Amber: Carlsen closes in on tournament leader Ivanchuk

by ChessBase
3/24/2010 – Vasily Ivanchuk defended first place in the overall standings with two draws against Vugar Gashimov. With two rounds and four games to go the Ukrainian grandmaster has a half-point lead over Magnus Carlsen, who defeated Leinier Dominguez of Cuba 1½-½. Vladimir Kramnik also improved his position, moving into third place, which he shares with Alexander Grischuk. Round nine 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 closes in on tournament leader Ivanchuk

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

Dominguez-Carlsen: The blindfold game between Leinier Dominguez and Magnus Carlsen developed along the lines of an everyday Catalan with Dominguez getting slightly optimistic after 19.Qf3 and 20.Rac1. Carlsen was in time with his counterplay (21.b4 and 22…Qa4) and from that moment onwards Black exerted some pressure, but couldn’t really achieve something with the strong white knight on c4. ‘A pretty normal game’, Dominguez concluded after it had been drawn after 50 moves.

At the start of the rapid game Dominguez thought for one minute before he replied to White’s 1.e4 with his favourite Najdorf. Carlsen opted for 6.Be2 and got a good game. Still, he wasn’t completely happy with his play and felt that he could have won quicker once he had gotten his knight to f5. What he did like were the three connected passers he got on the queenside...

Carlsen,M (2813) - Dominguez Perez,L (2713) [B92]
19th Amber Rapid Nice FRA (9), 23.03.2010
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be2 e5 7.Nb3 Be7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Kh1 Nc6 10.f4 b5 11.Be3 Bb7 12.a4 Nb4 13.Qd2 d5 14.fxe5 Nxe4 15.Nxe4 dxe4 16.Nd4 Nd5 17.Nf5 Qc7 18.Bd4 e3 19.Qe1 Bc5 20.Bxc5 Qxc5 21.Bd3 Bc8 22.Nd6 Qd4 23.axb5 Be6 24.bxa6 Qxe5 25.Qh4 f5 26.Nc4 Qf6 27.Qh3

Carlsen's last move, 27.Qh4-h3 threw Black on the ropes, and Dominguez immediately blundered: 27...f4?? He could have put up more resistance with 27…g6. The rest wasn’t too difficult anymore and Carlsen won without much difficulty. 28.Qxh7+ Kf7 29.Qe4 Kg8 30.Ra5 Rfd8 31.Nxe3 Nxe3 32.Rxf4 Nf5 33.Raxf5 Bxf5 34.Rxf5 Qh6 35.h3 Ra7 36.Qc4+ Kh8 37.Qc5 g6 38.Rf6 Rg7 39.Rf8+ Rxf8 40.Qxf8+ Kh7 41.Kh2 Qe3 42.Qd6 Qg5 43.b4 Re7 44.b5 Re5 45.Qxg6+ Qxg6 46.Bxg6+ Kxg6 47.a7 1-0. Carlsen still had his doubts about his play, but he also concluded that with four games to go he had already won more games (ten) than in the previous years.

In his Arctic Securities blog Magnus writes: Finally back on track. The blindfold game was not a very exiting affair, as after a quiet opening as White, Dominguez played solidly without blundering, and there was not much I could do. Actually the most interesting thing that happened, was that I made an illegal move at one point, having forgotten where my rook was. Afterwards I discovered that the move I had attempted to make was a serious blunder, so I could really count myself lucky! Anyway I eventually got a symbolic advantage in an almost symmetrical position, but there was no way to make progress, and the game quickly ended in a draw by three-fold repetition on move 50.

The rapid game was considerably more interesting. After a slightly unusual opening I obtained a very promising position in the early middlegame. Soon I was already searching for a way to finish him off. I did not manage to do that, but after a couple of mistakes by my opponent, I got a winning position anyway. Subsequently, I certainly did not find the quickest win, but what I did was more than good enough, and I forced my opponent's capitulation on move 47, when one of my three connected passed pawns was about to queen.

