Amber 2011: Aronian claims third Amber victory in farewell edition

3/24/2011 – Levon Aronian is the winner of the twentieth and final Amber Tournament. Following earlier wins in 2008 and 2009 this is the third time the Armenian GM claimed first prize. Aronian also won the blindfold competition. The rapid competition was won by Magnus Carlsen, who came second in the overall standings, with World Champion Vishy Anand in third place. Final report with pictures by John Nunn.

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The 20th Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament took place at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort in Monaco, from March 11 to 24, 2011. Every day four sessions were played, two blindfold and two rapid. The rate of play is 25 minutes per game per player. With every move made in the blindfold games 20 seconds was added to the clock, with every move made in the rapid games 10 seconds is added.


Stormy weather in in Monaco – fortunately this is not part of a tsunami

Report after round eleven (final)

Blindfold Chess   Rapid Chess
Ivanchuk-Topalov
½-½
  Topalov-Ivanchuk
1-0
Gashimov-Grischuk
½-½
  Grischuk-Gashimov
½-½
Giri-Anand
0-1
  Anand-Giri
1-0
Carlsen-Gelfand
0-1
  Gelfand-Carlsen
0-1
Nakamura-Kramnik
0-1
  Kramnik-Nakamura
0-1
Aronian-Karjakin
½-½
  Karjakin-Aronian
½-½

The blindfold game between Vasily Ivanchuk and Veselin Topalov was a long up-and-down affair. In the opening Ivanchuk was at his creative best and outplayed his opponent to reach a winning position. But in the next phase he just as easily squandered his advantage and even ended up in a worse position. Now he had to suffer and it was only after a 97 moves that the suffering was over and he had saved the draw. Topalov won the rapid game. Ivanchuk needed too much attention to defend his advanced pawn on c4, which gave the Bulgarian the opportunity to organize a kingside attack. When Ivanchuk allowed 39.Nxh5+ the game was soon over.

With 140 moves, the blindfold game between Vugar Gashimov and Alexander Grischuk was easily the longest of the entire tournament. It was a see-saw battle in which first Grischuk had the better chances and then Gashimov.

Gashimov,Vugar (2746) - Grischuk,Alexander (2747) [A36]
20th Amber Blindfold Monaco MNC (11), 24.03.2011
1.c4 g6 2.Nc3 c5 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 Nc6 5.e3 e6 6.Nge2 Nge7 7.d4 cxd4 8.exd4 d5 9.cxd5 Nxd5 10.0-0 0-0 11.Re1 Nde7 12.Ne4 h6 13.Be3 Nf5 14.Qd2 Qb6 15.Rad1 Rd8 16.Qc1 Bd7 17.Bh3 Nce7 18.Nc5 Bb5 19.Nc3 Rac8 20.b4 Bc6 21.a3 Kh7 22.Ne2 Bf3 23.Qb1 Nd5 24.Rd3 Qb5 25.a4 Qc6 26.b5 Qc7 27.Nf4 b6 28.Ncxe6 fxe6 29.Nxe6 Qf7 30.Nxd8 Rxd8 31.Bg5 hxg5 32.Rxf3 Nde7 33.g4 Rxd4 34.gxf5 g4 35.Rg3 gxh3 36.fxg6+ Nxg6 37.Qc2 Rh4 38.Ree3 Qf6 39.Rxh3 Qa1+ 40.Kg2 Kh6 41.Re6 Bf6 42.Qf5 Kg7 43.Rg3 Rh6 44.Re4 Qa2 45.h4 Kf7 46.Qd7+ Ne7

Now 47.Rf3 (threatening Rxe7 and mate) wins instantly. But Gashimov, who has had victory in his sight – except of course that it is a blindfold game – for seven moves, misses the opportunity: 47.Rge3? Qd5 48.Qxd5+ Nxd5 49.Rd3 Rh5 50.Kf3 Be7 51.Red4 Nf6 52.Rf4 Ke6 53.Re3+ Kf7 54.Rd3 Kg6 55.Rd1 Rc5 56.Rg1+ Kf7 57.Rg5 Rc3+ 58.Kg2 Rc8 59.h5 Rh8 60.Rf3 Rh7 61.Rh3 Nd7 62.Rg4 Nf6 63.Rc4 Bc5 64.a5 Nxh5 65.Kf1 Kg6 66.Rg4+ Kf5 67.Rgh4 Kg6 68.a6 Be7 69.Rg4+ Kf5 70.Rg8 Bd6 71.Rh4 Be7 72.Rh2 Bd6 73.Rh3 Be5 74.Ke1 Bd6 75.Kd1 Be5 76.Rf3+ Bf4 77.Kc2 Re7 78.Rf8+ Kg4 79.Rc3 Be5 80.Rc4+ Nf4 81.Re4 Kf3 82.Rxe5 Rxe5 83.Rf7 Rc5+ 84.Kd2 Rxb5 85.Rxa7 Ra5 86.Kc3 Kxf2 87.Rb7 Rxa6 88.Kc4 Ra4+ 89.Kb5 Ra1 90.Rxb6

