Round #8: Saturday, 17 December 2016
Wesley So clinches Grand Chess Tour!
— Grand Chess Tour (@GrandChessTour) December 17, 2016
While fans were joyous of Wesley So clinching the Grand Chess Tour, there were other emotion surrounding the event. Many fans were scrambling for the record books to see when a former World Championship has had such an abysmal performance as Veselin Topalov.
After his ignoble loss to Viswanathan Anand, Topalov now has six losses in eight rounds, scoring only two draws. There is serious concern as to Topalov’s plummet from the top 20. What could be the issues? The Bulgarian certainly has been one of the strongest players in the past two decades, but has he reached the sunset of his career? Is it simply a bad tournament? Well… two things are important to note… Topalov been shown nodding off prior to the rounds and his cracking in holdable positions. Puzzling.
In round nine, he faced Anand’s 12…b5! an innovation brought by his second. The five-time World Champion rightfully seized the moment to complicate against a player who is not in form. He guessed right as Topalov was riding on a razor’s edge castling queenside and ending up with trebled b-pawns!! Imagine that. Perhaps Topalov did not learn from Anand’s practice of playing with a shredded pawn cover in front of the king. However, he held the position together… just barely.
Anand had missed the decisive 21…Bg4! since 22.f3 Bf5 gives black the e3-square. A key moment occurred as Anand bore down on a weakened white king. Anand showed some dazzling lines in the post-game interview, but concurred that Topalov was holding just fine. On white’s 26.Rd1 Anand showed 26…Qc7 looking at 27.Qe8+ Kg7 28.Rd8 Bd6+ 29.Ka3 Qc3+! 30.Ka4 (30.bxc3?? Ra2#) Qb3+ 31.Ka5 Re2 32.Qh8 Kh6 33.Re5 Re4! with a probable draw. Anand actually played 26…Qb6 answered with 27.Bg4!
Moves later, Topalov was holding on by a thread. Topalov began to unravel first with 31.h4? which earned quizzical looks since 31.Rd5 is approximately equal. They say that mistakes happen in bunches. After 31…Bc2 Topalov played with 33.Qc3?? and Anand plunked down 33…Qb5!
— chess24.com (@chess24com) December 17, 2016
Topalov is shown gazing at the imperiled king. After a think, he played 34.Qc6 which was curtly met by 34…Rxf3+ (overlooked that the capture was with check) with mate to follow. Given the foggy-eyed appearance, Topalov hasn’t gotten much rest, but the nightmare continues. Let’s hope he can right the ship and close the tournament on a high note against Levon Aronian.
The other games were drawn without much fanfare. However, a couple of players can still catch So for a tiebreak opportunity. Nevertheless, the Filipino Diaspora is cheering their native son for his rousing success. Congratulations Wesley So!
Video by GM Daniel King
Full Broadcast (Round #8) 5:23:34
Video by CCSCSL
— Europe-Echecs (@EuropeEchecs) December 17, 2016
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Live Coverage: https://live.londonchessclassic.com/grand-chess-tour-2016.php
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2016/12/09/2016-london-chess-classic-london-england/