Topalov on the Lead

After the miraculous save in round one Veselin Topalov revived and took control of his tournament destiny in Stavanger. Three rounds later he is already a sole leader. His last win was against Levon Aronian of Armenia:
A game that I liked (ChessBase 13)

[Event "Norway Chess"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2015.06.19"]
[Round "4.1"]
[White "Topalov, Veselin"]
[Black "Aronian, Levon"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2798"]
[BlackElo "2780"]
[Annotator "Bojkov, Dejan"]
[PlyCount "115"]
[EventDate "2015.??.??"]
[WhiteClock "0:20:27"]
[BlackClock "0:20:29"]

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 d5 4. Nc3 Bb4 {Aronian's passion for the Ragozin is
not a top secret.} 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bxf6 Qxf6 7. Qa4+ {Diagram [#] Topalov is as
usual very well prepared for the game and chooses a fashionable line. The
Armenian GM was tested in the Carlsbad type of positions that arise after the
capture on d5 in Wijk an Zee. By Magnus Carlsen himself.} Nc6 8. e3 O-O 9. Be2
({Kramnik chose a different approach that suits his style} 9. Rc1 Qg6 10. Qc2
Qxc2 11. Rxc2 Rd8 12. a3 Bf8 13. Nb5 Rd7 14. Bd3 a6 15. Nc3 Ne7 16. Ke2 Rd8 17.
b4 {with somewhat better position for White in Kramnik,V (2783)-Aronian,L
(2777) Zuerich 2015}) 9... dxc4 10. O-O Bd7 11. Bxc4 {Diagram [#] The
statistics of this line is quite favourable for White.} Bxc3 {Somewhat
unexpected. Black parts with the bishop pair and is happy to trade a pair of
light pieces. Still, his position looks rather passive. Black had also tried:}
(11... Qe7 12. Qc2 Rac8 13. a3 Bd6 14. b4 {White looks great for White as} e5
$6 {leads to big advantage after} 15. Nd5 Qd8 16. b5 $16 {Iotov,V (2560)
-Kacheishvili,G (2612) Richardson 2012}) ({A more common idea is to prepare
the freeing e6-e5 advance with} 11... Bd6 {Although White had also proved some
advantage here with} 12. Ne4 Qe7 13. Qc2 e5 14. d5 Nd8 15. Nxd6 cxd6 16. Rac1
$14 {Wagner,D (2481)-Landa,K (2640) Germany 2013}) 12. bxc3 Rfd8 13. Be2 $146 {
[%csl Ga4,Rc6][%cal Yc6d4,Ya4d4,Ra4a5] Diagram [#] A novelty which prevents
the threat Nc6xd4. For the time being Topalov keeps the queen on a4 not
letting the freeing operation that Aronian have used before (Nc6-a5 followed
by c7-c5). (See the game below)} ({Not long ago the Armenian GM had to defend
against the immediate} 13. Qa3 {He did well after} Qe7 14. Qb2 Na5 15. Bd3 c5
16. e4 Be8 17. Rad1 cxd4 18. cxd4 Rac8 $11 {Shankland,S (2661)-Aronian,L (2770)
Tsaghkadzor 2015}) ({Also} 13. Qc2 {had been tested some days ago} Na5 14. Bd3
c5 15. Ne5 Be8 16. f4 {Hansen,C (2621)-Hammer,J (2665) Oslo 2015}) 13... Be8 {
This renews the threat Nc6xd4 and forces the white queen to move.} ({In case of
} 13... Qe7 {White can make an useful move} 14. Rab1) ({Generally speaking
Black would be happy to trade more pieces but after} 13... Ne5 14. Qb4 Nxf3+
15. Bxf3 {the difference between the bishops is too big.}) 14. Qa3 (14. Rab1 $2
{drops a pawn after} Nxd4) (14. Qc2 $5 {deserves attention.}) 14... Qe7 {Black
is happy to trade queens as the strong white center will not be as dangerous
in the endgame.} 15. Qb2 (15. Qxe7 Nxe7 16. Rab1 b6 $11) 15... Na5 $6 ({A
safer choice seems} 15... b6 {followed by Nc6-a5 after that.}) 16. Qb4 $1 {
[%csl Yc7,Ye8][%cal Rc3b4,Gc1c7] Diagram [#] Now Topalov offers the trade
himself! But in the process he changes the pawn structure in his favour. He
opens the "c" file for his rooks and can later attack with his "a" and "b"
pawns.} Qxb4 17. cxb4 Nc6 18. Rab1 $14 {Topalov got slight but comfortable
advantage from the opening. His plan is Rf1-c1, a2-a4 and b4-b5 in the proper
moment.} a5 $1 {Aronian does not want to stay still and opens a file for his
rooks.} 19. bxa5 Nxa5 20. Rfc1 Rdc8 21. Ne1 $1 {[%csl Yb7,Yc7][%cal Ge1d3,
Gd3c5,Ye2f3,Yf3b7] Diagram [#] Nice regroupment. White plans Be2-f3 and
Ne1-d3-c5.} Ra7 ({The black bishop can not get activated with} 21... Bc6 22.
Nd3 Bd5 {due to} 23. Nb4 b6 $2 24. Nxd5 exd5 25. Bg4 {and White wins a pawn.})
22. Nd3 Nc6 23. Bf3 Nd8 $1 {[%csl Ya2,Ga7,Yb7][%cal Ga7a2,Rd8b7] Diagram [#]
