20TH AMBER BLINDFOLD AND RAPID TOURNAMENT - ROUND 5

Thursday 17 March Round V
14.30 Blind Ivanchuk-Carlsen 1-0
Gashimov-Aronian 0-1
Giri-Nakamura 1-0
16.00 Blind Anand-Karjakin ½-½
Topalov-Grischuk 1-0
Kramnik-Gelfand 0-1
17.45 Rapid Carlsen-Ivanchuk 0-1
Aronian-Gashimov 1-0
Nakamura-Giri ½-½
19.15 Rapid Karjakin-Anand ½-½
Grischuk-Topalov 1-0
Gelfand-Kramnik 0-1

Aronian breaks away with 2-0 rout

In the fifth round of the Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament, Levon Aronian has taken the sole lead. His sum total after 10 games is an impressive 8 points. The Armenian grandmaster beat Vugar Gashimov 2-0, while former co-leader Magnus Carlsen went under 0-2 against Vasily Ivanchuk.

After five rounds Aronian not only leads the combined standings, but also tops both the blindfold and the rapid competition.

The € 1,000 Game of the Day Prize was awarded to Vasily Ivanchuk for his rapid win over Magnus Carlsen.

The chess activities on the day of Round 5 started with a function in the hospitality lounge at 11.30 a.m.. Here two guests paid tribute to Mr. Van Oosterom and his great services for chess. First Jean-Michel Rapaire, the president of the Monegasque Chess Federation thanked Joop van Oosterom for the support he has given to chess in the Principality over the years, in particular his support of the women’s team of the Monaco Chess Club. They won the European Club Cup in 2007, 2008 and 2010. To express his gratitude Mr. Rapaire presented Mr. Van Oosterom with the trophy that found its home in Monaco after the third victory.

Next Jan Stomphorst of the Dutch Chess Federation and captain of the Hilversum Chess Club took the floor to thank Mr. Van Oosterom for his unrelenting support of his chess team and his great merits for Dutch chess. In his capacity of board member of the Dutch Chess Federation, Mr. Stomphorst made Mr. Van Oosterom an honorary member, a rare honour that so far was only bestowed on four people, including Max Euwe and Jan Timman.

Several hours later, the round started with a bang when in the blindfold game between Vasily Ivanchuk and Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian briefly forgot about a well-known tactic as early as move 13. Ivanchuk didn’t miss this rare opportunity to floor a player of Carlsen’s stature with a simple shot. No one would have blamed Carlsen if he had resigned rightaway. Instead he opted for a queen sacrifice, perhaps in the vague hope to muddy the waters, but Ivanchuk had no trouble keeping his cool and scored his first win of the tournament with great ease.

Ivanchuk also won the rapid game, thus repeating his 2-0 win over Carlsen from last year’s first round. Carlsen played a rather rare variation against Ivanchuk’s French Defence. As the kibitzing GMs in the press room remarked, this may be a good idea against any other player, but perhaps not such a good idea against an omniscient veteran like Ivanchuk. The same kibitzers were impressed by Black’s 7…Qa5, which they believed to be a novelty. The Ukrainian grandmaster played well, but he also admitted that his opponent had had a weak day. Already after 9.Nb1, Ivanchuk knew that things were going his way and soon it was clear that White was slipping down the road to defeat. At the end of the game Carlsen showed that at least he had not lost his sense of humour when he let Ivanchuk mate him.

Vugar Gashimov and Levon Aronian went for a Berlin Defence of the Ruy Lopez in their blindfold game. Black got a pleasant game, but White was on his guard and with 27.Ra1 he showed that chances were still equal (as a possible black plan of …Kb7 and …Ra8 to exchange the rooks would leave the black king too far away from the centre of the action). The game took a dramatic turn when Gashimov forgot what move he had just played (an unusual kind of mistake in the blindfold). On move 29 he played 29.Ke2, but after he had made it he thought that he had played 29.Ng3. That was the reason why one move later he pushed 30.f5 and Black could simply take it, as it was not protected by a knight on g3 at all. This material deficit proved decisive and slowly but surely Aronian converted his advantage to score a valuable point.

In the rapid game Gashimov soon ended up in trouble when his opening went seriously wrong. According to Aronian the plan to withdraw the white-squared bishop to c8 again was a dubious one, as was highlighted by White’s original idea to transfer his queen to h2. Black’s problems were compounded after 12…e6, where he should have tried 12…0-0. Black’s decisive mistake came as early as move 14. The remainder of the game was not difficult for Aronian. The win was there for him to take it, as long as he didn’t commit any serious errors.

