20TH AMBER BLINDFOLD AND RAPID TOURNAMENT - ROUND 4

Tuesday 15 March Round IV
14.30 Blind Karjakin-Kramnik 1-0
Gelfand-Topalov ½-½
Grischuk-Anand ½-½
16.00 Blind Carlsen-Giri ½-½
Nakamura-Gashimov ½-½
Aronian-Ivanchuk ½-½
17.45 Rapid Kramnik-Karjakin ½-½
Topalov-Gelfand 1-0
Anand-Grischuk 1-0
19.15 Rapid Giri-Carlsen 0-1
Gashimov-Nakamura 0-1
Ivanchuk-Aronian 0-1

Aronian and Carlsen continue to lead after four rounds

After four rounds of the Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament, Levon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen are in the lead together. Aronian defeated Vasily Ivanchuk, 1½-½, while Carlsen scored the same result against Anish Giri.

After four rounds Aronian and Grischuk still top the blindfold standings, while Carlsen remains first in the rapid competition.

The € 1,000 Game of the Day Prize was awarded to Sergey Karjakin for his blindfold win over Vladimir Kramnik.

Sergey Karjakin achieved something in his blindfold game against Vladimir Kramnik that many grandmasters will envy him for: he broke through the former world champion’s Berlin Wall! As an expert in this line for both sides he introduced a novelty, 12.Nd5 which was followed up by ‘a nice idea’, 14.Bb2. According to Karjakin Black’s best reply was 14…gxf4, as after 14…Rg8, White had the strong pawn push 15.e6. White’s advantage became serious after 20.Ne5 and he cemented it with 22.f4, opening the kingside. Black could not avoid the loss of his h-pawn and then Karjakin could begin to push his kingside pawns. ‘I played quite well’, he smiled contentedly, and nobody argued with that.

The rapid game was quite another story. Again Karjakin was satisfied, but for a totally different reason. ‘Did you see my position? I was three pawns down, without any compensation!?’, he asked anyone he ran into. His amazement was understandable. Kramnik had outplayed him completely and Karjakin admitted that he had even been a little bit ashamed that he hadn’t resigned the game. He could be happy that he didn’t, as Kramnik completely ‘lost his nerves’, as guest-of-honour Viktor Kortchnoi put it, and earned nothing more than a draw for his efforts.

Boris Gelfand got a big advantage in his blindfold game against Veselin Topalov. His main problem was that there were too many attractive options and that Topalov defended stubbornly. According to the Israeli grandmaster he spoiled his last chance when he exchanged queens on g6, when 27.Rc7 would have kept him clearly on top. The only pleasant memory Gelfand will have from the game is the creative and attractive manner in which he forced a perpetual.

Topalov unpacked the present for his 36th birthday, which he celebrated today, in the rapid game. It all started with a novelty on move 15, when he withdrew his knight to b1. His comment on the novelty said a lot about some of today’s opening preparation at the highest level: ‘It’s one of those typical computer novelties for which it is very difficult to find a solution at the board. If you don’t know what it is all about it’s very hard to play against it.’ Gelfand thought for a long time, but failed to come up with the right solution. Topalov indicated Black’s 30…Rc3 as his last mistake. He should have tried 30…Kg7, but even there White’s winning chances would have been excellent.

The blindfold game between Alexander Grischuk and Vishy Anand was the first one to finish after a mere 20 moves when a move repetition forced a draw. The World Champion went for the Berlin Defence of the Ruy Lopez and once again proved its solidity. The idea he had prepared was 15…Rg6, which apparently didn’t catch Grischuk by surprise as he quickly played his answer 16.g3. The point of Black’s idea was 17.Nf3, which soon convinced White that he could not claim any advantage and should agree to a draw.

The rapid game ended in a win for the World Champion, but he was the first to admit that in the opening and middlegame his opponent had played better. But once Anand realized that he had to defend and look for counterchances cautiously, he used his chances better than Grischuk. Anand could have decided the game quicker with 38.Re1, but when Grischuk failed to find the saving 40…Qe6, he lost a piece and resigned two moves later.

Magnus Carlsen arrived seven minutes late for his blindfold game against Anish Giri. The Norwegian grandmaster was under the impression that the second session started at a quarter past four (he wasn’t too proud of this, as this isn’t exactly his first Amber and the starting times have not changed recently) and was chatting with a friend from his room. Fortunately he mentioned at some point that his next game would start at a quarter past four, which gave his friend the opportunity to tell him that he better hurry as the correct starting time was 4 p.m.! In the meantime Chief Arbiter Geurt Gijssen had started his clock as it was not the first time that Carlsen arrived late for his game. In a Grünfeld with g3 Carlsen got the initiative. He was pleased with his position and felt he had a nice advantage, but he misplayed it and had to settle for a draw. It was all about the black-squared bishops: ‘I should have exchanged my black-squared bishop, but I thought that his black-squared bishop was bad. But gradually I discovered that my black-squared bishop was even worse.’

In the rapid game Carlsen opted for some sort of Dutch defence in his wish ‘to just play something’. He won a pawn, because Giri had missed 22…Qd3, but even after that loss the young Dutchman had serious drawing chances. But so far Giri has fared better with black than with white and it was not to be. Once Carlsen managed to reach a  knight ending he was easily winning.

Hikaru Nakamura and Vugar Gashimov fought a tough battle in their blindfold game. Both were ambitious to win as the course of the game showed unmistakable. Black emerged from the opening with comfortable play and felt that after 26…Nf5 he was already better. His only concern was to prevent White from building up an attack against his king. Black was better, but that didn’t mean Nakamura was fighting for a draw, as he demonstrated when he spurned a draw after move 40. In the next phase Gashimov wondered if he was winning or not, but the moment he realized that he was in fact entering the danger zone, he quickly used the emergency brake and forced a perpetual. 

Nakamura started his evaluation of the rapid game with a general remark: ‘So far I have played all my blindfold games quite well, and my rapid games quite badly.’ The position he got from the opening against Gashimov certainly looked unattractive and it was only because it wasn’t easy for White to find the right plan to break through in a quick game that Black stayed afoot. Things were still unclear when Gashimov did play the breaking move 48.d5, after which Black moved to the driving seat. White could have defended more tenaciously, but it probably would not have changed the ultimate outcome anymore. Nakamura concluded with another general comment: ‘In view of the bad luck I have had so far you could expect the luck to even out a bit.’

Levon Aronian was clearly disappointed after the blindfold game against Vasily Ivanchuk had ended in a draw. ‘To reach such a position and then not to win it’, he lamented as he walked into the press room. ‘I had so many good options, that I started to tremble looking at all those attractive moves.’ His decision to sacrifice his queen he called dubious, he should have played 27.Qe1. Because of his annoyance about his play he decided to ‘give away his queen and make a draw’. But instead he started to play under his level and ended up in a lost position. Only then the ‘real Aronian’ reappeared, as there were ‘some tricks’ and he managed to make a draw after all.

Aronian was more efficient in the rapid game, although he was slightly critical of his 15…Nab3 (‘too flamboyant’), when he could easily have maintained his advantage with 15…Qd7. But Ivanchuk returned the favour with 17.Rexc1, when Black would have been only slightly better after 17.Nxd4. And Black was much better after 20.cxd5. Aronian remained in charge in the remainder of the game to claim the full point after 51 moves.