20TH AMBER BLINDFOLD AND RAPID TOURNAMENT - ROUND 11
|Thursday 24 March Round XI|
Aronian claims third Amber victory in farewell edition
Levon Aronian is the winner of the twentieth and final Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament. Following his earlier wins in 2008 and 2009 this is the third time the Armenian grandmaster claimed first prize.
Aronian also won the blindfold competition. The rapid competition was won by Magnus Carlsen.
The € 1,000 Game of the Day Prize was awarded to Boris Gelfand for his rapid win over Magnus Carlsen, which ended the Norwegian’s chances to fight for first place in the overall standings.
The blindfold game between Vasily Ivanchuk and Veselin Topalov was a long up-and-down affair. In the opening Ivanchuk was at his creative best and outplayed his opponent to reach a winning position. But in the next phase he just as easily squandered his advantage and even ended up in a worse position. Now he had to suffer and it was only after a 97 moves that the suffering was over and he had saved the draw.
Topalov won the rapid game. Ivanchuk needed too much attention to defend his advanced pawn on c4, which gave the Bulgarian the opportunity to organize a kingside attack. When Ivanchuk allowed 39.Nxh5+ the game was soon over.
With 140 moves, the blindfold game between Vugar Gashimov and Alexander Grischuk was easily the longest of the entire tournament. It was a see-saw battle in which first Grischuk had the better chances and then Gashimov. For instance, the Azeri grandmaster could have decided the game easily with 47.Rf3. The game remained a comedy of errors and ultimately went into an endgame of rook and knight (Grischuk) versus rook on move 90. Grischuk tried for 50 moves and then the 50-moves rule finally out an end to the game.
In the blindfold game they tried to break the record of the longest game and were well on their way, when the tournament director, having consulted with the chief arbiter, stepped in. Because the evening program was seriously threatened he asked the players to continue in a separate room, so that the final session of the rapid competition could start as soon as possible in the playing room. Once Grischuk and Gashimov had moved there they made 10 more moves and after 139 moves the game was drawn
Anish Giri repeated an opening in his blindfold game against Vishy Anand that his second Loek van Wely had played against the same Anand in the 2006 Amber tournament! White deviated with 10.cxd4, where Van Wely had gone 10.Qxd4, and introduced his new idea one move later, 11.Kf1. An interesting battle developed in which White had space, but an awkward king (could he put it on h1, he would be fine) and Black wanted to develop counterplay on the queenside with …Rb8, …b5 etc. as soon as possible. Giri went astray with 20.Qc4 after which both players agreed he was essentially lost. White’s position quickly fell apart and after 27 moves, about to lose a rook, Giri resigned.
Anand also won the rapid game. The line he played against the Petroff he didn’t think to be very impressive, ‘but you have to play something’. Giri’s 17…b6 was clear mistake (the correct move was 17…Rc8) for exactly what happened in the game. White won the pawn on b6 and when Black missed his last chance to get substantial counterplay with 23…Rc8 (he exchanged rooks on a7) the young Dutchman was fighting a hopeless battle.
The blindfold game between Hikaru Nakamura and Vladimir Kramnik ended in a convincing win for the Russian former world champion. Nakamura’s opening was ‘not great’ in Kramnik’s words and White’s 7.h4 and 9.g4 were rather weakening than strengthening his position. The American drifted into an unpleasant ending that gradually got worse and worse. The decisive mistake was 26.Ne3 which allowed Black to strike with a simple but effective tactic. The win finally lifted Kramnik from the hated last place.
Thanks to a win in the rapid game Nakamura could end the tournament on a positive note. In a King’s Indian he managed to stage a devastating onslaught on the white king and cashed the point after 45 moves.
With a draw in his blindfold game against Sergey Karjakin, tournament leader Levon Aronian decided the fight for first place in his favour, as his last remaining rival, Magnus Carlsen lost his blindfold game to Boris Gelfand. After the opening Aronian was optimistic: ‘I thought it was all in my hands. I didn’t need Boris.’ After 26.Nc4 he felt he was close to winning, but he didn’t find the correct follow-up. In the endgame his advantage vanished, but soon he found out that the draw he reached was enough to clinch tournament victory.
Aronian felt that he also had had good winning chances in the rapid game, but again he had to settle for a draw. Obviously, he didn’t care too much, as tournament victory was already his.
Magnus Carlsen knew he had to win his blindfold game against Boris Gelfand to keep the pressure on Levon Aronian. Right from the first moves he made no secret of his intentions. White’s 8.Ncb5 was a speculative attempt, involving lots of tactics, but as the game developed it became clear that they worked for Black. After 14…Re4! Gelfand was already better and his advantage became decisive when Carlsen missed 22.Qd3 when it would still have been a game. The last fifteen moves or so the Norwegian would normally have spared himself, but given the tournament situation it was understandable that he drained the cup to the bottom.
In the rapid game Carlsen went for a Benkö Gambit. Gelfand surprised him with 11.f4, which the Norwegian had not seen before, but nevertheless Black got a fine game. Carlsen believed that White should not have sacrificed the exchange with 20.Rxe7 and instead should have played 20…Rad1. Now Black got great play and Carlsen felt that once he had this advantage there was little his opponent could have done to avoid his loss. With this win Carlsen increased his rapid score to 9½ from 11, the highest in Amber history.