After Black has missed some winning chances the position is now a draw, but uses all of the fifty moves allowed by the rules to try and win it – in vain. 90...Ke3 91.Rd6 Ke4 92.Kc4 Rc1+ 93.Kb3 Nd5 94.Rd8 Kd4 95.Kb2 Rc7 96.Rd6 Kc4 97.Kc1 Rh7 98.Rd8 Rh2 99.Kd1 Kd4 100.Ke1 Ke4 101.Kd1 Nc3+ 102.Kc1 Ne2+ 103.Kd1 Nd4 104.Ke1 Ke3 105.Re8+ Kd3 106.Rd8 Re2+ 107.Kf1 Re7 108.Kf2 Rf7+ 109.Ke1 Rf5 110.Rd7 Rf8 111.Rd5 Re8+ 112.Kf2 Re2+ 113.Kf1 Rb2 114.Rd8 Ke4 115.Re8+ Kf4 116.Rf8+ Nf5 117.Ke1 Rb5 118.Kd2 Re5 119.Kd3 Re7 120.Kd2 Ke4 121.Rd8 Nd4 122.Kc3 Rc7+ 123.Kd2 Nc6 124.Re8+ Ne7 125.Rd8 Nd5 126.Re8+ Kd4 127.Rd8 Rc6 128.Ke1 Ra6 129.Ke2 Ra2+ 130.Ke1 Ke4 131.Re8+ Kd3 132.Rd8 Re2+ 133.Kf1 Re5 134.Kf2 Rf5+ 135.Ke1 Kc2 136.Ke2 Re5+ 137.Kf2 Nb4 138.Kf3 Nc6 139.Rc8 Re6 140.Rc7 ½-½.

In the blindfold game they tried to break the record of the longest game and were well on their way, when the tournament director, having consulted with the chief arbiter, stepped in. Because the evening program was seriously threatened he asked the players to continue in a separate room, so that the final session of the rapid competition could start as soon as possible in the playing room. Once Grischuk and Gashimov had moved there they made ten more moves and after 139 moves the game was drawn.


Portrait of World Champion Vishy Anand (click to enlarge)

Anish Giri repeated an opening in his blindfold game against Vishy Anand that his second Loek van Wely had played against the same Anand in the 2006 Amber tournament! White deviated with 10.cxd4, where Van Wely had gone 10.Qxd4, and introduced his new idea one move later, 11.Kf1. An interesting battle developed in which White had space, but an awkward king (could he put it on h1, he would be fine) and Black wanted to develop counterplay on the queenside with …Rb8, …b5 etc. as soon as possible. Giri went astray with 20.Qc4 after which both players agreed he was essentially lost. White’s position quickly fell apart and after 27 moves, about to lose a rook, Giri resigned.

Anand also won the rapid game. The line he played against the Petroff he didn’t think to be very impressive, ‘but you have to play something’. Giri’s 17…b6 was clear mistake (the correct move was 17…Rc8) for exactly what happened in the game. White won the pawn on b6 and when Black missed his last chance to get substantial counterplay with 23…Rc8 (he exchanged rooks on a7) the young Dutchman was fighting a hopeless battle.


Kramnik and Aronian on their way to the games

The blindfold game between Hikaru Nakamura and Vladimir Kramnik ended in a convincing win for the Russian former world champion. Nakamura’s opening was ‘not great’ in Kramnik’s words and White’s 7.h4 and 9.g4 were rather weakening than strengthening his position. The American drifted into an unpleasant ending that gradually got worse and worse.

