Reflections on Veselin Topalov
by Dr Lyndon Bouah
I recently completed the book ‘Veselin Topalov Selected Games of the Ex-World Chess Champion‘ by Sarhan Guliev (Russian Chess House, 2017).
The blurb at the back states “Veselin Topalov is one the best-known names in global chess. One of the world’s top Grandmasters, ex- Fide World champion has been a stable feature of elite chess for many years. His dynamic, uncompromising style has gained him the admiration of countless fans among both amateurs and professional Grandmasters, including the author of the book.
Azeri GM Sarhan Guliev has spent several years analysing Veselin’s games, which promoted the idea of putting together this collection of his favourites. GM Topalov who hass approved this book has written a kindly foreword. It will without a doubt be useful to a wide range of chess lovers.” The book has ninety top level games and has 466 pages altogether. This is a mammoth book and was a massive undertaking by the author. I thoroughly enjoyed his uncompromising style of play. Many games are well known, but the analysis is top notch and is peppered with nuances that may be lost to the ordinary player if not explained by the author.
Insights from Silvio Danailov
Silvio Danailov (for many his years Topalov’s coach, manager and second) offered the following advice on how to improve;
1. Work stubbornly on your chess, 5-6 hours per day, over 15 years.
2. Look after your fitness; spend 1.5 hours a day in the gym.
3. Spend a couple of years on exercises with Spain’s best psychologist.
4. Spend 6 months of solid preparation with Ruslan Ponomariov and his team in advance of a world championship match with Kasparov.
5. Play around 30 training games of classical chess on a powerful computer with the strongest programmes and start to win some of them.
Other insights from GM Sarhan Guliev
The author Guliev also highlights the following in his estimation;
1. The professionalisation of the sports preparation process.
2. A new level in the use of program’s and moreover, a new method of preparation with a focus on reaching dynamic positions which were hard to evaluate but which were capable of being analysed at home.
3. A psychological ‘widening of the conflict.’
4. A unique ability for a relatively old sportsman to maintain tension over the board, resulting from his excellent physical shape and, probably, some secret preparation methods.
I have seen this in the games that I have analysed over this holiday period.
Guliev analytical style
The book took me about three months to finish as I thoroughly enjoyed playing through it. Danailov has made some superb comments for consideration. Of course, not everyone that is not professional has 5-6 hours. However, each of us should set aside some training time each day if we want to succeed.
The benefits of exercise are well documented. Many of our top players have joined the gym in recent years, and with the critical decisions being made in the middle and endgame it is essential to consider the aspects of physical fitness.
Guliev has a tremendous analytical style which is very useful for players. Let’s look at his analysis of opposite coloured bishops from the game Topalov– Greenfeld, Burgas 1994. “The key strategic method when playing with opposite – coloured bishops in the middle game is to attempt to get hold of the initiative. An attack on the king is particularly dangerous. The stronger side starts to build his play along the squares that are the same colour as his bishop. When this happens successfully, the bishop works at its maximum, while the weaker side remains out of the games. This way, the side that has the initiative effectively plays with an extra piece. “ Now isn’t that powerful!
Throughout the 446 pages, these valuable nuggets of information are strewn throughout the book! I still believe in studying books. The best games of top players allow us a glimpse into the life of a top player. You can see how they handle specific openings and how they prepare against particular opponents and variations.
Dr Lyndon Bouah is an advocate and was captain of the South African Open team during the 2018 Batumi Olympiad. He is also one of Africa’s most prolific chess writers.