Reports | February 10, 2009 18:35

One week to go: Kamsky-Topalov

Kamsky-TopalovIn one week from now the first game of the Challenger's Match between Gata Kamsky (USA) and Veselin Topalov (BUL) is scheduled. The match, officially called "World Chess Challenge Sofia 2009", has a prize find of US $250,000 which will be shared equally by the players. In only eight games it will be decided who will challenge world champion Viswanathan Anand later this year.

From February 16th to 28th the match between Kamsky and Topalov match will take place in the National Palace of Culture in Sofia, Bulgaria. The Challenger’s Match will consist of 8 games and possible tie-breaks. The winner qualifies for the World Championship Match 2009. The web address of the official website is


Time control and colors
The time control for each game shall be: 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game plus an additional 30 seconds per move starting from move 61. The draw for colors will be conducted during the opening ceremony. The colors shall be reversed after game 4. (The player getting the white color in game 1 shall play game 5 with the black color).

If the scores are level after the regular 8 games, after a new drawing of colors, 4 tie-break games shall be played, with 25 minutes on the clock for each player with an addition of 10 seconds after each move. If needed, two more blitz games will follow and a possible decisive sudden death game.

The match supervisor is Hal Bond. Arbiters are Ignatius Leong and Ashot Vardapetian; the appeals committee is formed by Nigel Freeman (chairman), Boris Kutin and Vanik Zakarian.

Previous encounters
It's quite remarkable that Kamsky and Topalov, who will play an 8-game match, have played a total of 8 games against each other. The first and the last two ended in a draw, while Topalov won all four decisive games:


Topalov should be considered clear favorite: he's the current world's number one with a rating of 2796 (and even 2809 in the live ratings), while Kamsy is 17th at 2725 (2723 in the live ratings). Last month the American finished on a 50% score (6.5/13) in Grandmaster Group A of the Corus Chess Tournament (rating performance 2715). Topalov won the last tournament he played in: the 1st Super Tournament in Nanjing, China, December 2008.

But Kamsky will surely have his chances. His immense talent has been known since the early nineties and he possesses tremendous fighting spirit which he showed at the World Cup in Khanty Mansisyk (December 2007), where he defeated Alexei Shirov in the final, to qualify for this match. If he succeeds in sidestepping Topalov's deep opening preparation and still get decent positions, the American will be a very tough opponent for the Bulgarian.



It took one and a half years and many open letters and broken promises before the contracts of this match were finally signed on November 20th, 2008. Hosted by Susan Polgar, that day two separate press conferences were held in Dresden: first with Silvio Danailov, manager of Veselin Topalov, and then with Emil Sutovsky, the new manager of Gata Kamsky. Both confirmed that the contracts have been signed, and they answered several questions about the not-so-neutral venue, the prize money, Topalov not playing in Linares, et cetera. You can watch it all in the video below:

One more time we'll give the chronological list of events that led to the match that will start in one week:

