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20170110 topalov sasikirianThe choice between two or several good (or bad) options is one of the most difficult in chess. It requires some psychology as well, as it is not easy to guess where or whether our opponent will go wrong. 

The following game was played in the last round of the MTEL MASTERS in Sofia in 2007. The development of the tournament was very strange and before the last round 5 of 6 players had chances to share the first place. Sasikiran was the sole leader only with +1 and Adams was also clear last but only with a -1 result.So it was must winning situation for me if I wanted to win the tournament.


Topalov, Veselin - Sasikiran, Krishnan
Sofia MTel Masters, 2007.05.20

/V.Topalov/

The choice between two or several good (or bad) options is one of the most difficult in chess. It requires some psychology as well, as it is not easy to guess here or whether our opponent will go wrong. The following game was played in the last round of the MTEL MASTERS in Sofia in 2007. The development of the tournament was very strange and before the last round 5 of 6 players had chances to share the first place. Sasikiran was the sole leader only with +1 and Adams was also clear last but only with a -1 result. So it was must winning situation for me if I wanted to win the tournament.

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. e3 b6 5. Bd3 Bb7 6. Nf3 O-O 7. O-O d5 8. a3 Bd6 9. cxd5 exd5 10. b4 Nbd7 11. b5 Ne4 12. Bb2 Re8 13. a4 Re6 14. Ne2 a5 15. Ba3 Rc8 16. Bxd6 cxd6 17. Rc1 Ndf6 18. h3 Re7 19. Qb3 h6 20. Rxc8 Qxc8 21. Rc1 Rc7 22. Rxc7 Qxc7 23. Qc2 Qe7 24. Qc1 g6 25. Nh2 Kg7 26. h4 Ne8 27. f3 N4f6 28. Nf1 h5 29. Nf4 Nd7 30. Qe1 Nf8 31. Qg3 Kh6

dijagram 01

Sasikiran played a great tournament in Sofia, but on this day he played passively and allowed me to get a stableadvantage. But the question if this advantage is enough to win is not easy to answer. Especially if black defends the best way. He only has one weakness (the doubled pawns on the d file) but normally that's not enough. Here a good plan is to put more pressure on it with the maneuver Bc2-b3! and if we think on a long term to place the knight from f1 to c3. But then I started to calculate a line and after a serious calculation it seemed to me I had found a forced win.

32. Nxh5!?

The evaluation of this move depends on the final result-:)

32... gxh5 33. Qg8 f5! 34. Ng3 Ng7 35. Bxf5 Ng6 36. Bxg6 Kxg6 37. Nxh5 Qxe3+ 38. Kh2

Everything was going according to my calculation and my opponent was in a time-trouble as well. Now I believed 38...Q:d4 was losing after 39.Kg3! and 40.Nf4 next. But when we reached this position I saw 39... Kh6!! and if 40.Qh8 Kg6 and there is no way for white to improve. Luckily, as I said Sasikiran had little time and he did not find the defense, which cost him the first place in the tournament. As an excuse, I have to say that a move like 39...Kh6!! is very easy to miss, especially as it is the 7th move in the line.

38... Qe7? 39. Nf4+! Kf6 40. g4

The first time control had passed and White is winning.

40... Qf7 41. Qd8+ Qe7 42. Qg8 Qf7 43. Qd8+ Qe7 44. Qxe7+ Kxe7 45. Kg3 Ne6 46. Nxe6 Kxe6 47. f4 Bc8 48. f5+ Kf7 49. h5 Bd7 50. h6 Kg8 51. Kf4 Be8 52. Kg5 Kf7 53. h7 Kg7 54. h8=Q+ Kxh8 55. Kf6 Bxb5 56. Ke7 Bd3 57. f6 Bg6 58. f7 Bxf7 59. Kxf7

Sasikiran resigned and as the other 2 games finished draw we changed places. I was the sole winner and only with the score of +1, a very rare final standing in such tournaments. While the position before white's 32nd move is a good exercise for a calculation, my decision opens new questions. 1. Would I sacrifice my knight if I knew black had a defense (38... Kh6!!)? 2. Was it the correct decision? As the final result was positive for White it looks so, but things could have been different. 3. Is White's advantage enough for a win with the best moves played by both sides? 4. Is it practical to go for long forced lines with such a huge advantage? Again, I would say if White is winning for sure with normal moves that improve the position, then it is a mistake to complicate the matters. But if the defensive side also has resources, then it is a matter of a style and taste. After all, many times it is the final result that decides if the decision was correct.

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