Amber: Carlsen back on top with one round to go

by ChessBase
3/25/2010 – In round ten Magnus Carlsen reclaimed first place in the overall standings with a 2-0 win over Ruslan Ponomariov. With one round and two games to go, the Norwegian grandmaster is half a point ahead of Vasily Ivanchuk and one and a half points ahead of Vladimir Kramnik. Ivanchuk and Kramnik drew their mini-match today after two hard-fought games. Round ten 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.

Carlsen back on top with one round to go

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

Carlsen-Ponomariov: Magnus Carlsen scored a relatively uncomplicated win against Ruslan Ponomariov in their blindfold game, the Ukrainian more or less digging his own grave when he opened his kingside position with 21…g4. With White’s bishop pair and most of his pieces ready to jump at the Black’s king this was indeed a poorly judged advance. Or, as Carlsen out it: ‘Once the position opens you can immediately see who is mating who.’

The rapid game was quite a different affair. ‘It pays off to play on’, said Magnus with a grin, when he walked into the hospitality lounge after he had ground down Ponomariov in 102 moves. In a Grünfeld Defence he had been slightly worse for a long time, but he kept looking for chances. These finally came in the endgame, a rook ending with both players having four pawns on the kingside.

Ponomariov,R (2737) - Carlsen,M (2813) [D86]
19th Amber Rapid Nice FRA (10), 24.03.2010
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Bc4 c5 8.Ne2 Nc6 9.Be3 0-0 10.0-0 Qc7 11.Rb1 Rd8 12.Bf4 Be5 13.Bxe5 Nxe5 14.Bb3 Ng4 15.Ng3 Qf4 16.h3 Nf6 17.e5 Nd5 18.Ne2 Qe4 19.Ng3 Qf4 20.dxc5 Be6 21.Qd4 b6 22.Ne2 Qf5 23.cxb6 Nxb6 24.Qf4 Rac8 25.Qxf5 Bxf5 26.Rbd1 Bd3 27.Rfe1 a5 28.Nf4 Bc4 29.Rxd8+ Rxd8 30.Re4 Bxb3 31.axb3 Rd1+ 32.Kh2 Rb1 33.c4 Rxb3 34.c5 Nd7 35.c6 Nb6 36.Rd4 Rc3 37.Nd5 Nxd5 38.Rxd5 Rxc6 39.Rxa5

Carlsen explained that he had some practice with exactly this ending as he had played it four years ago in Norway. At that time he had to work out the principles himself, now he already had some essential knowledge. 39...Rc4 40.Kg3 e6 41.f4 h6 42.Kf3 Rc3+ 43.Kf2 g5 44.fxg5 hxg5. The first step forward is made, Carlsen has managed to isolate his opponent’s e-pawn. But it was still a far way from a win and much more manoeuvring was required. 45.Ra4 Kg7 46.Rg4 Kh6 47.g3 Kh5 48.Ra4 Kg6 49.Ra5 Rd3 50.h4 gxh4 51.gxh4 Rd7 52.Ke3 Rb7 53.Kf4 Rb4+ 54.Kg3 Kf5 55.Ra7 Rg4+ 56.Kf3 Rg7 57.Ra5 Rg1 58.Rb5 Ra1 59.Rc5 Ra3+ 60.Kf2 Ke4 61.h5 Ra8 62.Kg3 Kf5 63.Kh4 Ra4+ 64.Kg3 Rg4+ 65.Kf3 Rf4+ 66.Kg3 Kg5 67.h6 Rg4+ 68.Kf3 Rh4 69.Rc7 Kg6 70.Rc8 Rxh6

Black is now a pawn up, but the position should still be a draw (watch out for analysis by GM Karsten Müller in our CBM Online blog). The Norwegian GM keeps pressing. 71.Kg4 Rh1 72.Rg8+? According to Fritz this is a mistake – 72.Kf4 was required. 72...Kh7 73.Ra8 Rf1 74.Ra2 Kg6 75.Rg2 Rf5 76.Re2 Kg7 77.Kg3 Kf8 78.Re4 Ke7 79.Kg4 Kd7 80.Rd4+ Kc6 81.Rd6+ Kc7

It is achieved, the last white pawn is about to fall. 82.Rd1 Rxe5 83.Rf1 f5+ 84.Kg5 Kd6 85.Kf6 Re4 86.Rd1+ Kc5 87.Rd8 f4 88.Kg5 e5 89.Kg4 Re3 90.Rd1 Kc4 91.Rd2 f3 92.Kg3 e4 93.Kf2 Rd3 94.Ra2 Kd4 95.Ra4+ Ke5 96.Kg3 Rd2 97.Ra5+ Kd4 98.Ra4+ Ke3 99.Ra3+ Ke2 100.Kf4 f2

0-1. Carlsen must be praised for his perseverance, but it also must be said that Ponomariov put up feeble resistance.

