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Topalov defeats Kamsky to secure a world title challenge against the winner of Kramnik/Anand, dashing the American's— and America's—hopes

By GM Ian Rogers

On paper, Veselin Topalov was more than a hot favorite to defeat Gata Kamsky and secure a sec ond world title challenge he was an absolute certainty.

Topalov, 33, sat atop the world rank ings while Kamsky was ranked only

17th and his last "hit out" was a mod est 50% score at the Wijk aan Zee tournament. In eight games dating back to 1994 Kamsky, 34, had never beaten Topalov and had lost four times. The match was being played in Topalov's backyard, the Bulgarian capital Sofia, a venue which the American had fought strenuously to avoid.

The bookmakers had installed Topalov as a three to one favorite to become Viswanathan Anand's challenger and few grandmaster judges gave Kamsky, with only his legendary resilience to

compensate for his sub elite openings, a chance in the best of eight match held February 16 28 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Yet, despite all the odds, the chess world was treated to a classic candidates final, with the result uncertain until the final time scramble.

Going into the seventh game, Topalov led Kamsky by a point, 3% 2%, and was determined to play for a win with white without taking risks. However after being out prepared in the opening not for the first time in the match Topalov threw caution to the winds, sacrificing pawns and creating threats. The New Yorker found three excellent defensive moves late in the game but eventually the strain proved too great. Kamsky missed one clear win and then a saving queen sacrifice to lose a rook, the game and the match.

Gata Kamsky

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