In the evaluation of the opening of the blindfold game between Anish Giri and Hikaru Nakamura the white player and his second Loek van Wely begged to differ. After 25 moves Van Wely was optimistic. He believed that if White could consolidate he would be clearly better. But Giri was pessimistic about his chances as he detected various dangers. For instance, after 26…Ne5 he was afraid that 27.Kg2 would be answered by 27…Nc4, a tactical blow that doesn’t bring Black anything decisive but leads to situations that you prefer to avoid in a blindfold game. In the next phase Giri cleverly tempted Nakamura to play …g5, which not only offered his knight the f5 square, but also made the tough blow 39.f4+ possible. Nakamura was left with a hopeless position and Giri posted his first victory.

In the rapid game Giri had no problems with black in an old Grünfeld line. Already after 20…f6 he felt he was slightly better. His coach believed that soon he was close to winning, but Giri preferred to stick to a cautious course and perhaps missed some better chances in the phase between moves 24 and 27. The queen ending was still a bit better, but Nakamura’s 41.f5 was exact and secured the draw.

The blindfold game between Vishy Anand and Sergey Karjakin was a brief theoretical discussion that ended in a draw after 23 moves. With 12…Na5 Black introduced a subtle novelty. As the World Champion kindly explained, normal is 12…d6, which allows White to play 13.Ba3 right away. Now White castled first removing the king from the centre, which played a role in the next phase of the game. White won a pawn, but despite the activity he cannot avoid giving it back as in the end the isolated c-pawn is bound to fall.

When he walked into the hospitality lounge after the rapid game, Karjakin said to his wife that he would like to have a martini. Following in his footsteps Anand quipped: ‘Make that two, I can also use one.’ The World Champion was not really longing for a drink, but he wanted to express his disappointment after he had let a very promising position through his fingers. Karjakin left the danger zone when Black’s 37…Kf7 allowed him to play 38.f4 and Anand broke his pawn centre with 38…exf4. Now it was Black who had to watch out, but after 52 moves the draw was a fact.

The blindfold game between Veselin Topalov and Alexander Grischuk was a tumultuous affair that could have gone either way, but ended in a sudden loss after 70 moves when the Russian grandmaster dropped a full rook. The opening was a clear success for Topalov, who got an overwhelming position against Grischuk’s Najdorf. At several points he could have struck harder, for instance instead of 25.Bd3 White had the devastating 25.Bxe5 and 28.Rxg4 would have been better than 28.fxe6. As they went into the endgame the tables turned. Now it was Black who was winning. Until he put his took on a square where it could be taken.

In the rapid game Topalov played for a win with the Dutch Defence, at least that was his opponent’s interpretation of the Bulgarian’s opening choice. Black got a fine game, but went astray with 22…Qf6 where he should have played either 22…b5 or even the primitive (Grischuk) 22…c5. Now there followed a forced sequence and after 28.d6 White was winning. Not only did he have two pawns for the exchange, but also the bishop pair and a better king position. ‘In the rest of the game I didn’t blunder anything and so I won’, Grischuk summed up the remainder of the game.

Vladimir Kramnik looked intent to wipe out the memory of the games that went astray the past days in his blindfold game against Boris Gelfand. In an Exchange Slav he sacrificed his queen without the least hesitation after only 11 moves. The idea was interesting and he would have had long-term compensation after 15.b3. However, 15.b4 only helped Black, who got the chance to exchange Kramnik’s dangerous black-squared bishop on c5. Gelfand was also pleased by 17…Qb7, which brought back the queen in the game. The rest of the game was more suffering for Kramnik. Gelfand returned an exchange and went for an ending where his queen was much stronger than White’s rooks because of the weakness of the white king. In the hospitality lounge a happy Gelfand explained the details of the game. But then he’s already been continuously happy for a couple of days, as two days ago his wife gave birth to a son.

Kramnik hit back in the rapid game, when after mixed-up move-orders from both sides he got the better play. After 16.Na4 he was slightly better and in the following phase Black manoeuvred better in a position that was easier to play for him. With 35…f5 he obtained a strong attack and the rest of the game Kramnik played impeccably. In the hospitality lounge he quickly checked his game with a computer and concluded with a wry smile: ‘Maybe I finally played a decent game.’