Kramnik and Morozevich win Amber

by ChessBase
4/2/2004 – The 13th Amber Blindfold and Rapid tournament in Monaco ended yesterday with an overall victory for the two Russian players. Anand, who won the Rapid section, trailed by a point. We bring you all the games and plenty of pictures in our wrap-up report.

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13th Amber Blindfold and Rapid
March 20 – April 1, 2004

In a hard-fought and highly exciting last round Vladimir Kramnik and Alexander Morozevich emerged as the overall winners of the 13th Amber Blindfold and Rapid Chess tournament. The classical world champion beat Veselin Topalov 1½-½ in their mini-match, while his rival notched up the same result against Russian champion Peter Svidler.

The final round rapid chess game Kramnik vs Topalov

Morozevich also won the blindfold competition, as he did in his Amber debut in 2002. The rapid competition ended in a victory for Vishy Anand.

Alexander Morozevich, winner of the Blindfold, Vishy Anand, Rapid Chess king

All participants showed themselves extremely competitive in this Amber tournament as witness the unusually high number of decided games. In the blindfold 50 per cent of the 66 games ended in decisions. A respectable percentage, for sure, but nevertheless comparatively modest next to the truly staggering number of decided games in the rapid competition. Here 47 out of 66 games had a decisive result, which boils down to an incredible 71,2 per cent! The overall percentage of decided games was 60,6 which may safely be called impressive.

The first game between Alexander Morozevich and Peter Svidler brought the umpteenth opening surprise from the co-leader, when he chose to shed some new light on the Burn variation of the French. Barely had they played ten moves, including the typical Moro-moves 9…Rb8 and 10…b5, when Dutch IM Paul Boersma asked French expert Evgeny Bareev what he thought of the position. Bareev did not have to think long: ‘Black will win of course, but I have no idea how’. Well, that was kind praise for the blindfold wizard, but he did not win (again), even if it certainly was an interesting struggle. A struggle that cost both players a lot of time. When they were down to three minutes each, Morozevich decided to cut the knot and proposed a draw. Svidler spent one of his remaining minutes looking at a position and thinking ‘who is better and why?’ and then accepted the peace proposal. A draw that, to begin with, brought Morozevich a well-deserved overall victory in the blindfold.

Morozevich vs Svidler in the last-round rapid chess game

The rapid game was highly dramatic. At first Morozevich’s position didn’t look too impressive and after he had lost a pawn on h3 he even seemed to be in trouble. However, Morozevich didn’t knuckle under and with some miraculous and devilish manoeuvres he even managed to floor his bamboozled opponent.

Topalov and Kramnik analyse, with Gelfand (seated), Svidler, Ivanchuk and Ljubojevich looking on

Vladimir Kramnik managed to get a real battle in his blindfold game against Veselin Topalov, but what else could be expected from the Bulgarian fighter. Topalov got a clear advantage that never got decisive, although it seems that he missed a good chance on move 27, where 27.Rxc5 followed by 28.Kg2, as pointed out by Ivanchuk, would have given White a great position. With 32.Bd5 Topalov felt he had landed a tough blow, but after 32…Kf8, Black’s only move, Kramnik prevented any real damage. They fought on another ten moves and then the draw was a fact.

Postmortem by Veselin Topalov and Vladimir Kramnik (with a burning object in his hand)

In the second game Topalov had the bad fortune of running into a stunning piece of home-preparation by Kramnik. Even 25.Bxc6 he had still had on the board before the game. Topalov’s decisive mistake came one move later when he reacted to White’s 26.Qa7 with the misguided 26…e4. With 26…Bd3 he could have fought on, although Kramnik pointed out that in that case too White would be clearly better.

Vishy entertaining the crowd. Seated are Gelfand, Topalov, Anand and Kramnik; standing: Svidler, Ivanchuk and Ljubojevich

Vishy Anand took his chance to narrow the gap with the leaders to half a point in his blindfold game against Boris Gelfand. An inaccuracy in the opening led to an unpleasant position for Black. Instead of 11…h6, to which White replied strongly with 12.Bb1, he should have played 11…Bd6. Anand described his advantage as ‘a very, very slight edge that never got neutralised’ and also pointed at the structural advantages he had had such as the dominance of the knight on c6 over the white one on f3 and the superior space the white rooks enjoyed. Gelfand fought back with a will, but on the 55th move his inevitable resignation followed.

