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Veselin Topalov vs Ding Liren
Gashimov Memorial (2019), Shamkir AZE, rd 8, Apr-08
Nimzo-Indian Defense: Three Knights Variation (E21)  ·  0-1



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Kibitzer's Corner
Premium Chessgames Member
  An Englishman: Good Afternoon: Patience becomes such a blessing at this level of play, but seriously--who among us would have played 16...Qc6 as in the game? That move looks horrible beyond belief, no matter how the game ended.
Apr-08-19  ex0duz: An Englishman: that's why we're randos and ding is 2800 haha
Apr-08-19  Kirth Gersen: I have seen lots of super GM moves that befuddled me but 16...Qc6 isn't one, not because of my superior positional knowledge but because Black had been saying for several moves "I like doubled c-pawns here" and White was about to smoke out the Q with 17.Bg2. To me, part of understanding games is deducing what implied statements the players are making about the position, that way you can say, "well I still don't get it, but it's consistent with everything else he did".
Premium Chessgames Member
  Diademas: 80.e8=N+

Not something you often see. White must underpromote or get mated.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Diademas: <csmath: Horrible loss in drawn ending but a tough one to play no doubt.>

Nice work by Ding. I could never have won that even against a novice.

Apr-08-19  csmath: Horrible loss in drawn ending but a tough one to play no doubt. This is why I stopped playing tournament chess. There is no sleeping after this, only nightmares.
Apr-08-19  csmath: Yes, I could try but my mind would be concentrated on counting the moves so I would not win either. But I think it was way tougher on Topalov and he made more mistakes too. Ding made mistake in 97th move and Topalov returned the favor immediately. Of course I know that because of tablebases. :-) Although why Topalov played 98. Kh7? is a mistery to me. Why would you want to go on edge if you are not yet forced to?
Premium Chessgames Member
  woldsmandriffield: Having lost a tough endgame in a weekend congress just past, it is reassuring to see that the top players sometimes are fallible too (though most times they play the endings well!).

There are some tester questions in the text below so cover the text if you'd like to have a go at these.

Let's pick it up on move 59, Black (in check) to play.

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Liren is a passed pawn ahead and he can set his Topalov some tests. The first of these is coming up in the next diagram.

Move 62, White to play. YOUR MOVE.

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62 Rb6+! the only move to avoid loss. 62 Rb1? fails to 62..Rg7! Now Liren played 62..Kh5 forcing 63 Rb1 and after 63..Kh4 Topalov opted for 64 e4 to enable him to meet ..Kg3 with a check along the 3rd rank.

After a few more moves the game reached this position.

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Liren could just repeat here (69..Kg2 70 Rb2+ Kh3). But the White pawn is on the 4th rank and there are some winning positions in the ending of K&R vs K&P and so he kept the game going with 69..Kh4 and after the sequence 70 Rb1 Rh8 71 Kxe5 Kg3 we will pause again for the second test of this ending.


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72 Rh1! the only move to save the game.

Instead trying to shoulder the Black King with 72 Kf5? loses to a sly check: 72..Rh5+! when Kf6/e6 can be met by ..Kf4 and Kg6 by ..Re5. The move played (72 Rh1) gains time as one of Black's pieces must move to a less advantageous square.

After Topalov gave up his Rook for the h-pawn, Liren took the excellent practical decision to recapture 73..Rxh2 forcing the ending of rook versus Knight which is considered in the following post.

Premium Chessgames Member
  woldsmandriffield: After Liren's under-promotion of the e-pawn to Knight the players reached the following position.

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Compare this with the position given by Averbakh in his Chess Endings: Essential Knowledge (if you can get hold of a copy for your library & can find time to study the 5 short chapters, your confidence in tournament play will grow should you face an ending!).

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After 1..Kf6 Averbakh gives the line 2 Nh7+ (only move: 2 Kh8 Re8 3 Kg8 Rd8 and mates) 2..Kg6 3 Nf8+ Kh6 4 Kh8 Rf7 5 Kg8! (5 Ne6? Rf6 mating) 5..Rg7+ 6 Kh8 Rg1 7 Nd7! Kg8 8 Kg8 and Black can make no progress. Averbakh's observation on this ending is worth remembering: "Thus, in the ending of Rook against a Knight it is not dangerous for the King to be confined to the edge of the board."

Back to Topalov vs Liren. Topalov defended perfectly, keeping his King & Knight close together, until the following position was reached on move 96 leading to the final test question.

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The only drawing move is 96 Nc7 which is the exact equivalent to 7 Nd7 in the Averbakh example given above. If Liren had gone 97 Kf6 then just 97..Kf8, while if 97 Kh6 the safest reply is 97..Ne8

It may be of some comfort to Topalov that others have gone wrong in similar positions. A relevant example is Berg vs Kuijf, 1990:

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Safest is still 1 Nc7! Berg played 1 Nd6? which loses. Ironically, he could alternatively have drawn with 1 Ng7 - the reason is subtle and will be explained later.

Before we get to this, here is a second key position given by Averbakh (rotated 90 degrees with colours reversed):

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Black (to move) wins with 1..Rg5 2 Kh7 Kf7 3 Kh8 Rg1 4 Nh5 Rh1. Averbakh's comment: "This position was known as far back as the ninth century."

After 96 Ng7? we saw 96..Kf6 and now 97 Kf8 Rf1 98 Ne8+ Ke6!+ 99 Kg8 Ke7 100 Ng7 Rg1 101 Kh7 Kf6! (care is needed 101..Kf7 102 Nh5 Rh1 103 Kh6 and White escapes!) so Topalov chose 97 Nh5+

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The fact that ..Ke6..Ke7 is a winning plan in similar positions probably explains why Liren slipped up with 97..Ke6? here. Best is the far from obvious 97..Kf5! 98 Ng7+ Ke5! 99 Ne8 Ke6 100 Ng7+ Ke7 101 Kh7 and now 101..Kf6! wins as before.

In the Berg vs Kuijf game, the Black Rook stands on f1 and so ..Kf5 isn't possible due to the fork on g3: hence Ng7 still draws (!) - but don't rely on nuances like this. Take Averbakh's advice and go Nc7 every time!

Tragically for Topalov, after 97..Ke6 he missed the last drawing chance: 98 Kg7! (gaining breathing space enabling the King and Knight to join together successfully). There were no further opportunities and Liren's play in the closing phase is very instructive as he drives the King and Knight apart.

Premium Chessgames Member
  ajk68: Shame on Topalov. An elementary drawn endgame.
Apr-09-19  dumbgai: Drawn, but hardly elementary.
Apr-09-19  The17thPawn: Is 35.) Rc2 a viable alternative to giving up the h pawn?

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