Ivanchuk has slowed down his pace a bit, but with two draws today he is still leading with 12/18, ahead of me at 11.5, and Kramnik and Grischuk at 11. Tomorrow I play Ruslan Ponomariov, who became FIDE world champion in 2002 at the age of 18. He has not had such great results since then, but is still a great player. I am certainly hoping to close in on the gap though, as my recent results against Ponomariov have been pretty good. Ivanchuk and Kramnik are playing each other, in another crucial contest. Magnus Carlsen, Nice, March 23rd, 2298

Grischuk-Smeets: With his win over Jan Smeets, the leader in the blindfold standings, Alexander Grischuk, raised his total score in the blindfold to a most impressive 7 out of 9. Nevertheless the Russian champion was mainly modest after this further win. ‘I played the opening so badly, that I both needed to get lucky and needed the help of my opponent’.

The rapid game was a much smoother performance. In a Sicilian Hedgehog Grischuk carefully manoeuvred behind the lines, preparing the central break that almost inevitably came.

Smeets,J (2651) - Grischuk,A (2756) [B41]
19th Amber Rapid Nice FRA (9), 23.03.2010
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 a6 5.c4 Nf6 6.Nc3 Qc7 7.a3 b6 8.Be2 Bb7 9.f3 Be7 10.Be3 0-0 11.0-0 d6 12.Qd2 Nbd7 13.Rac1 Rfc8 14.Rfd1 Rab8 15.b4 Ba8 16.Bf1 Qd8 17.Na4 Ne5 18.Qf2 Qe8 19.b5 Bd8 20.Nb2 a5 21.Nb3 Qe7 22.Na4 Nfd7 23.Qb2 Bc7 24.Bf2 h6 25.Rd4 Qg5 26.Bg3 Qe7 27.Rcd1 h5 28.h4 Nc5 29.Nc3 a4 30.Nc1 d5

31.exd5? He should have tried 31.f4 – now Grischuk can strike hard with 31...Nxf3+ 32.gxf3 Bxg3 and White was fighting a lost battle. 33.Qg2 Be5 34.N1e2 Bxd4+ 35.Rxd4 exd5 36.Nxd5 Bxd5 37.Rxd5 Ne6 38.Nc3 Nf4 39.Qg3 Qe3+ 40.Kh1 Nxd5 41.Nxd5 Qh6 42.Ne7+ Kh8 43.Nxc8 Rxc8 44.Qe5 Kg8 45.c5 Qc1 0-1.

The blindfold game between Vugar Gashimov and Vasily Ivanchuk was a brief fierce cash that ended in perpetual check after 30 moves. The rapid game was a balanced positional act in which pieces were exchanged in rapid succession. On move 38, when both players had only one knight and five pawns left, the game ended in a draw by repetition of moves.

Vladimir Kramnik steered clear of all Grünfeld main line theory against Peter Svidler (‘Apparently he is impressed by my Grünfeld skills’) and opted for a sound but harmless approach. The rapid game was a painful loss for Svidler. In a fashionable variation that Kramnik called ‘slightly difficult for Black but playable’, he committed a big strategic mistake when he pushed his pawn to f6 on move 20 and robbed himself of all play. The rest of the game Kramnik described as easy, he only needed to remain concentrated and choose the right moment to break through on the queenside. Once he broke through White lost material and soon had to resign.

In round ten Ivanchuk plays Kramnik, while Carlsen faces Ponomariov. Grischuk meets Aronian.

Standings after the ninth round (official)

1.  Grischuk   7    
2. Carlsen 5½
Ivanchuk 5½
4. Gelfand 5
Karjakin 5
Kramnik 5
7. Gashimov 4½
Svidler 4½
9. Ponomariov 4
10. Aronian 3
Smeets 3
12. Dominguez 2
1.  Ivanchuk   6½
2. Carlsen 6
Kramnik 6
4. Gelfand 5½
5. Aronian 5
Gashimov 5
Karjakin 5
8. Svidler 4½
9. Grischuk 4
10. Ponomariov 3½
11. Dominguez 2
12. Smeets 1
1.  Ivanchuk   12    
2. Carlsen 11½
3. Grischuk 11
Kramnik 11
5. Gelfand 10½
6. Karjakin 10
7. Gashimov 9½
8. Svidler 9
9. Aronian 8
10. Ponomariov 7½
11. Dominguez 4
Smeets 4

Cross table

People have started to gather at the beach in Nice

This gives you in impression why the Mediterranean resort is so popular

Photos by Nadja Wittmann


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