20TH AMBER BLINDFOLD AND RAPID TOURNAMENT - ROUND 3

Monday 14 March Round III
14.30 Blind Aronian-Carlsen ½-½
Ivanchuk-Nakamura 0-1
Gashimov-Giri 1-0
16.00 Blind Grischuk-Karjakin ½-½
Anand-Gelfand ½-½
Kramnik-Topalov 1-0
17.45 Rapid Carlsen-Aronian ½-½
Nakamura-Ivanchuk ½-½
Giri-Gashimov ½-½
19.15 Rapid Karjakin-Grischuk 1-0
Gelfand-Anand 0-1
Topalov-Kramnik 1-0

Aronian and Carlsen in lead together after three rounds

In the third round of the Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament, Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen have taken the joint lead. Their direct encounter ended in a 1-1 tie after a rollercoaster rapid game, which was enough to shake off yesterday’s co-leader Alexander Grischuk. The Russian lost ½-1½ to his compatriot Sergey Karjakin. After three rounds Aronian and Grischuk top the blindfold standings, while Carlsen is first in the rapid competition.

The Game of the Day Prize was awarded to Vugar Gashimov for his fine blindfold win against Anish Giri.

The blindfold game between the leaders Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen was a rather uneventful affair. ‘There is not much to say’, was the Norwegian’s correct comment. Aronian regretted his plan with 9.Bc3 and 10.Bb2, which led to a ‘very boring game’. They played on till move 37 and then, as ‘there were no breaking points’ (Carlsen) they agreed on a draw.

The rapid game was a draw of a completely different nature. John Nunn rated it high on Aronian’s swindle scale and Carlsen could only shake his head in disbelief and compare the game to a similar experience he had against the same opponent two years ago. The opening wasn’t a big success for Black, who particularly disliked his bishop move 8…Be6. After 15.Qb3 Aronian felt that he was as good as lost, ‘but then with 15…a5 the usual swindling started’. For the moment without much success as with 18.Qc6 Bxd5 19.Qxd5 Carlsen could have gotten a most pleasant advantage. But instead (Carlsen: ‘Which idiot spurns the possibility to get a position with a healthy extra pawn?’) he started a tactical excursion that ended in a position that was fine, but not as good as it could have been. And then White started to drift and ended up in a lost position. Which was the moment for Aronian to lose the thread. After 44 moves the players decided that the rook ending was a draw.

Last year’s winner Vasily Ivanchuk suffered his third loss in this Amber edition in the blindfold game against Hikaru Nakamura. The American played well, and unlike some of his previous games he not only played well, but also moved quickly. Nakamura was critical of Ivanchuk’s 15.Nxb6 (better 15.a4 followed by a5) which gave him ‘a very easy position’. Still, Ivanchuk in normal shape would certainly have fought back better against Black’s initiative. Now he lost a piece in broad daylight after only 27 moves.

Although he was Black in the rapid game, this time it was Ivanchuk who was calling the shots. He got a promising advantage, but felt that he had lost the thread of the game when faced by too many attractive possibilities. And as happens so often in such situations of luxury, the advantage evaporated and a draw was the result.

In the blindfold game between Vugar Gashimov and Anish Giri, the young Dutchman took a gamble that backfired. He knew full well that the line he played against the Keres Attack was dangerous, but he hoped his opponent wasn’t familiar with it. And, on top of that, they were playing blindfold, weren’t they?. Indeed Gashimov’s knowledge ended relatively early (after 13.f4), but that didn’t stop him from continuing forcefully. His move 18.Rd3 was strong and soon Black made a mistake with far-reaching consequences. Instead of 20…f6 he absolutely should have played 20…f5 with reasonable play. After his mistake Black’s minor pieces were shut off from the action and White could start his final assault. The last chance of survival Giri had was 23…h5, when he missed that opportunity the rest was suffering. Giri was annoyed with himself, but when he watched the replay of the moves on a monitor he magnanimously admitted: ‘Actually it was very nice how he finished it.’ Indeed you shouldn’t miss the textbook mating net that Gashimov weaved.

Faced by a Benoni in the rapid game, one of Gashimov’s favourites, Giri opted for a line that he had once seen Loek van Wely use to beat Veselin Topalov. The choice was intended as a tribute to his second, who will arrive in Monaco later tonight to assist Giri. There was nothing wrong with this choice, but with 23.Bf1 he spoiled the advantage he would have had after 23.Qd2. And things got even worse when he erred with 31.g3 instead of stopping the black rook from coming to a1 with 31.Re1. Suddenly Giri was fighting for survival, which he managed to do when Gashimov allowed himself some inaccuracies.

Alexander Grischuk had good hopes in his blindfold game against Sergey Karjakin, but had to settle for a draw. ‘I had an advantage but it is unclear where I should have played better’, the Russian summed up the course of the game. An essential part of Black’s defence was 25…a5, ‘a great move by Sergey’ in Grischuk’s words.

In the rapid game Karjakin scored his first win. ‘As always’ his white game against Grischuk saw a Najdorf. With his choice of sub-variation Karjakin may have sprung a surprise on his opponent, as he copied the game Dominguez-Grischuk from last year’s Amber which Grischuk had won. Black’s difficulties started with 19…Bd7. Better would have been 19…h5 to stop White from moving his pawn to h5. Karjakin profited from his thorough preparation, He only started to think after Black’s 21st move, which he had looked at in the morning, concluding that it was not the most accurate. Black’s final mistake came on move 29, where he should have tried 29…Bc5. After 29…Bc6 White stayed ahead a pawn and the rest was a classical case of ‘technique’.

In their blindfold game Vishy Anand and Boris Gelfand followed in the footsteps of a game Gelfand played last year (with the white pieces!) against Peter Leko. Anand deviated with 20.Nb1, where Gelfand had gone 20.Ne2. A complicated struggle developed where Gelfand gradually got into trouble after 26…Nxb2 (better was 26…Ne5) and 36…f5 (he should have played 36…Bb6). Now Black was lost, but Gelfand continued to fight and was rewarded for his perseverance when Anand missed a win on move 57. He could have won with 57.Ke1 Bf7 58.Kd2. Anand had been under the misconceived impression that he would win with 59.h6, but when he reached the point where he could play it, he realized that Black holds the draw with 59…Kf6.

After a very sharp opening in the rapid game Anand got a better game with the black pieces. After 24 moves he had the feeling that he had Gelfand on the ropes, but that was the sign for the Israeli grandmaster to start defending incredibly well. After the game Anand said that he had mainly played on ‘out of irritation’ for letting slip his advantage. The irritation paid off. Gelfand gradually lost the thread of the position and after 53 moves Anand cashed a full point.

At the start of the blindfold game between Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov there was a distinctive interest on the journalists’ part if the two old rivals would shake hands or not. Let’s say that to both it didn’t come as a surprise that they did not. The game didn’t go too well for Topalov. Playing passively he allowed White to build up a formidable centre. Kramnik criticized the plan with 18…Rb8 and 19…b6 as being too slow. Afterwards the Russian was not sure if he had followed the correct route, but when he saw that he could win an exchange he went that way. Still, things were not entirely clear, Black’s bishops were strong, and he also was afraid that he might once again spoil a well-played game with an oversight. But this time any possible stumbling blocks were removed when Topalov overstepped the time after 40 moves.

The rapid game was a tense fight. At first Kramnik seemed to be on his way to a second win, until he let Topalov creep back into the game. The tables were turned completely when the Russian gave up a pawn out of free will, but failed to use the space he had created for himself. A further mistake made Topalov’s task easier and soon Black’s resistance collapsed.