Ivanchuk-Carlsen 2:0 – shock start in Amber 2010

by ChessBase
3/14/2010 – The 19th Amber Blindfold and Rapid tournament began with a shock: top seed Magnus Carlsen played 1.a3 in his blindfold game against "Mr Amber" Vassily Ivanchuk and lost. Carlsen went on to lose the rapid game as well. Former FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov, playing for the first time, also won 2-0 against Boris Gelfand. Big report with pictures from the opening ceremony.

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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 one

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

First day sensation: Top-seed Carlsen loses 2-0 to ‘Mr Amber’

Magnus Carlsen openend his blindfold game against Vasily Ivanchuk with 1.a3, aiming for an open battle, unburdened by theory and steering clear of any possible preparation of his opponent. The plan wasn’t a success, even if he managed to win a pawn. Black got such good compensation that the Norwegian top-seed must have regretted his unorthodox approach. He kept looking for his chances, but Ivanchuk remained fully concentrated and his advantage was such that at some point the white position should collapse. An oversight on move 31 sped up the end of the game and floored another top-favourite.

Carlsen,M (2813) - Ivanchuk,V (2748) [A00]
19th Amber Blindfold Nice FRA (1), 13.03.2010
1.a3 Nf6 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 d5 4.e3 Bg4 5.h3 Bh5 6.cxd5 cxd5 7.Nc3 Nc6 8.Bb5 Rc8 9.g4 Bg6 10.Qa4 Nd7 11.b4 e6 12.Bb2 Be7 13.Bxc6 bxc6 14.Qxa7 c5 15.Qa6 0-0 16.Qe2 c4 17.e4 d4 18.Nb5 e5 19.h4 Qb6 20.a4 Qb7 21.Ng5 h6 22.h5 hxg5 23.hxg6 fxg6 24.f3 Bxb4 25.Ba3 Bxa3 26.Rxa3 Qb6 27.Qh2 Qc5 28.Qh7+ Kf7 29.Ra1 Nf6 30.Qh2 Ra8

White is already losing, but it is an instant termination after a typical blindfold oversight: 31.d3? Qxb5! 0-1.

In the rapid game Carlsen tried to fight back with the Poisoned Pawn of the Najdorf Defence. Afterwards Ivanchuk felt that he again had had sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn, but was reluctant to give a concrete assessment of the game as it had been so ‘very complicated’. One move he criticized was 25…Kf7, which allowed him to increase the pressure. They ended up in a rook endgame of three pawns versus two, which Black failed to defend, leading to a sensational 2-0 defeat of the top seed.

Grischuk-Kramnik: Russian champion Alexander Grischuk could have no misunderstanding about Vladimir Kramnik’s intentions in the blindfold game, as the former World Champion played almost all his moves instantly. Playing with white he had to leave the initiative to Black, but even if he ended up in a difficult position, the situation was still far from lost and things only got hopeless when he reverted to the desperate 38…Nxg4, where it seemed that Black could have stayed in the game with 38…Nf3. Now things were easy for Grischuk and the handful of seconds he still had on the clock proved enough to win an important scalp.

Kramnik struck back in the rapid game. After a strongly played opening he obtained a clear advantage and looking back he concluded that Black’s position was difficult. After 40…Nc3 (he should have played 40…Nb6) Black certainly was lost. The rest wasn’t difficult anymore and Kramnik wrapped up fairly effortlessly.

Karjakin-Aronian: Sergey Karjakin obtained a winning position in the blindfold game when in a sharp opening tussle Levon Aronian committed a serious error. Instead of 19…Bg5?, the Armenian grandmaster should have played 19…Bh4 or 19…Rb4. Things looked bleak for Aronian, but then he didn’t win himself a reputation for ‘slow-motion’ swindling for nothing last year.

Karjakin,Sergey (2725) - Aronian,L (2782) [C65]
19th Amber Blindfold Nice FRA (1), 13.03.2010
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.d3 d6 5.0-0 a6 6.Bxc6+ bxc6 7.d4 exd4 8.Nxd4 Bd7 9.Qf3 c5 10.Nf5 Bxf5 11.exf5 Rb8 12.g4 h6 13.h4 Be7 14.g5 hxg5 15.hxg5 Nh7 16.Re1 0-0 17.g6 fxg6 18.Qd5+ Kh8 19.fxg6 Bg5 20.Qh1 Bh4 21.Re4 Qf6 22.Qxh4 Qxg6+ 23.Qg4 Qf6 24.Qg3 d5 25.Rf4 Qe6 26.Nc3 Rxf4 27.Bxf4 Rb4 28.a3 Rc4 29.b3 Rd4

Black is completely lost, and 30.f3 should clinch it for White. 30.Qe3? Qg4+ 31.Bg3 Ng5 32.Kf1 Qh3+ 33.Ke2 Ne4 34.Re1 Qh5+ 35.Kf1 Qh1+ 36.Ke2.

Karjakin has allowed a repetition of moves, but Aronian goes for the whole hog and, thinking he is winning, plays 36…Nxc3? This turns out to be a losing move. 37.Qxc3 Re4+ 38.Kd1 Rxe1+ 39.Qxe1 Qf3+ 40.Qe2 Qh1+ 41.Kd2 d4 42.Qxa6 1-0.

In the blindfold games the players see only an empty chessboard and the notation
of the last move of the opponent.

In the rapid game Levon Aronian showed a different face and put his opponent under pressure right from the opening. Perhaps this permanent pressure also explained the mistake Karjakin made at the end of the game. Instead of hanging on in a dubious ending he blundered and even got mated.

Standings after the first round

1. Gashimov   1
Grischuk 1
Ivanchuk 1
Karjakin 1
Ponomariov 1
Svidler 1
7. Aronian 0
Carlsen 0
Dominguez 0
Gelfand 0
Kramnik 0
Smeets 0
1. Aronian    1
Ivanchuk 1
Kramnik 1
Ponomariov 1
5. Dominguez ½
Gashimov ½
Smeets ½
Svidler ½
9. Carlsen 0
Gelfand 0
Grischuk 0
Karjakin 0
1.  Ivanchuk   2
Ponomariov 2
3. Gashimov 1½
Svidler 1½
5. Aronian 1
Grischuk 1
Karjakin 1
Kramnik 1
9. Dominguez ½
Smeets ½
11. Carlsen 0
Gelfand 0

The opening ceremony

Last night the opening ceremony of the 19th Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament took place at the Chateau de Cremat, a stylish wine chateau perched on a hill overlooking Nice at a half and hour’s drive from the Palais de la Mediterranée, the five-star luxury hotel on the Promenade des Anglais where the grandmasters are staying and playing.

The evening started with a degustation of various wines of the house and then the guests of the Van Oosterom family and the players sat down for a delicious dinner. In the opening speech there was special attention for the totally unique place that the Amber tournament occupies in chess history. There have been chess benefactors who sponsored one tournament, two or even three. But no one ever came even close to the astounding 19th edition that the Amber tournament reaches this year. There was a special mention for Vasily Ivanchuk, "Mr Amber", who participated in all 19 tournaments.

I'll have what they are having? Peter Svidler, Alexander Grischuk and Vladimir Kramnik

Special guest Dr John Nunn, top seed Magnus Carlsen

First time at Amber: former FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov

The drawing of lots involved all players getting plastic ball containing either a chicken or a rabbit

Aronian and Gelfand have trouble just getting the things open...

...while youngsters Carlsen and Karjakin have it all figured out

All photos by Nadja Wittmann


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download the free PGN reader ChessBase Light, which gives you immediate access. You can also use the program to read, replay and analyse PGN games. New and enhanced: CB Light 2009!

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