Saturday, April 19, 2008

Topalov: Chess Player Profile

Veselin Topalov (born 15 March 1975) is a Bulgarian chess grandmaster and former FIDE world champion. In the January 2008 FIDE rating list, he is ranked third in the world with an Elo rating of 2780.His current trainer and manager is International Master Silvio Danailov.

Topalov became the FIDE World Chess Champion by winning the FIDE World Chess Championship 2005. Topalov was awarded the 2005 Chess Oscar. In October 2006, Topalov had the second highest Elo rating of all time (2813).

Topalov played Classical World Champion Vladimir Kramnik in a twelve-game title unification match. The match was drawn at 6-6, but Topalov lost the tie-break 2.5-1.5.

Early career

Topalov was born in Rousse, Bulgaria. His father taught him to play chess at the age of eight. In 1989 he won the World Under-14 Championship in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, and in 1990 won the silver medal at the World Under-16 Championship in Singapore. He became a Grandmaster in 1992.

Topalov has been the leader of the Bulgarian national team since 1994. At the 1994 Chess Olympiad in Moscow he led the Bulgarians to a fourth-place finish.

Over the next ten years he won a number of tournaments, and ascended the world chess rankings. As early as 1996, he was being invited to "supergrandmaster" events for the world's élite. Topalov's loss to reigning Classical World Champion Garry Kasparov at the 1999 Corus chess tournament is generally hailed as one of the greatest games ever played. Kasparov later said, "[[During the game Topalov]] looked up. Perhaps there was a sign from above that Topalov would play a great game today. It takes two, you know, to do that."[3] In the knockout tournaments for the FIDE World Chess Championship, he reached the last 16 in 1999, the quarter-finals in 2000, the final 16 in 2001, and the semi-finals in the 2004 tournament. In 2002, he lost the final of the Dortmund Candidates Tournament (for the right to challenge for the rival Classical World Chess Championship) to Péter Lékó.

Topalov scored his first "super-tournament" success at Linares 2005, tying for the first place with Garry Kasparov (though losing on tiebreak rules), and defeating Kasparov in the last round, in what was to be Kasparov's last tournament game before his retirement.[4] He followed this up with a one point victory (+4 =5 −1) at the M-Tel Masters 2005 tournament, ahead of Viswanathan Anand, Vladimir Kramnik, Ruslan Ponomariov, Michael Adams, and Judit Polgar. The average rating of the participants was 2744, making this super-GM, double round-robin tournament the strongest in 2005.

World Champion

On the strength of his rating, Topalov was invited to the eight-player, double round-robin FIDE World Chess Championship in San Luis, Argentina, in September-October 2005. Scoring 6.5/7 in the first cycle, Topalov had virtually clinched the tournament at the halfway mark, before drawing every game in the second cycle to win by 1.5 points and become FIDE World Chess Champion. The average rating of the field in the championship was 2739, and Topalov's performance rating was 2890.[5]

The unification of the FIDE World Title (held by Topalov) and the Classical Chess World Title (held by Vladimir Kramnik) was fervently encouraged by the chess community. On 16 April 2006, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov announced that a reunification match between Kramnik and Topalov would be held in September-October 2006. Kramnik defeated Topalov to become the first undisputed champion in thirteen years.

In May 2006, Topalov defended his M-Tel Masters title in the 2006 edition of the tournament, coming first with 6.5, a half point ahead of Gata Kamsky (whom he beat 2-0). Topalov started the tournament somewhat hesitantly to later record four consecutive wins and clinch the title.

Kramnik-Topalov match controversy

FIDE World Chess Championship 2006

On 28 September 2006, Danailov published a press release, casting suspicion on Kramnik's behaviour during the games. The Bulgarian team made a public statement that Kramnik visited his private bathroom (the only place without any audio or video surveillance) unreasonably often, about 50 times per game (a number that FIDE officials later claimed to be exaggerated) and made the most significant decisions in the game in the bathroom.

They also demanded that the organizers of the tournament make available to journalists the surveillance video from Kramnik's room for games 1 through 4. The organizers made parts of the video available, explaining that other parts of it were missing due to technical issues. Danailov demanded to stop the use of private restrooms and bathrooms, and threatened to reconsider Topalov's participation in the match.[7] The Appeals Committee that governed the match agreed, and ruled that the players' private restrooms should be closed and replaced with a shared one.

