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Veselin Topalov

Veselin Topalov, Warsaw 2013
Full name Veselin Aleksandrov Topalov
(Веселин Александров Топалов)
Country Bulgaria
Born 15 March 1975
Ruse, Bulgaria
Title Grandmaster
World Champion 2005-06 (FIDE)
Peak rating 2816 (July 2015)

Veselin Aleksandrov Topalov (pronounced ; Bulgarian: Веселин Александров Топалов; born 15 March 1975) is a Bulgarian chess grandmaster.

Topalov became the FIDE World Chess Champion by winning the FIDE World Chess Championship 2005. He lost his title in the World Chess Championship 2006 match against Vladimir Kramnik. He won the 2005 Chess Oscar.

According to FIDE, which began ranking chess players in 1971, he has been number one a total of 27 months, which when compared to all others who have been so ranked, places Topalov in fifth place after Kasparov, Karpov, Fischer and Carlsen. He was ranked number one in the world from April 2006 to January 2007, during which his peak Elo rating was 2813, a peak which had been surpassed only by Garry Kasparov, and subsequently by Magnus Carlsen, Viswanathan Anand, Levon Aronian, Fabiano Caruana, and Hikaru Nakamura. As of September, 2015 his all-time peak rating was 2816 in July 2015. This peak rating places him 6th all time on the List of chess players by peak FIDE rating.

He regained the world No. 1 ranking again in October 2008, and officially remained No. 1 until January 2010, when he fell to No. 2 behind Carlsen. In July 2015 he was ranked #2/3, tied with Viswanathan Anand.

In the World Chess Championship 2010, he was the challenger facing world champion Viswanathan Anand, losing the match 6½-5½.

Early life

Topalov was born in Ruse, Bulgaria. His father taught him to play chess at the age of eight. Topalov had a difficult childhood, but he quickly established himself as a chess prodigy. At age 12, Topalov began working with Silvio Danailov, in a training/mentoring relationship that continues today. Danailov himself was a master who nurtured Topalov's ambitions as a player. Once he saw Topalov, however, he sacrificed his own career. Canadian Grandmaster Kevin Spraggett wrote: "Danailov took Topalov to his apartment and told him 'From now on, you live here and this will become your new home. I am not just your trainer, but I am also your mother and your father. I am your cook. I am the one who will wash your clothes. I am the one who will pay your bills and expenses to tournaments. All I want from you is to think only about chess!'"

Early career (1989-2005)

In 1989 he won the World Under-14 Championship in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, and in 1990 won the silver medal at the World Under-16 Championship in Singapore. He became a Grandmaster in 1992. Topalov has been the leader of the Bulgarian national team since 1994. At his first chess olympiad, the 1994 Chess Olympiad in Moscow he led the Bulgarians to a fourth-place finish, winning against Garry Kasparov on board one.

Over the next ten years Topalov won a number of tournaments, and ascended the world chess rankings. He played in Linares 1994 (6½/13), Linares 1995 (8/13), Amsterdam 1995. In 1996, he won Amsterdam (1st equal with Kasparov), Vienna (1st equal with Gelfand and Karpov), Novgorod and Dos Hermanas (1st-2nd with Kramnik, ahead of Anand, Kasparov, Illescas, Kamsky, Gelfand, Ivanchuk, Shirov and J. Polgar). As early as 1996, he was being invited to "supergrandmaster" events for the world's élite such as Las Palmas (5/10), the first category 21 tournament, played in December 1996, with Kasparov, Anand, Kramnik and Karpov participating.

Topalov's loss to reigning Classical World Champion Garry Kasparov at the 1999 Corus chess tournament is generally hailed as one of the greatest games ever played. Kasparov later said, "[During the game] He looked up. Perhaps there was a sign from above that Topalov would play a great game today. It takes two, you know, to do that."

In the knockout tournaments for the FIDE World Chess Championship, he reached the last 16 in 1999, the quarter-finals in 2000, the final 16 in 2001, and the semifinals in the 2004 tournament. In 2002, he lost the final of the Dortmund Candidates Tournament (for the right to challenge for the rival Classical World Chess Championship) to Péter Lékó.

Topalov scored his first "super-tournament" success at Linares 2005, tying for first place with Garry Kasparov (though losing on tiebreak rules), and defeating Kasparov in the last round, in what was to be Kasparov's last tournament game before his retirement. He followed this up with a one-point victory (+4 =5 −1) at the M-Tel Masters 2005 tournament, ahead of Viswanathan Anand, Vladimir Kramnik, Ruslan Ponomariov, Michael Adams, and Judit Polgár. The average rating of the participants was 2744, making this super-GM, double round-robin tournament the strongest in 2005.

