Amber: Carlsen back in business, with second 2-0 victory

by ChessBase
3/16/2010 – The third round started with a misunderstanding: Magnus Carlsen wanted to key in a move in the blindfold game but found 1.e4 already on the screen for his opponent Peter Svidler. Magnus did not know he had black! But never mind, after a shot of orange juice he went on to demolish Svidler 2-0. Aronian also did a 2-0 round against Jan Smeets. Ivanchuk leads overall. Round three report.

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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.

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.

Report after round three

Blindfold Chess   Rapid Chess
Grischuk-Gelfand ½-½   Gelfand-Grischuk ½-½
Dominguez-Ponomariov ½-½   Ponomariov-Dominguez ½-½
Gashimov-Kramnik ½-½   Kramnik-Gashimov 1-0
Svidler-Carlsen 0-1   Carlsen-Svidler 1-0
Karjakin-Ivanchuk 0-1   Ivanchuk-Karjakin ½-½
Smeets-Aronian 0-1   Aronian-Smeets 1-0

Magnus Carlsen back in business, Ivanchuk leads

After three rounds Vasily Ivanchuk is in the sole lead in the overall standings with 4½ points from six games. The Ukrainian grandmaster, the only GM to play in all 19 Amber tournaments, defeated Sergey Karjakin 1½-½. Defending champion Levon Aronian scored his first full points at the cost of Jan Smeets. Magnus Carlsen also won 2-0, the victim being Peter Svidler. Despite his disastrous start, the Norwegian is now only half a point behind the leading Ivanchuk. And he optimistically faces the future: ‘I am hoping for two more tomorrow.’

Svidler-Carlsen: The blindfold game between Peter Svidler and Magnus Carlsen started with a comic prologue when, once they were seated behind their laptops, the Norwegian discovered much to his dismay that he wasn’t White is this game, as he had believed, but Black.

GM Dr John Nunn, who is a regular guest at the Amber tournament, caught the moment when Magnus Carlsen saw his opponent's move 1.e4 appeared on the screen. Magnus thought he was playing white.

Peter Svidler explains it to Magnus: you have black, buddy! [Remaining pictures by Nadja Wittmann]

Svidler savoring the moment

Magnus steadies his nerves with a shot of orange juice

Svidler,P (2750) - Carlsen,M (2813) [B74]
19th Amber Blindfold Nice FRA (3), 15.03.2010
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be2 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8.Be3 Nc6 9.Nb3 a6 10.f4 b5 11.Bf3 Bb7 12.e5 dxe5 13.fxe5 Nd7 14.e6 fxe6 15.Bg4 Rxf1+ 16.Qxf1 Nce5 17.Bxe6+ Kh8 18.Rd1 Qc7 19.Qf4 Rf8

20.Qg3. The "comedy of errors" (as the tournament bulletin calls it) came back to life on move 20, when Svidler suddenly had second thoughts about the intended 20.Rxd7 because of 20…Qc6 21.Rxb7 Rxf4 22.Bd5 and now 22…Qf6 wins for Black. However, both players had missed 22.Rb6 "with an edge for White" (the bulletin misses 22...Nf3+ 23.gxf3 Qxf3 24.Bxf4 Qxf4 with a clear advantage for Black). 20...Nf6 21.Nc5 Nh5 22.Qe1?

22...Bxg2! Svidler was unpleasantly surprised by this move. Now Carlsen develops a raging attack. 23.Kxg2 Nf3 24.Qh1 Nf4+? [24...Nh4+! 25.Kh3 Rf3+ would have been deadly] 25.Kf2 Nd4 0-1. [Click to replay]

White resigned, not having seen the amazing resource 26.Nd7!, attacking the rook on f8, and there is no immediate win and the position looks drawish. Later Magnus said he thought Black could nevertheless have kept on playing for a win with 26…Nh3+ 27.Kg2 Qc6+ 28.Bd5 Qxd7 29.Rxd4 e6.

