Amber R2: Carlsen bounces back, beats Aronian 2-0

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Amber R2: Carlsen bounces back, beats Aronian 2-0Magnus Carlsen today recovered completely from his bad start in Nice. The Norwegian defeated Levon Aronian, the winner in 2008 and 2009, in both the blindfold and the rapid game. Ukrainians Ivanchuk and Ponomariov lead the combined standings after two rounds.

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 2

Game viewer by ChessTempo

Round 2 report

Carlsen bounces back with 2-0 win over defending champion Aronian After two rounds of the Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament, Vasily Ivanchuk and Ruslan Ponomariov are in the lead in the overall standings with 3 points from 4 games, followed at half a point’s distance by Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Svidler. Top-seed Magnus Carlsen recovered from his poor start with a 2-0 win over defending Amber champion Levon Aronian. The Norwegian admitted that he had been upset about his 2-0 loss on the first day (particularly the rapid game, where he believed he was in no danger of losing), but said that he certainly had not despaired: ‘With twenty rounds to go there is always time to recover.’ The first two of those twenty rounds were certainly encouraging for him.

Magnus Carlsen fared excellently in Round 2 with two wins over Levon Aronian. After the round the Norwegian was happy to comment on his blindfold game for the tournament website.

Just like last year the second round of the Amber tournament clashed with the final stage of Paris-Nice, the 8-stage cycling race that started in Paris (you had guessed that much) a week ago. For many hours the Promenade des Anglais was crowded with people waiting for the denouement of the 68th edition of this legendary race and we can tell you that quite a number of chess fans mingled among these spectators. But after, early in the afternoon, Alberto Contador had won his second Paris-Nice, three years after his first victory, they could concentrate on chess again. Right they were. After the drama in Round 1 there was every reason to look forward to the developments in Round 2.


The final stage of the cycling course Paris-Nice finished today, about two hundred metres from the venue and about two minutes after the second round started | Photo Nadja Wittmann

(More photos on Paris-Nice, with e.g. cycling stars like Hinault and Merckx, can be found here.)

Alberto Contador after winning the final stage of Paris-Nice | Photo Nadja Wittmann

Magnus Carlsen was obviously eager to fight back after yesterday’s dramatic 2-0 loss, but with Levon Aronian as opponent this was easier said than done. Moreover the Norwegian had the black pieces in the blindfold game and one would think that his first concern should be not to lose again. Already before the tournament Carlsen had prepared the King’s Indian and his ambition to steer for a highly complicated struggle worked out beyond expectation. To begin with he got the chance to implement an idea he had seen in a game Eljanov-Radjabov; a quick counter-push on the queenside to undermine White’s centre followed by a piece sacrifice (20…Nxd5) to break up that same centre. The tactical complications that ensued demanded a lot from both players and it was soon clear that Carlsen felt more at ease. Aronian missed the push 22…e4, a seemingly contradictory move that seems to contribute little to Black’s wish to open up lines and files, but which in fact is the right move to keep his initiative going. White could still have put up some resistance with 25.Bg5 (instead of 25.Nxf2), but Aronian had also missed 25…Qh4, which in case of 26.Be1 is followed by the deadly 26…Be5. Three moves later Aronian threw the towel. Carlsen found it easy to smile again when a couple of minutes later he spoke to the press. Aronian’s worries were compounded when he also lost the rapid game. And perhaps this loss hurt even more as it was completely unnecessary. From a Four Knights’ Defence the players ended up in a totally drawish rook endgame. Probably the main factor that kept the game going was that neither of the players were willing to offer a draw. And as they plodded on Aronian got himself into trouble. A first moment where he was inaccurate was when he played 42…Ra2, when he could have thwarted all White’s further tries with 42…g5. He further pleased Carlsen with 50…h5 when he should have played 50…Kh7. Now his position became very unpleasant, and when he missed a last chance to stir up complications with 59…d5 he was inexorably counted out.


Blindfold: Carlsen beats Aronian with Black in a spectacular King's Indian

Jan Smeets had no trouble acknowledging that he had been completely lost in his blindfold game against Sergey Karjakin, as he was happy enough with the half point that he had saved miraculously. In a Ruy Lopez with 3…Nge7 and 4…g6, White drifted into trouble when he played his knight to e4 on move 17 (better 17.Be4) and followed this up with 20.Nf6+. Things quickly went from bad to worse and with 35…Kf8 Black could have forced his resignation. But even the pawn ending that Karjakin allowed his opponent, was lost for Black if only he had found 46…h5. Now the Dutch grandmaster could save the draw, even if, as usually, he was very short of time for the greater part of the game. The blindfold game was another eventful affair and again the surprising outcome was a draw. In a Ruy Lopez Smeets lost his c-pawn after a heavy manoeuvring phase. Things looked bleak, but it wasn’t too easy for White to make further progress and when Karjakin made the move Smeets had been waiting and hoping for (58.h4), the vulnerability of his king suddenly became a source of sorrow. In fact, White would have been totally lost had Smeets played 59…Qg1. But being short of time (just like Karjakin) he failed to see this opportunity and the game ended in a repetition of moves. Ironically, Smeets could still play Qg1 in the final position, but he didn’t complain that the threefold repetition had ‘only’ brought him a draw.


