Reports | March 18, 2011 2:28

Firm lead for Aronian after five rounds Amber

Amber R5: Firm lead for Aronian after five rounds AmberAfter the first rest day, on Thursday the 2011 Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament resumed in Monaco. It was a very good day for Levon Aronian, who won his mini-match against Vugar Gashimov 2-0. Like last year, Magnus Carlsen went down 0-2 against Vassily Ivanchuk.

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.

Thursday, March 17, Round 5
14.30 Blindfold Ivanchuk 1-0 Carlsen Gashimov 0-1 Aronian Giri 1-0 Nakamura
16.00 Anand ½-½ Karjakin Topalov 1-0 Grischuk Kramnik 0-1 Gelfand
17.45 Rapid Carlsen 0-1 Ivanchuk Aronian 1-0 Gashimov Nakamura ½-½ Giri
19.15 Karjakin ½-½ Anand Grischuk 1-0 Topalov Gelfand 0-1 Kramnik

Aronian breaks away with 2-0 rout

Round 5 report courtesy of the official website

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.

Amber R5: Carlsen-Ivanchuk

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.

Amber R5: Gashimov-Aronian

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.

Amber R5: Nakamura-Giri

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.

Amber R5: Anand-Karjakin

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.

Amber R5: Grischuk-Topalov

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.’

Amber R5: Kramnik-Gelfand

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Amber Tournament 2011 | Blindfold | Round 5 Standings

Amber Tournament 2011 | Rapid | Round 5 Standings

Amber Tournament 2011 | Combined | Round 5 Standings

Friday, March 18, Round 6
14.30 Blindfold Gelfand-Nakamura Grischuk-Aronian Anand-Ivanchuk
16.00 Topalov-Gashimov Kramnik-Giri Karjakin-Carlsen
17.45 Rapid Nakamura-Gelfand Aronian-Grischuk Ivanchuk-Anand
19.15 Gashimov-Topalov Giri-Kramnik Carlsen-Karjakin


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.


gg's picture

Looks like Aronian will win Amber for the third time in four years, he is really doing well here.

Thomas's picture

Greatest Aronian!

Great Ivanchuk (today)!

Still something wrong with Kramnik ... (who would have predicted that his match with Giri tomorrow is, for the time being, the battle against last place?)

Levon's picture

Amazing player. Next world champ.

Kenroy Smith's picture

Hey everyone I really like how this tournament is turning out. Who thinks Aronian will win?

ozan's picture

there are 5 rounds -am I right?- to go guys and please do not forget anand chasing!!!
and levon did not play 2-4-5-6-7th players yet.
-but anand's only scary rival is levon:)-

imi-m's picture

Anand heading for second place, as always

RealityCheck's picture

My bet is still on Vishy. However, if Lev won I'd congratulate him just the same.

Mauricio Valdés's picture

Kramnikis having a terrible tournament!
Aronian is going to win his third Amber in four year....3 out of 4=dinasty!

Paul V's picture

Evilchuck simply put Magnus on full tilt today.
Aronian is great, but he owes chucky a beer or two...

Chess Fan's picture

Chucky is just being himself - being a genius when he is playing great (I mean, in this game of the tournament)!

Chess Fan.

christos (greece)'s picture

A surprise in Carlsen - Ivanchuk, mate on the board at the rapid game

Al's picture

All that excitement coming to work and now I'm depressed. Carlsen is a great interesting player but just too flaky, today he played terribly, almost like an amateur. Although he is known for great come backs it's not the point he shouldn't be dropping points like this. Very disappointing... Very wise choice for him to pull out of the World Championship cycle this year, maybe in a few more years he'll be ready but definitely not now.

But don't worry Magnus, for now I'm still a big fan! :-)

enkeltje's picture

You must be so happy to grab this moment as soon as carlsen looses his first game. Great opp. to make conclusions about his whole wc carreer


S2's picture

"first game"? It's first two games!

RealityCheck's picture

"Great opp. to make conclusions about his whole wc carreer"

He has not yet any "wc career". Among the players at Amber only IGM Anand and IGM Kramnik have "wc career" to speak of. Well, IGM Topalov got a brief taste of it winning at San Louis.

Septimus's picture

Did Carlsen just miss the mate? Goes to show that Rapid is a completely different kettle of fish.

Mac's picture

Barrel of worms

SXL's picture

As the commentary clearly states, "Carlsen showed his sense of humor by letting Ivanchuk mate him," and they probably had a good laugh.

S2's picture

I am stil roflmao.

Ron's picture

Carlsen is a patzer, I cant say anything else after seeing today's games.

