Amber R10: Carlsen back on top

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Amber R8: Kramnik beats Carlsen 2-0Magnus Carlsen today reclaimed first place in the overall standings of the Amber tournament with a 2-0 win over Ruslan Ponomariov. With one round to go the Norwegian grandmaster is half a point ahead of Vasily Ivanchuk, who drew twice with Vladimir Kramnik.

The 19th Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament takes place at the Palais de la Mediterranée in Nice, France, from March 12 to 25, 2010. The event is organized by the Association Max Euwe of chess maecenas Joop van Oosterom, which is based in Monaco. The total prize-fund is € 216,000.

The following twelve grandmasters take part: Magnus Carlsen (Norway, 2813), Vladimir Kramnik (Russia, 2790), Levon Aronian (Armenia, 2782), Alexander Grischuk (Russia, 2756), Boris Gelfand (Israel, 2750), Peter Svidler (Russia, 2750), Vasily Ivanchuk (Ukraine, 2748), Vugar Gashimov (Azerbaijan, 2740), Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukraine, 2737), Sergey Karjakin (Russia, 2725), Leinier Dominguez (Cuba, 2713) and Jan Smeets (The Netherlands, 2651).

Games round 10

Game viewer by ChessTempo

Round 10 report

Carlsen back on top with one round to go In round 10 of the Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament, Magnus Carlsen reclaimed first place in the overall standings with a 2-0 win over Ruslan Ponomariov. With one round and two games to go, the Norwegian grandmaster is half a point ahead of Vasily Ivanchuk and one and a half points ahead of Vladimir Kramnik. Ivanchuk and Kramnik drew their mini-match today after two hard-fought games. Tomorrow in the last round Carlsen (13½) plays Grischuk (11½). Ivanchuk (13) is paired against Gelfand (11), while Kramnik (12) faces Karjakin (11). Round 11 starts two hours earlier than normal: at 12.30 hrs.

The blindfold game between Levon Aronian and Alexander Grischuk saw a sad end when the Russian champion lost on time in a level position, because he had briefly forgotten about the position of his queen. In the final position, believing his queen was on d5, he tried to play 38…Rc5, a move that obviously was not possible with the queen on c6. Grischuk still had 14 seconds on his clock when he made his first attempt. Realizing there was something wrong he tried to exchange queens, but the move 38…Qd5xb5 was not possible either. He didn’t get a third chance to find out the position of his pieces as his time expired. An unfortunate turn of events for the leader in the blindfold rankings, as up that point he had played well. Very well, even, in the eyes of Aronian, who was duly impressed by Grischuk’s clever 29…Ba7 giving the pawn on d5, a material deficit that he quickly corrected after 31…Nf6. Grischuk admitted that it had indeed been a clever ploy, but he was also honest enough to reveal that in actual fact he had really blundered the pawn and that he was just lucky to recover it so easily. But that luck soon ran out. The rapid game was an interesting Catalan that seemed to give White good play. A critical moment appeared on move 27, when Grischuk could have pushed 27.d5 obtaining a potentially dangerous passed pawn. When he let that opportunity go by, Aronian equalized quite comfortably.


In the fight for the last place Jan Smeets seemed to be doing very well in the blindfold game when Leinier Dominguez ‘didn’t know what he was doing in the opening’. Dominguez got a clearly worse position in which he was two pawns down. The only chance he saw was to play fast and hope that Smeets would once again end up in time-trouble. Indeed the Dutch grandmaster took his time for his moves and Dominguez saw his hopes to stay in the game come true. After 63 moves of mainly defending he saved the draw. A heroic role was played by Black’s knight on d6 that set up an impressive blockade. In the rapid game Smeets did win and one might say that he was rewarded for brave play. In an Open Ruy he chose an aggressive approach with 12…g5 and even more audacious was his castling queenside. As might be expected White tried to break open the queenside and aim for the black king, but the black queenside front was firm and strong and actually more menacing than its white counterparts. As Dominguez discovered when his position collapsed after Black’s 40th move.


Magnus Carlsen scored a relatively uncomplicated win against Ruslan Ponomariov in their blindfold game. The Ukrainian more or less dug his own grave when he opened his kingside position with 21…g4. With White’s bishop pair and most of his pieces ready to jump at the Black’s king this was indeed a poorly judged advance. Or, as Carlsen out it: ‘Once the position opens you can immediately see who is mating who.’ White’s attack grew almost by itself and on move 41 Ponomariov had seen enough. The rapid game was quite a different affair. ‘It pays off to play on’, said with a grin, when he walked into the hospitality lounge after he had ground down Ponomariov in 102 moves. In a Grünfeld Defence he had been slightly worse for a long time, but he kept looking for chances. These finally came in the endgame, a rook ending with both players having four pawns on the kingside. Carlsen explained that he had some practice with exactly this ending as he had played it four years ago in Norway. At that time he had to work out the principles himself, now he already had some essential knowledge. His first step forward he made when he managed to isolate White’s e-pawn. But it was still a far way from a win and much more manoeuvring was required. Carlsen kept plodding on, and bit by bit he achieved what he was looking for. Of course he should be praised for his perseverance, but it also must be said that Ponomariov put up feeble resistance.


