Amber 2011 Full Review - Round 3, Blindfold
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Only two rounds were complete, but already the pre-tournament favorites, Magnus Carlsen and Levon Aronian have made their intentions clear by socring 3.5/4 and taking the early lead along with Alexander Grischuk. Viswanathan Anand, World Champion and top seed, was a full point back along with Boris Gelfand, whereas players like Vladimir Kramnik, Veselin Topalov and Hikaru Nakamura are yet to have a win.
The third round had some key pairings:
This was the standout pairing of the round, and is massively important in deciding the outcome of the tournament itself, especially as the two respective players are co-leaders at the moment. The game itself however, was uneventful. Aronian with the white pieces was not able to get an advantage out of the opening. After that, the two players manoevered their pieces for a few moves, but neither was willing to take many risks, and a draw by repetiton took place after 37 moves.
Both players were looking for their first win, and Nakmura for certain was in no mood to hold back he, after castling kingside in a Ruy Lopez went and pushed his own kingside pawns to launch an attack on Ivanchuk's king. In the early middlegame, Nakamura was able to get a knight launched into the heart of White's position, but Ivanchuk was still fine because Black was unable to get his heavy pieces into the attack. The only problem for White was that his pieces are blocking each other's path, and in blindfold, this can become extremely tricky....
Nakamura thus takes his first win as a result of Ivanchuk's hanging of the piece. This is Ivanchuk's third loss, and once again, due to a blunder.
Gashimov was put back to 50% following his 0-2 reverse to Carlsen, and Giri also was yet to win. Both players went all out, Gashimov playing the Keres attack with White. Giri threw his knight and queen against the enemy king in the opening itself, but Gashimov was able to safely exchange them off. The game soon became an endgame of rooks and bishops, but Giri sitll neglected development trying to run his passed e-pawn to promotion. What hapeened next was a surprise to all....
Who says we can't mate in a simplified position? Gashimov punished Giri's underdevelopment with a brilliant mating attack, and at the end even Giri could only admit, "It was nice how he finished it". Needless to say, Gashimov got the 'Game of the Day' prize.
Grishchuk was able to get an advantage out of the opening with the White pieces. He was able to convert that into a rook and bishop endgame with an extra pawn. But Karjakin defended accurately, and using his passed a-pawn was able to find enough counterplay to ultimately, regain the pawn back. After 45 moves, Grischuk had to agree to a draw.
Knowing how good Anand is in prep, Gelfand played an unusual variation of the Slav to try to get him off prep, but the World Champion was up to the task and got the advantage. Just like in his game against Topalov, Anand began to push Gelfand for move after move, and won a pawn in a minor piece ending. Despite the position being objectively drawn, the pressure paid off and Gelfand made a mistake leaving Anand winning. That seemed to be it but it is not over until it is over.....
A miscalculation by Anand and all his hard work is undone. He misses a golden chance to catch up to the leaders, with this fourth consecutive draw.
Aronian-Carlsen was the standout pairing, but without a doubt this was the game which all the fans were looking forward to. These two players do not like each other after the fiasco of 2006, and have usually been avoiding each other, and this is the first time they were playing each other for two years. The journalists were interested to see if they would handshake, but they didn't. Kramnik playing White got an advantage from the opening. In the middlegame, Topalov sacrificed an exchange to get rid of Kramnik's initiative, and continued to defend stoutly. He still had enough counterplay to fight on but overstepped the time limit on the 40th move, handing Kramnik his first win of the tournament.