 26. … Bb4, after which White’s advantage disappears in principle.

The manic pair could only have been preserved by acrobatic exercises on the edge of the board: 26. Be3 Na5 27. Bd1 Nc4 28. Bc1, but how to untangle oneself after, say, 28. … Bb4 is a question for another time.

26. … Bb4

No sooner said than done.

27. Bxb4+ Nxb4

The excitement has ended, and on the board we have full equality. Veselin insistently continues to search for resources for battle. Of course, he is paying attention to the pawn on h5, which is in a position to be harassed by the bishop. But if Black plays g7-g6, then several Black pawns will be in the bishop’s sights. However, to be honest, these are just like dewdrops for someone dying of thirst. Not enough to drink, not enough to bathe in.

28. … Nc6

A strategy of solidity. It’s not out of the realm of possibility — in fact, it is highly likely — that Vishy intends the rearrangement … e6-e5 and … Nc6-d4. But does Black need to undertake that kind of adventure? No, I simply got ahead of myself. In the work of an online commentator, that happens now and then. Anand is hardly likely to open the center! He must have in mind the jump … Nc6-a5, in order to trade minor pieces and activate the rook.

But 28. … Rc6!, whatever you may say, looks wonderful to me.

29. Rd2 …

Accurate prophylaxis. But lets try to guess what White will do further if Black, say, just decides to march in place with Rc8-c7-c8? Probably he has in mind the maneuver Bb3-d1!, with Ke2-e3 to follow, in order to force Black to play … g7-g6. When the chances for success are zero, one looks for gold even in a pile of cinders!

29. … g5!

Oh, you Vishy! Oh, you clever boy! He has managed to wake up the distinguished audience who would otherwise have fallen asleep in the auditorium. The move is beautiful and simple — total exchanges bring us closer to the logical conclusion of the game. The Black rook is prepared to enter the game along the newly opened files.

By the way, if you remember the classical phrase of Pushkin (from his letter to Vyazemsky in 1825), then I should have said: “Oh, you Anand, oh you son of a Vishwanathan!” Because that’s the way it really is. From the beginning. That’s how it historically happened — Anand was named after his father. This is as if my parents had named me, Sergei Yurievich, by the name of Yuri! I personally would have protested. But Vi … But Anand was not against it. I still have to call him Vishy, though. I cannot separate myself from the worldwide collective. Everybody has gotten used to it after twenty-something years.

[Translator’s note: I’m sure a lot of you are wondering, “What is Sergei going on about?” I’d like to see what Google Translate makes of this passage! Well, this was fun, because it taught me something I didn’t know about Russian literary history. Pushkin, of course, was the poet laureate of Russia, and practically the creator of the modern Russian language. In 1825 he finished writing a now-classic play, Boris Godunov, and was so pleased with himself that he wrote to a friend, Pyotr Vyazemsky, “Oh, that Pushkin! Oh, that son of a bitch!” Apparently this quote is well-known to Russians, but this is the first time I’ve heard of it. See the Wikipedia article for more details. (By the way, I like my translation better than theirs. “What a Pushkin!” doesn’t make much sense.) As for the rest of the paragraph, I think Sergei is getting a little bit carried away. It’s like when the commentators have to fill up air time in a sports game that is already decided, and they start getting goofier and goofier. Sergei is saying he wouldn’t have wanted to be named after his father, because then he would have been Yuri Yurievich (which sounds a little bit funny, but actually boys are quite often named after their fathers in Russia, as in every other society). As for why he would rather not call Anand “Vishy,” well, I don’t get it. Whatever! — DM]

[Okay guys, I’ve run out of time to devote to the translation of this game. It’s just too much for one day! Anyway, you have seen the best parts — there was still a little bit of nervousness during the time scramble, and apparently Anand’s 29. … g5 was not so great after all, because White did get some chances, but nevertheless the game ended up drawn. Here are the rest of the moves, plus Shipov’s final summary. — DM]

30. Kf2 g4 31. Rc2 Rd8 32. Ke3 Rd6 33. Rc5 Nb4 34. Rc7+ Kd8 35. Rc3 Ke7 36. e5 Rd7 37. ef+?! Kxf6 38. Ke2 Nc6 39. Ke1?! Nd4 40. Bd1 a5 41. Rc5 Nf5 42. Rc3 Nd4 43. Rc5 Nf5 44. Rc3 ½-½

Well, that was a nervous game, in which, in spite of the lack of external fireworks one could nevertheless sense a colossal tension. Let me make a couple of observations outside of protocol. Anand, of course, is a genius, and he skipped away from the grenade like a master, but I still don’t like his opening idea 15. … h5. It resulted in a very unsuccessful construction on the kingside. And if Topalov had not given up the advantage with his careless 22nd move, then things could have ended up rather glumly for Black. Also, in an even endgame Vishy allowed certain problems to crop up, but once again he was given an amnesty.

Oh well, both the champion and the challenger are, after all, human! It’s our nature to make inaccuracies. At the same time, the difference in the score remains minimal: 3-2 in favor of Anand.

This game has been commented for you, dear viewers, by grandmaster Sergei Shipov. May the light not go out in your houses and may you always be in a good mood! Until tomorrow.

(Back to Dana’s commentary.) Oof! That was a lot of work. I think that in the future, unless people really insist on it, I will stick to translating only the highlights. For example, I wouldn’t have wanted you to miss the part about the power outage, or the Indian elephants, or looking for gold in a pile of cinders, or the rather strange riff on Pushkin.

Will Topalov pull out his first draw as Black tomorrow? Or will Anand go out to a commanding 4-2 lead? Stay tuned!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

BRAVO BRAVO April 30, 2010 at 1:41 pm



Anita April 30, 2010 at 10:23 pm

Dana, wonderful translation! Makes me want to learn Russian so I can read Shipov’s commentary. Oh well, we have you 🙂
I guess Shipov’s rant about not wanting to call Anand ‘Vishy’ is probably because in southern India, boys are named in this fashion – dad’s name and then son’s name. So Vishwanathan is Anand’s father’s name.


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