Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria)

RAKESH RAO

ARVIND AARON

World ranking: 3. Rating: 2788. Date of birth: March 15, 1975.

ENJOYING a career-high rating and world ranking, Veselin Topalov is playing some of the best chess of his career.

Winner of the Mtel Masters, an event that he helped organise in May, Topalov also tied for the title with Garry Kasparov at Linares.

In fact, Topalov defeated Kasparov in the final round that turned out to be the former World Champion's last competitive game. Though both players tied at eight points and had the same number of victories, Topalov was placed second because he had only one win with black as against three by Kasparov.

The Bulgarian felt that he was the `moral winner' of the event as he had beaten Kasparov in their match.

Many believe that the defeat at the hands of Topalov hastened Kasparov's decision to announce his retirement from the game.

Topalov was third behind Peter Leko and Anand at the Corus tournament and runner-up to Arkadij Naiditsch at the Sparkassen Chess Meeting at Dortmund.

His record against some of the other contenders in this year's World Championship may not be very impressive but none can discount his chances.