Nakamura,Hikaru (2774) - Kramnik,Vladimir (2785) [D01]
20th Amber Blindfold Monaco MNC (11), 24.03.2011
1.d4 d5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.Bg5 c6 4.e3 Bf5 5.Bxf6 gxf6 6.Bd3 Bg6 7.h4 e6 8.Nge2 Nd7 9.g4 Qb6 10.h5 Bxd3 11.Qxd3 c5 12.Qb5 Rc8 13.Qxb6 Nxb6 14.0-0-0 Rg8 15.Rdg1 Nc4 16.Nd1 cxd4 17.exd4 b5 18.f4 Bb4 19.Rh3 Ke7 20.Rd3 Rc6 21.Rg2 a5 22.g5 f5 23.Ng1 Bd6 24.Rf2 Rgc8 25.Rg3 b4 26.Ne3

The decisive mistake which allows Black to strike with a simple but effective tactic: 26...Nxe3 27.Rxe3 Bxf4 28.Rxf4 Rxc2+ 29.Kd1 Rc1+ 30.Kd2 R8c2+ 31.Kd3 Rxb2 32.Re2 Rc3# 0-1. The win finally lifted Kramnik from the hated last place. Thanks to a win in the rapid game Nakamura could end the tournament on a positive note. In a King’s Indian he managed to stage a devastating onslaught on the white king and cashed the point after 45 moves.


The happy winner of Amber 2011: Levon Aronian, Armenian GM, third in the world rankings

With a draw in his blindfold game against Sergey Karjakin, tournament leader Levon Aronian decided the fight for first place in his favour, as his last remaining rival, Magnus Carlsen lost his blindfold game to Boris Gelfand. The game ended after 71 moves in a draw, enough to clinch tournament victory for the Armenian. Aronian felt that he also had had good winning chances in the rapid game, but again he had to settle for a draw. Obviously, he didn’t care too much, as tournament victory was already his.

Magnus Carlsen (above) knew he had to win his blindfold game against Boris Gelfand to keep the pressure on Levon Aronian. Right from the first moves he made no secret of his intentions.

Carlsen,Magnus (2815) - Gelfand,Boris (2733) [E60]
20th Amber Blindfold Monaco MNC (11), 24.03.2011
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.g3 0-0 5.Bg2 c5 6.Nc3 cxd4 7.Nxd4 Qc7 8.Ncb5

White’s last move was a speculative attempt, involving lots of tactics, but as the game developed it became clear that they worked for Black. 8...Qxc4 9.b3 Qc5 10.Ba3 Qb6 11.Bxe7 Re8 12.Nd6 Rxe7 13.Nxc8 Qb4+ 14.Kf1 Re4 15.Nc2 Qf8 16.Nd6 Re6 17.Nxb7 Nc6 18.Rc1 Rb8 19.Nd4 Rxb7 20.Nxe6 fxe6 21.Bxc6 dxc6 22.Qd4 Rf7

Now 23.Rxc6 would have given White a fighting chance, but after 23.Kg2 he was essentially lost. 23...Nd5 24.Qc5 Qxc5 25.Rxc5 Bd4 26.Rxc6 Rxf2+ 27.Kh3 Rxe2 28.Rf1 h5 29.Rfc1 Kg7 30.R1c2 Rxc2 31.Rxc2 e5 32.Rc6 Nb4 33.Rc7+ Kf6 34.a3 Nd5 35.Rc6+ Kf5 36.Kg2 e4 37.Kf1 e3 38.Ke1 Ke4 39.Rd6 g5 40.b4 Nc3 41.Rg6 g4 42.Rh6 Kd3 43.Rxh5 Ne4 44.Rd5 Nd2 0-1. The € 1,000 Game of the Day prize was awarded to Boris Gelfand for this game, which ended the Norwegian’s chances to fight for first place in the overall standings.

In the rapid game Carlsen went for a Benkö Gambit. Gelfand surprised him with 11.f4, which the Norwegian had not seen before, but nevertheless Black got a fine game. Carlsen believed that once he gained an advantage around move 20 there was little his opponent could have done to avoid his loss. With this win Carlsen increased his rapid score to 9½ from 11, the highest in Amber history.


Honored guests: GM Gennadi (Genna) Sosonko with octogenarian Viktor Korchnoi


64 years difference: the youngest, Anish Giri, and oldest, Viktor Korchnoi, at the
tournament. You might want to guess in what language they are chatting.
Hint: Anish is of Nepalese extraction and lives in Holland, Viktor lives in Switzerland.


Lots of Elo points collected together: Gashimov, Carlsen, Aronian, Giri, Korchnoi


A moment of mirth, with Nakamura, his second Kris Littlejohn, Gashimov and Carlsen


Former World Championship candidate Vlastimir Hort


Anish Giri trying to solve a non-chess puzzle

All photos by John Nunn

Standings after the eleventh round (final)

Blindfold
 
Rapid
 
Combined
1. Aronian
2. Anand
7
3. Gashimov
6
  Gelfand
6
  Grischuk
6
4. Karjakin
5. Carlsen
5
  Ivanchuk
5
  Nakamura
5
6. Topalov
7. Kramnik
4
8. Giri
 
