Ivanchuk beats Carlsen 2-0 in first round Amber

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Amber round 1"The 40-year old Ukrainian has a reputation of being an unpredictable genius, capable of producing absolutely brlliant games, as well as amateur-like losses from time to time," Magnus Carlsen wrote on his blog yesterday. Today, at the Amber tournament in Nice, he met with a Chuky in excellent shape, and lost 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 1

Game viewer by ChessTempo

Round 1 report

First day sensation: top-seed Carlsen loses 2-0 to ‘Mr Amber’ Last night the opening ceremony of the 19th Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament took place at the Chateau de Cremat, a stylish wine chateau perched on a hill overlooking Nice at a half and hour’s drive from the Palais de la Mediterranée, the five-star luxury hotel on the Promenade des Anglais where the grandmasters are staying and playing. The evening started with a degustation of various wines of the house and then the guests of the Van Oosterom family and the players sat down for a delicious dinner. In the opening speech there was special attention for the totally unique place that the Amber tournament occupies in chess history. There have been chess benefactors who sponsored one tournament, two or even three. But no one ever came even close to the astounding 19th edition that the Amber tournament reaches this year.


There were also references to Steely Dan’s Hey Nineteen, Joe Jackson’s Nineteen Forever and Chanel 19 (by some strange coincidence Coco Chanel was presented the famous Chanel logo – two C’s elegantly locked together – by the owner of the Chateau de Cremat about a century ago!) and of course the twelve grandmasters were welcomed, with a special mention for Vasily Ivanchuk, ‘Mr Amber’, who participated in all 19 tournaments. Once the drawing of lots had taken place, we could start to think about the pairings for the first round and the overall chances of the participants. Who is the top-favourite for first place? Vladimir Kramnik, who won a record of six Amber tournaments? Levon Aronian, who won the last two editions? Or Magnus Carlsen, the world’s number one, who very appropriately celebrated his 19th birthday a couple of months ago? In any case the opening round didn’t go as they may have hoped. Not at all.


Today at 14.30 the first round started of a blindfold and rapid spectacle that will keep us entertained for the coming fortnight (the 11th and last round is on March 25). As always the players started with two blindfold sessions (in each of which six GMs played) followed by two rapid sessions and immediately there were some intriguing pairings.

When Ruslan Ponomariov saw at the drawing of lots that he had to play Boris Gelfand in the first round, he wondered aloud if he had to play Gelfand for the rest of his life. What he meant to say was that this was his first official competition since the dramatic final Gelfand and he played in the World Cup last December, a lengthy final that was only decided in the blitz games. Ponomariov’s second remark was that he wanted to have his revenge for that lost final. The only problem was that the first game was a blindfold game and his experience in that discipline was almost zero. In fact he had asked to play a training game on the day of his arrival in Nice. To avoid any complications he decided to play fast and to remain fully concentrated, not even considering the option of going to the toilet if needed. The approach worked well, as with the help of Gelfand his opening was a great success and after 15.Ng5 he felt that he was spoiled for choice when looking for a way to exploit his advantage. The game was practically decided when Ponomariov captured Black’s h-pawn. The rest was simple and he converted without any problems. After the game he was greatly relieved that this game for which he had been so nervous had gone so well. ‘Perhaps it turns out that I am not so bad at blindfold chess.’ He also shared his impression of playing chess on a screen that only shows an empty chess board: ‘It’s just like a computer game!’ Ponomariov completed his ‘revenge’ (to avoid any misunderstanding, he was the first to point out that, of course, these two games cannot be compared to the World Cup final) in the rapid game. Spoiling for a fight he came up with an interesting plan in the Grünfeld, sacrificing an exchange for promising play. He indeed got wonderful compensation when Gelfand played 14.f3? where he should have tried 14.Qe3. Suddenly it was a delight to sit behind the black pieces and Ponomariov fully enjoyed the next phase. White still managed to get into an ending with opposite-coloured bishops, but the two extra black pawns quickly carried the day.


Russian champion Alexander Grischuk had his work cut out for him when he immediately had to play Vladimir Kramnik. There could be no misunderstanding about Kramnik’s intentions as he played almost all his moves instantly. ‘He wanted to trick me’, smiled Grischuk after the game. Playing with white he had to leave the initiative to Black, but to his mind Kramnik went too far in his winning attempt. But even if Black ended up in a difficult position, the situation was still far from lost and things only got hopeless when he reverted to the desperate 38…Nxg4, where it seemed that Black could have stayed in the game with 38…Nf3. Now things were easy for Grischuk and the handful of seconds he still had on the clock proved enough to win an important scalp. Kramnik struck back in the rapid game. After a strongly played opening he obtained a clear advantage and looking back he concluded that Black’s position was difficult after 34.Rd4. But Kramnik praised his opponent for his inventive defence in the next phase and expressed his doubts whether the position was really winning for White (‘That has to be checked with the computer’). However, Grischuk was once again low on time and after 40…Nc3 (he should have played 40…Nb6) Black certainly was lost. The rest wasn’t difficult anymore and Kramnik wrapped up fairly effortlessly.


