Reports | May 18, 2009 1:41

M-Tel R5: Topalov beats Ivanchuk, now shared 1st

Round 5 in SofiaDespite a very quick draw between Wang Yue and Carlsen, the fifth round of the M-Tel Masters in Sofia was arguably the best so far. Two fantastic 6.Bg5 Najdorfs offered lots of excitement with Shirov-Dominguez eventually ending in a draw and Topalov beating Ivanchuk with Black, after the Ukrainian didn't go for perpetual check in heavy timetrouble. At half-time, Carlsen, Shirov and Topalov share the lead with 3/5.

The 5th M-Tel Masters takes place May 12th to 23rd in a glass pavilion on the square in front of the National Theatre Ivan Vazov in Sofia, Bulgaria. It's a six-player double round-robin with Carlsen, Dominguez, Ivanchuk, Shirov, Topalov and Wang Yue playing. The time control is 90 minutes for 40 moves per player and 60 minutes per player till the end of the game. "Sofia rules" will again be used, so draw offers can be made only through the chief arbiter in the case of a threefold repetition, perpetual check or a theoretically draw position.

Round 5

Put Ivanchuk or Shirov behind the White pieces of a 6.Bg5 Najdorf and you know you will get a great game. Get both of them in the same round, and you'll have trouble chosing which board to look at for the rest of the afternoon!

Yesterday Kasparov called his play "spectacular" and today Ivanchuk was stealing the show once again, coming with the typical Nxe6 sac in the Sicilian and then following up with the blow 25.Rxf8!. At some point Topalov's defence mainly consisted of executing forced moves and as his king was stuck in the center anyway, he duly started a kingside attack himself. In timetrouble Ivanchuk should have gone for perpetual check, but instead he took Topalov's bishop, missing a very nasty pawn check that decided the game in Black's favour.

It takes two to tango and it must be said that Topalov's cool attitude, by playing several moves quite quickly, thereby increasing the pressure on the opponent, was impressive as well. This way he won his match against Kamsky, and today he fought himself back to shared first place in the standings.

In the same opening variation, Shirov was also clearly in his element. As if they had made a deal before the game, both Topalov and Dominguez went for the move 10...h6, which isn't the most popular choice against either 10.Bd3 or 10.g4. With a positional pawn sacrifice Shirov got a strong initiative that didn't stop when the queens were exchanged. His best chance for a win was probably at move 26.

Oh, and then there was also Carlsen-Wang Yue. A draw.

Game viewer

(Click here for more info on the new game viewer.) Click on the pairings at the top of the board to reveal a drop down list of all the games. Click on the arrow under the board just once, then the arrow keys of your keyboard also work.


Round 5 in Sofia

First escaping a bombardment of piece sacrifices, then several perpetuals, and finally winning the queen ending - in another trademark comeback, Topalov fights back to shared first place...

Round 5 in Sofia

...while poor Ivanchuk keeps wondering why all this is happening...

Round 5 in Sofia caption needed

Round 5 in Sofia

In another 6.Bg5 Najdorf, Shirov did take the draw when it was there...

Round 5 in Sofia

...and so Dominguez escaped as well

Round 5 in Sofia

On a semi-rest day, Wang Yue and Carlsen could join the spectators...

Round 5 in Sofia watch a great show. (But no, the women in Sofia don't seem to like chess that much)


Share |
Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


pete's picture

go Toppa!

Peter's picture has all M-Tel games with realtime Rybka analysis

Peter Doggers's picture

Interesting. Are you guys broadcasting live? So you paid for the rights?

guncha82's picture

Sofia time control is such a big crap because games are decieded in extreme time pressure. I prefer Bosna tournament to this one because games in Bosna end with logical results and some games are real masterpieces. It is pity to see ?!, ?. ?? from top GMs because of time pressure. If Topalov wants to play one games in five hours he could play two games in one day. The first round of the day could be at 10AM while the second round at 5PM.

