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Veselin Topalov vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave
Sinquefield Cup (2014), Saint Louis, MO USA, rd 5, Aug-31
Sicilian Defense: Najdorf Variation (B90)  ·  1-0



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Kibitzer's Corner
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Sep-01-14  estrick: People who come across this game in the future may wonder why Vachier-Lagrave resigned when there was no forced mate and he wasn't down any material.

Indeed, the live commentators initially thought that the two players had agreed to a draw when they saw them shaking hands. Then they spent several confused minutes trying to figure out what was so terrible about Vachier-Lagrave's position (which had appeared drawish for much of the game) that made it resignable.

White threatens to play Be8 followed by Rf8 mate. If Black plays h6 for an escape hatch, his king will still be caught. Black's only defense is to drop the queen back to c8 and force a trade. Vachier-Lagrave had been avoiding a queen trade for several moves. Now, when he saw that trading queens was forced he became very discouraged. For after the queens come off, White will have a rook on the 7th rank, and his king will be able to march up to d5 and c6 and gobble Black's pawns.

White is clearly winning at this point, but the commentators still lamented that Vachier-Lagrave did not continue on for at least a few more moves so that the fans could see that the result was decisive.

Premium Chessgames Member
  tamar: Vachier-Lagrave said afterwards that he completely missed that 40 Rg5 would pin the bishop, and that his idea behind 39...Qc5 was entirely about getting in 40...Bxc3 when Black is back in the game.

Resigning early is a bad habit to get into though, because the other competitors take note.

Sep-01-14  Pulo y Gata: In the final position the material was equal; it takes a few seconds to realize that Black is virtually paralyzed, his pieces dominated by White's.

<estrick>'s analysis was spot on and a cursory analysis of the lines after 41...Qc8 42.Qxc8 Rxc8 shows Black is in virtual zugzwang, e.g., 43.Bd7 Rd8 44.Kc4! h6 45.Be6 Black cannot free himself from the bind and his kingside pawns will fall.

Sep-01-14  Pulo y Gata: <kingside pawns > I meant queenside pawns, of course.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Pulo y Gata> The other kingside, y'know....
Sep-01-14  Pulo y Gata: <Perf> Right on, mate. lol!
Sep-01-14  zanzibar: Another ending:

41.Rf5 then if 41...Rg8

click for larger view

42.Qf7 Qc8 43.Bc4

click for larger view

The rook cannot stay on g8 without all the pieces coming off with ending like previously discussed. And if the rook moves away then who guards g7? The bishop can be captured by the rook.

So Black is doomed:

43...Rd8 44.h6 gxh6 (all else fails too) 45.Rxe5!

click for larger view

The White rook is protected because of the mate threat on the diagonal f6-h8 diagonal.

45...Rf8 46.Qh5 etc.

Now there is also this much more difficult defense where the quiet move 44.Qe6! is hard to spot. It's complicated, but I think has some nice ideas which I'll outline.

(Go back to diag 1)

42...g6 43.hxg6 hxg6 44.Qe6! (if 44...gxf5 45.Qh6#) 44...Kh7 45.Qe7+ (Q gets to maneuver on important e7-h4 diagonal) 45...Kh6 (45...Rg7 46.Qh4+ Kg8 47.Bc4+) 46.Rf7 Bg7 47.Rxf4! g5 48.Rf5! Qg5 49.f4

And Black is only down a pawn but his position is quickly crumbling.

(The above deserves to be diagrammed too, but this post is already too long)

Sep-01-14  Pulo y Gata: <zanzibar: Another ending:
41.Rf5 then if 41...Rg8>

Not 42.Qf7??? but 42.Qxg8+! 42...Kxg8 43.Bc4+ is curtains.

Sep-01-14  zanzibar: By the way, why shouldn't MVL have resigned when he did?

All that stuff above looks like fun, but only if you're White.

Sep-01-14  Ulhumbrus: It is not obvious why it can be a serious mistake to combine the move 10...a5 with the move 21...Nf4 which aims to develop Black's king's bishop bishop on the long diagonal after 22 Bxf4 exf4.

Following 23 Nd5 Bxd5 24 Rxd5 Be5 the move 25 c3!! is the move which defeats Black's strategy. Black's bishop on e5 is now obstructed on the h2-b8 diagonal by the d6 and f4 pawns and bites on granite on the long diagonal. Because Black has played ...a5 his b pawn is fixed and cannot assist his KB by advancing to b5 and b4.

In the end White is playing with an extra bishop on the queen side.

Sep-01-14  zanzibar: <pulo y gata> But 43.Bc4+ d5 clears queen's protection on f8 with a draw.
Sep-01-14  sevenseaman: Topalov is still very sharp.
Sep-01-14  Pulo y Gata: <zanzibar: <pulo y gata> But 43.Bc4+ d5 clears queen's protection on f8 with a draw.>

Take the line further though: 43...d5 44.Bxd5+ Kh8 45.Rxe5 White threatens mate again. Now Black has four main moves: 45...g6,.h6, Qf8, Qc8.

