Defending champ Aronian starts with two wins at Amber

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Aronian starts with two wins"All I need is to improve my table football," was Levon Aronian's answer to the question what he could improve at this year's Amber tournament. The always cheerful Armenian confirmed his wit by winning both of his games against Vassily Ivanchuk. Defending his title from last year, Aronian immediately grabbed the lead as all other minimatches ended in 1-1. Video added!

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 1


Blindfold games:Rapid games:
It was a bit of a strange first round here in Nice. Clearly some players needed to adjust to the different conditions and formats, and this resulted in some heavy blunders and a very weak Ivanchuk today. The Ukrainian played very fast, especially in the second game, in which he suddenly started giving away several pawns and then just resigned out of disgust.

Ivanchuk

Ivanchuk: a bad start



Before that, the runner-up in Linares had adopted an interesting idea (9…Nb6!?) of retired Dutch GM Jeroen Piket, who had mentioned the move in his annotations to a game against compatriot Van Wely back in 1997. Piket, who works for the patron of the tournament Joop van Oosterom, was in Nice today but asked about it, he couldn’t remember this piece of analysis.

The game followed Piket’s line until 16…Qe7 where he had suggested 16…Qh4. Aronian said Black was better after his mistake 23.Ne4? but he didn’t like 34…Rb1 and thought 35…b5 to be Black’s last chance. And so without too much effort, the defending champion started with two wins, and he’s already a point clear in the overall standings as all other minimatches ended in 1-1.

Gata Kamsky, who returned after a 13-year gap (he played three times during his best years: 1994-1996), is still a bit rusty as it comes to blindfold chess. His 15…Bb3?? would have been okay if the white pawn had been on a3 (this is what the American thought) but it wasn’t. Kramnik, who hasn’t played since the Olympiad in Dresden, started well with a nice victory – Morozevich's 13...Qa6 was a weak response to the unknown move 14.Ng5!? and Black shouldn’t have pushed his a- and b-pawns so early, according to the winner.

Anand‚Äôs win with White over Leko wasn‚Äôt bad at all for a blindfold game, not only because of the pretty finish, but also because of the positional trick 24.c5! which left the black bishop on b7 out of the game. D?©butante Wang Yue made a good impression in his first blindfold game ever, and comfortably held Karjakin to a draw. The same result saw their rapid game and the only other two players who had a peaceful start were Topalov and Radjabov.

Kamsky

Kamsky fared better in the rapid game



And so we save a lot of revenge games in the rapid section, ultimately leading to eight decisive encounters and all points but one scored by the white pieces. Morozevich outplayed Kramnik in a queenless middlegame and easily won the subsequent endgame while both Anand and Carlsen simply collapsed. The world champion inexplicably blundered a full pawn on move 29 and then Leko finished the job demonstrating fine technique.

Carlsen seemed to grab the initiative in the ending against Kamsky with his 36…g5, but thanks to Kamsky’s 39.c4! it was’t so clear. There the Norwegian had gotten into heavy timetrouble (the rapid games include 10 seconds increment per move) and in the queen ending, with just second left on his clock at several moves, he suddenly found himself in a lost position (after the last mistake 46…Kg7?).


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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Playing hall

The playing hall on the 3rd floor of the Palais de la M?©diterran?©e



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