Peter's picture

@Peter, yes - we broadcast live. Regarding the rights, we contacted the organizers and spoke to some of them in person. No payment was required.

Jens Kristiansen's picture

Yes, it was indeed great to watch these two Najdorf-games today. Remembrances of Velimirovic all the way!
You know, we analysed and played these great lines a lot in the 70es, as you can also see from the games quoted from Nunns book. Many of todays super-GMs were not even born at that time. But then the lines were all locked up in the storeroom., not being played for decades. And all because of this 7.-,Qb6!?, the Fischer-promoted pawn grabber line, that we were simply unable to crack, no matter how hard we tried. But a few years ago someone had a new shot at it, and now it seems that the best GMs are scared to play it.
And so these lines now comes to the fore again, and it even seems that todays GMs can come up with many new ideas. I have not got Nunns "bible" on the line, so I had to pull out my old, dusty copy of Polugajevskys book from Sportsverlag, published around 1984. It is of course great that such a book can still be to some use. But Polu does not mention Topas 11.-,Nc5, but recommends 11.-,Nb6, which was exactly the speliciality of Walter Browne.
I am looking forward to many more great Najdorf-games with 6.Bg5!. It makes me feel young!

4i4mitko's picture

veri interesting game it was draw:)))

Bert de Bruut's picture

Invanchuk is not remembering us, but reminding us...

Peter Doggers's picture

true, corrected

Thomas's picture

I am younger (and weaker) than Jens Kristiansen, but still old enough to remember the Sportsverlag books :) so here are my thoughts on ups and downs of Najdorf theory:
1) 6.Be3 - absolute main line for the last 5-10 years!? Apparently not any more - is black doing fine, or is white just getting tired of preparing for three quite different replies (6.-e6, 6.-e5, 6.-Ng4)?
2) 6.h3 - a topical line/absolute main line?! (paraphrased from Peter Doggers' report on MTel round 2) Wasn't this simply a move to avoid loads of theory as recently as +- one year ago?
3) 6.Bg5 - not much I can add to Peter Doggers and Jens Kristiansen. I only wonder if black now avoids 7.-Qb6 because it is under a cloud, or rather because many lines end in a (seemingly spectacular) forced draw. And concerning Merijn's quip after round1 (MTel as the start of a new era) - does this mean "back to the 1970's?" :)
4) What's next? Will we also see a revival of 6.Bc4? Another Fischer-promoted line when he had white - as far as I remember ... mostly from hearsay.
5) Could there still be a radically new approach on move 6? 6.h4!? 6.Bd3!? 6.g4?! Well, I guess all the moves which are both legal and sensible have already been tried out ... .

Alexander's picture

Have you noticed the similarity between the moves that crushed Ivanchuk in games against Wang Yue and Topalov (...h4+ and ...g3+)? It seems that in both games those were also the moves Ivanchuck had missed in his calculation.

Jens Kristiansen's picture

Sorry,Bert - these games did give me r"emembrances" of Velimirovic, but of course it also "reminded" me of the play of this magnificent, anti-sicilian guru of hte 60es and 70es. What ever became of him?
And, Thomas - that is a brief but quite reasonable account you give of the developement in the Najdorf, topical for more than 50 years now.
This 6.Be3 was completely out of our sight in the start-70es. Fi.: Boleslavskys Sportsverlag-book on the sicilian from 1968 (and that was indeed also for a while some sort of bible for us youngsters) does now even mention the move. The first Encyclopedia on the sicilian from 1975 deals with it only with a very few lines. You can read far more on this in Kasparovs "Chess revolutions in the 70es". Nowadays they can even write whole books on 6.Be3.
On 7.-,Qb6: Yes, it could be that you by the aid of the engines can analyse this to a draw. But all these lines are simply too much to memorize even for todays top GMs. Even Anand could not manage recently against Grischuk and nearly lost. It is quite likely that the topGMs simply does not want to play chess like that, and they are not to blame for that.
On Merijn´s quip: I disagree. I think todays topchess is not in general about getting your opponent on the hook with some very "concrete" moves from your preparation. What matters is that you catch your opponent in some type of position you have studied deeplier than him. And that is maybe why this 6.h3!? suddenly comes to the fore again.
I dont think there are any "radically new approaches" on move 6 to explore, even thought there are a few more moves, you do not mention. Fi. 6.Rg1!? (played amo. by Icanchuk against Kasparov!)) and 6.f4, which Friedel a few days ago used to beat Ehlvest in the US-Ch. 6.Bd3 I personally, just for a change,tried out in some games in the 80es. It is not bad at all, but there are several fine set ups for black.
But in the wildgrowing trees of the old lines, espeically after 6.Bg5, there are quite likely a lot of new discoveries to do for todays top players. And that could in fact be a very interesting process to watch (maybe we are already in the middle of it?). Are they studying Polugajevskys old analysis? And what about Polu´s brain child, 7.-,b5!?, which - as far as I know - new really got busted. Have a go at it!