Alexei Shirov in a rapid game

In the rapid Anand, as Black, never came close to fighting for an advantage. ‘Should I play for a win in this position?’, he retorted incredulously when Ljubomir Ljubojevic asked him after the game why he had not fought on till the bitter end. Anand’s decision was understandable. Gelfand had a tiny advantage and when he proposed a draw on move 29 there was no reason not to take it. With a win he might have put additional pressure on Kramnik and Morozevich, who were still playing, but his realistic approach was also completely logical.

Morozevich giving Van Wely the glare

Evgeny Bareev and Peter Leko (picture right) started off with a ‘good grandmaster draw’, as Bareev called it. ‘Well defended’, he added, ‘By White’. In fact, the only critical moment in the game occurred on move 20 when Leko sourned taking a pawn on b2, which would have been possible: 20…Bxb2 21.c3 Qc3 22.Rb1 Bxc3 23.Rxb3 Bxd2 24.Nc4 Ba5 25.Nxd6 and although White should be able to draw he is under pressure. Leko told his opponent that he had believed him because he made his 21.a3 with so much confidence. From which Bareev distilled the lesson: ‘Always make your moves with confidence, even if they are bad.’

Their second game also was a draw. It lasted 18 moves and that was about as much as could be said about it.

What's so hard about blindfold chess? Vassily Ivanchuk during a game

The encounter between Paco Vallejo (picture left) and Vasily Ivanchuk began with a nervous fifteen minutes’ wait when the Ukrainian failed to turn up and couldn’t be traced immediately in the vicinity of the playing room. Indeed, as usual the last round started one hour earlier. But then all players had been reminded several times and right, this was only Ivanchuk’s thirteenth(!) Amber tournament. Finally he was found in his room from where he rushed down to fire off his first moves. In fact, the main victim of this delay was Vallejo, who certainly wasn’t waiting for such complications after the ordeal he has gone through here. After 18 moves Ivanchuk had already caught up in time and by that point the initiative had passed to Black as well. In the middle-game Vallejo was completely helpless. He gave up a pawn on move 22 and was duly routed. While the Spaniard tried to cope with more misery, Ivanchuk also showed himself to be upset. Apologising to anyone he ran into he explained that he had simply forgotten and stressed time and again how terrible all this had been for his opponent.

These feelings for his opponent didn’t stop him from taking a decision in the rapid game that didn’t earn him universal sympathy. In a position that was highly drawish he played on for forty moves without making any progress. As if the tournament hadn’t been testing enough for Vallejo he got his farewell torture, continuously going down to a few seconds while his opponent had plenty of time. On move 96 his resistance was broken, when ten moves away from the moment when he could have claimed a draw, he overstepped the time.

"King" Loek van Wely

Playing practically without thinking Loek van Wely and Alexey Shirov made the first twenty-odd moves of their blindfold game as if they were trying to set some speed record. In the Botvinnik variation of the Slav Defence they steered for a position where White introduced an important novelty with 23.Rfe1. It wasn’t completely a novelty as it had already been in a radio game during this year’s Corus tournament between the listeners and Dutch grandmaster John van der Wiel. When he had seen that game, Van Wely had not been too happy as he had prepared exactly this move to play it against Shirov one day. Today he got his chance anyway, but the story had a sad ending. After the game Van Wely was convinced that he had been totally winning and of course he was right, but after he had cashed an exchange he let go. Probably 35.Rexd5 was not the right way to proceed and after he had spoiled his advantage and the position had become drawish he blundered a mate in two on move 38.

Evgeny Bareev

Van Wely had his revenge in the rapid game. Again he played a strong opening idea, 19…exf3 e.p. instead of 19…b4 as he went against Leko, but this time he didn’t let go when he got a promising position. With a stable hand he pushed Shirov more and more on the defensive and convincingly won his last game.

Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam

Final standings

(Click to enlarge)

Bonus picture Gallery

A view of the natural harbour at Villefranche

The famous Cafe de Paris opposite the Monte Carlo casino

Players and guests enjoying a panoramic view of Nice

Veselin Topalov playing around with electronic gizmos

Bareev and Topalov relaxing at the terrace of the Riviera Golf Club

Paco Vallejo and his second Martinez

Oh yes, and the food they serve in these many-star hotels!

Main course and desert

Working it off with a round of golf


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