Amber 2011: Aronian goes into final round with one-point lead

3/24/2011 – In the tenth and penultimate round of the Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament Levon Aronian kept his one-point lead over Magnus Carlsen with a 1½-½ win over Veselin Topalov. Magnus Carlsen defeated Alexander Grischuk 1½-½. With one round to go Aronian has already won the blindfold competition, while Carlsen cannot be caught anymore in the rapid standings. Round ten 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.


Sunrise in Monaco – captured by John Nunn

Report after round ten

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

The blindfold game between Veselin Topalov and Levon Aronian was a wildly exciting fight that could have gone either way. Topalov’s 12.Ne5 was a novelty that had not only been studied by the white player, but also by his opponent! Nevertheless the Armenian grandmaster got into serious trouble.

Topalov,Veselin (2775) - Aronian,Levon (2808) [D38]
20th Amber Blindfold Monaco MNC (10), 23.03.2011
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Bb4 5.cxd5 exd5 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 c5 8.e3 g5 9.Bg3 c4 10.Be2 Ne4 11.Rc1 Qa5 12.Ne5 Nc6 13.0-0 Bxc3 14.bxc3 Nxc3 15.Rxc3 Qxc3 16.Bh5 0-0 17.Qf3 Nd8 18.Qf6 Qc2 19.Ng4 Bxg4 20.Be5 Qh7 21.Bxg4 Ne6

Here 22.Bf5 Qg7 23.Qe7 seems to win, but Topalov wanted to decide the game in great style: 22.f4 Qg7 23.Qe7 Rae8 24.Qd7 Qh7 25.fxg5 f5 26.Qxh7+ Kxh7 27.Bxf5+ Rxf5 28.Rxf5 c3 29.gxh6 b5 30.Bd6 a5 31.Ba3 b4 32.Bc1 a4 33.Rf7+ Kxh6 34.Rb7 Nf4 35.exf4 Re1+ 36.Kf2 Rxc1 37.Rxb4 Ra1 38.Rb6+ Kg7 39.Rc6 Rxa2+ 40.Ke3 Rxg2 41.Rxc3 Rxh2 42.Rc6 a3 43.f5 Rh6. The flashy win did not materialise and now the game should be a draw. However: 44.Rc1? Ra6 45.Kd3 a2 46.Ra1 Kf6 47.Kc3 Kxf5 48.Kb2 Ke4 49.Re1+ Kxd4 50.Ka1 Kc3 51.Rc1+ Kd2 52.Rc2+. A little stalemate trap in a blindfold game. 52...Kd3. Didn't fall for it. 53.Rc3+ Ke4 54.Rh3 d4 55.Rh4+ Kd3 56.Rh3+ Kc4 57.Rc3+ Kd5 58.Rh3

Now Black comes up with the cast-iron win: 58...Rb6 59.Kxa2 Kc4 60.Rh1 Kc3 0-1.

In the rapid game Aronian got excellent chances from the opening, until he played the ‘terrible’ 16.h4. In the rook endgame he didn’t want to take any risks anymore in view of the standings and after 37 moves the game ended in a draw.

The blindfold game between Vladimir Kramnik and Vasily Ivanchuk was a spectacular draw that filled the out-of-form Russian with some sort of relief: ‘At least I finally played an entertaining game again’.

Kramnik,Vladimir (2785) - Ivanchuk,Vassily (2779) [A13]
20th Amber Blindfold Monaco MNC (10), 23.03.2011
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.d4 Bb4+ 5.Bd2 Be7 6.Bg2 c6 7.Qc2 0-0 8.0-0 b6 9.Rd1 Nbd7 10.Bf4 Bb7 11.Ne5 Rc8 12.Nc3 Nh5 13.Bc1 f5 14.Qa4 Nxe5 15.dxe5 Qc7 16.cxd5 cxd5 17.Qxa7 Bc5 18.Bf3 f4 19.g4

19...Ng3! With this move, which stunned the kibitzing grandmasters, Black got a clear advantage and would have had White on the ropes had he found the correct follow-up: 20.b4 Ra8 21.Nxd5 Nxe2+ 22.Kf1 Rxa7 23.Nxc7 Bxf3 24.Nxe6 Nc3? 24…Bxb4 would have led to a probable win. 25.bxc5 Nxd1 26.cxb6 Ra4 27.Nxf8 Kxf8 28.Rb1 Rxa2 29.b7 Rxf2+ 30.Ke1 Re2+ 31.Kf1 Rf2+ 32.Ke1 ½-½

The rapid game was a wildly complicated tussle that left both the players and their kibitzing colleagues guessing what exactly was going on. After the game Kramnik, who thought that he had been better, sat analyzing for about half an hour in the press room. The conclusion was, in slight amazement, that everything had been more or less correct and that a draw was the correct result.

Hikaru Nakamura happily repeated the French line he had tried yesterday against Topalov (which led to a ‘ridiculous’ loss, Nakamura’s words) in his blindfold game against Sergey Karjakin. However, the Russian didn’t go for a repeat of the sensational novelty and the American GM ended up defending rook and bishop versus rook – successfully, up to move 124. In the rapid game we saw the following transpire.

