Amber 2010: Let the games begin

by ChessBase
3/13/2010 – The 19th Amber Blindfold and Rapid tournament begins today, with the first games at 2:30 p.m. EST (4:40 Moscow, 1:30 London, 8:30 a.m. New York) The participants include Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik, Levon Aronian, Alexander Grischuk (who jumped in for Alexander Morozevich), Peter Svidler, Boris Gelfand, and others. Watch the live action on the official site and on Playchess.

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The 19th Amber Blindfold and Rapid tournament, organized by the Association Max Euwe in Monaco, is taking place from March 13 (first round) to March 25 (last round) at the Palais de la Mediterranée, splendidly located on the famous Promenade des Anglais in Nice. The total prize fund is € 216,000.

Nice (or Nizza) lies in southern France on the Mediterranean coast and is pronounced exactly like your sibling's female child ("niece"). It is located between Marseille, France, and Genoa, Italy, and has a population of just over one million.

An arial photo when approaching Nice, with the beautiful Mediterranean on the left

Palais de la Mediterranée, where the event is taking place

The twelve participants are (in alphabetical order): Levon Aronian (Armenia), Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Leinier Dominguez (Cuba), Vugar Gashimov (Azerbaijan), Boris Gelfand (Israel), Alexander Grischuk (Russia), Vasily Ivanchuk (Ukraine), Sergey Karjakin (Russia), Vladimir Kramnik (Russia), Ruslan Ponomariov, Jan Smeets (The Netherlands) and Peter Svidler.

Last week Alexander Morozevich, who was originally invited, informed the organizers that he was forced to withdraw from the tournament for private reasons. Alexander Grischuk accepted the invitation to come to Nice at short notice to replace his countryman. Grischuk is the reigning Russian champion and is the current number 7 in the world rankings.

Every day four sessions will be played, two blindfold sessions and two rapid sessions. The first session starts at 14.30 hrs. The fourth session finishes around 20.00 hrs. Note: the final round on March 25 starts at 12.30 hrs. March 17 and 22 are rest days. The rate of play is 25 minutes per game per player. With every move made in the blindfold games 20 seconds is added to the clock, with every move made in the rapid games 10 seconds is added.

Pictures portraits

Magnus Carlsen: Norway, Elo rating: 2813, World ranking: 1, born November 30, 1990, Amber highlights: Shared second in the rapid in his 2007 debut, shared second in 2008, shared first in the blindfold in 2009.

On the January 2010 FIDE rating list, ‘slightly ahead of schedule’, Magnus Carlsen conquered the first place in the world rankings. Aged 19, he was the youngest chess player ever to achieve this feat. The top spot in the rating hierarchy was the inevitable result of a series of excellent results in the course of 2009. His finest victory the Norwegian celebrated in the super-tournament in Nanjing where he posted an unbelievable 3002 with a TPR of 2839, which was more or less in line with his current 2813 rating. Another 2009 highlight was his win in the World Blitz Championship, a full three points ahead of Vishy Anand. In the first month of this year Carlsen continued his streak of successes by claiming first place in the Corus tournament, the youngest GM in history to do so.

Carlsen has been making headlines worldwide ever since he began his race for the grandmaster title. In the first month of 2004 he took the Corus C Group by storm and only three months later he made his third and final GM norm in Dubai. At the age of 13 years, 4 months and 26 days he was (at that time) the youngest grandmaster in the world. In the years that followed this historic moment Carlsen didn’t disappoint his followers. In rapid and blitz tournaments he drew with Kasparov and even beat Karpov and Anand, and also in ‘classical’ chess he began collecting outstanding results. At the 2005 World Cup tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk, Siberia, he became the youngest chess player in history to qualify for the Candidates’ matches for the world championship. Among his further tournament successes are first place in Biel in 2007, and shared first place in Wijk aan Zee and the Baku Grand Prix tournament in 2008.

It goes without saying that Carlsen continues to be closely followed by the press. Thousands of articles have been written about him, a film has been made about his spectacular rise (The Prince of Chess) and a book has appeared (originally published as Wonderboy). Still, anyone who believes that he’s only obsessed with chess is wrong. He’s just as passionate about football, tennis or skiing.

In Amber Carlsen has also been improving rapidly. In 2008 he tied for second overall, last year he tied for first in the blindfold. There can be no doubt about his aim this time.

Vladimir Kramnik: Russia, Elo rating: 2790, World ranking: 3, born June 25, 1975, Amber highlights: Overall winner in 1996, 1998 (shared with Shirov), 1999, 2001 (shared with Topalov), 2004 (shared with Morozevich) and 2007. Shared second in 2008 and 2009.

