Amber: Carlsen continues with sixth victory in succession

by ChessBase
3/17/2010 – This is a real Rambo-style comeback: after the shock 0-2 loss in round one Magnus Carlsen has won six games in a row, and caught the leading Vassily Ivanchuk in the overall score. Israeli GM Boris Gelfand shocked former World Champion Vladimir Kramnik with a 2-0 wipe-out. Gelfand and Grischuk are now a point behind the leaders. Wednesday is a free day. Round four 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 four

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

Carlsen catches Ivanchuk after third 2-0 wipe-out

After four rounds of the Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament, Magnus Carlsen and Vasily Ivanchuk are tied for first in the overall standings with 6.0 points from eight games. The Ukrainian grandmaster defeated last year’s winner Levon Aronian 1½-½. Magnus Carlsen continued his remarkable comeback (he had lost 2-0 to Ivanchuk in Round 1) by defeating Jan Smeets 2-0, raising his number of consecutive wins to six. Manifold Amber winner Vladimir Kramnik suffered a highly unusual 2-0 defeat at the hands of Boris Gelfand. Perhaps typical for the fighting spirit of the round was the fact that 5 out the 6 rapid games were won by black.

Carlsen-Smeets: Magnus Carlsen was understandably ambitious to continue his winning streak in his blindfold game against bottom-seed Jan Smeets. Despite a modest opening set-up (that started with 1.g3) he indeed got an edge, but there was no reason for Black to despair yet. Smeets’ action was based on a miscalculation. After 32…Rxc4 the only reply he had counted on was 33.Rd6+, but instead Carlsen dealt a killer blow with 33.Bg5. Three moves later Black resigned, raising Carlsen’s winning streak to five.

Carlsen,M (2813) - Smeets,J (2651) [A07]
19th Amber Blindfold Nice FRA (4), 16.03.2010

1.g3 d5 2.Nf3 c6 3.Bg2 Nf6 4.0-0 Bf5 5.c4 e6 6.d3 Bd6 7.cxd5 exd5 8.Nc3 0-0 9.Nh4 Be6 10.e4 Na6 11.Qe2 Re8 12.h3 Be5 13.f4 Bxc3 14.bxc3 dxe4 15.dxe4 Bd5 16.e5 Bxg2 17.Kxg2 Qd5+ 18.Nf3 Rad8 19.c4 Qe4 20.Re1 Qxe2+ 21.Rxe2 Nd7 22.Be3 f6 23.Bxa7 fxe5 24.Nxe5 Nxe5 25.fxe5 Kf7 26.Rb1 Rd7 27.Bf2 Ke6 28.g4 Rf8 29.Be3 Rff7 30.a4 Rd3 31.a5

31...Rc3. Afterwards Carlsen commented that had Smeets just stayed put, instead of becoming active with this move, he didn’t see how he could have made progress. 32.Rd1 Rxc4? 33.Bg5! A killer blow. Rd7 34.Rxd7 Kxd7 35.e6+ Ke8 36.Rd2 1-0. [Click to replay]

In the rapid game the Norwegian also scored his sixth consecutive win, but this time he really had to squeeze water from a stone. After the opening he was slightly worse, but he kept looking for his chances, collecting one minimal asset after the other.

Smeets,J (2651) - Carlsen,M (2813) [C95]
19th Amber Rapid Nice FRA (4), 16.03.2010
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Be7 6.Re1 b5 7.Bb3 d6 8.c3 0-0 9.h3 Nb8 10.d4 Nbd7 11.Nbd2 Bb7 12.Bc2 c5 13.Nf1 cxd4 14.cxd4 exd4 15.Nxd4 Re8 16.Nf5 Bf8 17.Nxd6 Bxd6 18.Qxd6 Rc8 19.Bb3 Nxe4 20.Qf4 Nef6 21.Rxe8+ Qxe8 22.Be3 Nd5 23.Qd4 N7f6 24.Bd2 Qe4 25.Qxe4 Nxe4 26.Rc1 Rxc1 27.Bxc1 Nc5 28.Bc2 Nb4 29.Be3 Nxc2 30.Bxc5 Ne1 31.Ne3 Nd3 32.b4 a5 33.a3 Nxc5 34.bxc5 b4 35.axb4 axb4 36.Kf1 b3 37.Nd1 Kf8 38.g3

