Amber 2011: Aronian and Carlsen together in the lead

3/15/2011 – Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen have taken the joint lead after the third round of the Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament. Their direct encounter ended in a 1-1 tie after a roller-coaster rapid game. Yesterday's co-leader Alexander Grischuk lost ½-1½ to compatriot Sergey Karjakin. The Game of the Day prize went to Vugar Gashimov for his fine blindfold win against Anish Giri. Round three report.

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The 20th Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament is taking place at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort in Monaco, from March 11 to 24, 2011. Every day four sessions are played, two blindfold and two rapid. The first session starts at 14.30h, the fourth session finishes around 20.00h. 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.

Report after round three

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

The blindfold game between the leaders Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen was a rather uneventful affair. ‘There is not much to say’, was the Norwegian’s correct comment. They played on until move 37 and then, as ‘there were no breaking points’ (Carlsen) they agreed on a draw.

The rapid game was a draw of a completely different nature. John Nunn rated it high on Aronian’s swindle scale and Carlsen could only shake his head in disbelief and compare the game to a similar experience he had against the same opponent two years ago.

Carlsen,Magnus (2815) - Aronian,Levon (2808) [D78]
20th Amber Rapid Monaco MNC (3), 14.03.2011
1.c4 g6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nf3 Bg7 4.g3 0-0 5.Bg2 c6 6.0-0 d5 7.Qa4 a6 8.Bf4 Be6 9.cxd5 cxd5 10.Qb3 Ra7 11.Ne5 Ne4 12.Rd1 Nd7 13.Nc3 Nxc3 14.Qxc3 Ra8 15.Qb3

The opening wasn’t a big success for Black, and Aronian felt that now he was as good as lost. But then 'the usual swindling started’: 15...a5 16.Bxd5 a4 17.Qxb7 Rb8. With 18.Qc6 Bxd5 19.Qxd5 Carlsen could have gotten a most pleasant advantage, but ‘Which idiot spurns the possibility to get a position with a healthy extra pawn?’ (Carlsen): 18.Nxf7 Rxb7 19.Nxd8 Bxd5 20.Nxb7 Bxb7. The position is fine, but now White started to drift and ended up in a precarious position which ended in a draw: 21.Rac1 Bd5 22.Rc7 Rd8 23.a3 Kf7 24.Rd2 Nf6 25.f3 Bb3 26.Be5 Ne8 27.Rc5 Bxe5 28.Rxe5 Nd6 29.Rc5 Nc4 30.Rd3 Nxb2 31.Re3 Rxd4 32.Rc7 Be6 33.Ra7 g5 34.Rc3 Rc4 35.Re3 Rc2 36.Re4 Rc3 37.h4 h6 38.hxg5 hxg5 39.Ra6 Ba2 40.Ra7 Be6 41.Ra6 Bc4 42.Rc6 Rxa3 43.Rcxc4 Nxc4 44.Rxc4 ½-½

Last year’s lossless winner Vasily Ivanchuk suffered his third defeat in this Amber edition in the blindfold game against Hikaru Nakamura. Although he was Black in the rapid game, this time it was Ivanchuk who was calling the shots. He got a promising advantage, but felt that he had lost the thread of the game when faced by too many attractive possibilities. And as happens so often in such situations of luxury, the advantage evaporated and a draw was the result.

In the blindfold game between Vugar Gashimov and Anish Giri (above), the young Dutchman took a gamble that backfired. He knew full well that the line he played against the Keres Attack was dangerous, but he hoped his opponent wasn’t familiar with it. And, on top of that, they were playing blindfold, weren’t they? Indeed Gashimov’s knowledge ended relatively early (after 13.f4), but that didn’t stop him from continuing forcefully. Giri was annoyed with himself, but when he watched the replay of the moves on a monitor he magnanimously admitted: ‘Actually it was very nice how he finished it.’

Gashimov,Vugar (2746) - Giri,Anish (2690) [B81]
20th Amber Blindfold Monaco MNC (3), 14.03.2011
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 e6 3.Nf3 d6 4.d4 cxd4 5.Nxd4 Nf6 6.g4 h6 7.h4 Nc6 8.Rg1 d5 9.exd5 Nxd5 10.Nxd5 Qxd5 11.Bg2 Qe5+ 12.Be3 Qh2 13.f4 Nxd4 14.Qxd4 Qxh4+ 15.Bf2 Qd8 16.Qxd8+ Kxd8 17.0-0-0+ Kc7 18.Rd3 Bd6 19.Bg3 Rd8 20.Rgd1 f6 21.f5 e5 22.Be1 a5 23.Rd5 e4 24.Kb1 e3 25.Bf1 Re8? Allows a pretty end:

26.Rxd6 e2 27.Bxe2 Rxe2 28.Bg3 Rg2 29.Bf4 Rxg4 30.Rd7+ Kc6 31.R1d6+ Kb5 32.a4+ Kxa4 33.Rb6 Rxf4 34.Ka2 1-0. A textbook mating net that won Gashimov the Game of the Day prize.

Alexander Grischuk had good hopes in his blindfold game against Sergey Karjakin, but had to settle for a draw. In the rapid game Karjakin scored his first win. ‘As always’ his white game against Grischuk saw a Najdorf. With his choice of sub-variation Karjakin may have sprung a surprise on his opponent, as he copied the game Dominguez-Grischuk from last year’s Amber which Grischuk had won. This time White won in 54 moves.

In their blindfold game Vishy Anand and Boris Gelfand (above) followed in the footsteps of a game Gelfand played last year (with the white pieces!) against Peter Leko. In a complicated struggle Gelfand this time gradually got into trouble, but managed to survive in the end.

