Kamsky vs. Topalov (Sofia, Bulgaria)

Kamsky-Topalov (Sofia, Bulgaria 2009)

Gata Kamsky will take on the world’s highest-rated player in Veselin Topalov is an eight-game match to determine who will challenge Viswanathan Anand in the World Championship match. After a long tortuous battle of negotiations, the venue will be Sofia, Bulgaria and will begin play on February 18th and end February 28th.

GM Veselin Topalov

GM Veselin Topalov
Photo by Dagobert Kohlmeyer.

This location of the match had been in doubt until a compromise was reached with the Kamsky camp. The match will prove to be an exciting one with Kamsky attempting to regain his elite status of 15 years ago. Topalov has been playing well of late and will put his #1 status on the line. This match will pit two players with indomitable spirits and tough fighters.

GM Gata Kamsky
Photo by Daaim Shabazz.

The key may be Kamsky ability to hold his openings together after coming out of retirement. The Topalov team is legendary for impeccable preparation and Ivan Cheparinov will be working his magic. Kamsky may have the edge in terms of nerves.

Topalov has a tendancy for early lapses only to rebound and put together a string of wins. This will be improbable for two reasons. First, this is not a long tournament, but a match of only eight games. Second, Kamsky titanium nerves have rarely failed him and he is unlikely to fold.

This $250,000 match is highly-anticipated and will help move toward the end of a cycle in the new championship system. The winner will play Anand later in the year.

Match Score

Game 1: Topalov – Kamsky, ½-½ (36) Gruenfeld
Game 2: Kamsky – Topalov, 0-1 (32) Ruy Lopez
Game 3: Topalov – Kamsky, ½-½ (37) Gruenfeld
Game 4: Kamsky – Topalov, 1-0 (73) Ruy Lopez
Game 5: Topalov – Kamsky, 1-0 (55), French
Game 6: Kamsky – Topalov, ½-½ (43), Caro-Kann
Game 7: Topalov – Kamsky, 1-0 (45), French

Final Score: Topalov 4½ – Kamsky 2½


Main Site: https://www.wccc2009.com/
Chessdom: https://www.chessdom.com/topalov-kamsky-2009
ChessBase: https://www.chessbase.com
Chess.FM: https://www.chessclub.com
US Chess Federation: https://www.uschess.org


  1. Game One

    The first game of the World Chess Challenge match ended in a draw. Both players played to their strength with Topalov coming up with an opening novelty and wresting the initiative. Kamsky played with calmness and weathered a dangerous attack. There are a number of sites covering the match. DGT has issued a caution for sites relaying the live moves and has cited copyright violations. As in the World Championship match, one can be sure a solution is forthcoming.

    Score: Kamsky ½ – Topalov ½

  2. Game Two

    Gata Kamsky recording Veselin Topalov's move in game #2. Topalov won. Photo by www.wccc2009.com.

    Gata Kamsky recording Veselin Topalov’s move in game #2. Topalov won.
    Photo by wccc2009.com.

    Topalov wins the second game of the match with superior preparation out of a Berlin Ruy Lopez. Kamsky went into a long think, made some inaccuracies and saw Topalov plow into his position. This was certainly one of the expectations… Team Topalov would be well-prepared and look look for the chink in Kamsky’s armour, his openings. Kamsky will have to rebound and it is very possible that Topalov can crop a game with six remaining.

    Score: Topalov 1½ – Kamsky ½

  3. I don’t understand Kamsky playing such a sharp line in 5.Nxe5. His style is more positional. I guess he wanted to travel into Topalov back yard, tactics, not a good idea. Although,
    Kamsky played sharp lines to surprise his opponents and this is one reason he won that major tournament last year.

  4. Apparently 5.Nxe5 was played after thinking 20 minutes. I heard that Kamsky got in severe time trouble after Topalov’s 5th move, 5…Nxe4!? and spent another 25 minutes. He actually flagged on move 32!

  5. Game Three

    Game drawn after an extremely complicated Gruenfeld Defense. Kamsky has shown that he is not afraid to trot out the same openings during the match. the complication evolved into an knight vs. bishop ending where black had the inferior pawns but better king’s position. Take a look at the tight-wire act played by both in this game!

    Score: Topalov 2 – Kamsky 1

  6. Game Four

    Gata Kamsky leveled the score with a long-grindng win. This game perhaps shows Kamsky’s strength when facing a dangerous opponent. Kamsky sacked a pawn for some initiative and then proceeded to squeeze black’s position like a boa constrictor. Topalov tried to create some counterplay, but Kamsky slowly converted his central advantage with a strong passed pawn. Nice performance!

    Score: Topalov 2 – Kamsky 2

  7. People keep talking about Kamsky’s lack of sharp openings but it can also be a strength that he plays lines that are not in current fashion and therefore less heavily studied by the Bulgarians.

    It’s a great match so far !

    Anand, Kasparov and Kramnik must be enjoying it too 🙂

  8. The trend nowadays seems to be reviving old openings since databases have leveled the field. I have always found Kamsky’s play intriguing since his 2nd game against Vladimir Kramnik in the PCA quarterfinal match 1994. He sacrificed his queen for a mating attack and showed incredible depth. With his winning yesterday, it becomes a classical battle of nerves and will. Topalov could very well lose this if Kamsky is able to hold together his openings.