Nice regroupment by Aronian now. The knight gets back but opens the "a" file
for the rook.} 24. Nb4 (24. Rb2 $14) 24... Ra5 {Black prepares the freeing
c7-c5 advance. Another way to defend is} (24... c6 25. Rb2 (25. d5 exd5 26.
Nxd5 Rb8 $11) 25... Kf8 {with the idea to bring the king to c7.}) 25. h4 {
Grabs space and opens air for the king.} Kf8 {Black decided to postpone the
freeing c7-c5 advance for a while.} ({The utility of the luft is seen in the
line} 25... c5 26. Nd3 ({Or else Black equalizes at once} 26. Rxc5 Raxc5 27.
dxc5 Rxc5 $11) 26... Rxa2 ({White is also somewhat better after} 26... c4 27.
Rb6 (27. Nc5 b5) 27... Rb5 28. Rxb5 Bxb5 29. Nc5) 27. Nxc5 {and the black pawn
on b7 will soon drop.}) 26. Rc3 c6 27. Bd1 $1 {[%csl Ya2][%cal Gd1b3,Yb3a2,
Gb3g8] Diagram [#] Another nice maneuver by the former world champion. Since
the long diagonal was blocked, the bishop moves to a better position. From b3
it will pressurize the e6 pawn, but more importantly- will take the sting out
of the black rook(s) on the a file. Nevertheless, Aronian is getting closer
to the equality with each move.} Ke7 28. Bb3 c5 {Finally, Aronian frees
himself a bit, but some problems remain. For instance, he can never enter a
pawn (knight) endgame as the distant passer on a2 will win the game. The
knight on d8 remains passive too.} ({Black could have kept defending passively
with} 28... f6) 29. Nd3 b6 30. dxc5 bxc5 {It made sense to trade a pair of
bishops with} (30... Bb5 31. Bc4 Bxc4 32. Rxc4 bxc5 33. a4 f6 {White is still
slightly better but Black should hold.}) 31. f3 $1 {Topalov does not want to
let his opponent go. He expands in the center, earns space, limits the knight
and creates some other trouble.} Rc7 (31... f6 $5) 32. e4 Nb7 33. Rbc1 Ba4 34.
e5 Rc6 {[%csl Ga2,Yb7,Yc5,Ye7][%cal Re5d6] Diagram [#] Black plans to swap the
bishops on b3, bring the rook on the "b" file and trade the freshly produced
"b" pawn for his "c" one at last. This plan is very good, but there is one
important detail.} ({He would be relatively save also with} 34... Bxb3 35. axb3
Ra3 36. Kf2 Rd7 37. Ke3 Rd5 38. f4) 35. Kh2 Rb6 36. h5 Bxb3 37. axb3 {The
culmination of the game. With patient and careful defense Aronian came very
close to equlizing the game. But Topalov kept on posing problems all the time
and under the pressure the Armenian GM cracks...} Kd7 $2 {Blows the game away!}
(37... Rab5 $1 {was best eventhough Black loses a pawn. After} 38. Nxc5 (38. g4
{is an instant draw} Rxb3 39. Nxc5 Nxc5 40. Rxc5 Rb7 $11) (38. b4 {does not
work here due to} cxb4 39. Rc8 $2 (39. Nxb4 $11) 39... Rd5 $1 {and there is no
checkmate as in the game.}) 38... Nxc5 39. Rxc5 {Black has to find the subtle}
Rb7 $1 ({Instead} 39... Rxc5 {loses a pawn after} 40. Rxc5 Rxb3 41. Rc7+ Ke8
42. Rc8+ Ke7 43. Rg8 $1 {and most likely the game-} Rb5 44. f4 f6 45. Rxg7+ Kf8
46. Rh7 fxe5 47. fxe5 Rxe5 48. g4 $18) 40. R1c3 f6 41. exf6+ gxf6 {Black
should survive although careful play is still required.}) 38. b4 $1 {[%csl Rc7,
Rc8,Yd7] Diagram [#] Topalov will rarely miss a tactical shot. It is
remarkable that the computer understands the power of the move only once that
it is played on the board.} cxb4 39. Rc8 {Checkmate is threatened.} Nd8 40.
R1c7+ Ke8 41. Nc5 {The threat Rc7-d7 forces Black to part with the exchange.}
Rxc5 42. Rxc5 b3 43. Rc1 {Diagram [#] The rest is easy for the Bulgarian GM.}
Kd7 44. R8c7+ Ke8 45. Rc8 ({Better than} 45. R7c3 Rb5 46. f4 f6 {which
complicates matters.}) 45... Kd7 46. R8c3 {White combines the threats against
the b3 passer with checkmate motifs.} Ke7 ({Like this one} 46... Rb5 47. Rd1+
Ke7 48. Rc7+ Ke8 49. Rc8 b2 50. Rcxd8+ Ke7 51. R1d7# {Diagram [#]}) 47. Rd3 Nb7
48. Rdc3 Nd8 49. f4 f6 50. Rc7+ Ke8 51. Rxg7 fxe5 52. Rcc7 Kf8 53. Rh7 Kg8 54.
Rcg7+ Kf8 55. Rd7 Kg8 56. Rxh6 Nf7 {A nice finish is} (56... b2 57. Rg6+ Kf8
58. h6 b1=Q 59. h7 {Diagram [#] and despite the extra queen Black cannot stop
checkmate.}) 57. Rg6+ Kh8 58. Rf6 {Black resigned. A possible finish would
have been} (58. Rf6 b2 59. Rfxf7 Kg8 60. h6 b1=Q 61. Rg7+ Kf8 62. Rd8# {
Diagram [#]}) 1-0


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