Thomas's picture

Dennis Monokroussos at Chessmind has a series of ~45 minute videos on the Sicilian - also necessarily "brief but reasonable". Maybe (as someone commented there) more an 'instructive joke' than anything else, mostly geared to 1600-1800 players [I think he said so himself], but fun for everyone.
Part I dealt with "everything but the Najdorf" (really everything, including a few words on 2.b4 and the Morra gambit).
Part II: Najdorf with 6.Rg1, 6.a4, 6.h3, 6.g3, 6.f4 and 6.Bc4 [so I knew those moves exist and didn't mention them as potential novelties :) ]
Part III: Najdorf with 6. Be3, 6.Be2, 6.f3
Part IV (still to come): Najdorf with 6.Bg5 ("the granddaddy of them all" - DM)

On 6.Be3 in the Najdorf: I don't remember when this 'English attack' setup first became popular (1980's?). And initially, black's only standard reply was 6.-e6, formally transposing to a Scheveningen (hence classified there in the ECO code system).
On 6.Bd3: also not a novelty after all :) . Actually - inspired by one Yearbook article on "the nameless Sicilian" - I sometimes play it one move earlier (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cd4: 4. Nd4: Nf6 5. Bd3!?) just to confuse my opponent. Nothing special either, but sometimes the other guy was thinking for about a minute on his reply in a blitz game !!?

And similar stories could be written about other openings:
The Grunfeld: What happened to the Sevilla variation? Ups and downs of theoretical exchange sacrifices, ..... .
The King's Indian, entire opening and various replies by white. When will someone try the Saemisch against Radjabov?

Arne Moll's picture

Hi Thomas, it may interest you that I'm currently writing an article on the (perceived) popularity of chess opening variations. There's a lot of research on cultural trends (such as image and a threat of overuse) that might also be of importance to the popularity of chess openings. I have not reached a final conclusion yet, but one of the things I've noticed that it's actually a very complicated question. One of the issues I'm dealing with is how to measure popularity rate. And popular compared to what, precisely? Do you take only the top grandmaster games or also games of lesser gods? And when do you conclude an opening is 'not popular' anymore, anyway? It's not enough to just count the number of games in a period - you also have to take into account popularity of rival opening lines that may have scored good (or indeed bad) results. I've done a bit of research in the Winawer variation of the French, of which I was absolutely sure it had declined in popularity somewhere in the 90s, but the results so far are surprisingly inconclusive. (For instance, was it only the Winawer that was inpopular, or was it because the French in general was less popular?) Another matter is the speed with which lines become popular - it may tell us something about their 'social' status.
Of course, some lines just come and go, and indeed the 6.Be3 variation used to be almost non-existent, but for many lines, there's much more to it, and it may not be so easy to do any meaningful quantitative research.

choufleur's picture

too bad for linux users they can't replay games any longer

bernd's picture

yes, the silverlight board is pure crap. Even chessbase (who only sell windoze software) uses some javascript board that does not lock out the windoze-free people.

