Amber 2011 Full Review - Round 2, Blindfold
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The first round of this super-strong Amber tournament had seen four players start off with 2-0 wins over their rivals - Levon Aronian, Alexander Grischuk, Boris Gelfand and Vugar Gashimov. Top seeds Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen also won their mini-matches 1.5-0.5 against Veselin Topalov and Hikaru Nakamura respectively, and the four players who lost by the score of 2-0 were Anish Giri (who was winning in both his games at some point), Vassily Ivanchuk (who sensationally blundered into two mates), Sergey Karjakin and Vladimir Kramnik.
The second round was the chance for these players to get their first points, and for the winners to consolidate their start.
The former world champion and recent Challenger played White here, and Karjakin chose a Nimzo-Indian against him. After 15 moves, there was yet another example of mutual blindfold blindness...
This case involved both players, so they came out with an even position. In the middlegame, Karjakin was able to get a small advantage but was unable to convert it, and the game ended as a draw by repetition.
If you want to see the rest of the game, click on White's 19. Bd3 and then play through it.
This was the standout pairing of the round - between the men who fought for the championship in 2008. Kramnik was one who needed a result after his 0-2 reverse to Grischuk, and playing White, he looked like he got a good avantage out of the Symmetrical English opening...
This smart tactic by Anand was enough for him to play a practically equal position, though he was a pawn down as his c-pawn blocks both of White's doubled ones. Kramnik tried for a further 20 moves after this, but could find no way to get an advantage and had to agree to a draw.
Both players were coming from 2-0 wins each and were looking to continue their hot streak. Playing Black, Grischuk went for an uncommon line of the King's Indian. After a whole lot of maneuvering, it was Gelfand who got an endge but the position was very complex, and it was a blindfold game too....
So it is Grischuk who has the perfect 3/3 start after Gelfand makes a mistake out of the complications he himself created.
Carlsen was looking in the mood, and he got an initiative right from the opening itself. Despite Gashimov's best efforts, he was able to keep it throughout the emiddlegame, eventually simplifying into an endgame with four pawns each, but with a better king position. But King plus Pawn endings are more complex at first look, and even more so when both sides Queen. With Queens in a simplified postion, Gashimov had chances of a perpetual, but as well know Carlsen tries harder than anyone else when it comes to winning....
Once again, Carlsen's never-say-die attitude making the difference. Even though the position was objectively drawn, he knew that Black had to find some 'only moves' and so played on and reaped the rewards.
Having lost both his games from winning positions yesterday, Giri was hoping to recover from a diaster, and things were just as bad for Ivanchuk too, as he blundered into mate in both his games. Unsurprisingly these two went for a quiet opening, but Giri was still able to get an advantage. Ivanchuk however held firm, and although Giri won a pawn, the Ukranian liquidated into a rook ending with all pawns on the same flank. Soon Giri had to agree to a draw, which ensured that both players got their first half point.
Aronian was ale to equalize fairly comfortably with Black in the opening, but as the game reached it's middlegame stages, Nakamura just slowly started to outplay his opponent. There were some inaccuracies by both players, but as the moves went on, Nakamura built up an advantage, which after almost 70 moves looked winning. Aronian had won two lost positions against Giri the previous day, but this position seemed too simple for his opponent to blunder. But then again, this is blindfold....
So what happened? Why did Nakamura simply hang the rook on c4. The reason was that he thought that Aronian's bishop was on c4 and not b5. This was why he played Rc7 a single move earlier - that move was the winning one if the bishop actually was on c4. When he played Rc4, he actually thought that he was capturing the bishop!
The end result of this was that Nakamura lost a full point, and Aronian moves on to 3/3, when he easily could have lost all his games!