The longest game of the day was the blindfold encounter between Vasily Ivanchuk and Vladimir Kramnik, a key game between the tournament leader and one of his main rivals. The game lasted 112 moves and more than two hours (and thus seriously delayed the start of the first rapid session). At first Kramnik had no problems at all in his favourite Petroff Defence, but a couple of inaccuracies on the Russian’s part combined with Ivanchuk’s fighting spirit led to a big advantage for the Ukrainian phenomenon. White’s passed pawns forced Kramnik to give up a piece for two pawns and now the question was whether this ending was won for Ivanchuk. After the game Kramnik exchanged views with a host of grandmasters in the hospitality lounge and opined that to his mind it was an ‘absolute draw, but unpleasant to defend’. Not everyone was convinced, but definite conclusions were not reached. Ivanchuk stated that he had thrown away his winning chances with 49.h4, ‘a terrible move’. Of course he was right, but frustrated by this missed chance he kept playing on and only accepted a draw in a rook and knight versus rook endgame more than sixty moves later. The rapid game was also a gritty fight and this time it was Kramnik who got the winning chances. At least that was his opponent’s conviction after he had managed to escape with a draw. Ivanchuk indicated 18…bxc5 as a critical moment where he had to calculate a lot. He gave up an exchange for a pawn and from that moment onwards he had to work hard to earn a precious half point. Which he managed after 46 moves, leaving him the only player in the tournament who has not yet lost a single game.


Peter Svidler was ‘reasonably satisfied’ after his blindfold encounter with Boris Gelfand, as he felt he had played an interesting game (even if the ultimate result was only a draw). And he held a promising position for most of the game. Gelfand was critical of his move 13…Nf8 as with 14.c5 White scored an important triumph in the fight for the f4-square. But there were various dangers looming (such as 13…dxc4 14.0-0-0 b5, trying to hold on to the pawn and Black will not survive long after 15.Bh5). Svidler was optimistic and believed that the sacrifice 24.Rxg6+ would lead to a winning attack, but in fact Black could stay afoot with careful play. The ending also looked very promising for him, but he had missed 40…f3 and now White’s pawns are too fragmented to offer real winning chances. In the rapid game Svidler got the opportunity to play his umpteenth Grünfeld Defence and as it is his specialty he obviously had no objections. Certainly after Gelfand missed 20…Bh6 which effectively cost him a pawn. And in case you wonder if White could have prevented losing this pawn with 24.axb5 then the following line will show you that this was not the case: 24…axb5 25.Rxa8+ Bxa8 26.Kf2 Nd5 and the pawn goes anyway (27.Nf1 Rxe2+). A pawn down Gelfand kept trying to save the game, but Svidler didn’t falter and gained the full point after 75 moves.


Sergey Karjakin and Vugar Gashimov showed a good sense of Amber history in their blindfold when they repeated the queen sacrifice with which Vasily Ivanchuk baffled the spectators two years ago. Of course, at the time ‘Mr Amber’ also baffled his opponent, who happened to be … Karjakin. Well, actually Karjakin hadn’t specifically prepared it for his occasion (and neither had Gashimov), but stumbled into it as he hadn’t expected his opponent to play the Najdorf. In the past two years the knowledge about this variation has grown rapidly and the general consensus is that Black should be fine. That assessment was confirmed by this further example, as the game ended in a draw by repetition on move 25. The rapid game also saw a theoretical discussion, with Karjakin taking on the role of Grischuk who recently has played three games in this line of the Najdorf Poisoned Pawn with 8.Qd3 against Gashimov. The new move was played by Gashimov, who tried 18.0-0, where he played 18.Rf1 against Grischuk. Karjakin reacted correctly with 18…d5 and after a series of exchanges the game ended in a draw by perpetual check.


Report & photos © official website, more here


Amber 2010 | Pairings & results

Amber 2010 | Blindfold Standings
Amber 2010 | Blindfold Standings
Amber 2010 | Rapid Standings
Amber 2010 | Blindfold Standings
Amber 2010 | Combined Standings
Amber 2010 | Blindfold Standings


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