FIDE World Chess Champion 2005

Based on his rating, Topalov was invited to the eight-player, double round-robin FIDE World Chess Championship in San Luis, Argentina, in September-October 2005. Scoring 6½/7 in the first cycle, Topalov had virtually clinched the tournament at the halfway mark, before drawing every game in the second cycle to win by 1½ points to become FIDE World Chess Champion. The average rating of the field in the championship was 2739, and Topalov's performance rating was 2890.

The unification of the FIDE World Title (held by Topalov) and the Classical Chess World Title (held by Vladimir Kramnik) was fervently encouraged by the chess community. On 16 April 2006, FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov announced that a reunification match between Kramnik and Topalov would be held in September-October 2006. Kramnik defeated Topalov to become the first undisputed champion in thirteen years.

Kramnik-Topalov match controversy

On 28 September 2006, Topalov's manager Silvio Danailov published a press release, casting suspicion on Kramnik's behaviour during the games. The Bulgarian team made a public statement that Kramnik visited his private bathroom (the only place without any audio or video surveillance) unreasonably often, about fifty times per game (a number that FIDE officials later claimed to be exaggerated) and made the most significant decisions in the game in the bathroom.

They also demanded that the organizers of the tournament allow journalists access to the surveillance video from Kramnik's room for games 1 through 4. The organizers made parts of the video available, explaining that other parts of it were missing due to technical issues. Danailov demanded to stop the use of private restrooms and bathrooms, and threatened to reconsider Topalov's participation in the match. The Appeals Committee that governed the match agreed, and ruled that the players' private restrooms should be closed and replaced with a shared one.

Kramnik refused to play game 5 and was forfeited. On 1 October, the restroom issue was resolved in Kramnik's favour and the Appeals Committee resigned and were replaced. The FIDE president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov decided that the current score of 3-2 should be preserved. He also indicated that this was not a compromise decision but his own. The match resumed on 2 October 2006.

On 1 October, the Association of Chess Professionals released a statement denouncing Danailov for publicly accusing his opponent without evidence, and calling for him to be investigated by the FIDE Ethics Committee.

On 3 October, Topalov said in a press conference, "I believe that his (Kramnik's) play is fair, and my decision to continue the match proves it". However the next day the crisis escalated, with Topalov's manager strongly implying that Kramnik was receiving computer assistance.

On 14 December 2006, Topalov directly accused Kramnik of using computer assistance in their World Championship match. On 14 February 2007, Topalov's manager released pictures, purporting to show cables in the ceiling of a toilet used by Kramnik during the World Championship match in Elista. They were supposedly reported to the authorities, who Danailov claims suppressed the information. The Topalov team claims they were pressured by officials to keep their allegations quiet. On 29 July 2007, following a complaint by Kramnik's manager Carsten Hensel, the FIDE Ethics Commission sanctioned Topalov with "a severe reprimand" because of the accusations made in the interview of 14 December. According to the Ethics Commission, "these statements were clearly defamatory and damaged the honour of Mr. Vladimir Kramnik, harming his personal and professional reputation".

Career after the 2006 match

Soon after losing the world title, Topalov participated in the Essent Chess Tournament. He finished third of four players with only 2½ points out of six games and a 2645 performance rating. He lost both games against Judit Polgár and one against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

In May 2006, Topalov defended his M-Tel Masters title, coming first with 6½/10, a half point ahead of Gata Kamsky (whom he beat 2-0). Topalov started the tournament somewhat hesitantly to later record four consecutive wins and decisively claim the title.

In January 2007, Topalov finished in joint first place (ahead of Kramnik, who finished fourth) at the Category 19 Corus Chess Tournament along with Levon Aronian and Teimour Radjabov.

In May 2007, Topalov won the M-Tel Masters tournament for a third consecutive time with 5½/10. Topalov clinched the title by just a half point, defeating the then-current leader Sasikiran in the final round.

Topalov won the 14th Ciudad Dos Hermanas rapid, 17-21 April 2008, defeating GM Francisco Vallejo Pons (Spain) 2½-1½ in the final match by winning the first game and drawing the rest. The first round matches of the four-player knockout tournament were won by Topalov over GM Judit Polgár (Hungary) 2½-1½ and Vallejo over GM Alexei Shirov (Spain) 3-1.

In September 2008, Topalov won the Bilbao 2008 tournament. He advanced to first in the world in the unofficial live ratings and in the official October 2008 ratings list.

