Ivanchuk in sole lead after three rounds in Nice

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Ivanchuk in sole lead after three rounds in NiceAfter beating Sergey Karjakin 1.5-0.5, Vasily Ivanchuk leads the combined standings of the Amber tournament with a score of 4.5/6. Magnus Carlsen again won 2-0, this time against Peter Svidler, who resigned in a probably drawn position in the blindfold game.

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 3

Game viewer by ChessTempo

Round 3 report

Vasily Ivanchuk in sole lead Magnus Carlsen back in business with two more wins After three rounds of the Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament, Vasily Ivanchuk is in the sole lead in the overall standings with 4½ points from 6 games. The Ukrainian grandmaster, the only GM to play in all 19 Amber tournaments, defeated Sergey Karjakin 1½-½. Defending champion Levon Aronian scored his first full points at the cost of Jan Smeets. Magnus Carlsen also won 2-0, the victim being Peter Svidler. Despite his dramatic start, the Norwegian is now only half a point behind the leading Ivanchuk. And he optimistically faces the future: ‘I am hoping for two more tomorrow.’

Vasily Ivanchuk immersed in thought at the start of his blindfold game against Sergey Karjakin. Following a 1½-½ win over his former compatriot the Ukrainian grandmaster is in the sole lead.

Alexander Grischuk and Boris Gelfand played a blindfold game that at first sight may have looked lively and entertaining for the spectators. However, they were following a theoretical line and after the game Grischuk summed up his assessment of what had happened as ‘very boring’. White had a small advantage in the ending that appeared on the board, but it never took on serious proportions and the games petered out to a draw. For Gelfand the line evoked old memories: ‘The last time I played this line was in 1988 in Vilnius. Against Goldin at the Soviet Young Masters.’ Certainly an interesting footnote to this game. The rapid game was anything but boring. Playing adventurously Gelfand sacrificed two pawns to develop an attack against the black king and was awarded for his courage with a winning position. But just when everyone expected Grischuk to resign soon, Gelfand faltered and failed to deal the final blow. With 32.Bh7+ he let Black back into the game, where he could have decided the issue with 32.axb5 cxb5 33.Nd5 exd6 34.Bxd5+. In raging time-trouble for both, Gelfand again got a winning position, and might just as well have lost if Black had found 42…Kh6 instead of 42…Kg6, but in the end it was a draw and that was a result that definitely felt deeply unsatisfactory for Gelfand.


When Leinier Dominguez arrived at the board for his blindfold game against Ruslan Ponomariov, the Ukrainian grandmaster already sat waiting impatiently. As he laughingly told the arbiter: ‘I am nervous, let’s start!’ Once he was allowed to start the game, Ponomariov went for 4…g6 against the Ruy Lopez, a set-up that is sometimes considered slightly suspect, but mostly leads to satisfactory play for Black. Dominguez certainly obtained an edge, but with precise and active play Ponomariov comfortably equalized and once they reached a rook endgame with three pawns on each side, there were few reasons left not to draw the game. The blindfold game presented Ponomariov with a problem that every grandmaster faces from time to time: he had to play against an opening variation that he also has played himself. A tense struggle developed in which both sides were fighting for their chances, and although those of White looked slightly more promising in the middlegame, the game ended in a draw when most pieces and pawns had left the board on move 47.


The blindfold game between Vugar Gashimov and Vladimir Kramnik saw the Russian grandmaster play another Pirc. However, this time it didn’t bring him much pleasure, as his mix of set-ups landed him in a risky position. Things looked threatening for Kramnik, especially when on move 26 Gashimov got a golden opportunity. With 26.Rxd6 he could have been a healthy pawn up, as 26…Ne8 is answered by 27.Rxh6, but instead of all this the Azeri grandmaster played 26.Nxd6 and a few moves later he agreed on a draw. In the rapid game Kramnik emphatically wanted to be at the wheel from the word go. With gritty play he put his opponent under pressure and obtained a sizable advantage. But Gashimov had no wish to knuckle under and fought back with determination and his 37…Bg5 came as a rude awaking for Kramnik. Now suddenly the win was far off, objectively speaking no longer there, and a messy phase followed in which White kept looking for a win. And found it, because Gashimov didn’t grab his chances. The final mistake came on move 51, when the Azeri grandmaster played the right idea in the wrong order. Had he gone 51…Qf1+ 52.Kh2 Ne1, White would have had to resign himself to a draw. When he played 51…Ne1 immediately, Kramnik had 52.Qb5 and now 52…Nf3 doesn’t work because of 53.Qf8 mate.


