As a long-time Kramnik fanboy, I swore to be a long and bitter enemy of Veselin Topalov, and I’ll be honest, I tried to be — but every time I seen the Bulgarian GM win a game, it was absolutely beautiful…
Even against my hero, Kramnik.
Topalov comes into the openings well-prepared and places intense pressure on his opponents with a dynamic “power chess” style of play.
Regardless of which color he has, he sacrifices material as willingly as a cold, calculating army general sacrifices his soldiers for a greater good…
In 99% of cases it is in a beautifully artistic way as well…
So what did I do?
Well, as a true chess lover, what else could I do?
I became a fan of Topalov.
Let’s begin with a look at his playing style and I’m sure by the end of this post, you’ll be a fan of Topalov too…
Veselin Topalov Playing Style
Topalov plays the opening in a sharp and dynamic way, and even when he chooses a so-called “positional” line (such as 4.g3 vs the Queen’s Indian), he applies his own dynamic flavor to it and soon blows the game open with tactical complications
Let’s see a couple examples of typical Topalov games.
Veselin Topalov vs Vishy Anand – Bilbao 2008
This game is a typical Topalov demolition.
Anand gets caught in some nice preparation involving a pawn sac, and is soon under pressure.
After 19.Rad1 we see that all Anand needs to do is get his sidelined knight into the center via …Na6-c7-e6 and activate his rooks and he’ll be okay — but that all takes time.
And time is the element in chess that dynamic players specialize in exploiting.
With his centralized rooks and active queen Topalov soon conjures up an kingside attack which the Indian, defensive maestro as he is, cannot escape.
To smash somebody of the level of Vishy Anand in 25 moves is nothing short of incredible, so can you imagine yourself getting caught in the grips of a Topalov attack?
Here’s the game that finally converted me as a Topalov fan.
Veselin Topalov vs Vladimir Kramnik – Corus 2008
This game has become immortal since it was played, both for theoretical reasons and for the objective beauty of the game.
The fact that Topalov wasn’t on speaking terms with Kramnik at the time, and that the hostility was so deep that they’d even refuse to shake hands before and after games makes the game one of the greats.
In what was a premier tournament of the time, the two met, refused to shake hands, whipped out their opening moves confidently until Topalov slammed down the knight sacrifice 12.Nxf7!!
Apparently, this was an idea of Topalov’s second, Bulgarian GM Ivan Cheparinov and had been kept secret for over a year leading up to this game.
Kramnik kept his head and indeed defended like a tiger, but in the end couldn’t hold it together and lost to Topalov’s brilliant attack.
I’m sure even if your favorite player lost in such a manner, you’d be impressed, right?
As a fan of the positional exchange sacrifice motif, I was soon firmly cemented as a Topalov fan…
Keeping reading to see why.
Veselin Topalov Exchange Sacrifices
Where World Champion Tigran Petrosian excelled in his use of the defensive exchange sacrifice, Topalov employed this motif for purely offensive purposes – and very often too!
Let’s see some super instructive examples.
Veselin Topalov vs Peter Svidler – Nanjing 2008
A typical Topalov exchange sac where he confidently throws a rook in harms way, but when faced with the possibility of capturing it – his opponent doesn’t see a decent option.
Veselin Topalov vs Levon Aronian – Corus 2006
This is one of my favorites.
Topalov sacrifices two exchanges and in exchange, rampages down the board with a couple of connected passed pawns, supported by a missile-like bishop pair supporting from the side.
Check it out.
Veselin Topalov Best Games
Here I’ll showcase a collection of the best Topalov Games ever.
Well, sort of – I chose them as examples of lesser known, but beautiful attacks which are super-instructive for learning players.
The first one is an attacking masterpiece featuring the opposite castling motif where time is everything – the first one to score is generally the winner – so get in first!
Veselin Topalov vs Joel Lautier – Monte Carlo 2000
Topalov begins the game as if he’s planning to play a Catalan opening (queen’s pawn with g3), but quickly switches and castles queenside.
He quickly establishes central domination and launches a kingside pawn storm (note: without central domination, a kingside pawn storm will never work!) and sacrifices a knight to blast open the enemy king position.
Black’s extra piece – his knight- is stranded over on a6 (remind you of the Anand game?) and this gives “Toppy” plenty of time to crash through with a scintillating attack.
Alexander Grischuk vs Veselin Topalov – World Rapid 2012
Alexander Grischuk was 2763 – higher rated than Topalov – but he lost horribly to a mating attack in just 20 moves.
This happens against Topalov.
This one features another crushing knight sac too – are you beginning to see a pattern here? 🙂
Check it out.
Conclusion and Downloads:
Download the Topalov Best Games PDF
If you want to really become a strong attacking player, there are few players are useful to study as Veselin Topalov.
So above you will find a downloadable PDF containing all games from this article, as well as several others not shown which have been chosen both for beauty and for instructional value.
Download this PDF, print it out and study the games with a physical chess board.
The return on your time invested will be huge!