Magnus Carlsen, back in the lead after his 2-0 victory over Ruslan Ponomariov

Ivanchuk-Kramnik: The longest game of the day was the blindfold encounter between Vasily Ivanchuk and Vladimir Kramnik, a key game between the tournament leader and one of his main rivals. The game lasted 112 moves and more than two hours (and thus seriously delayed the start of the first rapid session). At first Kramnik had no problems at all in his favourite Petroff Defence, but a couple of inaccuracies on the Russian’s part combined with Ivanchuk’s fighting spirit led to a big advantage for the Ukrainian phenomenon.

Vassily Ivanchuk played a marathon 112-move blindfold game

Ivanchuk,V (2748) - Kramnik,V (2790) [C42]
19th Amber Blindfold Nice FRA (10), 24.03.2010
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Nc6 7.0-0 Be7 8.c4 Nb4 9.Be2 0-0 10.Nc3 Bf5 11.a3 Nxc3 12.bxc3 Nc6 13.Re1 Re8 14.cxd5 Qxd5 15.Bf4 Rac8 16.h3 h6 17.g4 Bg6 18.Bd3 Bxd3 19.Qxd3 Bd6 20.c4 Qa5 21.Be3 Rcd8 22.Qc2 Bf8 23.Kg2 Qa6 24.a4 Nb4 25.Qb3 Qg6 26.Rad1 Nc2 27.Re2 Nxe3+ 28.fxe3 b6 29.Qb1 Qc6 30.Qb5 Qb7 31.d5 a6 32.Qb3 c6 33.e4 cxd5 34.cxd5 Rc8 35.e5 b5 36.axb5 axb5 37.d6 Rc4 38.Qd3 Qd7 39.Qf5 Rd8 40.Qxd7 Rxd7 41.e6

White’s passed pawns forced Kramnik to give up a piece for two pawns: 41...Rxd6 42.Rxd6 Bxd6 43.e7 Bxe7 44.Rxe7. Now the question was whether this ending was won for Ivanchuk. After the game Kramnik exchanged views with a host of grandmasters in the hospitality lounge and opined that to his mind it was an ‘absolute draw, but unpleasant to defend’. Not everyone was convinced, but definite conclusions were not reached. Again this will have to wait for the analysis of our endgame specialist Karsten Müller. 44...b4 45.Rb7 Re4 46.Kf2 g5 47.Kg3 Kg7 48.Rb6 f6

49.h4? Ivanchuk admitted that he had thrown away his winning chances with 49.h4, ‘a terrible move’. Of course he was right, but frustrated by this missed chance he kept playing on and only accepted a draw in a rook and knight versus rook endgame more than sixty moves later. 49...h5 50.gxh5 gxh4+ 51.Nxh4 Re5 52.Rb7+ Kh6 53.Kf4 Rc5 54.Nf5+ Kxh5 55.Rxb4 Kg6 56.Nh4+ Kh5 57.Nf5 Kg6 58.Ne3 Ra5 59.Rb6 Ra4+ 60.Kf3 Rd4 61.Ng2 Ra4 62.Nf4+ Kg5 63.Rb5+ f5 64.Ng2 Ra8 65.Ne3 Rf8 66.Rb7 Rf6 67.Rb8 Ra6 68.Rd8 Rh6 69.Rd5 Rf6 70.Kg3 Rf8 71.Ra5 Rf7 72.Ng2 Rb7 73.Nh4 Rb3+ 74.Nf3+ Kg6 75.Ra6+ Kh5 76.Rf6 Rb5 77.Rf8 Kg6 78.Nd4 Re5 79.Kf3 Re7 80.Ra8 Kg5 81.Ra6 Re1 82.Ra5 Kg6 83.Nxf5 Rf1+ 84.Ke4 Re1+ 85.Ne3 Kf6 86.Ra6+ Ke7 87.Kd4 Kd7 88.Nf5 Rd1+ 89.Ke5 Re1+ 90.Kd5 Rd1+ 91.Nd4 Ke7 92.Rb6 Kf7 93.Rc6 Ke7 94.Re6+ Kf7 95.Re4 Kf6 96.Kd6 Rd3 97.Rg4 Rd1 98.Kd5 Rf1 99.Rg2 Rd1 100.Rf2+ Ke7 101.Ke5 Re1+ 102.Ne2 Kd7 103.Kd5 Rd1+ 104.Nd4 Ke7 105.Rf4 Ke8 106.Kd6 Rd3 107.Rh4 Kf7 108.Ke5 Rd1 109.Nf3 Rf1 110.Rh7+ Kg6 111.Rh3 Kf7 112.Kf5 Ke7 ½-½.