  • June 25, 2007: at the Presidential Board meeting in Tallinn, FIDE gives Topalov the right to play an eight-game challenger match against the winner of the 2007 World Cup as part of the new world championship cycle. It accepts a 150,000 USD bid by the Bulgarian Chess Federation to organize a this match, to be held in Bulgaria in the second half of 2008.
  • November 2007: FIDE confirms the accepted bid by the Bulgarians at the 78th FIDE congress in Antalya.
  • December 2007: Gata Kamsky wins the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, and with it the right to play a match against Topalov.
  • January 2008: Kamsky states that he isn't going to play the match in Bulgaria but prefers neutral grounds.
  • February 12, 2008: despite the Bulgarian bid that already stands, FIDE extends the bidding period for the organization of the Kamsky-Topalov until April 11, 2008, "in order to try to improve the financial terms and conditions for both players".
  • April 10, 2008: FIDE extends the deadline for receiving bids once more, until April 23, 2008, as was asked for by the Kamsky team. The Bulgarian Chess Federation publishes a protest, urging FIDE "to follow the decisions of its governing body - the Congress."
  • April 11, 2008: Gata Kamsky's manager Alexander Chernenko tells Yuri Vasiliev, journalist for Sports Express, that "the match will be held in Lviv, Ukraine for a prize fund of US$ 750,000."
  • May 15, 2008: Russian chess website Chesspro publishes an interview with Chernenko and chess media report the Lviv bid as "confirmed".
  • May 18, 2008: Macauley Peterson, in a piece for Chess Life Online, makes clear that both Chernenko and FIDE rebut Vasiliev's account that "the financial guarantees have now been received by FIDE, at their Swiss bank account." Things remain highly unclear.
  • May 29, 2008: Alexei Shirov, who lost the World Cup final in December 2007 to Kamsky, loses his patience and publishes an open letter, stating that by now he should be the one to play Topalov.
  • May 30, 2008: The Kamsky team responds, also in an open letter, and obviously not amused.
  • June 1, 2008: after discussing the Kamsky-Topalov match at a Presidential Board Meeting, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov personally guarantees the prize fund of US$ 750,000 for the match Topalov-Kamsky.
  • September 26, 2008: Stefan Sergiev, President of the Bulgarian Chess Federation, protests once more against FIDE's actions - or non-actions, this time.
  • November 3, 2008: Ilyumzhinov receives a letter by Chernenko that states that the payment of 935,000 USD will be effected on November 5, 2008. FIDE accepts this date as the last ultimatum.
  • November 6, 2008: instead of keeping up to his promise of guaranteeing a US$ 750,000 prize fund, Ilyumzhinov gives the Bulgarian Chess Federation another chance, and a prize fund of 250,000 USD plus 50,000 USD as contribution to FIDE is enough.
  • November 7, 2008: an open letter Roustam Kamsky, protesting.
  • November 7, 2008: open letters by several USCF board members, quibbling over the best way to support Gata Kamsky, who himself asks the board members to unite.
  • November 12, 2008: open letter by the President of the Bulgarian Chess Federation, accepting Ilyumzhinov's offer and promising the 250,000 USD prize fund.
  • November 14, 2008: open letter by Chernenko, "explaining" why FIDE didn't receive the money yet: "The main reason is that FIDE did not present the necessary contracts beforehand." Chernenko still hopes to find a solution.
  • November 18, 2008: in a meeting in Dresden during the Olympiad, all parties agree on the match to take place in Sofia in February 2009.
  • November 19, 2008: FIDE publishes a press release confirming the agreement, but contracts are not signed yet.
  • November 20, 2008: in two separate press conferences, the managers of the players confirm that the contracts have been signed. The match will be played in Sofia, 16-28 February 2009. Hopefully this ends an ongoing soap opera.

Relevant posts:


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.


Mauricio Valdes's picture

topalov must be the winner by far......i like his style but i also like underdog stories...
if topalov wins this match the championship match against vishy should be a great one

misja's picture

Veselin Topalov beat Gata Kamsky 4 to 0, with 4 draws.*

Then again:
Viswanathan Anand beat Gata Kamsky 12 to 11, with 20 draws.*
Viswanathan Anand beat Veselin Topalov 23 to 14, with 46 draws.*

So I am hoping for Kamsky to win the challenger's match, as he seems to have a better chance against Anand.

Gata Kamsky beat Vladimir Kramnik 6 to 5, with 14 draws.*
Vladimir Kramnik beat Veselin Topalov 25 to 14, with 43 draws.*

* Based on games present at; may not be complete.

pete's picture

@misja: don't mistake rapid and blitz games with the classical ones. Topalov and Anand have fairly equal score with -+1 difference in the long games. If you are looking at they don't sort the games by type so there are a lot of games form the Amber tournament.

Manu's picture

@joeb : ¨Topalov can be a dangerous player, even to top seeds like Carlsen¨

Topalov is the top seed! , he is number one rated player , Carlsen number 3 (sort of).