The blindfold game between Peter Svidler and Magnus Carlsen started with a comic prologue when, once they were seated behind their laptops, the Norwegian discovered much to his dismay that he wasn’t White is this game, as he had believed, but Black. The comedy of errors was continued in the game and even after the Russian had resigned, when the spectators in the hospitality lounge switched on some engines. In the game Carlsen invited Svidler to play a full-fledged Dragon, but instead White opted for a more quiet approach. For some time there was nothing new under the sun until White played a new move, 19.Qf4 (19.Qe2 had been seen). The comedy of errors came back to life on move 20, when Svidler suddenly had second thoughts about the intended 20.Rxd7 because of 20…Qc6 21.Rxb7 Rxf4 22.Bd5 and now 22…Qf6 wins for Black. However, both players had missed 22.Rb6 with an edge for White. On move, 22 Svidler refrained from 22.Qh3 because he didn’t like 22…Nf4, but after the move he played, 22.Qe1, he was unpleasantly surprised by 22…Bxg2. Now Black developed a raging attack, but was it was deadly as Svidler acknowledged when, after 25…Nd4, he resigned? Indeed it would have been if Black had played 24…Nh4+ (instead of 24…Nf4+). But now things were different, as in the final position the engines immediately showed the amazing 26.Nd7!, attacking the rook on f8, and there is no immediate win and the position looks drawish. At that point the players had already left for their rooms, Carlsen happily laughing off the fact that he had prepared for the wrong colour: ‘In any case it seems to be clear that in the blindfold I do better when I play the black pieces.’ Yes, but this time he needed a helping hand from his opponent. In his room he obviously also found 26.Nd7, but to his mind Black could nevertheless have kept on playing for a win with 26…Nh3+ 27.Kg2 Qc6+ 28.Bd5 Qxd7 29.Rxd4 e6. The rapid game saw a rare sideline of the Qb3 Grünfeld, which, according to Carlsen, both players were not too familiar with. He himself seemed to suffer the least from this relative ignorance as he obtained a pleasant position. ‘And then it just got better and better’, he summed up the game. One moment he pointed out to illustrate the strength of his position was the moment when he played 22.Nd3, planning g5, pushing away the knight on d5 with e4, and then playing Nf4 threatening Nxg6 mate. To prevent such plans Svidler played 22…g5 himself, but his troubles remained and after 34 moves he had had enough and resigned.


When Sergey Karjakin, who is now playing for Russia, sat down to play his former compatriot Vasily Ivanchuk there was little doubt that a fierce clash would follow. In the blindfold game Ivanchuk gradually managed to took over the initiative and when he pushed 19…c4! it was clear that Karjakin faced a difficult defence. The final mistake White made on move 32, when playing his bishop to a3, he allowed Black to invade his position and force his surrender. In the blindfold game Ivanchuk got promising play and tried various ways to improve the position of his pieces. But Karjakin defended tenaciously and when his opponent failed to make any headway a draw was the result after 44 moves.

Jan Smeets was happy with the outcome of the opening of his blindfold game against Levon Aronian. After all he was allowed to play the improvement he had suggested after his game against Karjakin in Round 2, 17.Be4 instead of 17.Ne4. White got an edge, but failed to exploit it. His first inaccuracy was 24.Rac1 where 24.a4 was called for, but the real mistake was 26.Bxd8?, an exchange that was prompted by his fear that Black’s knight would come to e6 and White’s bishop on f6 would end up out of play. Now Smeets suddenly found himself in an unpleasant rook endgame, which Aronian first converted in a winning pawn endgame and then into a winning queen endgame. The rapid game was a tumultuous affair that started out with an opening that was popular at the start of the 20th century (the rather unusual 4…Nc6 followed by 5.e4). Aronian was pleased with his position but commented afterwards that he should have played 13.Qa4+ instead of 13.Bxf4, as he had underestimated 15…Qd7. Further on he had planned the imaginative 19.Kf1 until he saw 19…0-0 20.Rd6 Bc4!. Black’s troubles started with 24…Qh1, where he could have secured a level position with 24…Qxf2+ 25.Kf2 Ne4+ 26.Kg2 Nxd6 27.Bxa7. His final mistake was 25…Qh5, when he should have gone 25…Qxh6 26.Nd5 Qh4. Now his king was too vulnerable and as Smeets was also in time-trouble it didn’t come as a surprise that Aronian quickly hauled in the point.

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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