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Was he a world champion?
Yep, he won it in 2005, when FIDE arranged a round robin tournament for the title - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FIDE_World_Chess_Championship_2005
He lost it to Kramnik the following year. It's all there on his wiki page :/
He won the FIDE WC title, but he wasn't the best player, this was during the split.
It was Kasparov's fault - he had managed what Fischer imagined, taking the title with him outside FIDE control. But when he lost it, he realized finally that he had no way of ever getting a rematch from Kramnik, so he retired.
From the time Kasparov departed FIDE, they had been holding various forms of "FIDE World Championships" in competition with him, making chess almost like boxing, starring Campomanes as Don King.
Even after he lost to Kramnik, Topalov was for a time before his match with Anand the world's #1 and only active 2800+ player. Losing that match seemed to take a bit of the fire out of him, though, and then he got married. He hasn't been the same since.
Maybe he actually was the best player in the world in 2005, even if that doesn't have to have that much to do with being World Champion. Anand is certainly the one and only World Champion at the moment but I don't think he is the best player in the world.
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