Veselin Topalov, Sofia Airport, Bulgaria, 24.10.2005
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.
He has been ranked number one a total of 27 months in his career, fourth all-time since the inception of the FIDE ranking lists in 1971 behind only Garry Kasparov, Anatoly Karpov, and Bobby Fischer. He was ranked No. 1 in the world from April 2006 to January 2007, during which his Elo rating was 2813, which had been surpassed only by Garry Kasparov, and subsequently by Magnus Carlsen and Anand. 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. He currently has the sixth highest rating in the world.
Topalov was born in Rousse, 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 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)
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 the 1994 Chess Olympiadin Moscow he led the Bulgarians to a fourth-place finish.
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
On the strength of 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. Topalov has also been similarly denounced by numerous top players, including former World Champions Anatoly Karpov, Boris Spassky, and Viswanathan Anand, grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi, former US Champions Lev Alburt and Yasser Seirawan, and others.
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 from 6 games and a 2645 performance. 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 (who he beat 2–0). Topalov started the tournament somewhat hesitantly to later record four consecutive wins and decisively claim the title.
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.
2008–2010 World Championship cycle
Topalov lost his chance to compete in the 2007 world championship tournament when he 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 the 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.
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
- Terrassa 1992
- Budapest zt-B 1993
- Polanica Zdroj 1995
- Elenite 1995
- Madrid 1996
- Dos Hermanas 1996 (joint first with Kramnik)
- Amsterdam 1996
- Vienna 1996 (joint first with Gelfand and Karpov)
- Novgorod 1996
- Leon 1996
- Antwerp 1997
- Madrid 1997
- Monaco 2001
- Dortmund 2001 (joint first with Kramnik)
- NAO Chess Masters Cannes 2002 (joint first with Gelfand)
- Benidorm 2003
- Linares 2005 (joint first with Kasparov)
- M-Tel Masters 2005 (a point ahead of Anand)
- Corus 2006 (joint first with Anand)
- M-Tel Masters 2006 (half a point ahead of Gata Kamsky)
- Corus 2007 (joint first with Aronian and Radjabov)
- M-Tel Masters 2007
- Champions League Vitoria Gasteiz 2007 (a point and a half ahead of Ponomariov)
- Dos Hermanas 2008 (Rapid)
- Villarrobledo 2008 (Rapid)
- Bilbao 2008 (a point and a half ahead of Aronian, Ivanchuk, and Carlsen)
- Pearl Spring 2008 (a point and a half ahead of Aronian)
- Linares 2010 (a half point ahead of Grischuk)
World championship matches and qualifiers
- FIDE World Chess Championship 1998 Second Round, Groningen, Topalov–Piket (½–1½)
- FIDE WCC Knockout 1999 Fourth Round, Las Vegas, Topalov–Kramnik (1–3)
- FIDE WCC Knockout 2000 Quarterfinals, New Delhi and Tehran, Topalov–Adams (½–1½)
- FIDE WCC Knockout 2002 Fourth Round, Moscow, Topalov–Shirov (3–4)
- Classical WCC Candidates Match 2002, Dortmund, Topalov–Leko (1½–2½)
- FIDE WCC Knockout 2004 Semifinals, Tripoli, Topalov–Kasimdzhanov (2–4)
- FIDE World Chess Championship 2005, San Luis, (1½ points ahead of Anand and Svidler)
- World Chess Championship 2006, Elista, Topalov–Kramnik (6–6, 1½–2½ rapid playoff)
- WCC Candidates Match 2009, Sofia, Topalov–Kamsky (4½–2½)
- World Chess Championship 2010, Sofia, Topalov–Anand (5½–6½)
- WCC Candidates Match 2011 Quarterfinals, Kazan, Topalov–Kamsky (1½–2½)
|FIDE World Chess Champion
World Chess Champion
|World No. 1
April 1, 2006 – March 31, 2007
October 1, 2008 – December 31, 2009