Mike's picture

Kamsky should try to "force" opening & lines which contain long term strategic goals, looking for ending positions without the queens, with few pieces, ?† la Botvinik, Smislov, Capablanca, Karpov and so on...Topalov seems to be such a computer trained modern player who play openings by memory e tactical skills trying to resolve the game up to move 30-40th...

patrickj's picture

yea, too bad for gata: he is gonna get destroyed

joeb's picture

I want Kamsky to win, however I think Topalov will out play him, Topalov can be a dangerous player, even to top seeds like Carlsen, even though Carlsen beat him (Topa) twice at Morelia-Linerares, Topalov returned by beating him a couple times, I want Gata to win, Have any announced their seconds?

rajesh's picture

this shd be a very interesting match. I guess, match strategy will play a very important role. Kamsky's strategy shd be to play completely boring chess - topalov will feel like running far away from that place and make blunders.on the other hand topa has probably tried to strengthen his opening prep to go upto 35 moves in all possible lines of d4.

Rubinstein's picture

Hopefully Kamsky will beat the Cheat Topailov.

sicilian's picture

If Kamsky can survive Topalov's opening preperation, he'll be fine, and might even win the match.

F3MDR's picture

It will be interesting to see which organisation will outsmart each other in the tremendous political tussle during the match...the rigged USCF or the biased Bulgarian Chess Federation.

Theo Maassen's picture

So Kamsky has never won even 1 game......

Hmm.. I think Kamsky is favorite!

pete's picture

this resembles the Spassky - Fischer match a bit, before the match Fischer never won a game against Spassky :) ... .let's hope the history will not repeat itself

Chessbuff's picture

I think that Kamsky must score the first win obviously to take the lead, but more importantly for psychological advantage. If Kamsky has never won a game against Topalov, then a first win by Topalov will be do Kamsky in. The comparison to Fischer-Spassky isn't fair to Kamsky. It's really more like David-Goliath. But I hope that I am pleasantly surprised. I'll pray for you, Gata.

pete's picture

Topalov is yet to prove he is a match player ... I am a fan of his, but saying he is a clear favourite entirely right. Kamsky can win ... I don't want to, but we will see what will happen. My predictin is a tough battle and the final score will be a close one.

Sherman's picture

Topalov will win before 8 game. Then Anand cant stop him.

Manu's picture

I hope Topa succeds in this one , Kamsky will fight to the bitter end.
Being the favorite is not good for Topa this time , but i think he has improved his nerves a lot in the last years.

CW's picture

$250,000!? Damn, i could find a couple things to spend that on. Anand is tough tough.


Bootvis's picture

Stupid me, 4.5 - 2.5 for Kamsky should be for Topalov

jussu's picture

4.5-1.5 for Topalov is my (grim) prediction. Should Kamsky make it to the tiebreak, he will win it.

guitarspider's picture

Topalov shouldn't even be there, so GO GATA!!!

raj's picture

anyone able to see live moves of this match anywhere? on the official site the only thing I see is "Chessbase in violation of rights". Well, that doesn't sounds like a good reason for blocking out the moves on their own official site. That is like pouring ice-cold water on top of chess fans (blocking all possible ways to follow the match live). Nice job Bulgarian team! Keep it up!!

VB's picture, chessok com u can follow the match live

misja's picture

sorry that's wccc2009 (leaving out www and com to avoid the filter)

misja's picture

@pete: Yes, you are right and I realized that when I posted the figures. It's just that like ronilo llona i am fed up with all this talk about Topalov being the clear favourite. Did you see the wwwc2009 site (add www and com)? It is the official site for the match but it is also a Topalov fan page. I would have loved to put up my post there instead of on this relatively unbiased chessvibes (at least when no Dutchies are participating) but unfortunately it has no forum.

Stupid's picture

13 stupid vortes go for 5-0 in favour of Topalov LOL ...LOL.

ps. Is Anand playing in this match??? I claim that Anand is an ocasional world champion.

ronilo llona's picture

enough of this topalov being the clear favorite...kamsky will win against topalov and anand.for who shed blood,sweat and tears?it's kamsky..

Latest articles