Kramnik refused to play game 5 and was forfeited. On 1 October, the restroom issue was resolved in Kramnik's favour and the Appeals Committee resigned and were replaced. The FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov decided that the current score of 3-2 should be preserved. He also indicated that this was not a compromise decision but his own.[8] The match resumed on 2 October 2006.

On 1 October, the Association of Chess Professionals released a statement denouncing Danailov for publicly accusing his opponent without evidence, and calling for him to be investigated by the FIDE Ethics Committee. Topalov has also been similarly denounced by numerous top players, including former World Champions Anatoly Karpov, Boris Spassky, and Viswanathan Anand, grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi,[9] former US Champions Lev Alburt and Yasser Seirawan, and others.[10][11]

On 3 October, Topalov said in a press conference, "I believe that his Kramnik's play is fair, and my decision to continue the match proves it".[12] However the next day the crisis escalated, with Topalov's manager strongly implying that Kramnik was receiving computer assistance.[13]

In a post-match interview, Danailov expressed a desire for a rematch between Topalov and Kramnik, saying, “FIDE regulations allow every world champion that has lost the title to challenge the title holder. The total prize fund is 1.5 million dollars. We will find this money and will request the game to take place in Sofia. We will offer an exact date, 3rd of March 2007.”[14] However this will be impossible, because according to FIDE's regulations such a match must be held and finished six months before the next world championship, which will begin in September 2007 in Mexico.

On 14 December 2006, Topalov directly accused Kramnik of using computer assistance in their World Championship match.[15] On 14 February 2007, Topalov's manager released pictures, purporting to show cables in the ceiling of a toilet used by Kramnik during the World Championship match in Elista. They were supposedly reported to the authorities, who Danailov claims suppressed the information. The Topalov team claims they were pressured by officials to keep their allegations quiet.[16] On 29 July 2007, following a complaint by Kramnik's manager Carsten Hansel, the FIDE Ethics Commission sanctioned Topalov with "a severe reprimand" because of the accusations made in the interview of 14 December. According to the Ethics Commission, "these statements were clearly defamatory and damaged the honour of Mr. Vladimir Kramnik, harming his personal and professional reputation".

Cheating allegations against Topalov

Topalov has himself been accused of cheating, both at the San Luis tournament in 2005 and at the 2007 Corus Tournament.

Career after the unification match

Soon after losing the world title, Topalov participated in the Essent Chess Tournament. He finished third of four players with only 2.5 points of 6 games and a 2645 performance. He lost two games against Judit Polgár and one against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

In January 2007, Topalov finished in joint first place (ahead of Kramnik, who finished 4th) at the Category 19 Corus Chess Tournament along with Levon Aronian and Teimour Radjabov.

Traditionally, defeated champions enjoy the right to a return match against the new champion. In the 2006 reunification match, Topalov lost his berth in the 2007 world championship tournament as incumbent FIDE champion to Kramnik. However, as part of the reunification process, both Topalov and Kramnik were granted special privileges in the 2008-09 championship cycle.

Kramnik, who lost the title when Viswanathan Anand won the 2007 tournament, will meet Anand in a title match in 2008. Meanwhile, Topalov will play a match against Gata Kamsky, winner of the 2007 FIDE World Cup. The winner of this match will qualify for the 2009 world championship match against the 2008 world champion.
Topalov Notable tournament victories

* Madrid 1994, 1996, 1997
* Dos Hermanas 1996
* Amsterdam 1996
* Vienna 1996
* Novgorod 1996
* Antwerp 1997
* Monaco 2001
* Dortmund 2001
* Semi-finalist at the FIDE World Chess Championship 2004 in Tripoli, Libya.
* Shared first place with Kasparov (Kasparov technically won on tiebreaks though Topalov won their individual game) at Linares 2005
* M-Tel Masters 2005 (a point ahead of Anand)
* FIDE World Chess Championship 2005 (a point and a half ahead of Anand and Svidler)
* Corus 2006 (joint first with Anand)
* M-Tel Masters 2006 (half a point ahead of Gata Kamsky)
* Corus 2007 (joint first with Aronian and Radjabov)
* M-Tel Masters 2007 (half a point over four others)
* Champions League 2007 (a point and a half a head of Ponomariov)