A) 45...Qc8 46.Bf7 wins
B) 45...Qf8 46.Bc6 Qf7+ 47.Kc2 h6 (g6 48.h6) 48.Be8! Qf6 49.Rf5 followed by Bg6 white is winning C)45...h6 46.Re8+ Kh7 47.Bg8+ Kh8 48.Bf7+ mating
Finally D)45...g6 46.hxg6 hxg6 47.Re6 Kg7 48.Rc6 Qf2 49.e5 Qe2(Qd2) 50.Be4 and I think White has the advantage, thanks to his extra pawn (and Black's weak pawns) and good coordination of pieces.

Sep-01-14  Pulo y Gata: <Finally D)45...g6 46.hxg6 hxg6 47.Re6 > Here, it seems 47...Qg1is better - so maybe 47.Re6 is not optimal. Time for me to hit the sack though so I'll look into this again tomorrow.
Sep-01-14  Pulo y Gata: In the original line <zanzibar: Another ending: 41.Rf5 then if 41...Rg8>, the simple 42. Bc4 looks winning already.
Sep-01-14  zanzibar: <Pulo> Let me look at some of your lines.

But before I do I should warn you that I'm too weak a player not to use an engine to both find and check lines before publishing.

So I "know" that 41.Rf5 Rg8 42.Qxg8+ leads to a draw, i.e. has eval 0.0.

Normally, I try to find a line with a little tactic, or some stiff defense, something that has some interest.

Here, I actually wanted to show how far MVL could see ahead in order to know to resign. It's not easy to see that it's over (see estrick's original comment above), and Black can put up a tenuousness fight - but there's no fun there.

Sep-01-14  zanzibar: Let's look at your last line - with 41.Rf5 Rg8 42.Bc4.

It's also totally winning, and actually is the 2nd candidate move. But by bringing the bishop onto the c4-g8 diagonal, White no longer has the Be8 interference trick.

That means the rook can slide back over. And you end up having to conduct the attack along the lines I posted above. Let me show the specifics:

After 41.Rf5 Rg8 42.Bc4 Rb8

click for larger view

43.h6! Qc7 44.Rf7 Qc8 45.Qe7 and White has won the battle for g7 (45...Qg8 46.Rxg7! discovered attack on Q)

click for larger view

45...b5 46.Be6 etc White wins material soon.

Sep-01-14  zanzibar: Looking at your other analysis - it seems you found the best line for Black,

D) 45...g6!

It's sharp, i.e. must-find for the draw.

Black could also play 45...Qf8 as you said, but Black will be forced to find

45...Qf8 46.Bc6 Qf7+ 47.Kc2 h6 48.Be8 Qc7 49.Rd5 Kg8 50.Bg6 Kf8 51.Rf5+ Kg8 52.e5

and then deal with a nasty passed e-pawn with an almost trapped king.

So 45...g6 it must be, which gives Black an dsq escape.

So, when all is said and done, after 41.Rf5 Rg8, I still prefer 42.Qf7, but would have been just as happy to play 42.Bc4.

(But definitely not 42.Qxg8+)

Sep-02-14  Pulo y Gata: <zanzibar> First, let me thank you for sharing your analysis. I don't use engine as I'm only using my mobile replaying the game and looking at your diagrams, so I am happy when some things I miss are pointed out to me.

As you will notice, my analysis are quite pliable, in that I correct myself when I notice something-as in the case of Bc4-but, yes, I guess it's a matter of preference which winning line Qf7 or Bc4 would be chosen- many ways to skin a cat! :) I looked at the lines you posted and they are very helpful in clarifying the manner of attack that white has against black's king. I fell for for Qxg8 without going in-depth, that's also my weakness bdw-flashiness.

Again, thanks!

Sep-02-14  Ke2: 10... a5 is a suspicious sideline and 11. a4! is the best - scoring response. Funnily enough, the only person who has won a game in the DB with the suspicious 11... Na6 is Topalov - Opening Explorer.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: <Ke2> Have you sussed out the objects of your suspicion?
Sep-03-14  Ke2: The main line goes 10... Nbd7, 11. g4 b5 12. g5 b4 13. Nd2 Ne8. This sideline is suspicious because 11. a4 is so strong, sealing the Qside. And OK, you get a hole on b4, but there is virtually no counterplay to the Kside attack, because the bishop digs into b5. MVL made some major concession with 16... f5 just to avoid the certain doom of no counterplay. I play the najdorf and once your Qside pawns get immobilized you're screwed.
Oct-21-14  Whitehat1963: What's the finish?
Oct-22-14  capafischer1: Topalov plays like karpov and just ties up mvl. It reminded me of maneuvering games of karpov where he leaves you tied up and lost.
Oct-22-14  Kinghunt: The threat is 42. Bd8! and black has to play d5, dropping the bishop, to prevent the white rook from getting to f8 and mating. This is only one way to carry the attack forward - other lines against some of the possible black defenses involve moving the bishop to c4, playing h6, and saccing the rook to get the queen on the f6-h8 diagonal, mating.

Now, black could defend against all this with 41...Qc8, and insisting on the queen trade if white tries to go to, say, f7. But white can simply play 42. Qxc8, trading the queens, then play Rf7 after black recaptures. The rook and bishop ending is clearly won. Black is either doomed to passivity or will drop the b pawn right away, and has no targets for counterplay.

click for larger view

This position, black to play, arises if black trades queens to defuse the white attack (41...Qc8 42. Qxc8 Rxc8 43. Rf7). Black is just lost.

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