Veselin Topalov (Bulgarian: Веселин Топалов) (born15 March 1975) is a Bulgarian chess grandmaster and former FIDE world chess champion.
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 defeated Gata Kamsky between 16-28 February 2009 in Sofia, Bulgaria to earn the right to be the challenger for the World Chess Championship 2010.
Topalov won the 2005 Chess Oscar. He was ranked #1 in the world from April 2006 to January 2007, and had the second highest Elo rating of all time (2813). He regained the world #1 ranking again in October 2008.
Topalov was born in Rousse, Bulgaria. His father taught him to play chess at the age of eight. In 1989 he won the World Under-14 Championship, and in 1990 won the silver medal at the World Under-16 Championship. He became a grandmaster in 1992.
Topalov has been the leader of the Bulgarian national team since 1994. At the 1994 Chess Olympiad in Moscow he led the Bulgarians to a fourth-place finish.
Over the next ten years he won a number of tournaments, and ascended the world chess rankings. He played in Linares 1994 (6.5/13), Linares 1995 (8/13), Amsterdam 1995. In 1996, he won Amsterdam (1st equal with Kasparov), Vienna (ahead of 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 semi-finals 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. 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 September-October 2005. Scoring 6.5/7 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 1.5 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. A reunification match between Kramnik and Topalov was to be held in September-October 2006. Kramnik defeated Topalov to become the first undisputed champion in thirteen years.
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 2.5 points from 6 games and a 2645 performance.
In May 2006, Topalov defended his M-Tel Masters title, coming first with 6.5/10). Topalov started the tournament somewhat hesitantly to later record four consecutive wins and clinch the title.
In January 2007, Topalov finished in joint first place at the Category 19 Corus Chess Tournament along with Levon Aronian and Teimour Radjabov.
Topalov won the 14th Ciudad Dos Hermanas rapid, 17–21 April 2008.
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.
2008-2009 World Championship cycle
By losing the 2006 reunification match, Topalov lost his chance to compete in the 2007 world championship tournament.
In June 2007 when Topalov (as well as Kramnik) was 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 the match 4.5-2.5 and will play with the current world champion Viswanathan Anand for the World Chess Champion title in April 2010.