The rapid game saw a rare sideline of the Qb3 Grünfeld, which, according to Carlsen, both players were not too familiar with. He himself seemed to suffer the least from this relative ignorance as he obtained a pleasant position. ‘And then it just got better and better’, he summed up the game.

Smeets-Aronian: Jan Smeets was happy with the outcome of the opening of his blindfold game against Levon Aronian. After all he was allowed to play the improvement he had suggested after his game against Karjakin in Round 2, 17.Be4 instead of 17.Ne4. White got an edge, but failed to exploit it. His first inaccuracy was 24.Rac1 where 24.a4 was called for, but the real mistake was 26.Bxd8?, an exchange that was prompted by his fear that Black’s knight would come to e6 and White’s bishop on f6 would end up out of play. Now Smeets suddenly found himself in an unpleasant rook endgame, which Aronian first converted in a winning pawn endgame and then into a winning queen endgame.

The rapid game was a tumultuous affair that started out with an opening that was popular at the start of the 20th century.

Aronian,L (2782) - Smeets,J (2651) [D10]
19th Amber Rapid Nice FRA (3), 15.03.2010
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.cxd5 cxd5 4.Nc3 Nc6 5.e4 dxe4 6.d5 Ne5 7.Bf4 Ng6 8.Bg3 f5 9.h4 f4 10.Bh2 e5 11.dxe6 Bxe6 12.h5 Ne5 13.Bxf4 Nd3+ 14.Bxd3 Qxd3 15.Qa4+ Qd7 16.Qxe4 Nf6 17.Qe2 Bb4 18.Rd1 Qc6 19.Rh3 0-0 20.Rd6 Bxd6 21.Qxe6+ Rf7 22.Qxd6 Qxg2 23.Rg3 Re8+ 24.Be3

24...Qh1. According to the bulletin Black’s troubles started with 24…Qh1, where he could have secured a level position with 24…Qxf2+ 25.Kf2 Ne4+ 26.Kg2 Nxd6 27.Bxa7. 25.h6 Qh5? (the final mistake) 26.Rxg7+ Rxg7 27.hxg7 Ng4 28.Nd5 Qe5 29.Qd7 Qe6 30.Qxb7 Rd8 31.Ne7+ Kxg7 32.Nf5+ Kf6 33.Qg7+ Kxf5 34.Qg5+ Ke4 35.f3+ Kd3 36.Qxd8+ Kxe3 37.Qd2# 1-0. [Click to replay]

Standings after the third round

1.  Ivanchuk   2½
2. Carlsen 2
Grischuk 2
Ponomariov 2
5. Gashimov 1½
Gelfand 1½
Karjakin 1½
Kramnik 1½
Svidler 1½
10. Aronian 1
11. Dominguez ½
Smeets ½
1.  Kramnik    2½
2. Aronian 2
Carlsen 2
Ivanchuk 2
Ponomariov 2
6. Dominguez 1½
Gelfand 1½
8. Grischuk 1
Karjakin 1
Smeets 1
Svidler 1
12. Gashimov ½
1.  Ivanchuk   4½
2. Carlsen 4
Kramnik 4
Ponomariov 4
5. Aronian 3
Gelfand 3
Grischuk 3
8. Karjakin 2½
Svidler 2½
10. Dominguez 2
Gashimov 2
12. Smeets 1½

John Nunn shooting portraits of players in Nice

Photos by Nadja Wittmann

Player portraits

Leinier Dominguez – Cuba, Elo rating: 2713, World ranking: 27, born: September 23, 1983. Leinier makes his debut in the Amber tournament and he is the first Cuban ever to be invited to the blindfold and rapid spectacle. Over the past ten years the Cuban has made unwavering and consistent progress. If you look at his rating progress chart for the last decade you see a line going up steadily until it reaches the 2700 platform in the summer of 2008. On that platform the 26-year-old grandmaster has remained ever since with his rating peaking at 2721 after his fine performance in Wijk aan Zee last year.

