Amber R5: Ivanchuk (41) back in sole lead

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Amber R5: Ivanchuk back in sole leadOn his 41st birthday Vasily Ivanchuk defeated Jan Smeets 1.5-0.5 at the Amber tournament in Nice. Because Magnus Carlsen won one and lost one against Sergey Karjakin, Ivanchuk is now half a point ahead of Carlsen and Gelfand, who beat Aronian 2-0.

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 5

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Round 5 report

Vasily Ivanchuk grabs lead on 41st birthday In round 5 of the Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament, Vasily Ivanchuk, who celebrated his 41st birthday today, grabbed the sole lead in the overall standings with a 1½-½ win over Jan Smeets. Magnus Carlsen saw a winning streak of seven consecutive wins interrupted by Sergey Karjakin. The Norwegian top-seed is now in second place together with Boris Gelfand, who defeated Leinier Dominguez 2-0 (scoring his fourth consecutive win in the process).

Yesterday the participants of the Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament enjoyed a free day. Some of them stayed at the hotel to recharge their batteries, others joined an excursion to Gourdon, an age-old mountain village perched on a rock 780 meters above sea-level with a splendid view of the surrounding natural scenery and of Nice at a distance of some 10 kilometres (the ride there was obviously longer and lasted about an hour). The excursion included a visit to the local museum and a relaxed lunch on the outside terrace of Le Nid d’Aigle.


At the end of the afternoon the players who took part in the excursion returned to the Palais de la Méditerranée, where in the evening they were joined by their colleagues at a Quiz evening. The theme of the evening was Movies (with questions about chess interspersed) and we can reveal that Ruslan Ponomariov, who was on the winning team, astounded all and sundry with his passionate rendition of We Are the Champions. And then today, at 14.30 it was back to chess again with the games of the fifth round.

After he had won the blindfold game against Leinier Dominguez, Boris Gelfand was full of praise for his opponent’s opening play. Without going into any detail (he preferred the telling stock phrase ‘future games will have to shed more light on this variation’) Gelfand explained that the complications had been big and that he was suffering a pawn down at the ‘end’ of the opening. But Dominguez’ problem was to find a way to convert his material and this proved not so easy. And searching for a plan he got confused by the sudden advance of Black’s e-pawn that started marching down the board. Things were still fine for White, but the Cuban panicked and before he knew it he was lost. The opening in the rapid game again was highly complicated and although in various instances the computer prefers Black, Gelfand had full confidence in the white side. To his mind his opponent went astray with 24…Rd8, where he could have stayed in the game with the ‘beautiful idea’ (Gelfand’s words) 24…Rd3 25.Nf2 Rxf3 26.gxf3 f5. Now things went rapidly downhill for Black and after 30.Qa4 Gelfand believed that he was close to winning. The game lasted another 36 moves, but indeed the result was never in any doubt and Gelfand scored his fourth consecutive win.


Vugar Gashimov and Alexander Grischuk conducted a tense battle in the Poisoned Pawn Variation of the Najdorf, with White going for the less usual 8.Qd3. White seemed to have a promising initiative and Gashimov’s hopes were rising, when Grischuk found the beautiful defending move 28…Kh7, that essentially saved the draw. In the rapid game they also repeated the opening they had played in Linares last month and with Gashimov behind the black pieces it’s no big surprise that we saw another Benoni. The novelty came on move 12, when instead of 12…Nh5, the Azeri grandmaster now played 12…b5, an improvement he was most pleased with. Black got a fine game, but White remained ambitious and in the end it was the Russian’s wish to keep on playing on that did him in. After he had repeated moves several times (in different positions) Grischuk finally fell for the trap that Gashimov had spied many moves ago and when White proceeded 43.Bb5, Black’s answer 43…Rxc7 came very quickly.