Dutchman Jan Smeets managed to draw twice with Sergey Karjakin

The blindfold game between Vasily Ivanchuk and Peter Svidler not surprisingly saw a Grünfeld Defence, an opening in which the Russian is one of today’s greatest specialists. Afterwards he called the opening phase of ‘mild theoretical importance’, as Ivanchuk deviated on move 11 from an earlier game Gelfand-Svidler. In that game White played 11.Be2, Ivanchuk preferred to first play 11.Nf3. Almost forced the players ended up in an ending that Svidler had (of course) looked at before and although Black’s play is not entirely carefree he felt that it should be a draw objectively speaking. As a possible improvement for White he indicated 21.Bc6, the way it went now the point was quickly shared. In the blindfold game Svidler felt he had missed a good chance when he played 13.Qd2 instead of 13.Qc1. ‘The idea is essentially the same, but it would have saved me a tempo in almost any variation’, as he explained afterwards. He even got into slight problems when Black played 22…Qe7, effectively stopping Ng5, the move White had hoped to make. In the final phase of the game the Russian had to be careful not to lose any material, but when he managed this task the game was drawn.

Boris Gelfand recovered from his poor performance in the first round with a win in the blindfold game against Vugar Gashimov. Nevertheless he called it ‘a stupid game’, as he had spoiled an excellent opening position to end up in a problematic situation. The last trick he wanted to try in order to extricate himself from this situation was 20.Nxd5. Now he was lucky as Gashimov could have played 22…Qb4 and White might as well resign. After 22…Qc7, White’s problems were not over yet, but when Black blundered with 23…Qxc4?, he suddenly was presented with a winning position. For the rest of the game Gelfand kept his eyes on the ball and converted his advantage without further problems. The blindfold game started slowly. White got a slight edge but nothing for Black to get worried about. The game turned around when Gelfand opened the position and Gashimov snatched a pawn, that his opponent called ‘poisoned’. Soon White was totally lost, but the game was far from over yet. Gelfand spoiled his advantage and in the end he had to win an opposite-coloured bishop ending in a study-like manner (although the Israeli grandmaster was the first to say that he was not sure if this win was waterproof). Gelfand was certainly pleased with his two wins, but he didn’t forget how he obtained them: ‘Two points with bad play’.

The blindfold game between Vladimir Kramnik and Leinier Dominguez was a fascinating fight. Obviously Kramnik emphatically played for a win, but Dominguez fought back in his customary razor-sharp style. The game was decided when in a highly complicated position the Cuban grandmaster continued 36…Kh7 where his only chance was 36…Bf8. With the text-move he invited a forced mate and a couple of moves before this mate would become reality, Dominguez resigned. In the blindfold game Kramnik played the Pirc Defence, the opening with which he surprised (and beat) Smeets in the recent Corus tournament. Again it looked as if this rather offbeat opening would give him easy and pleasant play, particularly after he bagged a point. But White had compensation for his material deficit and although Kramnik remained better for the rest of the game, Dominguez hung in tenaciously and was rewarded with a draw after 88 moves.


Deep concentration: Leinier Dominguez and Vladimir Kramnik

The blindfold game between Ruslan Ponomariov and Alexander Grischuk saw a Catalan Opening, similar to a game Ponomariov had played with colours reversed against Gelfand in the final of the recent World Cup. Instead of 10…Bb7, as Ponomariov had played, Grischuk went 10…Ba6. White obtained the bishop pair, but with a symmetrical pawn-structure it was difficult to exploit that slight advantage. Both players invested a lot of time as there were always tactics to be considered with opposing rooks on the c-file, but when Grischuk offered the opportunity to repeat moves and agree to a draw, Ponomariov saw no good reason to play on. At the end of the rapid game Ponomariov walked into the hospitality lounge and wondered what people had thought of his rapid game. He himself wasn’t too happy as he had hoped to play something active, but somehow his Grünfeld ended up in a static position in which he had to suffer for a draw. When on move 32 the queens left the board, Grischuk offered that draw and Ponomariov didn’t have to think long before he accepted.

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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