Dominguez is clearly the strongest player in the country of Capablanca, as his results at home and in the region show. For instance, at the 2008 Zonal in Santa Domingo he showed his superiority with a final score of 11½ out of 13. The national championship of Cuba he won in 2002, 2003 and 2006. And if you’re wondering why he is not the reigning champion, the answer is because he didn’t take part in the 2009 edition. Obviously, another important tournament in his resume is the Capablanca Memorial, in memory of Cuba’s greatest chess son. Here Dominguez triumphed in 2004, 2008 and 2009.

Although the geographical distance remains a serious handicap, he obviously also tries to be active in the European tournament circuit. Perhaps his finest result he posted in 2006 in Barcelona, where he scored 8 out of 9 to finish first ahead of Ivanchuk with a performance rating of 2932. Last year, thanks to his newly acquired 2700 status, the invitations for the so-called super-tournaments began to reach him. His first appearance in the 2009 Corus top group could certainly be called a success. With his aggressive style he conquered the hearts of the spectators and had he won his last-round game against Karjakin he would even have come out on top. However, he lost and had to settle for shared fifth with Carlsen. His next appearances in Linares and Sofia were tougher tests. In both events he failed to win a single game and finished with a minus-score. Apparently he feels more at home in Wijk aan Zee, because this year too he played many an entertaining game and only lost to the ultimate winner Carlsen.

Dominguez is also an excellent blitz player, a talent that will stand him in good stead at the Amber tournament. Clearly his best result in this field was his win at the World Blitz Championship in Almaty in 2008, ahead of Ivanchuk, Svidler and Grischuk.

Alexander Grischuk – Russia, Elo rating: 2756, World ranking: 7, born October 31, 1983, Amber highlights: overall fourth in 2006.

Although he only played in one Amber tournament before, it was his unambiguous choice when last year Alexander Grischuk was asked to name his favourite tournament. One of the reasons must be that the Russian, possibly more than any of his colleagues, is a staunch advocate of faster time controls and doesn’t see blitz and rapid championships as events of lesser importance. Not surprisingly, he rates his win at the Blitz World Championship in Rishon-Le-Zion in 2006 as one of the finest achievements in his career.

However, that doesn’t mean that Grischuk doesn’t excel at ‘classical’ chess, too. On the contrary. For many years already he has been one of the world’s leading players and although his current rating of 2756 is his highest ever, he already occupied the seventh spot in the world rankings once before, in 2004.

Grischuk likes tournaments where there is a high first prize at stake and perhaps that explains why he also did well at the FIDE knock-out world championships. In 2000 in New Delhi, at the age of seventeen, he reached the semi-finals, while in 2004 in Libya he proceeded to the quarter finals. In 2005 his result in the FIDE World Cup qualified him for the Candidates matches, where thanks to victories over Malakhov and Rublevsky he earned a spot in the World Championship Tournament in Mexico (which was won by Anand, Grischuk finished 8th).

With his talent and experience, Grischuk was also a valuable member in many team events, winning numerous prizes with club teams and the Russian national team. Still, one might say that his real ‘international’ breakthrough only came last year. To begin with he won the €100,000 first prize in the Linares super-tournament, thanks to a better tiebreak than Ivanchuk, who scored the same number of points. Then, last December there was a new highlight, when in Moscow he won the Super Final of the Russian Championship ahead of Svidler. Next Grischuk carried his good form into the new year and in January he led the Russian team to victory in the World Team Championship in Bursa, Turkey.

A further success was close when last month he defended his title in Linares and caught up with the leading Topalov with one round to go. But this time it was not to be and in the end he had to settle for second place. Still, there can be no doubt that with these recent exploits in his fingers, Grischuk will be warmed up for his second Amber.

Player photos by John Nunn


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