Reports | March 16, 2011 2:49

Aronian and Carlsen maintain lead in Monaco

Aronian and Carlsen maintain lead in MonacoLevon Aronian and Magnus Carlsen continue to share the lead at the 2011 Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament, after four rounds. Both won their matches 1.5-0.5 today. Wednesday is the first rest day in Monaco.

Erwin l'Ami, Jan Smeets and Loek van Wely have also arrived in Monaco - here together with Veselin Topalov who celebrated his 36th birthday on Tuesday

General info

The 20th Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament takes place at the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort in Monaco, from March 11 to 25, 2011. The tournament is organized by the Association Max Euwe of chess maecenas Joop van Oosterom, which is based in Monaco. This 20th Amber tournament is the final edition of an event unparalleled in the history of chess. The total prize-fund is € 227,000. The rate of play is 25 minutes per game per player. With every move made in the blindfold games 20 seconds is added to the clock, with every move made in the rapid games 10 seconds is added. Full schedule here.

Tuesday, March 15, Round 4
14.30 Blindfold Karjakin 1-0 Kramnik Gelfand ½-½ Topalov Grischuk ½-½ Anand
16.00 Carlsen ½-½ Giri Nakamura ½-½ Gashimov Aronian ½-½ Ivanchuk
17.45 Rapid Kramnik ½-½ Karjakin Topalov 1-0 Gelfand Anand 1-0 Grischuk
19.15 Giri 0-1 Carlsen Gashimov 0-1 Nakamura Ivanchuk 0-1 Aronian

Aronian and Carlsen continue to lead after four rounds

Round 4 report courtesy of the official website

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.


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Amber Tournament 2011 | Blindfold | Round 4 Standings

Amber Tournament 2011 | Rapid | Round 4 Standings

Amber Tournament 2011 | Combined | Round 4 Standings

Wednesday, March 16, Rest day
Thursday, March 17, Round 5
14.30 Blindfold Ivanchuk-Carlsen Gashimov-Aronian Giri-Nakamura
16.00 Anand-Karjakin Topalov-Grischuk Kramnik-Gelfand
17.45 Rapid Carlsen-Ivanchuk Aronian-Gashimov Nakamura-Giri
19.15 Karjakin-Anand Grischuk-Topalov Gelfand-Kramnik


Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


go_topa's picture

carlsen and aronian; just luck. they win because opponents make bad moves.

known1's picture

making bad moves is what chess is all about, the point of chess is to try and minimize the number of bad moves. luck is not involved in that sense. the only sort of "luck" is if you are lucky that he forgot how to play an opening line or forgot how to do a tactical move. "they win because opponents make bad moves"... wow, did you figure out that all by yourself or did someone help you? Of course dude! They are GMs, as soon as one can get an advantage, it's basically over. But all I am saying is, that it has nothing to do with luck. I see many people saying luck in some "non-luck" situations like this one. Even if you are saying that blindfold is luck, for example, well not really, maybe a little, but it is really how much your brain works. Anyway...

kwimp's picture

And how do YOU win your games? (If ever you play games :D)

go_topa's picture

just kidding ;-)

ussr's picture

same thing happened in WC. Topalov made a blunder and Anand got the title. otherwise it was close

The Golden Knight's picture

Great Magnus!

What is happening with Kramnik, by the way?

Zeblakob's picture

Kramnik is emotionally broken after his loss Vs Topa.

RealityCheck's picture

Great Levon!

What's happening with Giri, by the way?

gg's picture

He's just the by far weakest player in the field.

rpz's picture

After four rounds Giri is equal with Ivanchuk, and only half a point behind Kramnik. How good is that?

gg's picture

Kramnik has made so many mistakes in all his rapid games that it's hard to believe that he is concentrated at all. The game against Karjakin was just silly considering that he also had a big time advantage, but also against Anand, Topalov and Grischuk has he made several uncharacteristic blunders. He has yet to play a rapid game here where he doesn't make a couple of mistakes bigger than those in all his blindfold games taken together during a normal Amber.

Thomas's picture

I half-agree with you - but it must have taken some concentration to reach favorable to winning positions earlier on in all the rapid games you mention. So it's more a matter of _keeping_ his concentration than not being concentrated at all.

At an earlier Amber event, Vlad said that one has to be continuously concentrated in the blindfold games and cannot afford to "fall asleep" even for a brief moment ... . This time, he should apply the same standards to his rapid games!?

ebutaljib's picture

Kramnik and all other candidates are in the middle of preparation for the Candidates matches. This tournament doesn't come in the right time for them.

gg's picture

They still take it fairly seriously, Topalov and Gelfand have used strong novelties, while Grischuk and Aronian have scored quite good results. It's only Kramnik that has looked like a shadow of himself. It may not mean much, but he can't be happy with making so many mistakes without being in time trouble.

Septimus's picture

Rapid and Blitz are not Kramnik's strengths. Anand on the other hand has been a powerhouse at Blitz/Rapid as long as I can remember. This kind of time control suites his style. Even in the WCh match against Topalov, the latter wanted to avoid the rapid tie-break games against Anand.

Sergio's picture

Topolav did avoid the tie-break.

Thomas's picture

Great Vishy!

What's happening with Ivanchuk, by the way? :)

Seriously, Giri is indeed the nominally weakest player AND a newcomer to blindfold. Moreover, he already played two of the greatest, scoring just half a point less than Nakamura - so his final scoring percentage (maybe not his standing in the table) may well improve.

