Amber R7: Ivanchuk once again back in sole lead

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Amber R7: Ivanchuk back in the leadVasily Ivanchuk is back in the lead at the Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament in Nice. The Ukrainian defeated Alexander Grischuk 1.5-0.5 today, while Magnus Carlsen lost with the same score to Vugar Gashimov.

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 7



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Round 7 report



Vasily ‘Mr Amber’ Ivanchuk once again back in the sole lead In round 7 of the Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament, Vasily Ivanchuk once again moved into the sole lead. The Ukrainian grandmaster had luck on his side in his mini-match against Russian champion Alexander Grischuk. Thanks to this 1½-½ win Ivanchuk replaced Magnus Carlsen as leader in the overall standings. The Norwegian top-seed had an off-day. He was obviously disappointed by his ½-1½ loss against Vugar Gashimov, but he was even more worried by the play he had shown. Sergey Karjakin moved up to shared third place thanks to a 2-0 win over his former compatriot Ruslan Ponomariov.

Vladimir Kramnik won a nice game against Levon Aronian in their blindfold encounter. In a Tarrasch Defence Black got into problems when he pushed 20…d4. Better would have been 20…Qc5+ 21.Kh2 and only now 21…d4. After 21.f5 White’s attack became very dangerous. If for instance Black had played 21…Bd5 instead of 21…Bc4, White pushes 22.f6 and he is in time to mate the black king. The game got a sudden end when Black blundered with 22…Qxa2, allowing White the crushing 23.Rb2 ("I had forgotten about that one," Aronian said) and 24.f6. Aronian levelled the score in the rapid game, but this was a far from flawless performance from both players. As Aronian summed it up when he entered the hospitality lounge after the game: ‘First I was winning, then I was losing and then I was winning again.’ No one argued with that, not even the various engines present. The first time the tables were turned when Aronian blundered with 26.Rxe3 (after the wrong 25...Nxb2? where 25...Ree8 was necessary) and found himself in a lost position after Black’s answer, while he could have gotten a great position with 26.Qg2 Re7 27.Rxe7 Kxe7 28.Qg7+. Kramnik returned the favour with 32…Kf8, which gave away most of his advantage, whereas 32…Kf6 33.Re4 Rg8 would still have had him winning comfortably. After this missed opportunity the game seemed to be steering for a draw, but another mistake by Kramnik cost him the game. With 49…Kh7 he would have kept the draw. After 49…c3 he must have been shocked by White’s unnerving reply and one move later he had to resign.

kramnik-aronian

After he had drawn the blindfold game against Boris Gelfand, Jan Smeets admitted that this was the first time in his Amber debut that he had felt comfortable ‘watching’ his position. Which didn’t mean that he hadn’t realized that the opening hadn’t entirely gone his way. What he meant to say was that he was just feeling comfortable. Without hesitation he sacrificed a pawn to get some play and, as if this was the most natural cause the game could take, he regained it relatively effortlessly some ten moves later. The ensuing endgame was level and no longer contained problems for Black that could rob him of a well-deserved draw. The rapid game was less pleasant for the Dutchman. Between moves 15 and 20 he misplayed the position that had arisen from a popular line of the Petroff and ended up in trouble. He decided to give a pawn, but this concession did little to alleviate the pain. By a forced sequence the players ended up in a rook endgame in which Black had an extra pawn and good winning chances. That was the way Gelfand described it and he proved his point on the board.

smeets-gelfand

Vugar Gashimov was confronted by a Berlin Wall in his blindfold game against Magnus Carlsen. In the endgame that duly appeared on the board within a few moves, White is supposed to be only slightly better, but Gashimov’s life was made easy by Carlsen’s 14…b6 (the white player suggested 14…Ne7 as an improvement). After 13.Ng5 and 14.c4 White had two imposing knights in the centre and Black’s position was not to be envied. Gashimov was proud of his move 18.Rac1 and felt that in general he had played a good game. He also kept a cool head when Carlsen came up with his last trick, 29…c6, and converted his advantage with a steady hand. In the rapid game Carlsen seemed to get good chances to level the score in this mini-match, when Gashimov played too riskily in the opening. With 20.Rd1 Qa5 21.Ne4 the Norwegian could have gotten a considerable advantage, but thinking 20.Nf5 was also promising he spurned this opportunity. Carlsen had missed 24…Rfe8 and now suddenly he was in trouble. The ending should have been winning for Gashimov (one improvement Carlsen indicated was 34…Rb3 instead of 34…Rxf3), but as always it’s not over till it’s over and with tenacious play White managed to save the draw; on 58 there were only two kings left on the board. Carlsen was obviously disappointed about the chance he had missed and when he was asked whether he minded that he had drawn his first game he replied negatively but added that he did worry about his play today.

