Aronian wins Amber for a second time in a row

3/26/2009 – Looks like he is pretty good at the blindfold/rapid thing. Armenian GM Levon Aronian won the 18th Amber Tournament, after winning the 17th edition last year. Two draws against Veselin Topalov secured the half-point overall victory. Equal second were Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik, with Magnus Carlsen half a point behind. Pictures by John Nunn in our final report.

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The 18th Amber Blindfold and Rapid tournament, organized by the Association Max Euwe in Monaco, is taking place from March 14 (first round) to March 26 (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. 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. Every day four sessions are played: two blindfold and two rapid games. The first session starts at 14.30h. The fourth session finishes around 20.00h. (Note: the final round on March 26 starts at 12.30h. March 18 and 23 are rest days).

Round eleven: Aronian breaks away as co-leaders stumble

Round eleven: Blindfold Chess   Round eleven: Rapid Chess
Morozevich-Kamsky 1-0   Kamsky-Morozevich ½-½
Karjakin-Ivanchuk 1-0   Ivanchuk-Karjakin 0-1
Kramnik-Leko 1-0   Leko-Kramnik 0-1
Topalov-Aronian ½-½   Aronian-Topalov ½-½
Wang Yue-Anand ½-½   Anand-Wang Yue 1-0
Radjabov-Carlsen 1-0   Carlsen-Radjabov 1-0

With two draws in the final round Levon Aronian has won the 11th Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament. The Armenian grandmaster, who also triumphed in last year’s Amber, survived scary moments in his blindfold game against Veselin Topalov, but then comfortably drew the rapid game to take the title. Second place was shared by Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik. The World Champion defeated Wang Yue 1½-½, while his predecessor routed Peter Leko 2-0.

Final standings (after eleven rounds)

Blindfold
 
Rapid
 
Combined
1.  Aronian    7    
Carlsen 7
Kramnik 7
4. Anand 6½
Morozevich 6½
6. Leko 5½
Topalov 5½
8. Ivanchuk 5
Radjabov 5
10. Karjakin 4½
11. Wang Yue 3½
12. Kamsky 3
 
1.  Anand      7    
Aronian 7
Kamsky 7
4. Kramnik 6½
5. Carlsen 6
Karjakin 6
7. Topalov 5
8. Ivanchuk 4½
Leko 4½
Morozevich 4½
11. Radjabov 4
Wang Yue 4
 
1.  Aronian    14    
2. Anand 13½
Kramnik 13½
4. Carlsen 13
5. Morozevich 11
6. Karjakin 10½
Topalov 10½
8. Kamsky 10
Leko 10
10. Ivanchuk 9½
11. Radjabov 9
12. Wang Yue 7½

In the blindfold competition three players shared first place. Magnus Carlsen, who had long dominated the competition, lost his last game and this allowed Levon Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik to catch up with him.
The rapid competition also ended in a three-way tie for first. This year the best rapid players were Vishy Anand, Levon Aronian and Gata Kamsky. Full bulletin report.

Pictorial impressions from Nice by John Nunn


Pleased as Punch: Alexander and son Sergey Karjakin after two lucky wins against Ivanchuk

Apart from a win in a blitz game this was only the first time Sergey defeated his experienced compatriot (remember his resigned reaction after he lost against Ivanchuk in Wijk aan Zee: "I always lose against him"). It was also the first time he played 1.d4 against him, and it took 111 move for him to secure victory. Sergey was all smiles after the rapid game, because he won again, following Ivanchuk’s final blunder (49.Be4+). Said Karjakin: "He should have put it on f1 and I can never win."


What you look like after beating Peter Leko 2-0


What you look like after you have lost to Kramnik 0-2

Vladimir Kramnik used quite an important novelty to score a crushing victory over Peter Leko in the blindfold game. "I decided to use it as I am still fighting for the top places," the Russian grandmaster said. He had analysed it a long time ago, before the San Luis World Championship Tournament, and might have used it for his match against Anand. The new move was 15.Re1, which according to Kramnik "opens a new field for analysis".