  9. Topalov will win. Kamsky is not strong enough to beat Topalov in a match. Databases have not leveled the playing field, if anything, database has confused opening theory for the majority of players.

  10. If you look at the increasing improvement of players from other regions (India, China, Vietnam, Philippines), their young players have caught up quickly and are amongst the world elite in all the age groups. Any unknown player can easily last 20 or more moves with a GM-level player and even win! Anand losing to French player Touzane (2368) was one example. Even players from Latin America… Iturrizaga (VEN), Ramirez (CRC), Hoyos (MEX)… have broken through.

    The average age for making GM is still dropping. The age record is still 12 years and 7 months, but it is a matter of time before that record falls. However, my point is that Kamsky is playing off-beat lines because of the intense database preparation of the Topalov team. Kamsky took several years off and realized that he could not catch up with all the theory in databases.

    Well… I think he is strong enough, but whether he will succeed is another matter. I guarantee you one thing… Topalov thinks Kamsky is strong enough to beat him!

  11. Yes! I also agree that ‘Topalov thinks Kamsky is strong enough to beat him!’ This match definitely involves alot more psychology than many
    may want to admit!

  12. Game Five

    Topalov regained the lead with a win today after Kamsky tossed a free pawn. Kamsky had played the French and achieved a reasonable position despite white being slightly better. Topalov had switched his opening to 1.e4 after two attempts at 1.d4. The game entered a Tarrasch and black ended up with the isolated queen pawn, a typical occurrence in this line of the Tarrasch. Romanian GM Mihail Marin does the analysis. I met him in Dresden and he has been contributing analyses for decades. I remember reading his analysis in New in Chess Yearbooks.

    Score: Topalov 3 – Kamsky 2

  13. Glenn,

    Here’s Anand take on the impact of information technology and databases have had on IT.

    Question: If we can draw this analogy: a country’s economy has several stages in its development. India was a largely agricultural country. Because of the emphasis on IT, India has skipped the manufacturing stage. Today we have a massive service, back-office and IT industry, but we don’t have the manufacturing base of China. In the same way in the 80s the Soviets had a massive lead in chess knowledge and expertise. Were you able to bypass that using IT?

    Answer: Yes, definitely. I think the parallel is exactly right. In the same way India just bypassed several technologies, missed the boat on so many technologies and suddenly found the software industry. It almost seemed the only thing we could do with all the restrictions imposed on us, by ourselves – okay, fair enough. It was the same thing with chess. The Soviet Union had a big lead. If you lived in Moscow you had access to unbelievable expertise. But the lead in information was slowly cut, so it became instead of getting a book every three months you could get a diskette mailed to you every month. Then if you were traveling you could pick up that diskette from a friend. Or if you were simply happened to be in the same place he could make a copy for you. So that became instantaneous. A few years later the Internet arrived and even that vanished. You could live in India and have access. Then the first (online) chess clubs started coming along. You could often practice with a Russian player who was also on the chess club. So there was this big levelling happening. In the same way I would guess you would leapfrog landlines – you don’t bother installing landlines because suddenly mobile phones have come in. That sort of thing, just bypassing a technology.

    I think that happened with chess. I think that is exactly right. Not only in India but there has been a sort of leveling in the world. The rest of the world has been able to catch up with Russia much faster than it would have had these things not come into play. And now I would say even the expertise is being leveled because you have computers that are so strong. I mean most programs on a PC would beat almost any grandmaster. Even when I play, or any top GM, we have to really concentrate to have a chance. If you are casual, the machine is too strong. So you have such a strong computer with which you can work, all your doubts can be cleared much easier. That is why the sport has become much younger. The time needed to accumulate a certain amount of experience and understanding has dropped. So yes, first the lag in information, then the lag in expertise or knowledge and geographical boundaries through the Internet. Each of these things we have bypassed. We are still as far away as we used to be, but we have bypassed them.

    Source: https://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=5234

  14. Game Six

    Topalov holds Kamsky to a draw with the Caro-Kann and is closing in on winning the match. Kamsky played 1.e4, but Topalov played an interesting novelty.Kamsky managed to trade the dark-squared bishops and launch an assault with 20.h4, but black consolidated. Kamsky took a risk with 33.Qc3 after black infiltrated; however, he was able to attack the dark squares an get a three-fold repetition. Only two games left so Kamsky will have to reach into his bag and pull out a trick or two.

    Can he do it?

    Score: Topalov 3½ – Kamsky 2½

  15. Game Seven

    Gata Kamsky had one more opportunity to extend his match against Veselin Topalov. As this complicated game evolved, it appeared as if he would do it. He tried the French once again and was able to conjure up play on the queenside with dangerous passed pawns. Amidst complications, Kamsky fell into time pressure and missed chances to bring home the point. His connected passed pawns could not roll up the board fast enough to elude Topalov’s extra rook. Thus, Topalov wins the match and the right to challenge Viswanathan Anand for the World Championship later this year. GM Mihail Marin gives some very detailed analysis.

    Score: Topalov 4½ – Kamsky 2½

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