Nakamura,Hi (2774) - Karjakin,Sergey (2776) [E21]
20th Amber Rapid Monaco MNC (10), 23.03.2011
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 c5 5.g3 cxd4 6.Nxd4 Ne4 7.Qd3 Nxc3 8.bxc3 Be7 9.Bf4 Nc6 10.Bg2 0-0 11.0-0 g5 12.Bc1 Ne5 13.Qc2 Nxc4 14.e4 Qa5 15.Rb1 Na3 16.Bxa3 Qxa3 17.e5 d5 18.f4 gxf4 19.Rxf4 f5 20.exf6 Bxf6 21.Rbf1 Qe7 22.Qf2 Bg7 23.Qe3 Bd7 24.Bxd5 Rxf4 25.Rxf4 Qc5 26.Bxe6+ Bxe6 27.Qxe6+ Kh8 28.Kg2 Qxc3 29.Nf3 Qc2+ 30.Kh3 Qc8 31.Qxc8+ Rxc8 32.Rf7 Rb8 33.Ng5 a5 34.Ne6 Bb2 35.Kg4 a4 36.Kf5 b5 37.Ra7 a3 38.Ng5 Rf8+ 39.Ke4 Re8+ 40.Kd3 Rd8+ 41.Kc2 Rd5 42.Rxh7+ Kg8 43.Rh5 b4 44.g4?

Here 44...Rd3 offered excellent winning chances, but Karjakin went for the tricky 44...Rd2+. The point is that 45.Kxd2? leads to a quick loss: 45...b3 46.axb3 a2 47.Nf3 a1Q. Nakamura avoided the trap: 45.Kb3 Bc3 46.Ne4 Rb2+ 47.Kc4 Rxa2 48.Nxc3 bxc3 49.Kxc3 and now the game was a draw. 49...Rg2 50.Ra5 Rxg4 51.Rxa3 Rh4 52.Rb3 Rh3+ 53.Kb4 Rxb3+ 54.Kxb3 Kg7 55.h4 Kg6 56.h5+ Kxh5 ½-½.

The blindfold game between Boris Gelfand and Anish Giri ended in a disappointment for the Dutch grandmaster. ‘I studied this line!’, he said, annoyed with himself. He was unhappy with his 19th and 20th moves, when he missed a good drawing chance, and he lost after only 24 moves. In the rapid game Giri got the clearly better position against Gelfand's Nc6 Sicilian with 4…Qb6 and could have probably won if he had captured with his knight instead of his rook on move 53. In the end he had to settle for a 93-move draw.


Anish Giri and Boris Gelfand analysing, watched by Anish' second Loek van Wely

Alexander Grischuk drew with the white pieces in his blindfold game against Magnus Carlsen, only to see the Norwegian tear down his Najdorf in the rapid game. ‘Black was busted out of the opening,’ said Magnus. ‘He has long-term problems and no counterplay, which usually is a problem in the Sicilian.’ Carlsen converted his advantage and shortly before he was to be mated, Grischuk resigned. The € 1,000 Game of the Day prize was awarded to Magnus Carlsen for his rapid win over Alexander Grischuk.

The blindfold game between Vishy Anand and Vugar Gashimov saw a brief theoretical discussion in the Petroff, which led to a draw in 17 moves. In their rapid game the World Champion got a pleasant position from a French Defence. Gashimov’s real problems started when he decided to burn his bridges and went 28.Rh3, hoping for counterplay against the black king. This counterplay he got but it didn’t compensate for the damage Anand was allowed to do in the white camp.

Standings after the tenth round

Blindfold
 
Rapid
 
Combined
1. Aronian
8
2. Anand
6
3. Gashimov
  Grischuk
4. Carlsen
5
  Gelfand
5
  Karjakin
5
  Nakamura
5
5. Ivanchuk
6. Topalov
4
7. Giri
8. Kramnik
3
 
1. Carlsen
2. Aronian
3. Ivanchuk
6
4. Anand
5
  Topalov
5
5. Gelfand
  Grischuk
  Nakamura
6. Gashimov
4
  Karjakin
4
  Kramnik
4
7. Giri
 
1. Aronian
14½
2. Carlsen
13½
3. Anand
11
4. Ivanchuk
10½
5. Grischuk
10
6. Gashimov
  Gelfand
  Nakamura
7. Karjakin
9
  Topalov
9
8. Giri
7
  Kramnik
7

Cross table of both sections

Click to enlarge


Player portraits: Vugar Gashimov


Photo by John Nunn in Monaco

Vugar Gashimov – Azerbaijan. Elo rating: 2746, World ranking: 11, Date of birth: July 24, 1986. Amber highlights: Overall sixth in his debut in 2010.

When he made his debut last year Vugar Gashimov quickly felt at home in the Amber tournament. He won five 'mini-matches', lost three and shared sixth place in the overall standings. Still, there is good reason to believe that this time he will be hoping for more after the excellent start of the year he had in Reggio Emilia. In the traditional New Year's tournament Gashimov shared first place with Paco Vallejo and took first prize on tiebreak.

Gashimov was born in Baku, where at an early age his prodigious talent for chess was discovered. Playing sparkling, carefree chess he excelled in junior tournaments, mostly beating his closest rivals Radjabov and Guseinov. When he was 12 he took first place in the U-16 section of the Kasparov Cup in Moscow and earned encouraging praise from the Master Himself. And then fate struck. He was treated for epileptic spasms and twice he underwent brain surgery, but nothing helped. Only years later his life took another dramatic turn, this time for the better, when he was operated upon a third time in Bonn, Germany, and a benign tumour was successfully removed from his brain.

In the meantime Gashimov had developed into a more strategic player, although one of his favourite openings remains the razor-sharp Benoni. Now things went rapidly. In the spring of 2007 he was still ranked 61st with a rating of 2644, one year on he had already made the jump to number 20 with a rating of 2717. Before the chess world knew it he peaked on the January list of 2010 with a formidable 2759 rating.

In 2008 Gashimov won the inaugural Grand Prix tournament in Baku together with Wang Yue and Magnus Carlsen. He continued to play well in the Grand Prix to finish overall fifth. Gashimov is also a great team player as his outstanding results in team competitions show. At the Dresden Olympiad he won a silver medal on second board, while at the 2009 European Team Championships in Novi Sad his win in the final round brought Azerbaijan the gold medals.

Source: Amber 2011 web site

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