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Amber 2011 Full Review - Round 1, Blindfold

The Amber Blindfold and Rapid tournament had its 20th and final edition in 2011. This attracted nearly all the top players creating a star-studded field consisting of:

  1. Viswanathan Anand (2817)
  2. Magnus Carlsen (2815)
  3. Levon Aronian (2808)
  4. Vladimir Kramnik (2785)
  5. Vassily Ivanchuk (2779)
  6. Sergey Karjakin (2776)
  7. Veselin Topalov (2775)
  8. Hikaru Nakamura (2774)
  9. Alexander Grischuk (2747)
  10. Vugar Gashimov (2746)
  11. Boris Gelfand (2733)
  12. Anish Giri (2690)

The tournament was a major challenge for Levon Aronian in his quest to break the duopoly of the two men who had been dominating chess recently: The young and brilliant Carlsen, and the World Champion and world No.1 Anand.

The first round as usual was the blindfold games with the following pairings.

Nakamura-Carlsen

This was one of the standout pairings of the first round. Nakamura, playing White took the advantage out of a Nimzo-Indian and kept it as they approached the middlegame where some strong play from Carlsen allowed him to equalize. The game liquidated into a rook endgame with opposite-colored bishops, and the position was already drawn..... but there was a surprise left for all the viewers following the game online!

For some reason, Nakamura hung his rook twice and then his bishop, which does happen in blindfold. Even more surprisingly, Carlsen never saw it! The players explained in the press conference that they both though that the black bishop was on f6, which would have rendered all the moves sensible.

Aronian-Giri

This was a pretty exciting, and double-edged match, that should be analyzed from the start.

So, a game where the young Giri missed multiple winning chances and eventually ended up losing his way in the position, whereas Aronian gratefully took the full point.

Ivanchuk-Gashimov

  Ivanchuk had won last year's tournament along with Carlsen, and he went through the whole
  tournament undefeated. This year he started off against Gashimov.

The game was a Petroff, and was quite even until Ivanchuk made a couple of inaccuracies, handing the initiative to Gashimov. Then, in a common blindfold mistake....

  So it took only one game for Ivanchuk to be defeated in this year's edition, and it took place in
  some style as he was mated on the board!

Karjakin-Gelfand

Gelfand chose the Petroff against Karjakin, and came out of it well as he was comfortably able to equalize. During the middlegame Gelfand pushed on, and gained a slight advantage before he got some help....

Grischuk-Kramnik

  This all-Russian duel saw Grischuk playing White, and he played a very strong game, taking the
  advantage in the opening against the former world champion. In the middlegame he kept on
  pressing, but Kramnik defended strongly. Grischuk continued to press, and then Kramnik made a
  couple of inaccuracies, and a flawless Grischuk immediately took advantage and won soon after.

Anand-Topalov

  This was the standout pairing of the first round, the World Cahmpion playing against his most
  recent Challenger. Topalov had suffered a loss of form after their match the previous year, so
  beating Anand now may be the chance for him to get his mojo back?

 Anand played White in the blindfold game, which was a Berlin defense whre Topalov quickly equalized. In the endgame, both had equal chances and Anand played better and reached a knight versus bishop endgame a pawn up.

This victory for Anand means that there were five decisive games out of 6 in the first blindfold games.

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