Anand,Viswanathan (2817) - Gelfand,Boris (2733) [D43]
20th Amber Blindfold Monaco MNC (3), 14.03.2011
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 dxc4 7.e4 g5 8.Bg3 b5 9.Be2 Bb7 10.0-0 Nbd7 11.Ne5 Bg7 12.Nxd7 Nxd7 13.Bd6 a6 14.a4 b4 15.Bxb4 Qb6 16.Ba3 Qxd4 17.Qc2 c5 18.Rad1 Qe5 19.Bxc4 Qc7 20.Nb1 0-0 21.Nd2 Ne5 22.Be2 Rfc8 23.Kh1 c4 24.Rc1 Qc6 25.f3 Nd3 26.Rb1 Nxb2 27.Bxb2 c3 28.Bxc3 Qxc3 29.Qxc3 Bxc3 30.Nc4 Rc7 31.Rfc1 Bd4 32.Na5 Rxc1+ 33.Rxc1 Ra7 34.Rc7 Ba8 35.Rxa7 Bxa7 36.Bxa6 f5 37.exf5 exf5 38.Bb7 Bb6 39.Nc4 Bxb7 40.Nxb6 Kf7 41.Kg1 Ke6 42.Kf2 f4 43.Nc4 Kd5 44.Nd2 Kc5 45.Ne4+ Kb4 46.Nd6 Bd5 47.Nf5 Kxa4 48.Nxh6 Kb4 49.Ng4 Be6 50.Nf6 Kc4 51.h3 Kd4 52.Nh7 Ke5 53.Nxg5 Bc4 54.h4 Kf5 55.Nh3 Bf7 56.Ke2 Bc4+ 57.Kd2 Bf1

Now 58.Ke1 or Ng5 keep the winning chances, unlike 58.h5? which loses half a point: 58...Bxg2 ½-½.

After a very sharp opening in the rapid game Anand got a better game with the black pieces. After 24 moves he had the feeling that he had Gelfand on the ropes, but that was the sign for the Israeli grandmaster to start defending incredibly well. After the game Anand said that he had mainly played on ‘out of irritation’ for letting slip his advantage. The irritation paid off. Gelfand gradually lost the thread of the position and after 53 moves Anand cashed a full point.

At the start of the blindfold game between Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov there was a distinctive interest on the journalists’ part if the two old rivals would shake hands or not. Let’s say that to both it didn’t come as a surprise that they did not. The game didn’t go too well for Topalov, who overstepped the time after 40 moves. The rapid game was a tense fight. At first Kramnik seemed to be on his way to a second win, until he let Topalov creep back into the game. The tables were turned completely when the Russian gave up a pawn out of free will, but failed to use the space he had created for himself. A further mistake made Topalov’s task easier and soon Black’s resistance collapsed.

Standings after the third round

Blindfold
 
Rapid
 
Combined
1. Aronian
  Grischuk
2. Anand
2
  Carlsen
2
  Gashimov
2
3. Gelfand
  Kramnik
  Nakamura
4. Karjakin
1
5. Giri
½
  Ivanchuk
½
  Topalov
½
 
1. Carlsen
2. Anand
2
  Aronian
2
  Topalov
2
3. Gashimov
  Gelfand
  Grischuk
  Karjakin
4. Giri
1
  Ivanchuk
1
  Nakamura
1
5. Kramnik
½
 
1. Aronian
  Carlsen
2. Anand
4
  Grischuk
4
3. Gashimov
4. Gelfand
3
5. Karjakin
  Nakamura
  Topalov
6. Kramnik
2
7. Giri
  Ivanchuk

Player portraits: Levon Aronian

Levon Aronian – Armenia. Elo rating: 2808, world ranking: 3, Date of birth: October 6, 1982. Amber highlights: shared 2nd in the rapid in 2006, overall winner in 2008 and 2009.

With a 2800+ rating and two Amber victories under his belt, Levon Aronian is one of the hot favourites in this 20th Amber. In 2008 the Armenian GM was truly on a rampage, when he claimed first place 2½(!) points ahead of Kramnik, Topalov, Leko and Carlsen. One year later he edged out Anand and Kramnik by half a point to take overall first. Last year his role was more modest, which was doubly puzzling as at the start of the event he had said that he'd be happy to see someone else win, as he had already won twice. With Aronian you never know, and 2010 was definitely not a year of modesty. He won the silver medal on Board 1 at the Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, shared first place in the Tal Memorial and became Blitz World Champion.


The round three rapid chess game...


... that left both players in a cheerful mood – photos by John Nunn in Monaco

Aronian had his international break-through in 2005 when he shot up to the fifth place in the world rankings. His successes in that revelatory year included a shared first place in Gibraltar, first place in Nagorno-Karabakh, and first place in the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk. Of course, these results didn't come completely unexpected. After all he was already World Junior Champion U-12 as long ago as 1994 and overall World Junior Champion in 2002.

Aronian continued to be successful in 2006, claiming first prize in the Morelia-Linares tournament, tying for first in the Tal Memorial and winning gold with Armenia at the Turin Olympiad. In 2007 Aronian shared first place in Wijk aan Zee, a feat he repeated in 2008. In that year he also won the Karen Asrian Memorial, the Grand Prix tournament in Sochi, and again led his country to gold at the Dresden Olympiad. His biggest successes in 2009 were his overall victory in the FIDE Grand Prix, and his first place in the Grand Slam Final in Bilbao.

Aronian's current rating and his stable play in Wijk aan Zee indicate that he is in great shape. His ultimate aim this year is being successful in the Candidates' matches, but we wouldn't be surprised if he seriously tested his current strength in the Amber tournament.

Source: Amber 2011 web site

Links

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Topics Amber 2011
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