38...g5!? Carlsen decides he is going to try and win this endgame. He leaves the white c-pawn unattended and goes for a kingside scrummage. 39.Ke2 Bg2 40.h4 gxh4 41.gxh4 Kg7 42.Kd3 Kg6 43.Kc4 Kh5 44.Kxb3 Kxh4 45.Ne3 Bb7 46.Kc4 h5 47.Kd4. The first error – now Black suddenly has winning chances. 47...Kg5 48.Ke5? h4 49.f4+ Kg6 50.Ng4 h3 51.Nh2 f6+ 52.Ke6 Bg2 53.Ng4

Now moving the bishop to f3, e4, c6, b7 or a8 would win comfortably. 53...Kh5? 54.Nf2?? (54.Nh2 draws) 54...h2 55.Kxf6 Kh4 56.Ke5 Kg3 0-1. [Click to replay]

After a shock 0-2 start this young man has won six games in a row

Gelfand-Kramnik: Boris Gelfand didn’t hide his contentment after he had won his blindfold game against Vladimir Kramnik. ‘It’s always nice to win against such a great player’, he almost humbly commented.

The Israeli grandmaster more or less blamed Black’s defeat on the opening system he had chosen, the Bg4-system that is mainly popular among some Azeri players. One of the ideas of the black approach is the exchange sacrifice on e3 that also happened in this game. Gelfand wasn’t convinced of its correctness and suggested Black should have looked for something else at that point. He pointed out the sad offside position of the black knight on c7 in particular and quoted Tarrasch who said that if one piece doesn’t take part in the play there’s something wrong with the entire position. Gelfand was satisfied with his plan Bd1 and Ne2 which allowed him to cement his advantage and slowly but surely win the game.

Vladimir Kramnik suffered an uncharacteristic 0-2 loss

In the rapid game Kramnik was perhaps too cautious in his approach, certainly if he had clear plans to level the score, and this seriously backfired. Playing actively Gelfand freely advanced his pawns and directed his pieces to active positions. Objectively speaking, White was not yet in trouble, but Black’s position was much more pleasant and easy to play. Gradually the black pressure built up, and then came the blunder...

Ready to do battle: Israeli GM Boris Gelfand (in the background: Alexander Grischuk)

Kramnik,V (2790) - Gelfand,B (2750) [E15]
19th Amber Rapid Nice FRA (4), 16.03.2010
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6 4.g3 Ba6 5.b3 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Be7 7.Bg2 c6 8.Bc3 d5 9.Nbd2 Nbd7 10.Qc2 c5 11.dxc5 bxc5 12.0-0 0-0 13.Bb2 Qb6 14.Rfe1 Bb7 15.cxd5 exd5 16.Rad1 Rad8 17.Bh3 Qc6 18.Rc1 Ne4 19.Bg2 f5 20.b4 c4 21.a3 Bf6 22.Nd4 Qb6 23.N2f3 g5 24.e3 g4 25.Nd2 Ne5 26.Re2 Bg7 27.Rd1 Rc8 28.Nf1 Nd3 29.Ba1 Qa6 30.Qa2 Qa4 31.Rc2?

31...Ndxf2 32.Bxe4 fxe4 33.Ne6 Nxd1 34.Bxg7 Rxf1+ and because of 35.Kxf1 Nxe3+ (see Europe Echecs video below) Kramnik had to throw the towel. An impressive achievement by Gelfand. 0-1. [Click to replay]

Player portraits (with photos by John Nunn)

Boris Gelfand – Israel, Elo rating: 2750, World ranking: 9, born June 24, 1968, Amber highlights: overall 5th in 2001 and 2002

As the new stars are getting younger and younger, it’s becoming unclear what is the ideal age for a chess grandmaster. Most probably not around 40, as used to be the conviction not so long ago. Unless you’re Boris Gelfand, of course. We remember his delight when the Israeli number one finished shared second in the World Championship Tournament in Mexico in 2007 and a Russian journalist compared him to Paolo Maldini. Just like the Milan football star, who was about his age, Gelfand continued to dedicate himself religiously to his sport and felt that he could still play against the young guard. At that time he was 38, so you can imagine his happiness when last December at the World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, Gelfand, as the oldest participant, topped a field of 128 eager players. Once again he had shown that motivation and discipline can rival youth and energy.

Gelfand was born in Minsk when Belarus still belonged to the Soviet Union. The first big step in his impressive career was his win in the 1985 Soviet Junior Championship, which he followed up with winning the European Junior Championship. Easily the most memorable achievement in his early career was his win, ahead of 139(!) grandmasters at the Palma de Mallorca GMA World Cup qualifier in 1989.

