Monday, February 23, 2009

The Curious Case of Veselin Topalov

What's so curious about Topalov? You might well ask this question if you haven't been watching his recent games against Gata Kamsky. Aside from his hideous suits which look like scaled up duds from a 1970s Ken doll and his Rasputinesque facial expressions, his opening choices have been baffling to say the least. He started off somewhat normally with two relatively sharp Gruenfelds and a sharp offbeat Lopez, but the last two games have been so out of character it seems like he's been possessed by the ghost of 1974 Karpov. A main line Closed Lopez and a Tarrasch French? Topalov has ~60 games on the white side of the French in the Megabase 2008, and only 5 are Tarraschs. I expected this match to produce some major theory since Topalov is such a great expert on the white side of the Gruenfeld, but so far I haven't seen much.

So what's going on with these games? Grinding positional battles are Kamsky's wheelhouse, and I don't understand why Topalov would play that sort of chess by choice here. He did win today, but only because of a Kamsky blunder. He didn't have shit out of the opening, and the game should have been a draw. If Kamsky gets to play two more Closed Spanish games in his other two whites, he very well might win both. Has Cheparinov run out of ideas? Has Topalov's copy of Rybka gone on strike? He's probably the sharpest player of his generation, and we've seen no gambits or even the exchange sacs he's so well known for. You can probably tell I'm dissapointed by the match so far. All I can say is that if Topalov goes on to play Anand and continues in this manner, he's going to get eaten alive. Incidentally, this would be fine with me because I'm not big fan. I think he dragged Kramnik through the mud for no reason other than to protect his pride, and I think his manager is the chess equivalent of Don King. I don't assume he will get a shot at Anand however, since Kamsky is scrappy and definitely not out of it yet.

Here is today's game, which Kamsky blundered in and lost. Prior to the blunder it was one of the most boring games I've ever seen at this level.


In personal news, I might have gotten an infection after all. It remains to be seen if it will extend my hospital stay. I dearly hope not.

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