Vladimir Kramnik scored a convincing win against Ruslan Ponomariov in their blindfold game, although he wasn’t too impressed by his achievement. To his mind Ponomariov had simply forgotten to play 6…d6 (as Ponomariov was happy to explain he had already played this exact variation without …d6, way back in 1997 against Volkov amongst others; ‘it used to be one of my specialties at the time’), which gave White a considerable space advantage. He also was critical of Black’s 10…dxe5 and believed that Black’s best chance on move 15 was 15…Bxc3+ 16.Qxc3 Qxb5, as after 15…Kg7? 16.0-0 he felt that White was almost winning. What Black probably missed was that 16…Nf6 would have been answered by 17.Bh6+ Kxh6 18.Qe3+. The remainder of the game Kramnik played with a steady hand and Ponomariov never got a chance to turn the tide again. After the blindfold game Ponomariov mused that he should not have played so adventurously and that it was wiser to strive for a healthy position, solidly developing your pieces and all that. But once he sat down for the rapid game he had already forgotten about most of this wisdom and went for wild adventures again with 12.Be5 and 13.Bd3. Further on 20.Qa1 was not fortunate choice and 21.Rb1 was a blunder that practically immediately cost him the game.


Perhaps the question most people were asking themselves at the start of the blindfold game between Sergey Karjakin and Magnus Carlsen was whether the Norwegian would continue his winning streak or that the Ukrainian would slow him down. And indeed, despite the fact that he had the black pieces Carlsen managed to win his seventh consecutive game. In a first reaction he called it ‘a good game’ and it was certainly impressive how he first solved his opening problems and next started to look for more. By the time he had played 23…Nxe3 followed by 24…Bf2, he felt he got a grip on the position. He was even more pleased when Karjakin let himself be tempted to play 34.Bxg6, as he had sharply calculated the consequences of his move. Still, it wasn’t clear if Black’s advantage was winning, but with Karjakin in severe time-trouble and the pressure building up on him he faced an arduous task. Carlsen wasn’t entirely sure if he had played the queen endgame perfectly, but the way he played it was enough to score another point. Carlsen’s winning streak ended in the rapid game. Dithering opening play didn’t bring him anything and when Karjakin stepped up his counterplay, dark clouds gathered over the white position. Carlsen tried his best to muddy the waters but in fact his fate was sealed well before the end of the game.


Levon Aronian and Peter Svidler played a blindfold game that the latter called ‘wildly exciting’ and who would argue with that? In a sharp anti-Grünfeld system Black was reluctant to go for the endgame that would have arisen after 11…Qxd1+ even if a brief look afterwards convinced him that there was nothing wrong with it for him. When he played 11…Qe7+ he had missed White’s 12.Bb5+ and wild (indeed) complications began. Initially Black’s position looked under threat but with 21…Qe4 Black took over the initiative. But White crawled back into the game and a manoeuvring phase ended in a drawish position. At this point, however, Aronian had little time left and lost control. First he spurned a repetition of moves and next he put his queen en prise. After he’d also won the rapid game, Svidler suppressed his happiness with the words ‘Today Levon had one of those days that I normally have’. Aronian’s opening turned out badly when he played 12…Re8, where moves like 12…Be6 or 12…Bd7 were called for, and was punished by 13.Nb5. Still, Svidler didn’t continue in the most powerful manner. To his mind, if he had gone 15.Qd2 Bf5 16.Rfe1, the game ‘wouldn’t have lasted twenty moves’. Now Aronian could fight back and with 18…Be4 19.Rf2 Rxf2 20.Kxf2 Qh4+ 21.Kg1 Qg4 22.Qg3 Qxg3 he would have had the worst behind him. Now White was soon in the driver’s seat again and hauled in the point without too many problems.


Jan Smeets and Vasily Ivanchuk went down a long line of Caro-Kann theory in their blindfold game. Today was Ivanchuk’s birthday (he turned 41), but Smeets had obviously no wish to present any gifts and although Black was slightly better in the endgame that appeared on the board, the Dutchman confidently secured the draw. At the very end of the game he even came close to a win on time when Ivanchuk had lost track of his bishop, but after a series of tentative mouse clicks the Ukrainian managed to trace it (if the players made an ‘impossible’ move the note ‘illegal move’ appears on their screen; there are no sanctions, however, so they can keep searching for a piece or pawn as long as you want, provided you have enough time). In the rapid game, a Four Knights’ Opening, Smeets at first didn’t have any real problems either. But an ill-advised queen excursion on the queenside, while White was advancing menacingly on the kingside cost him dearly. His kingside proved much more vulnerable than it had appeared at first sight and within a few moves he had to resign.


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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