GuidedByVoices's picture

Popular opening = anything consistently played by the top 15-30 GMs at any given time...

Thus, nearly every top GM (2700+) plays the Slav/semi-Slav complex nowadays, so it can be called "popular"... Well, Adams does not play it, to be fair...

In contrast, take the KID defence for instance, which is played a lot by weaker players (= who cares?; with the exception of Radjabov and Smirin); still being a rather obscure defence, indeed even declared dubious by the likes of Korchnoi and Shirov... On the same token, ask Kasparov why he did not play the KID against Kramnik in London 2000...

Then, why to write an article about something so obvious?

Jens Kristiansen's picture

Thats sounds interesting, Arne. We are looking forward to that article.
But I think you should concentrate on the games played by players over 2400 or maybe 2500, otherwise the task is simply too complex - and you are not going to do a doctors dissertation on the subject I suppose :).
There has always been played a lot of games of chess, even though it could be that nowadays far more are played than ever. Most importantly, today most of the games are recorded and accessible via the databases. If you look into these you will find that no opennings have ever become really extinct.
Anyway, there are some large trees in the vast forrest of chess lines, that has not been climbed very much for years, at least not by the best players.
Fi. the S?§misch against the KID (as mentioned by Thomas). That was once, especcially in the 70es and 80es, one of the most feared by KID-players. A lot of different approaches were tried out, and you easily wirte 40-50 on them in the books. Then, in the start 90-es, 6.-,c5!, which in fact is a pawn sacrifice, was played by some of the best (Shirov especially) and it clearly held its own. Then all the other, in fact quite entertaining lines (fi. 6.-,Nc6!?), completely vanished from the top praxis - as well as the S?§misch. But - who knows? - maybe some one will one day have a succesfull shot at this 6.-,c5!?, and THEN they and we will have to dust of some of our , say 20 years old books on KID.
And, by the way, last round of the US Ch saw Nakamura using the 4.Sg5!?-line against the Preussian Defence, winning in fine, convincing style. Yes, he has done so before, I know. In fact it seems that the present state of affairs says that this move renders 3.-,Nf6? as dubious. Ha! In my youth we were convinced that 4.Sg5!? was a very risky try, and in fact I still believe so. I am sure some remedy will be found - and quite likely you have to dig for it in the many VERY old analysis of this move.
Chess is inexhaustable!

JF's picture

Nice games! But it must have been a large disaster for Ivanchuk... Bad tournaments exist at every level!

I read a lot of negative comments about the game viewer last days. I think it's an improvement: I have to scroll less which is a large advantage in my opinion. The only disadvantage that I cannot watch the games at university anymore, so Chessvibes is good for my study as well.. ;) I'm sure that there will be some users making this board compatible with Linux in a short time. And I certainly won't leave ChessVibes just because of a change in software. To me, the game is worth more than the program! :)

So keep up the good work!

Thomas's picture

Hi Arne, it won't surprise you that, along with Jens Kristiansen, I would encourage you to proceed with the article and more or less ignore the sneaky and simplistic comment of GuidedByVoices. Of course it is a very ambitious project - your earlier column on 1.e4 e6 2.Qe2!? was fun, but "not even scratching at the surface" :) .
Some 'food for thought' questions:

How do opening choices by top players 'propagate down the ELO list'? Several Kasparov matches come to my mind:
When he started playing the Grunfeld (at the expense of the KID) many players followed - even amateurs: I (rating fluctuating between 1900 and 2100) adapted this opening :)
When he came up with the Scotch, a former clubmate of mine (rated ~2300) was literally laughing at him, but it also became reasonably popular at GM level thereafter.
When Kramnik used the Berlin Wall against Kasparov, it was also picked up by other GM's (though here I somehow think it is less suitable for amateurs).

