Chess (#1019)

Last Updated: Fri, Nov 16, 2012 19:50 hrs

After seven rounds, top-seeded GM Darius Swiercz of Poland leads the World U-18 championships in Maribor, Slovenia, with 6 points. He's followed by a pack of seven players on 5.5 – this group includes IM Srinath Narayana. WGM Aleksandra Goryachkina leads in the girls U-18 with a similar score of 6/7. India has a huge contingent of 55 players spread across the various age-groups in this event. The best chances for medals for the Indians is in the younger age-groups.

The Bucharest Kings concluded with Ivanchuk and Topalov tied at the top with 3.5 points each from six. Top Seed Fabiano Caruana was third, unbeaten with six draws. The leaders won a game each against Nisipeanu. Ivanchuk won a rapid tiebreak 1.5-0.5 to take the title. He was distinctly lucky in that Topalov flagged out in a superior position.

Despite the high draw ratio, this was a close fought event with many missed chances balancing out. Topalov played at least one game in his best style and he seems to be gradually recovering form. Caruana was slightly sloppy because he failed to convert superior positions into wins on several occasions. Or perhaps, one should say that Topalov and Ivanchuk found ways to resist under difficult circumstances.

In the Women's World Cup at Khanty-Mansiysk, the first round ended with few surprises. Hou Yifan, Humpy and Anna Muzychuk all went through to the second round though Muzychuk had to win a tie-breaker. Harika is also through to the round of 32 though she was unfortunately paired with Sowmya Swaminathan, who is out as a result. The winner of this 64-player knockout will be the next title challenger unless Hou wins. In that case, the losing finalist may get a shot.

The Diagram, WHITE TO PLAY, (Topalov Vs Nisipeanu, Kings Bucharest 2012) is the set up for a trademark Topalov sacrifice. Topalov loves imbalancing exchange sacrifices for the initiative.

The computers suggest 26. Nxd4 Qxd6 27. Qxb7 Rd8 28. Qxa6 cxd4 when white is optically better but unlikely to win. Instead Topalov went 26.Ne7+ Kg7 !? 27.R1xd4 cxd4 28.Qxd4+ f6 29.Nc6 Qc8. So far it's forced and now the following quiet sequence looks very natural. Play continued 30.Kh2 Rc7 31.Qd5 Re8 32.Nd4 Rce7 33.f5.

Before the sacrifice, Topalov must have assessed this position or something similar. There is no forced win. But there is persistent pressure and the Kt is a scary beast. The engines suggest defences like 33.-- Re5 34. Qf3 gxf5 35. Rxb6 when white retains some edge. Instead black played 33. – Qc1? 34.Ne6+ Kh8 35.Qd4 Qc2 36.Qxf6+ Kg8 37.fxg6 Qxg6 38.Qxg6+ hxg6 39.Nf4 Rg7 40.Rxb6 a5 (1–0). White will mop up g6 and then push forward with his trio of passers.

Devangshu Datta is an internationally rated chess and correspondence chess player

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