2008-10 World Championship cycle

Topalov lost his chance to compete in the 2007 world championship tournament when he lost the 2006 reunification match. Danailov expressed a desire for a rematch between Topalov and Kramnik, proposing a match in March 2007, though no such match took place.

The issue was settled in June 2007 when Topalov and Kramnik were granted special privileges in the 2008-09 championship cycle. Topalov was given direct entry to a "Challenger Match" against the winner of the Chess World Cup 2007.

The 2007 Chess World Cup was won by Gata Kamsky. The Challenger Match between Topalov and Kamsky took place in February 2009 in Hall 6 of NDK Sofia. Topalov won that match 4½-2½ and qualified to play against then-current world champion Viswanathan Anand for the World Chess Champion title. The World Chess Championship 2010 match was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, which Topalov lost by 6½-5½ margin.


Topalov won the 2010 Linares chess tournament held from February 13 to 24 in Andalusia, Spain, defeating 2009 Chess World Cup champion Boris Gelfand in his final game.

As the runner-up in the World Chess Championship 2010, Topalov automatically qualified for the Candidates Tournament for the World Chess Championship 2012, where he was the top seed. However, he lost to newly crowned U.S. champion Gata Kamsky in the quarterfinals.




Notable tournament victories

World championship matches and qualifiers

Sample games

Topalov vs. Ponomariov, 2005
a b c d e f g h
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
After 17 moves, Topalov (White) initiates a series of strong tactical blows with the sacrifice of a knight and a rook.

On the way to winning M-Tel Masters in 2005, Topalov defeated former FIDE World Champion Ruslan Ponomariov with the white pieces in a Queen's Indian defense. (Analysis by Rybka 1.2n.)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. g3 Ba6 5. b3 Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Be7 7. Nc3 0-0 8. Rc1 c6 9. e4 d5 10. e5 Ne4 11. Bd3 Nxc3 12. Rxc3 c5 13. dxc5 bxc5 14. h4 h6 15. Bb1 f5?

Needlessly weakening the position. Better is 15...Nd7 16.Bxh6!? f5 (16...gxh6? 17.Qc2 f5 18.exf6 Rxf6 19.Qh7+ Kf8 20.Ng5! mates in 8 moves) 17.Bf4 Qa5, which may have given Black good chances for equality.

16. exf6 Bxf6 17. Qc2! d4

17...Bxc3? leads to defeat after 18.Qh7+ Kf7 19.Bxc3, with an overwhelming attack, for example: 19...d4 20.Qg6+ Ke7 21.Nxd4! But Topalov found a way to break Black's defenses in Ponomariov's chosen line, too. (See diagram.)

18. Ng5!! hxg5 19. hxg5 dxc3 20. Bf4 Kf7 21. Qg6+ Ke7 22. gxf6+ Rxf6 23. Qxg7+ Rf7 24. Bg5+ Kd6 25. Qxf7 Qxg5 26. Rh7 Qe5+ 27. Kf1 Kc6 28. Qe8+ Kb6 29. Qd8+ Kc6 30. Be4+! 1-0

Black resigned, because if Black took the white bishop with 30...Qxe4, then White mates with 31.Qc7+.
Topalov vs. Kramnik, 2008
a b c d e f g h
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Position after Topalov's 12.Nxf7. Reputedly Topalov had analysed this line at home all the way to move 40.

Topalov unleashes a heavily prepared knight sacrifice against Kramnik on move 12 in a highly theoretical line, and the Russian was always on the ropes afterwards.

1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 dxc4 7. e4 g5 8. Bg3 b5 9. Be2 Bb7 10. 0-0 Nbd7 11. Ne5 Bg7 12. Nxf7 (see diagram) Kxf7 13. e5 Nd5 14. Ne4 Ke7 15. Nd6 Qb6 16. Bg4 Raf8 17. Qc2 Qxd4 18. Qg6 Qxg4 19. Qxg7+ Kd8 20. Nxb7+ Kc8 21. a4 b4 22. Rac1 c3 23. bxc3 b3 24. c4 Rfg8 25. Nd6+ Kc7 26. Qf7 Rf8 27. cxd5 Rxf7 28. Rxc6+ Kb8 29. Nxf7 Re8 30. Nd6 Rh8 31. Rc4 Qe2 32. dxe6 Nb6 33. Rb4 Ka8 34. e7 Nd5 35. Rxb3 Nxe7 36. Rfb1 Nd5 37. h3 h5 38. Nf7 Rc8 39. e6 a6 40. Nxg5 h4 41. Bd6 Rg8 42. R3b2 Qd3 43. e7 Nf6 44. Be5 Nd7 45. Ne6 1-0