No player can boast a better Amber record than Vladimir Kramnik, who over the years won the event an amazing six times. And when he doesn’t win the tall Russian always mixes in the fight for first place, as testify his second places in the previous two editions. Kramnik is exceptionally strong in the blindfold part. Last year he even considered asking the arbiter if he could also play the rapid games without sight of the board. His blindfold win against Topalov in the 2003 edition ranks as one of the most brilliant achievements in Amber history.

Kramnik has been among the world elite ever since he burst upon the scene at the Manila Olympiad in 1992, where as a 17-year-old youngster he had a baffling 8,5 out of 9 debut on the Russian team. Over the years he’s won practically everything that there is to be won, including the
super-tournaments in Wijk aan Zee in 1998 and Linares in 2000 and 2004.

In Dortmund he lifted the winner’s trophy no fewer than nine times! His tie for first with Kasparov in Linares in 2000 turned out to be the prologue of the biggest success in his rich career, his World Championship match victory over the same Kasparov later that year in London. Without suffering a single loss he defeated his ‘former boss’ 8.5-6.5. Kramnik successfully defended his world title in Brissago in 2004 against Peter Leko when in a must-win situation he won the last game, and in Elista in 2006 against Topalov, when he struck in the rapid play-off. He lost the title in 2007 in the World Championship Tournament in Mexico where he finished shared second behind the new champion, Anand. In Bonn 2008 he got a chance to reclaim the title in a match against Anand, but the Indian proved better prepared and won convincingly.

Bad preparation was also Kramnik’s complaint after he failed to win this year’s Corus tournament (although he did beat his rival Carlsen in a great game), so we can expect him to arrive with some fresh ammunition in Nice. After all, Kramnik has the reputation of being one of the best prepared players in the world. Currently ranked 3rd in the world, Kramnik admirably recovered after he lost against Anand in Bonn and his results in 2009 were impressive as ever. He once again won Dortmund and he also topped what was probably the strongest tournament of the year, the Tal Memorial in Moscow. In Nice he will be, as always, one of the top-favourites.

Peter Svidler: Russia, Elo rating: 2750, World ranking: 8, born June 17, 1976, Amber highlights: Overall shared fourth in 2007.

Following a two-year interval, Peter Svidler makes his Amber come-back. Small wonder, as the grandmaster from St. Petersburg is the current number 8 in the world rankings and his 2750 rating is only 15 points shy of his all-time best 2765, which he reached three years ago.

For the past fifteen years Peter Svidler has been a steady member of the chess elite, a status that he confirmed with his shared second place at the World Championship Tournament in San Luis in 2005. This classification automatically ensured him of a place in the next World Championship tournament that took place in Mexico City in 2007, where he finished fifth.

Although he is only 33 years old, Svidler can rely on a wealth of experience. His first splash he made in 1994, when at the age of 18 he became Russian champion in Elista. To prove that this victory had not been a coincidence he repeated it in 1995 and 1997. His international breakthrough came in 1997 when he shared first place with Kramnik and Kasparov in Tilburg and defeated the latter in their direct encounter.

Following these first successes he hit a slump from which he only recovered in 2003. He won the Russian championship for the fourth time and was a member of the Russian team that won the European Championship in Plovdiv.

Svidler is a wonderful team player and his wins with the Russian team and club teams in Russia, Germany and France are too many to enumerate. But if we limit us to last year we can mention his part in the Bundesliga championship of Baden-Baden with 7 out of 9 and the 6 out of 8 he scored for new French champion Evry Grand Roque (the club he moved to after the legendary NAO Chess Club from Paris ceased to exist; with NAO Svidler also won three European Club Cups).

Early last year he won first prize in the GibTelecom Festival in Gibraltar and celebrated an enjoyable stay in Bunratty, Ireland with a second consecutive win. Last summer Svidler was the top-rated player on the Experience team that defeated the Rising Stars at the NH Tournament in Amsterdam and contributed generously (6 out of 10) to their victory. At the Russian Super Final, last December, he finished second behind Grischuk. In his first four Amber tournaments Svidler scored exactly 44 points from 88 games, let’s see what he is up to now.

A lineup of all the participants: Dominguez, Aronian, Gelfand, Ponomariov, Svidler, Carlsen, Karjakin, Kramnik, Smeets, Gashimov, Ivanchuk (with Grischuk behind him)

Bios by the official web site, photos by Dr John Nunn


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download the free PGN reader ChessBase Light, which gives you immediate access. You can also use the program to read, replay and analyse PGN games. New and enhanced: CB Light 2009!

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