The encounter between debutants Dominguez and Gashimov took a relatively quiet course, although the grandmaster from Azerbaijan offered to play a sharp Benoni, an invitation that was quietly turned down with Rodriguez. They ended up in a rook endgame that was slightly better for Black, but it was his lavish use of time that did Dominguez in. With more than ten minutes less on the clock he committed a few inaccuracies and when Gashimov stormed down the board with two passed pawns it was clear that the fight was over. After the game Gashimov was congratulated on his blindfold debut and confessed that he had not especially prepared for this unusual type of chess. ‘I played one training game two days ago against Ruslan (Ponomariov), this was my second game.’ The rapid game was a variation of the Italian Game ‘in which many games have been played’, as the database experts call it these days. The key question was if the knight that Gashimov managed to post on e7, was an asset or a weakness. Frantically he calculated variations, considering sacrifices here and there, but there was nothing that worked. In the meantime, Dominguez just stayed put and maintained his position. After some further manoeuvring it was clear that this balance was not going to be upset and a draw was agreed.

Magnus Carlsen openend his blindfold game against Vasily Ivanchuk with 1.a3, aiming for an open battle, unburdened by theory and steering clear of any possible preparation of his opponent. The plan wasn’t a success, even if he managed to win a pawn, but Black got such good compensation that the Norwegian top-seed must have regretted his unorthodox approach. He kept looking for his chances, but Ivanchuk remained fully concentrated and his advantage was such that at some point the white position should collapse. An oversight on move 31 sped up the end of the game and floored another top-favourite. In the rapid game Carlsen tried to fight back with the Poisoned Pawn of the Najdorf Defence. Afterwards Ivanchuk felt that he again had had sufficient compensation for the sacrificed pawn, but was reluctant to give a concrete assessment of the game as it had been so ‘very complicated’. One move he criticized was 25…Kf7, which allowed him to increase the pressure. They ended up in a rook endgame of three pawns versus two, which Black failed to defend, leading to a sensational 2-0 defeat of the top-seed.


‘It’s been a while, clearly’, Peter Svidler commented after he had beaten Jan Smeets in his first Amber blindfold game in three years. Svidler had an edge from the opening, but Smeets should have been able to hold a draw. Things got funny when Svidler, played his 39th move thinking Black’s bishop was on e6 (it was on d7). That it was not, he found out when Black played 39…Ne6+ and picked up the pawn on g5. This was not a problem in itself as now White can go 40.Nd5+ and pick up the b6 pawn, but not knowing where the black bishop was, Svidler now reasoned that it was on c6, which ‘prevented’ this knight jump. Smeets on his part got confused by White’s 44.Bxg6 and panicked with 45…Be6 when 45…Kg5 was still a draw. Well, in fact he would have even won, as (still thinking the black bishop was on c6) Svidler had planned to answer 45…Kg5 with 46.Be4 Kxh6 47.Bc6, thinking he would capture a bishop but in fact giving one away. After this comedy of errors had ended, Smeets was left with a lost position and had to resign soon. The rapid game ended in a draw. In a classical Ruy Lopez Black got good play and when he started piling up on White’s a pawn, Smeets decided that instead of defending a pawn that will drop off anyway at some point, he better hand it over immediately for some activity. This turned out to be an excellent exchange and at a certain point his compensation even seemed to turn into more. But his advantage got never concrete and both players could live with the draw that materialized.

Sergey Karjakin obtained a winning position in the blindfold game when in a sharp opening tussle Levon Aronian committed a serious error. Instead of 19…Bg5?, the Armenian grandmaster should have played 19…Bh4 or 19…Rb4. Things looked bleak for Aronian, but then he didn’t win himself a reputation for ‘slow-motion’ swindling for nothing last year. And this time, too, he almost escaped when Karjakin allowed a repetition of moves. But Aronian was going for the whole hog and thinking he was winning he didn’t repeat moves, but played 36…Nxc3, which turned out to be a losing move. In the rapid game Levon Aronian showed a different face and put his opponent under pressure right from the opening. Perhaps this permanent pressure also explained the mistake Karjakin made at the end of the game. Instead of hanging on in a dubious ending he blundered and even got mated.

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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