Gelfand confidently continued to develop into a seasoned world class player who spends most of the time in the world’s top ten. He’s won countless first prizes in international competitions, including top honours in Biel 1993, Dos Hermanas 1994, Belgrade 1995, Vienna 1996, Tilburg 1996 (shared with Jeroen Piket), Polanica Zdroj 1998 and 2000, and Cannes 2002. In 2003 he led the Israeli team to the silver medals at the European Team Championship. Further victories we can mention are his wins in Ashdod 2004, Pamplona 2004, Bermuda 2005 and Biel 2005. In the super-tournaments in Dortmund and Moscow in 2006 he finished half a point behind the winners.

Last year was another well-filled year. Apart from the World Cup he did well in the Grand Prix tournament in Jermuk, where he finished shared second and also showed strong performances in various team events. He scored 4.5 from 5 in the European Club Cup and 7 from 8 in the Austrian Bundesliga. Following his win in Khanty-Mansiysk he met with a hero’s welcome in Israel and had to give dozens of interviews to the media. As a result his preparation for Linares last month was patchy and he was rightly unhappy with his play. Two weeks of rest and training before Amber must have gotten him into the right mood again.

Jan Smeets – The Netherlands, Elo rating: 2651, World ranking: 87, born: April 5, 1985, Amber highlights: This is his Amber debut.

Jan Smeets makes his Amber debut as the qualifier from the 2009 NH Chess Tournament in Amsterdam. Playing sound and solid chess the Dutch grandmaster had the best score of the members of the Rising Stars team. With 6 out of 10 he surprised friend and foe and topped the efforts of pre-tournament favourites Nakamura and Caruana. Smeets was delighted with the invitation to Nice, as now he had two super-events on the horizon to prepare for, Corus in January and Amber in March. In Wijk aan Zee he hoped to follow up his encouraging 2009 Corus debut, in which he finished shared eighth with Wang Yue and Loek van Wely. His satisfaction about his play he expressed with the conclusion that he hadn’t had the feeling ‘that his opponents came from a different planet or something’. Still, the first part of his new mission ended in a failure, as a disastrous start in Wijk aan Zee (he lost all four games in Rounds 2 to 5) ruined his tournament. In the end he recovered admirably, but it is clear that he will be determined to show a better result in Amber.

The special talent of Smeets was discovered at an early age and he assembled a nice collection of Dutch junior titles in various age categories. He also competed in countless European and World junior competitions, his best result being fifth place in the 2005 World Juniors in Istanbul, two points behind champion Mamedyarov. As he was outgrowing junior events he continued to have good results. In 2005 he finished shared second in the Corus B-Group and in 2008 he became Dutch champion. This seemed to be a turning point, as from around this time he kept steadily raising his rating, accumulating some 75 points to reach the 2651 he has now.

In fact, Smeets didn’t play all that much last year, but when he played he mostly played well. For instance, in the Holland-England clash at the Staunton Memorial in London he had the second best overall score and the best on the Dutch side. He also contributed heavily to the championship of his club HSG in the Dutch league, scoring 7½ from 9 and a performance rating of 2670. This season he seems to be on schedule too, as so far he has scored 4 from 4.

Although he studies economics at university, Smeets spends a lot of time on chess. His deep theoretical knowledge is generally praised and will be one of the reasons why he has been asked to be Topalov’s second in his forthcoming world championship match against Anand. Obviously this theoretical knowledge will come in handy in Nice, too.

Standings after the fourth round

1.  Carlsen    3    
Grischuk 3
Ivanchuk 3
4. Gelfand 2½
Karjakin 2½
Ponomariov 2½
7. Gashimov 2
8. Aronian 1½
Kramnik 1½
Svidler 1½
11. Dominguez ½
Smeets ½
1.  Carlsen    3    
Ivanchuk 3
3. Gelfand 2½
Kramnik 2½
5. Aronian 2
Grischuk 2
Ponomariov 2
Svidler 2
9. Dominguez 1½
Gashimov 1½
11. Karjakin 1
Smeets 1
1.  Carlsen    6    
Ivanchuk 6
3. Gelfand 5
Grischuk 5
5. Ponomariov 4½
6. Kramnik 4
7. Aronian 3½
Gashimov 3½
Karjakin 3½
Svidler 3½
11. Dominguez 2
12. Smeets 1½

Tomorrow, March 17, is a rest day. Play is resumed Thursday March 18 with Round 5.

Video report by Europe Echecs (with short statements by Magnus Carlsen and Vugar Gashimov)


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