Aronian and Carlsen join Anand in the lead

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Topalov-AnandWith just two rounds to go at the Amber tournament in Nice, Anand, Aronian and Carlsen are sharing the lead with 11.5 points out of 18 games. Anand drew twice with Topalov today while Aronian and Carlsen scored 1¬?-¬? against Morozevich and Karjakin respectively.

The 18th Amber Blindfold and Rapid tournament, organized by the Association Max Euwe in Monaco, takes place from March 14 (first round) to March 26 (last round) at the five-star hotel Palais de la Mediterran?©e, splendidly located on the famous Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France. The total prize-fund is ‚Ǩ 216,000 and this year‚Äôs field is stronger than ever with all the world‚Äôs best players taking part.
Round 9

Blindfold games:Rapid games:

After the second rest day, when many players and others went for a boat trip to the Saint Honorat island followed by a short visit to Cannes (the town famous for its annual film festival), the tournament today resumed for its last three rounds.

Topalov and Anand analyzing after the game

Anand and Topalov analyzing their blindfold game

After the encounter between Anand and Kramnik before the rest day, round 9 had another interesting minimatch on the program: the one between Anand and Topalov, who will play a World Championship match next year. The blindfold game started as a Caro-Kann Advance Variation and followed Shirov-Anand, Linares 1998 until Topalov deviated with 11.Qa4+. He should have played that move earlier but, not the first time in this tournament, mixed up the moves.

After some interesting complications that included an exchange sacrifice by Topalov, the game ended in a perpetual check. What the players didn't know is that most of the moves had been played before; nothing's new anymore these days. Only 19...Ke7 was the novelty (19...Kg8 was Fritz's choice against De Vreugt, Dutch Ch 2000, the year in which the computer program was allowed to play in the Dutch Championship) and Topalov admitted that his opening had failed there. Anand then missed 22...Qd5! and in the final position both players thought Black had to accept the draw, although the computer suggests the risky 25...f6.

With a better bishop and an active queen, Kamsky was clearly better against Wang Yue but the American couldn't do much with these small advantages. Aronian escaped against Morozevich; the Armenian GM was better but then started to create complications which only favoured his opponent. Nobody was sure whether it was winning for White somewhere, though. 38.fxe4 suggests itself, but a definite conclusion can only be reached after some deep analysis.


Ivanchuk beating Kramnik in their blindfold game

Patrick Lebel, the French arbiter who is assisting Geurt Gijssen over here in Nice, can often be found reading the tournament book of the 1995 edition. (In fact, he's trying to collect signatures of as much players as possible.) It's great to see those old pictures of players like Lautier, Piket, Polgar, Nunn, Ljubojevic and also Kramnik and Ivanchuk. The latter two still play here and today against each other. Although Ivanchuk thought they had made many mistakes, he had enough reason to smile because he beat the former World Champion nicely in the blindfold game.

Karjakin and Carlsen's first encounter was quite an interesting draw that had started with a rare line of the Rossolimo Sicilian. White got the upper hand and then wisely went for the pawn instead of the exchange, because then Black would get excellent compensation: 17.Bxf8?! Qxf8 18.d4 c5! 19.d5 g4. In the game 21.Rd1 would have been quite good for White but also at the start of the ending White had the better chances, but after a few inaccurate moves Black suddenly got enough counterplay. Long before Radjabov and Leko had already played a dull draw.

Aronian vs Morozevich

Aronian had an easy win with White against Morozevich

Aronian won his rapid game against Morozevich quite easily. He thought both 9...Bb4 and 12...Ne7 to be wrong in the opening, "giving too much squares for my pieces". After the excellent move 21.e5! an interesting try was 21...Rxe5 which will liquidate to an ending in which Black will have two pawns for the exchange. In the game, 25...Rf8 was very risky and 27...fxg3 just losing.

Just like against Kramnik, Anand drew his rapid game against Topalov extremely quickly. It was a line of the Ruy Lopez the Bulgarian had looked at for his match against Kamsky and although he admitted White was slightly better in the ending, he didn't think it was very dangerous. For your information: the world's number one will feature in the round 9 video.

Kamsky had to be satisfied with a second draw against Wang Yue when he missed 22...b6 and Leko & Radjabov played another "solid draw", as one of the GMs around managed to put it quite positively. Kramnik was slightly worse against Ivanchuk but didn't think it was losing anywhere.

Carlsen then beat Karjakin in a difficult ending in which he considered 38...Kxf7 to be the decisive mistake - Black should definitely have gone for 38...Rxf8 39.Nd8 Ne7 with better drawing chances.

And so with just two more rounds to go, Carlsen is still leading the blindfold tournament comfortably, while Aronian leads by half a point in the rapid section. The two joined Anand in the lead in the overall standings and it looks like the World Champion has the easiest program ahead: he plays Morozevich tomorrow and then Wang Yue in the last round. Aronian will meet Wang Yue and then Topalov; Carlsen plays Kramnik and Radjabov.

The Amber videos are now also available as an iTunes video podcast! (Link launches iTunes, if installed) You can share the Amber videos on your own web site or blog too. Just click the “Email and embed this video” button next to the volume control in the player.

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*Pairings may be changed by the arbiter depending on the standings.

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