How does the success and popularity of certain lines affect the number of games played in subsequent years? The rise of the Sveshnikov was followed by the rise of anti-Sveshnikov lines (1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3. Nc3 or 3.Bb5); the Ruy Lopez Marshall was the father of the anti-Marshall, ... . [However, there seems to be no promising "anti-Petroff", other than abandoning 1.e4 ...].

Are there differences in preferred openings depending on the time control (blitz, rapid, classical, correspondence chess)?

Are there systematic differences in opening repertoire between top players and "the big rest"? Certain "semi-obscure lines" are presumably more popular among amateurs: Morra Gambit, King's Gambit, maybe also stuff like the Alekhine, GuidedByVoices would add the KID to this list, ... .

This should be enough chapters for a thesis :) , but Jens Kristiansen is right that - as a start (which may not have a follow-up) - you could concentrate on the top of the ELO list. But top 15-30 may not be enough, already because results (long-term trends) would be strongly affected by players moving in and out of the absolute world top over time ... .

GuidedByVoices's picture

If you are a 2100 player, of course you can afford playing the KID. But if you are a 2650+ player, then you are ill-advised to give away two thirds of the board to your opponent and also struggle to get the Bg7 and the Ra8 into play before the game it's over. The pawn's wedge on the K-side is so anticipated that it does not even count. This is not simplistic. It's the plain truth. And if Radjabov really wants to give the world title a shot, then he will end playing something like the semi-slav sooner or later.

And regarding the opening trends, they are for sure imposed by the very top players, say 2650-2800 range. Nobody really cares what players under 2500 go for inside the first 20 moves. Period.

This is not sneaky. If you can convince me than anyone else than very top players impose the trends, then you would have discovered a whole new picture in opening theory trends...

Jens Kristiansen's picture

I do not at all think you are right, GuidedByVoices, at least if we are talking about the "trends" in openning play by the vast majority of active chess players. And my conviction is not based on some revolutionary, new discoveries :).
There are nowadays lots of factors to impose different trends: Books, DVDs, articles, lectures, training/coaching and of course, over all, the fast flow of informations. There have always been these chess "subcultures", dealing with specific , "off beat" opennings. Now these offently even have their own websites (try fi. to make a Google-search on "BDG").
You will experience these many different trends if you fi. play blitz at the ICC. Over the past few years I have many times had to meet what is now baptised as "The Black Lion". And there are these americans, who always play the Accelerated Dragon. I have been told it has been thaught them by Djindjischaschvili in his video courses. And there are these players who always goes for some fixed pawn structures via the French, and that is an old, videspread recommendation by many trainers around. And then there are a lot of strange gambit lines, which you some times find out some one has published some words/analysis on here and there. And then there are the Grand Prix-attack and the Herman-line...aso..
Of course the openning choiches of the very best have a huge impact, but it is by far not all of the story.
Ok, this is a very interesting discussion, but we are still in a thread about 5. round in MTel already some days ago. Lets come back and discuss more in depth the subject when Arne publishes his above mentioned article.
PS: GuidedByVoice: I have only 2430 in ELO, but I do not think I am "nobody". And I really have to "care" about what my opponenents at app. my same level play.

Thomas's picture

Jens Kristiansen has a point, but it may still take a while before Arne finalizes his article ... . So I will at least comment on GuidedByVoices' evaluation of the King's Indian (which is not part of my own repertoire). It is at least odd that you consider white's usual space advantage on the queenside highly significant, but discount black's space advantage on the kingside as irrelevant. You may still be right concerning the 'objective' evaluation of the opening ... .
However, Radjabov persistently disagrees - and his black wins in this opening since 2006 include players such as Ivanchuk, Topalov, Shirov and Gelfand. Of course he also lost some games ... .

But the main reason why I called your comment sneaky and simplistic was that you seemed to reduce the entire topic to "it's the Slav/Semi-Slav - that's it". This may be true for the last ~5 years, but most likely Arne Moll wants to put things into a longer historical perspective ... .

Latest articles