Former World Chess Champion Veselin Topalov, Bulgaria, very easily qualified for the Candidates’ tournament in 2014 by coming in clear first in the Grand Prix series. In Novy Bor, Czech Republic, he played a 6 game practice match against the promising young Czech player, Viktor Laznicka, and won it with a 4-2 score. Here is the fourth game of that match, in which Topalov prevailed as Black despite being a pawn down and having a ragged pawn structure.
4th Match Game, Novy Bor, CZE
Viktor Laznicka, (2677)
vs. Veselin Topalov, (2769)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 The Nimzo-Indian 3 knights. b6 5.Qb3 c5 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 d5 8.e3 Nc6 9.cxd5 Qxd5 10.Bc4 Qf5 11.dxc5 Ne4 "Activity at all costs" seems to be Topalov's motto in this game. Saner and safer is 11...Qxc5 with only a small advantage for White. 12.cxb6 A pawn is a pawn. Black will now have to prove he has enough comp for the material loss. 12...0–0 With the idea of 13...Bxc3+ and 14...Na5. 13.Bd3 Bxc3+ or 13...Bb7 14.0–0 Bxc3 15.bxc3 Ne5 16.Nxe5 Qxe5 17.bxa7 Nc5 18.Qb1 Rxa7 19.Bh7+ Kh8 20.Bg3 Qxc3 21.Rc1 Qa5 22.Bd6 Rc8 23.h3 Rc6 and Black does not have enough play for the pawn. 14.bxc3 Ne5 Not 14...axb as just 15.Qc2 wins a piece. Black is wiggling as mightily as he can but at the end of the day he will still be a pawn down with dubious compensation. 15.Bxe4 Qxe4 16.Nxe5 Qxe5 17.Bg3 Qe4 18.0–0 Bb7 19.f3 Qxe3+ 20.Bf2 Qg5 21.c4 21.h4 was the suggestion of many commentators as White’s best way to securing his position and an advantage. The idea is to drive the Black queen from its easy access to e3 and to create a luft with tempo. The computer gives the following line: 21…Qg6 22.Bc5 Rfc8 23.bxa7 Ba6 24.Bf2 Bxf1 25.Rxf1 with a significant advantage for White as Black will have a very hard time dealing with White’s passed pawns. 21...axb6 22.Bxb6 Not 22.Qxb6 as after 22…Bxf3 the tables have turned. 22...Rfc8 Though still a pawn down, Black has some attacking chances based on the opposite-color bishops. 23.a4 If he gets real lucky, this pawn may someday become a queen. 23...e5 Trying to lengthen his bishop's diagonal with e4. This game is a good example of the attacking possibilities with bishops of opposite colors. 24.c5 Probably OK, but I really do not like burying the bishop this way. Perhaps just 24.Rfe1 was better. 24...Re8 25.a5 Qg6 26.Rad1 e4 27.Rd6 Re6 28.Rxe6 fxe6 29.Qc2 Double duty: pins Black’s e-pawn and threatens c6. 29...Bc6 30.Rd1 30.fxe4 Bxe4 31.Qd2 should be winning. 30...Rf8 31.Rd6? A time pressure decision. He was much better off leaving the rook on the first rank.Though psychological speaking, White having defended for so long, really wants to take force the play but this is not the time. 31…Qg5! (Diagram) A piece sacrifice which should not be accepted. Required is 32.h4 removing back rank issues which should lead to a dynamic equality after 32...Qe3+ 33.Qf2 Qc1+ 34.Kh2 exf3 35.g3 Bd5 36.a6 Qc4 37.a7 e5 38.Rd7 32.Rxc6 32...exf3 With the big threat of 33...f2+ Kf1 and 34.Qxg2+ 33.g3 Qe5 Threatening 24…Qe1 mate. The White rook would look much better on White's first rank. It is also a shame that White's bishop has become just a "Tall Pawn”! 34.Qf2 Qa1+ 35.Qf1 Qd4+ 36.Qf2 Qd1+ 37.Qf1 f2+; 0-1 After 38.Kg2 Qf3+ wins. So, White gave up. A very enterprising, if not completely sound, game by Topalov.