Teimour Radjabov was presented with a free piece by Magnus Carlsen

Radjabov,T (2761) - Carlsen,M (2776) [C53]
18th Amber Blindfold Nice FRA (11), 26.03.2009
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Nf6 5.d3 0-0 6.Bb3 d5 7.Nbd2 Be6 8.Qe2 dxe4 9.dxe4 Qe7 10.0-0 Bxb3 11.axb3 a6 12.b4 Ba7 13.Nc4 Qe6 14.Na5 Nxa5 15.Rxa5 Nd7 16.Rd1 c6 17.Be3 Bxe3 18.Qxe3 Rfd8 19.h3 f6 20.Raa1 Nf8 21.Qb6 Rd7 22.Nh4 Rc8 23.Nf5 Rcc7 24.Kh2 h5 25.Qe3 g6 26.Nh4 Kg7 27.Qe2 Qb3 28.g3 Ne6 29.Rg1

In this blindfold game Magnus did not see that his queen is trapped and requires a knight move or 29...b5 to provide an escape route. 29...Rd6?? 30.Ra3 and the Norwegian has to give up a piece to save his queen: 30...Nd4 31.cxd4 Qxb4 32.dxe5 Rd2 33.exf6+ Kf7 34.Qe3 Qxb2 35.Rg2 Re2 36.Qg5 Qxa3 37.Qxg6+ Kf8 38.Qh6+ Kg8 39.Qg5+ Kf8 40.Ng6+ Ke8 41.Qe5+ Kd8 42.Nf4 Re1 43.f7? (unnecessary) Rxf7 44.Qb8+ Ke7 45.Qxb7+ Ke8 46.Qc8+ Ke7 47.e5 Rxe5 48.Ng6+ Kf6 49.Nxe5 Kxe5 50.f4+ Kf6 51.Qh8+ Kg6 52.Qg8+ Rg7 53.f5+ Kf6 54.Qe6+ 1-0. In the rapid game Carlsen had his revenge, winning a piece and the game.


Topalov and Aronian discuss their crucial blindfold game in which Topalov missed several clear wins

Topalov,V (2796) - Aronian,L (2750) [D43]
18th Amber Blindfold Nice FRA (11), 26.03.2009
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bxf6 Qxf6 7.e3 Nd7 8.Bd3 dxc4 9.Bxc4 g6 10.0-0 Bg7 11.Rc1 0-0 12.Bb3 Qe7 13.Na4 Rd8 14.Qc2 Nf8 15.Ne5 Bd7 16.Qc5 Qxc5 17.Nxc5 Rab8 18.f4 Be8 19.Rc2 Nh7 20.Rfc1 Nf6 21.a3 Bf8 22.g3 Kg7 23.Kg2 a5 24.Kf3

24...b6? 25.Nxe6+ fxe6 26.Nxc6 a4? Now White is winning. 27.Nxd8 axb3 28.Rc7+ Kg8 29.Nxe6 g5 30.e4 Bd7 31.Nxf8 Bg4+ 32.Ke3 Re8 33.e5 Nd5+ 34.Ke4 Nxc7 35.Rxc7 Rxf8 36.d5 Bf5+ 37.Kd4 Bh3 38.fxg5 Rf2 39.e6 Rd2+ 40.Ke5 Rxb2 41.Rb7 Rb1 42.e7 Re1+ 43.Kf6 Rf1+ 44.Ke5 Re1+ 45.Kf6 Rf1+ 46.Ke5 Re1+ draw.

It is interesting that White did not try Kd6 (of courst two moves earlier, before the repetition): 45.Kd6 hxg5 46.Rb8+ Kh7 47.e8Q Rxe8 48.Rxe8 is clearly won. Perhaps Topalov was afraid of something like 45.Kd6 Kf7 46.gxh6 Bf5 47.Rxb6 Rxe7 48.Rxb3 Rd7+ 49.Ke5 Rxd5+ 50.Kxd5 Be6+, but even after this skewer White easily wins with his four pawns against the bishop.


After the game Aronian summarised: "He was winning, but he didn’t see it and I escaped – as usual."


Topalov carefully examines his queen before his rapid game against Aronian

In the rapid game Aronian secured tournament victory with a brief draw in 17 moves. Once Black had equalized Topalov offered a draw, and that was an offer Aronian had no reason to refuse.


Looks like I am pretty good at this! Lev Aronian, the winner of Amber 2008 and 2009


Very few people guessed who the mysterious guest at the Amber tournament in Nice was, and none got it right. It is the brother of Bulgarian GM Veselin Topalov. See the similarity?

All pictures © John Nunn


Video reports by Europe Echecs

These video reports are by GM Robert Fontaine and the Europe Echecs team. They give us a unique view of the tournament, with daily wrap-ups and atmosphere reports.

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Topics: Amber 2009
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