1. Carlsen
2. Aronian
7
3. Anand
6
  Ivanchuk
6
  Topalov
6
4. Nakamura
5. Grischuk
5
6. Gashimov
  Gelfand
  Karjakin
7. Kramnik
4
8. Giri
 
1. Aronian
15½
2. Carlsen
14½
3. Anand
13
4. Grischuk
11
  Ivanchuk
11
5. Gashimov
10½
  Gelfand
10½
  Nakamura
10½
  Topalov
10½
6. Karjakin
10
7. Kramnik
8
8. Giri
7

Cross table of both sections

Click to enlarge


Player portraits: Boris Gelfand


Photo by John Nunn in Monaco

Boris Gelfand – Israel. Elo rating: 2733, World ranking: 16, Date of birth: June 24, 1968, Amber highlights: first in rapid (and overall 5th) in 2001 and 2002.

As the new stars are getting younger and younger, it's becoming unclear what is the ideal age for a chess grandmaster. Most probably not around 40, as used to be the conviction not so long ago. Unless you're Boris Gelfand, of course. At the most recent World Cup, in Khanty-Mansiysk in December 2009, the oldest participant, 41-year-old Boris Gelfand, topped a field of 128 eager players. Once again he had shown that motivation and discipline can rival youth and energy.

Gelfand was born in Minsk when Belarus still belonged to the Soviet Union. The first big step in his impressive career was his win in the 1985 Soviet Junior Championship, which he followed up with winning the European Junior Championship. Easily the most memorable achievement in his early career was his win, ahead of 139(!) grandmasters at the Palma de Mallorca GMA World Cup qualifier in 1989.

Gelfand confidently continued to develop into a seasoned world class player who spent most of the time in the world's top ten. He's won countless first prizes in international competitions, including top honours in Biel 1993, Dos Hermanas 1994, Belgrade 1995, Vienna 1996, Tilburg 1996 (shared with Jeroen Piket), Polanica Zdroj 1998 and 2000, and Cannes 2002. In 2003 he led the Israeli team to the silver medals at the European Team Championship. Further victories we can mention are his wins in Ashdod 2004, Pamplona 2004, Bermuda 2005 and Biel 2005. In the super-tournaments in Dortmund and Moscow in 2006 he finished half a point behind the winners.

Last year Gelfand finished shared sixth in the combined Amber classification. For the rest it was a relatively quiet year. His best results were third place with Israel at the Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk and his impressive 7 out of 10 (1½ points ahead of Peter Svidler) on the Experience team in Amsterdam. A decent amount of time was spent at home in his study, preparing for the Candidates' matches in Kazan where he will play Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

Player portraits: Veselin Topalov


Photo by John Nunn in Monaco

Veselin Topalov – Bulgaria. Elo rating: 2775, World ranking: 7, Date of birth: March 15, 1975. Amber highlights: Overall winner (shared with Kramnik) in 2001, shared second 2008.

Veselin Topalov comes to Monaco after a four-months' break from chess that he used to get married and to recover from the exertions of the lost World Championship match against Anand in Sofia last April. The toll that match had taken became visible in the following months at the Olympiad and in Nanjing, where he posted lacklustre results. But Topalov's play in the years leading up to the match had been awe-inspiring. At the end of 2008 he won both the Bilbao Grand Slam Final and the Pearl Spring tournament in Nanjing, in early 2009 he defeated Gata Kamsky 4½-2 ½ to qualify for the match against Anand and shortly before that match he took first prize in Linares. Fighting in every game he managed to obtain the initiative in his match against Anand, but a loss in the 12th game put an end to his hopes.

Topalov's most successful year so far was 2005, when he shared first place in Linares, won Sofia for the first time and then wrote history in the World Championship Tournament in San Luis. With a dashing 6,5 out of 7 in the first half he tore the field apart and coasted home in the second half. Often World Champions find it hard to show their excellence when they first appear in their new capacity. Therefore many pundits feared that Topalov would not live up to expectations in Wijk aan Zee in 2007. However, after a fascinating duel with Vishy Anand he shared tournament victory with the Indian.

When in the mid-1990s Topalov burst into the world's top-twenty few people had ever heard of him. The Bulgarian had amassed his Elo-points on the Spanish circuit of open tournaments where he was incredibly successful. Was he really that strong? He was and he soon grew even stronger. At the Moscow Olympiad in Moscow Topalov made headlines with his win over Kasparov and he started winning top tournaments. His first annus mirabilis was 1996 when he took first prize in Amsterdam (together with Kasparov), Dos Hermanas, Madrid and Novgorod. The hallmarks of Topalov are his total concentration at the board, his aggressive play and his deep preparation.

Source: Amber 2011 web site

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