Byline: David R. Sands, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Bulgarian GM Veselin Topalov rocketed out of the gate with six wins in his first seven games to take a commanding lead at the midpoint of the FIDE World Championship Tournament in the Argentine province of San Luis.
Through Wednesday's play, Topalov defeated five 2700-plus opponents, compiling a stunning 4-0 record with Black. Falling victim to the "Blazing Bulgarian" were Russians Alexander Morozevich and Peter Svidler, Englishman Michael Adams, Hungary's Judit Polgar and Uzbek GM Rustam Kasimdzhanov.
Only India's Viswanathan Anand could hold the leader to a draw, and Anand only managed that by surviving a harrowing queen-and-pawn ending in which his opponent missed several winning opportunities.
With seven rounds to go, Topalov's 61/2-1/2 score leaves him two full points ahead of Svidler. Anand and Leko are at 31/2-31/2. Kasimdzhanov and Morozevich stand at 3-4, and Polgar and Adams bring up the rear at 2-5.
Topalov has a history of blundering away a critical point or two in elite events, and that may be the only hope the rest of the field has to stop him from claiming FIDE's half of the disputed world chess crown later this month.
A natural attacking player and risk-taker, Topalov did not build his lead by playing it safe. In several games he has accepted double-edged and even slightly inferior positions that promised sharp play, trusting in his nerves and calculating acumen to see him through.
In Round 4, Adams puts up a spirited fight for a while but backs off from several challenging continuations and manages to get his queen marooned on h3. A single tactical oversight, and Topalov racks up another win.
White's 10. Bf1 d6 11. h4!? typifies the Bulgarian's play in San Luis, pushing for the sharpest continuation at all times. Black's 21. Ra3 Re8?! (h5!) misses an opportunity to stop the White h-pawn in its tracks, and Topalov immediately seizes the opening: 22. h5! Re7 23. Bf4 Rb8 24. Bf5! Qe8 25. Bc2!, preparing the queen-bishop battery along the diagonal.
Perhaps in homage to his adversary's attacking skills, Black does not venture 25...Rxb5 (Qxb5?! 26. Qe4 Reb7 27. Rb1 Qd7 28. Rxb7 Rxb7 29. Qh7+ Kf8 30. Ba4! Qd8 31. Bc6! Rc7 [Nxc6 32. dxc6 Rc7 33. Re3 Be5 34. Bxe5 dxe5 35. Rxe5 f6 36. Qh8+ Kf7 37. Qxd8] 32. Bxe5 Bxe5 33. Re3 is very strong for White) 26. Qe4 g6 27. Bxe5 Bxe5 28. hxg6 Rb4 29. Qh1 Kg7 30. gxf7 Qxf7 31. e3, and Black's king feels a very strong draft.
Black's troubles really begin on 27. Qd3 c4?! (Nf8 28. Qf3 Be5 looks passive but solid) 28. Qxc4 Nxf4 29. Qxf4 Re5 30. Qf3 Qh3?, leaving the Black queen seriously offside. Russian analyst GM Sergey Shipov said Black had an intriguing alternative in the involved variation 30...Rc8! 31. Qd3 Kf8 32. Qh7 Ke7 33. f4!? (the simpler 33. Be4 has its merits, too) Rxh5 34. Re3+ Kd8 35. b6 axb6 36. Ba4, and now 36...Rh1+!! 37. Kxh1 Qh3+ 38. Kg1 Bd4 39. Qg8+ Kc7 40. Qxf7+ Kb8 41. Kf2 Rc3 and White must take the perpetual with 42. Qe8+ Kc7 43. Qe7+ Kc8 44. Qe8+.
Black aims for the endgame with 34. Ke2 Re5 35. Rc7 Rc8 (see diagram; 35...Qh5 36. Qxh5 Rxh5 37. Be4 Re5 38. Kd3 Ree8 [Rxb5 39. Rc8+] 39. Rb1, and there's no answer for the passed b-pawn), but overlooks 36. Bf5!, a neat interference idea that wins the exchange.
After 36...Rxf5 (Qxf5 37. Qxf5 Rxc7 38. b6 Rc3 39. Qd7 also wins) 37. Rxc8+ Kh7 38. Rh1!, Black resigns in the face of 38...Rxf3 39. Rxh3 Rf5 40. b6 Rxd5 41. b7 and wins.
The front-runner's decisive play appears to have inspired the entire field, leading to a low number of draws and a high propensity for adventure from all the players. …