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LCB, Issue #078 --, Tactics vs Strategy, Who Wins?
December 01, 2021

Tactics vs Strategy, Who Wins?

Lapoc Chess Board, Issue #078 -- GOTM #48

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Of course we know that a good chess player believes in and implements both tactical and strategic aspects of their game. Your game needs both.

It's still fun to see a positional game plan and a tactical approach go head to head in a game. And with a spoiler alert we can say that the outcome of any such game depends on which player executes his game better. With all that said it's time to kick back, relax and enjoy a terrific game from Sofia in 2005.

It's contested by Veselin Topalov with White and Ruslan Ponomariov with Black. Topalov is best known for his amazing tactical play and this is the track he takes in this game. Ponomariov made his name as a very solid positional player and he employs that style here. What followed was a classic.

Tactics vs Strategy, Who Wins?

Topalov, Veselin - Ponomariov, Ruslan [E15]

GotM #48 - Sofia, 2005
[Connaughton, Ken]


Queen's Pawn Game

1...Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6

Queen's Indian Defense


Fianchetto Variation. A popular move for White in the Queen's Indian. His Bishop will contest Black's Bishop for the long diagonal.

(4.a3 Petrosian Variation 4...c5 5.d5 Ba6 6.dxe6 fxe6= holds interesting possibilities.; 4.Nc3 Bb4= Nimzo-Indian Defense)


(4...Bb7 was the old Main Line but it was judged to be passive and has been replaced by the text move. After 5.Bg2 Be7= Black would have a solid position. But some players wanted more dynamism from the Queen's Indian and that is why 4...Ba6 started to get some traction.)


Holding the c4-pawn and allowing completion of his Kingside development unimpeded.

(5.e3= to defend the pawn is not attractive as White wants to fianchetto his Bishop soon.)


This comes as 6.Nc3 is no longer available since 5.b3.


(6.Nbd2? is a mistake and now White will have to play precisely to hold his Rook. 6...Bc3 7.Rb1 Bb7 8.Bg2 Be4 9.Nh4 Bxg2 (9...Bxb1? 10.Bxa8=) 10.Nxg2 Bxd4-/+ And Black has taken the d-pawn, a key actor for White in this opening.)


Black likes the 5...Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Be7 maneuver because he feels his Bishop on e7 makes much more sense than White's Bishop on d2 which would be much better on b2.

7.Nc3 0-0 8.Rc1 c6 9.e4 d5

Game position after


White has a big center but his King is still stuck in the middle so Black wants to open central files if he can.

10.e5 Ne4 11.Bd3

It seems counterintuitive from White. After g3 it seems like his Bishop belongs on g2 but Topalov decides the piece can do more on d3.

11...Nxc3 12.Rxc3

Sensing that it may be possible to slide the Rook across the 3rd rank in front of the King later, circumstances allowing.


Black is determined to open the center.

13.dxc5 bxc5 14.h4!

Topalov reveals that he may not castle at all. The master tactician is ready for a sharp battle with his positionally inclined rival.

14...h6 15.Bb1

The beautiful thing about this subtle manuever is that h6 is hanging if ...g6 is successfully provoked.


Trying to close that dangerous diagonal.


This frees Black's center somewhat but White needs to keep the b1-h7 diagonal open.

16...Bxf6 17.Qc2! d4

(17...Bxc3 18.Bxc3+- Acceptance of the exchange sac only helps White.)


The Knight must be eliminated immediately.

18...hxg5 19.hxg5!!

Game position after 19.hxg5!!

Having already sacrificed a Knight, White offers his Rook. With his King sitting in the center and his Kingside pawns rushing at the enemy we have to say Topalov is playing with some bravado.

19...dxc3 20.Bf4

Preserving the Bishop is a good choice and f4 is a good square. The Bishop is now raking through Black's Queenside which is where the Black King will soon be forced to flee.


No time to save the Bishop. The King does not even wait for his attackers. He's on his bike.

(20...Bxg5?? 21.Rh8+ Kf7 22.Qg6+ Ke7 23.Qxg7+ Rf7 24.Qxg5+ Rf6 25.Rh7+ Kf8 26.Qg7+ Ke8 27.Rh8+ Rf8 28.Bg6#; 20...Bd4 21.Qg6 c2 22.Bxc2 Qa5+ 23.Kd1+- with Rh8+ and Qh7# soon to come.)


And a devastating attack is ready to launched.

21...Ke7 22.gxf6+ Rxf6 23.Qxg7+ Rf7 24.Bg5+ Kd6 25.Qxf7 Qxg5 26.Rh7

Game position after 26.Rh7

Ponomariov is one of the best players in the world and look at his pieces. The Knight and Rook haven't even moved and the Bishop looks even more miserable.

26...Qe5+ 27.Kf1 Kc6 28.Qe8+ Kb6 29.Qd8+

Game position after 29.Qd8+


The Black Queen is covering the crucial c7 square preventing #. But Topalov's eye was never going to miss the nature of the overworked Black Queen. She is protecting a second mating square which allows White to win with one final sacrifice.


Game position after 30.Be4+!

The King has no flight squares. The Queen must take or block the check. Nothing to do but resign.


Topalov - Ponomariov, Sofia (2005)

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