2004 FIDE World Chess Championships
June 18th-July 13th
Tripoli, Libya

Semi-Finals - Game #1

We're down to the "Final Four" of the FIDE World Championships. Each of the two matches will last four games after which a tiebreak will decide the winner. In Kasimdzhanov-Topalov, both players are perhaps were testing the waters as they agreed to a quick draw out of a book line. Radjabov-Adams was more interesting. Radjabov has played daring chess placing most of his trust in speculative play. This game was no different. Unfortunately, the result was.

Radjabov came to the board with his now famous sunglasses. It turns out he would need the protection because of Adams brilliant play in this game. Radjabov trotted out the Catalan, a strange choice of opening that doesn't seem to fit his style. Perhaps the young Azerbaijani has seen Adams games and attempted to change course against his highly-fancied opponent.
The game took on a normal course, but Adams held on to the "temporarily" gambited pawn and solidified his advantage with a novel knight maneuver Nc6-a7-b5. The other knight also invaded the queenside after which he found the forcing
28Nc2! 29.Nxc2 Rxd2 30.Nd4 b5.

Feeling the game slipping away, Radjabov tried to create counterplay with 39.g4, but it only resulted in producing more weaknesses after 39hxg4 40.Rxg4 Kd6 41.f5 e5 42.Nc2 Be4!

The next series of moves were forced and Adams ended the game beautifully with a simple pawn capture (diagram). Radjabov will have to remake his strategy since he will not get a chance to play his beloved Sveshnikov. Adams will most certainly play the Rossolimo.

Will the other "Beast from Baku" rebound?? Stay tuned!

Final Position: Radjabov-Adams

Final Position: Radjabov-Adams


GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov (UZB 2652) - GM Veselin Topalov (BUL 2737), -
GM Teimour Radjabov (AZE 2670) - GM Michael Adams (ENG 2731), 0-1

Semi-Final Games (PGN format)

Semi-Finals - Game #2

No thrills or spills today. Both semi-final matches were routinely drawn. Topalov-Kasimdzhanov started out as a Paulsen Sicilian and evolved into a commonly seen position white with the Maroczy Bind and black with the hedgehog setup.

The hedgehog is a very flexible setup used for long-distance striking at white's formidable center. Black's move 14Qb8 is sometimes followed with Qa8 with the idea d5. Other times, black can Ba8 with the idea of b5. Instead of the 16Bf8 with the idea of a well-timed d5, Kasimdzhanov played 16Bd8 which can precipiate the "Fischer Attack" of Bc7, Kh8, Rg8, g4-g4.

Topalov hunkered down and played 17.Bg1 and Kasimdzhanov played 17h5! With the idea of weakening the kingside and the h1-a8 diagonal.  The game reached dynamic equality as the advanced black pawn at h3 was balanced by the weak pawn at c4. The two players repeated positions, thus agreeing to a draw.

Adams-Radjabov started the game as expected, with a Rossolimo Sicilian. Adams chose the popular 4.Bxc6 followed by 5.b3!? Radjabov set up a bunker with pawns c6, d6, e6, f6, g6 and then broke with 11 e5. After a number of exchanges, both sued for peace. It does not appear that Radjabov has a coherent plan against Adams' solid style, but for a surety, he's in a "must-win" situation.


GM Veselin Topalov (BUL 2737) - GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov (UZB 2652), -
GM Michael Adams (ENG 2731) - GM Teimour Radjabov (AZE 2670), -

Semi-Final Games (PGN format)

Semi-Finals - Game #3

Action in today's games was fierce. In a "must-win" situation, Radjabov-Adams was an exciting encounter in which Radjabov blasted out of the gates quickly and immediately went on the attack. The game began as a Scotch, a opening not frequently employed at this level, but seen from time-to-time.  In fact, Radjabov knew Rublevsky-Adams, Rethymno 2003, but varied with 10.Bd2 after Adams' 10..a4. Radjabov played a very interesting setup with castling queenside and thrusting his kingside pawns forward with 14.g4! In this position, Adams couldn't dawdle with 14Qxg4 15.e6! fxe6 16.Qxe5 Rg8 17.Qxc7 with compensation.

After Adam's 14Bb4, he faced a steamroller with 15.f5 Qe7 16. Bd3 Qc5 17.e6! He fled to the queenside, but the heat was still on when Radjabov found the stunning 22.Nb5! which put the black queen in prison.  All of black's pieces were tied down while white was unleashing a vicious frontal assault. Perhaps Adams did not realize the danger of Radjabov's novelty.

The crucial moment came in the diagrammed position.  Adams tried to unravel his position, but perhaps was already lost. His prayers were answers when Radjabov missed a win with
26.Rf7! (diagram) The idea is that on 26Qg5+ 27.Kb1 Kxd6!? (27h5 is met by 28.h4!) 28.Rxe7 Bxe7 29.Qd4+ and 30.Qxh8+-. The game ended 26.Qf4 and Adams breathed a sigh of relief.

In a crucial moment Radjabov missed 26.Rf7!

Variation: In a crucial moment Radjabov missed 26.Rf7!

Despite the fact that white remains better after 26Bg7 27.Ne8+, Radjabov agreed to a draw. A sample line may have gone 27Kb7 28.Nxg7 Rxg7 29.Qd4 Rhg8 30.Be4 Rc7 31.Rf6 Qg5+ 32.Kb1 with pressure for white. Radjabov will attempt to even the match with the black pieces and will probably try something different.