Kramnik and Ivanchuk just seem to be out of form. For Chucky, we are used to the fact that he finishes either at the top or at the bottom of the standings, hardly somewhere in between. Kramnik ... it was quite hard not to win his rapid game against Karjakin, but somehow he managed :(

jost's picture

carlsen, aronian and anand are just always very lucky.....

known1's picture

making bad moves is what chess is all about, the point of chess is to try and minimize the number of bad moves. luck is not involved in that sense. the only sort of “luck” is if you are lucky that he forgot how to play an opening line or forgot how to do a tactical move. “they win because opponents make bad moves”… wow, did you figure out that all by yourself or did someone help you? Of course dude! They are GMs, as soon as one can get an advantage, it’s basically over. But all I am saying is, that it has nothing to do with luck. I see many people saying luck in some “non-luck” situations like this one. Even if you are saying that blindfold is luck, for example, well not really, maybe a little, but it is really how much your brain works. Anyway…

S2's picture

In a recent interview Carlsen said something along the lines of chess being all about psychological warfare with little tricks. I wonder if arriving late is a permanent addition to his arsenal (along with ignoring the touch-move rule, wiggling in his chair, refusing to shake hands, playing with his juice e.g.), maybe it helps in making luck :)

Webbimio's picture

When did Carlsen refuse to shake hands?

Pablo's picture

One blitz game against (I believe) Lahno; but he was very young, he was disgusted with his own played and he (upset) go away after the end of the match. One attitude that some people (in a very absurd way) just can't forget.

S2's picture

He was 18 or 17 at the time.

Webbimio's picture

Ah, ok, but he refused to shake hands AFTER the game; it's quite common and understandable (even if not so elegant). In no way you can upset your opponent in order to win refusing to shake hands After the loss :)

lefier's picture

he also smiles when he should be more serious... all phsycology, for sure

johnxy's picture

Yes, chance and luck always favor the prepared mind!

gg's picture

You missed his throwing raisins at his opponents :)

S2's picture

Yes, but that's more of a physical trick isn't it?

S2's picture

It's defenitely not common except for known offenders like Korchnoi. But of course, you have a good point in that it can't upset your opponent in the game you just played. Maybe the next one..

Thomas's picture

Thanks, particularly to ebutaljib! It turns out that I was very slightly wrong: once (in 2008) Ivanchuk scored 50% to finish shared sixth. In 2005 he had 12/22 (+2), at all other occasions it was either +3 or better, or -3 or worse - and he played ALL Amber events. BTW, 2005 was also an unusual year for Anand - the only time he scored just 50%.

gg's picture

This is Kramnik's 17th Amber and his average has been better than +5. Morozevich had five good years in a row 2002-06 with second place and +4 at worst. Together with Anand and Kramnik he never had a minus score (and even if Kramnik is -3 at the moment he will probably avoid it in the end). With Ivanchuk it's different, this could be his 6th minus result, and all of them have been quite big (-3 or worse). Tournament tables collected by ebutaljib:

gg's picture

Some more stats from those tables: Anand's Amber total after yesterday's round: +99. Kramnik's is +84, Gelfand (with 12 starts in the last 13 editions) is on -9, while van Wely's total is -64. Judit Polgar played the first five years 1992-96 but never after that, and had a minus only in her first start (when she was 15).

WhatsNext?'s picture

Ivanchuk played better in Gibraltar.

CAL|Daniel's picture

lucky for him that its not rated here in Amber.

WhatsNext?'s picture

Would be nice to see a annotated game from Amber.

gg's picture

My favourite this far is Grischuk-Kramnik, that was a very well played blindfold game by Grischuk considering that he was playing on increments much of the time.

S2's picture

Grischuk-Kramnik, Gashimov-Giri, Karjakin-Kramnik. All blindfold games that any GM would have been proud of when played in regular/non blindfold circumstances.

Sherman's picture

Happy birthday, Vesko! Success in family, success in life, healthy and happyness!
Good luck in candidate matches tournament and of course - new world title!

Chess Fan's picture

I wish Vesko (Vespa or whatever parc) the exact opposite of what you have wished for playing second fiddle that primate Dalinov's crass behavior starting from toilet gate onwards, until this Vesko or Topo develops an independent mind and more class, his birthday or not.

pete's picture

get a life

excalibur's picture

Kramnik has been really suffering in the hands of Karjakin lately.

gg's picture

Yes, Karjakin had five wins in a row against Kramnik before that rapid game, maybe he shouldn't have accepted the draw offer after all.

giovlinn's picture

Maybe Carlsen should add more "tricks" before playing, he's behaving like a regular Fischer....
I resent those thumbs down or thumbs up. That is more for little children.

Paul's picture

Thanks for the link gg. One wonders why Kasparov and Timman never were invited to Amber. Is it there presumptuous behavior or just because van Oostrom dislikes them for another reason, Can't be about money i presume. Once i read: Kaparov dislikes blindchess en van Oostrom dislikes Kasparov...seems a bit shallow to me.

Anybody knows the real reason?

Bobby Fiske's picture

It was Kasaprov himself who turned down the invitations. He has several times stated his dislike of blindfold chess.

About Timman I dont know.

Paul's picture


i do hope somebody will tell me more because it puzzles me!

Pal G.'s picture

Great Charlie Sheen!

What is happening with Obama, by the way?

ussr's picture

the reason kramnik and chucky are losing rapid games cause they are getting old and reaction time for brain gets slow .

Webbimio's picture

Anand is some 5 years older than Kramnik

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