The rapid game was also a gritty fight, and this time it was Kramnik who got the winning chances. At least that was his opponent’s conviction after he had managed to escape with a draw in 46 moves. That left him the only player in the tournament who has not yet lost a single game.

Standings after the tenth round (official)

1.  Grischuk   7    
2. Carlsen 6½
3. Ivanchuk 6
4. Gelfand 5½
Karjakin 5½
Kramnik 5½
7. Gashimov 5
Svidler 5
9. Aronian 4
Ponomariov 4
11. Smeets 3½
12. Dominguez 2½
1.  Carlsen    7    
Ivanchuk 7
3. Kramnik 6½
4. Aronian 5½
Gashimov 5½
Gelfand 5½
Karjakin 5½
Svidler 5½
9. Grischuk 4½
10. Ponomariov 3½
11. Dominguez 2
Smeets 2
1.  Carlsen    13½
2. Ivanchuk 13
3. Kramnik 12
4. Grischuk 11½
5. Gelfand 11
Karjakin 11
7. Gashimov 10½
Svidler 10½
9. Aronian 9½
10. Ponomariov 7½
11. Smeets 5½
12. Dominguez 4½

Cross table

Statistics: Of the 120 games played so far 47 or 39% have been drawn. White won 41 games = 34%, Black 32 games = 27%. The statistics look different for Magnus Carlsen: only 15% draws = three games, 25% = five games lost and 60% = 12 games won. Ivanchuk has achieved his second place in a different fashion: 70% draws, 30% wins and 0% losses. Here's how these two players did in their ten matches so far:

Tomorrow in the last round Carlsen (13½) plays Grischuk (11½). Ivanchuk (13) is paired against Gelfand (11), while Kramnik (12) faces Karjakin (11). Round 11 starts two hours earlier than normal at 12.30 hrs.

Player portrait

Ruslan Ponomariov – Ukraine, Elo rating: 2737, World ranking: 15, born October 11, 1983, Amber highlights: This is his Amber debut.

Ruslan Ponomariov makes his Amber debut at the age of 26, but at this youthful point in his life he can already look back on an eventful career and several records. Born in Horlivka, Ukraine, he was only twelve years old when he won the U-18 European Junior Championship. One year later he gave a further show of his precociousness when he also claimed the U-18 World Junior title. And in 1998, at the exact age of 14 years and 17 days he became (at that moment) the youngest grandmaster in history.

In the years that followed Ponomariov had encouraging results, such as tournament victory in Torshavn in 2000 and a silver medal on second board for the 8½ from 11 he scored for Ukraine at the 2001 Olympiad in Istanbul, but nothing compared to the splash that he made in the 2002 FIDE World Championship in Moscow. In a 128-player knock-out tournament he managed to reach the final in which he sensationally defeated his compatriot Ivanchuk 4½-2½. This made him the youngest world champion in history, but as the title was decided in a knock-out event and several top players didn’t take part, this record was not generally recognized. Garry Kasparov, the leader in the world rankings at the time, was little impressed by Ponomariov’s feat, but changed his appreciation of his playing strength when the Ukrainian finished second behind him in the ensuing Linares tournament. In an attempt to come to a reunification of the world championship, a match was planned between Kasparov and Ponomariov, which was to be played in 2003. However, the negotiations got bogged down in political and other games behind the scenes and the match never materialized.

This cancellation came as a bog blow for Ponomariov and it is no exaggeration to say that this disappointment had a serious impact on his play for several years. There were many ups and downs and it was only last year that he managed to raise his rating to 2741 again, only two points away from his all-time high seven years earlier. In San Sebastian he showed his best qualities when he finished shared first, scoring 6½ from 9, with Nakamura (only to lose the subsequent blitz play-off). And at the end of the year he once again demonstrated his talent for knock-out events (‘you need not worry about 127 opponents, there are only 7 you have to beat’) when he fought his way to the final of the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, knocking out a.o. Motylev, Bacrot, Gashimov and Malakhov. The fight with Gelfand in the final was long and tense and Ponomariov only succumbed in the blitz play-off.


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