carlsen-gashimov

After the blindfold encounter between Alexander Grischuk and Vasily Ivanchuk had ended in a draw, the Ukrainian runner-up described the course of the game as ‘complicated’, his favourite word when for whatever reason he doesn’t want to go into too much detail. What he did want to say was that he had the feeling that he had had winning chances after 25…Rc3. He certainly got good chances after that move, but how close he came he will probably explore in his private analysis later today. The rapid game featured another Najdorf Poisoned Pawn. Grischuk got a good game as Black, but at the point that Ivanchuk could bail out with a draw with 29.Qxd4, he spurned this opportunity and played the risky 29.Qe1. ‘I was feeling that I was in danger, but I wanted to try this’, he explained after the game. ‘Probably I was losing, but I was lucky’, he spoke frankly. If he was really lost was not that clear, but he certainly was lucky when Grischuk blundered 39…Qb7, where he could have made a draw with 39…Qf4. After White’s answer 40.Qb3+ Black was indeed lost.

grischuk-ivanchuk

Leinier Dominguez came very close to his first Amber win in his blindfold game against Peter Svidler. Unfortunately for the luckless Cuban it wasn’t to be. Having played strong and pointed chess in a classical Ruy Lopez, Dominguez reached a wonderful position. In fact, the win was there to be harvested, but at this point his play lost punch and he missed various wins, perhaps the most obvious being 39.Nxg7 Kxg7 40.Qg4+, when the defences around Black’s king are in ruins. His last inaccuracy was 42.Nd6 and two moves later he offered a draw. The Cuban tried not to be too upset about the missed chances and admitted that playing blindfold has proven more difficult than he had expected. In the rapid game Dominguez surprised Svidler with his opening choice, but didn’t manage to fully equalize. After the game Svidler suggested various improvements for his opponent, such as 11…Qe4+ or 13…Nd5 14.Bxd5 0-0-0! Or 16…Rxf3 17.Re4 Nd4 18.Rxg4 Nxe2 19.Bxe2. But the real mistake of Dominguez was that he had missed 31.g6+ which was followed by a sequence that Svidler had foreseen and left to a winning position after 40.Rxb7. Dominguez kept fighting on, but twenty moves further on he had to resign.

dominguez-svidler

The longest game of the blindfold sessions between Ruslan Ponomariov and Sergey Karjakin lasted 71 moves and 90 minutes and ended in a victory for the latter. Karjakin was reluctant to give an assessment of the opening (‘that has to be analyzed’), but pointed out that the game turned around when White played 28.Nd6, a move ‘that looks nice, but after my simple answer White’s position is unpleasant’. After 34…Bf8 Black felt very comfortable and once the white f-pawn had inevitably dropped off, Karjakin was simply a pawn up and his main concern was not to forget the position of his pawns and pieces. This he managed well (although there was a moment when he played some rook moves to find out the position of the white king that he had briefly forgotten about!) and after a long session the point was his. The rapid game was a walkover for Karjakin, as Ponomariov put up feeble resistance. In the opening Karjakin deviated from the game Ivanchuk played against the same opponent here with 7.Nxg4 (Ivanchuk went 7.a4). Black’s first inaccuracy was 9…Bb7, as at this point he had been better advised to complete his development. White got a great game and when Black took another risky decision with 14…d5 Black was soon with his back against the wall. Karjakin was proud about his move 16.Nc3 (and in general he thought that this was his best game in this year’s Amber so far) which greatly boosted his initiative. Things very quickly went totally wrong for Black and when Ponomariov resigned on move 23 he was only three moves away from mate.

ponomariov-karjakin

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