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(July 2008) Veselin Topalov was born 15 Mar 1975 in Russe, Bulgaria. One of the world's top chess players since the mid-1990s, he won the FIDE World Championship in 2005, but lost the unification match for the undisputed World Championship in 2006.
Early Accomplishments: Topalov learned how to play at age 6 from his father. He first appeared on the international rating list at age 12 with a 2300 rating. He won the world under-14 championship in 1989 and finished 3rd at the under-16 championship a year later. Then he stopped playing in junior events because 'the borders opened up'. In 1991 he began training with IM Silvio Danailov and has been with him ever since. His FIDE rating jumped 175 points in 1992, which catapulted him into the world's top-100 at no.17 in January 1993.
First World Championship Cycles: Topalov's career has been characterized by bursts of success followed by relative failure. He failed to distinguish himself both at the 1993 FIDE Interzonal Tournament at Biel, where he finished 63rd in the field of 73 players, and at the 1993 PCA Qualifying Tournament at Groningen, where he finished 21st out of 54 players, a full point outside the qualifiers' circle. He thus missed the parallel championship cycles where other players of his generation first made their marks.
First Supertournaments: In 1994 Topalov made his first appearence at Linares, finishing with a 50% score. A year later he tied for 3rd-4th in the field of 14 players. In 1994 he beat Kasparov for the first time at the Moscow Olympiad, then repeated the feat at Amsterdam 1996, where he tied with the reigning World Champion for 1st/2nd in the category 18 event.
FIDE Knockout Championships: The period from 1995 to 2005 was a tough stretch for any player with player with World Champion ambitions. Topalov competed in all five FIDE Knockout World Championships. He was eliminated in round two (of seven) by Piket at Groningen 1997, in round four by Kramnik at Las Vegas 1999, in round five by Adams at New Delhi 2000, and in round four by Shirov at Moscow 2001. In his last event, Tripoli 2004, he was knocked out in the semi-final round six by Kasimdzhanov, the eventual winner.
The Other World Championship: After Kramnik beat Kasparov in 2000, to claim the non-FIDE World Championship title, the search for Kramnik's challenger took on a haphazard nature when no long term sponsor emerged. In the euphoria that followed the Prague unification agreement, the Dortmund 2002 event became a candidates tournament. Topalov tied for 1st/2nd in his preliminary group, beat Bareev in a semifinal match, then lost to Leko in the final match. Leko went on to lose to Kramnik in the 2004 title match.
FIDE Breaks the Unification Impasse: Kasparov's retirement from professional chess in 2005 allowed FIDE to take control of its side of the unification process. The World Federation organized an eight player double round robin in 2005 at San Luis, Argentina, inviting the world's strongest players to take part. Topalov mowed down the opposition in the first half, winning six of the seven games, then drew all his games in the second half to become the FIDE World Champion.
World Championship Unification, Elista 2006: A year later, he faced Kramnik in the long awaited unification match. The match started disastrously for Topalov, who lost the first two games. He was saved by his manager Danailov, who began to accuse Kramnik of cheating. This explaoded into the famous 'Toiletgate' controversy that made mainstream press headlines around the world. The accusations resulted in Kramnik's forfeiting the fifth game. Topalov managed to level the score after 12 games, but lost the match in the four tiebreak games.
Intervention by the Bulgarian Federation: An importance consequence of losing the match to Kramnik was that Topalov no longer had a place in the World Championship qualifying cycle. His initial attempt to secure a rematch was rebuffed by FIDE on procedural details, but the World Federation partially relented and granted him a 'challengers match'. The winner would get a title match against the reigning World Champion, to be determined by a special match between Anand and Kramnik.
Also Worth Noting: The challengers match is scheduled to start November 2008 at Lviv (Lvov), Ukraine. Topalov's opponent is Gata Kamsky, who earned the right by winning the 2007 World Cup at Khanty-Mansiysk.
Awards: Topalov won the 2005 Chess Oscar, largely for his success in winning the World Championship at San Luis in 2005.
Playing Style: Over the chess board, Topalov is a crowd pleaser. He has an aggressive, uncompromising style and seeks to win by taking risks most other players would avoid. Although favored by fans going into the Elista 2006 match, his popularity took a nosedive during the Toiletgate controversy and never fully recovered. Chess fans prefer to see chess matches decided over the board.