Kasimdzhanov-Topalov featured a 63-move positional battle out of the 3.Bb5+ Moscow Sicilian. The game actually possessed qualities of the French Defense without black's bad bishop. White pressed the attack on the kingside while black tore through on the queenside. Topalov was able to penetrate his rook on white's 2nd rank, but had to retreat. More maneuvering took place until Topalov tried a speculative pawn sacrifice 52g5!? The idea was to give his queen access to light squares. Kasimdzhanov was in serious time pressure, so he traded queens to avoid tactical tricks and pocketed the pawn. Topalov's king penetrated deep into the white's camp (to the e4-square), but white had built a fortress. After a three-fold repetition, the game was drawn. In the final position, maybe black could've tried to enter a good knight versus bad bishop ending with 63Na7, but with mutual time pressure, they both decided not to risk it.


GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov (UZB 2652) - GM Veselin Topalov (BUL 2737), -
GM Teimour Radjabov (AZE 2670) - GM Michael Adams (ENG 2731), -

Semi-Final Games (PGN format)

Semi-Finals - Game #4

Teimour Radjabov's run as potential world contender came to an end today when Michael Adams held him to a uneventful draw. Perhaps the most interesting moment came when the young Azeri player played 2Qe7!? Unable to play his beloved Sveshnikov Sicilian, Radjabov attempted to catch Adams napping, but only ended up getting a playable position for his efforts.  On 20Rxd5, Radjabov was perhaps hoping for 21.Rxd5?! when 21cxd5 would offer black chances in the center. Several moves later, pieces shuffled around the board, but no real chances were present. Adams now moves on to play the winner of Topalov-Kasimdzhanov which was drawn in an exciting thriller.

Topalov bolted from the opening with aggression and actually penetrated black's position with
20.Rc7. However, all rooks came off and each side had a queen, a knight and five pawns. In what was the most exciting part of the game, Topalov began setting up long-range tactical threats as Kasimdzhanov's knight was looking on from the side of the board. As Topalov pressed forward and seemed to be winning, Kasimdzhanov unleashed his queen and she chased the enemy king around the board to no end. Another draw albeit an exciting draw! The two players will resume the tiebreaker on tomorrow.


GM Veselin Topalov (BUL 2737) - GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov (UZB 2652), -
GM Michael Adams (ENG 2731) - GM Teimour Radjabov (AZE 2670), -

Semi-Final Games (PGN format)


For American basketball fans this upset would remind one of the recent contest between the Detroit Pistons and the Los Angeles Lakers. In perhaps one of the biggest upsets in American sports, the tough Pistons soundly defeated the star-studded Lakers, winning four of five games for the NBA championship. Today, Rustam Kasimdzhanov shocked Veselin Topalov in the tiebreak rapids, winning both games.  It turns out that Kasimdzhanov's previous matches were fiercely contested while Topalov had won all of his preliminary matches in the minimum amount of games. As one would say in American sports parlance, "Playoff time is a different season."

Kasimdzhanov is a tough, uncompromising fighter whose talent lies not in his flashy games, but in his determination and courage. Topalov has shown flashes of brilliance in this tournament despite also showing vulnerability. All indications would have pointed to Topalov winning soundly and perhaps 99% of the players predicted a victory for Topalov. However, the first four games indicated that the match was be fiercely contested, but none were decisive.

In the 1st rapid tiebreak, Topalov-Kasimdzhanov was an exciting Queen's Indian (1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Bb7 5.Bg2 Be7 6.Nc3 0-0 7.d5 Bb4 (7cxd5 8.Nh4!?)) in which Topalov sacked a pawn early to gain timing and initiative. However, Kaszimdzhanov beat back the aggression and initiated massive exchanges.

Topalov would pay a heavy price for a wretched pawn structure and poor king safety while the queens were still on the board and the Uzbek player stole another pawn creating a dangerous passed a-pawn. Topalov was never able to threaten the king and the a-pawn sprinted up the board and Topalov had seen enough.

In the 2nd rapid tiebreak,
Kasimdzhanov-Topalov showed that there are times when playing for a win is better even when a draw is needed. Kasimdzhanov dominated this contest throughout throwing his pieces at Topalov's king with "reckless abandon." After 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.b3!? b6!? the Uzbek player subtly made his intentions known with moves like 13.h4, 15.Bd4, 17. Rh3, 18.e5, 19.Qg4 and 20.h5.

Topalov tried desperately to slow the momentum by throwing pieces and pawns in the way. After shredding black's kingside, Kasimdzhanov played the cute
31.Qh3! Topalov started checking, Kasimdzhanov safely put his king  on the open board on d1! When Topalov's checks ran out, Kasimdzhanov gave the last check which would mate Topalov. His never moved his rook on a1!

Final Position: Topalov-Kasimdzhanov (1st tiebreak)

Final Position: Topalov-Kasimdzhanov
(1st tiebreak)
Final Position: Topalov-Kasimdzhanov (2nd tiebreak)

Final Position: Kasimdzhanov-Topalov
(2nd tiebreak)


GM Veselin Topalov (BUL 2737) - GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov (UZB 2652), 0-1
GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov (UZB 2652) - GM Veselin Topalov (BUL 2737), 1-0

Semi-Final Games (PGN format)

Posted by The Chess Drum: 6 July 2004