Ron's picture

Not sure whats happening here, I post something and then after a few minutes the post disappears...:(

Mister Señor Love Daddy's picture

Are there any live cameras? I would love to see film footage of the rapid games. I believe ChessVibes posted in the past more often videos after every round, in World Blitz Moscow 2010 the games were filmed and broadcasted live on, in London Chess Classic 2010 there was live commentary (IM Lawrence Trent, GM Stephen Gordon, GM Daniel King and GM Chris Ward) and the players commented on their games and analysed their games in the commentary room, in Tata Steel Chess 2011 there was live commentary by Shipov, etc. I really miss all that stuff.

Anthony's picture

Really bad implosion by Carlsen today, strange oversight in blind. True, it's blind, but Nb5 is such a standard device in these positions. It seemed he just played on not to lose in 15 moves.

He got squarely tanked in the rapid.

Aronian is showing great class and first and foremost, great stability. His natural talent is very suited for this kind of play.

S2's picture

Maybe he was distracted by calculating the difficult Bxh2, I don't know how much time was involved for Nc6 but it looks like a possible explanation.

Thomas's picture

You misunderstood me, maybe you missed my last paragraph? Actually, what I want to say was already nicely said by John Nunn nearly two years ago, reporting on Amber 2009 in NewinChess 3/2009:
"Aronian's success this year was based on his remarkable ability to swindle his opponents. He fell into one lost after another, often as the result of some extremely dubious opening play, but with remarkable regularity he managed to save or even win positions which were objectively quite lost. The distinctive aspect of these swindles was that they did not depend on traps or one-move tactics. Aronian's saves were based on a very distinctive style of slow-motion swindling, in which he caused the opponent unexpected problems in positions where they were surely already counting on the full point. This could go on for many moves until the opponent made an inaccuracy, which would be ruthlessly pounced upon to pose more problems. In the end the impossible became reality. One might ascribe this largely to luck, but if someone does something repeatedly, can it really be down to luck?"
Arguably, Aronian was also "lucky" in the tenth (penultimate) round in 2009 because [again quoting NIC] his direct competitors "Anand and Carlsen crashed out in the blindfold round. Carlsen was unrecognizable and lost to Kramnik with white in only 20 moves", while Anand blundered his queen. I obviously agree with you that we haven't reached round 10 yet ... .

P.S.: While I typed this, Aronian couldn't save his rapid game against Grischuk, but Anand also lost against (the reborn?) Ivanchuk.

b3wins's picture

Aronian does have 8 points from 10 games, but we shouldn't forget that he had lost positions in six out of those ten games, and he is the first person to admit that, as is evident in the daily reports. This risky style of bluffing wouldn't work in the world championship, where more solidity is expected.

I find it also significant that in Aronian-Kramnik during Round 5 of Shanghai in September 2010, when white needed only a draw to qualify for Bilbao, and black needed a win, Aronian went down with white. He played an opening that he said he didn't know very well, sacrificed an exchange, and lost the ending. I can't think of another example from the recent past when black won an important must-win game that white only needed to draw between top 5 players of equal strength.

That was only one game, and since then Aronian won more games than any other player at the highest level (and consequently made the biggest rating leap among top 5 players in recent months), but in a potential world championship match other factors become more important: winning when it counts, deep opening preparation, resilience, and solidity.

Septimus's picture

Aronian is a solid player in the classical format. I would not be surprised if he comes out on top at the Candidates series. He is very very good at these mini-matches. But playing against Anand in an 8 game match is something very different. This is where champions are made and Anand has proved himself to be the best match player.

gg's picture

I don't think Aronian would play an opening he didn't know very well in a title match in the same way he did in Shanghai. He plays so many tournaments in all kinds of formats that he can't use his best preparation all the time. Like Carlsen he tries different things he'd never play in a match for the World Championship, and I don't think the positions he gets out of the opening here should be seen as a sign that the same thing would happen in a title match with classical time controls.

S2's picture

Aronian can play excellent preparation when he feels like it and don't forget there are quite a few Armenain "cooks" in that department as well. As for the "risk", he just has a superior ability to schwindle in objectively worse positions but I doubt he will be aiming for them against the strongest opponents.

gg's picture

Yes, the scary thing is that he is +6 -0 =4 against 2750 opposition from rather bad positions here.

b3wins's picture

And regarding Carlsen, yes - it was very bad today. In the rapid game he probably planned to sac the exchange after 7...cxd4 8.a3 Qa5 9.axb4 (9.Rb1 loses to dxc3 10.axb4 Qa2) Qxa1 10.Nce2, which is known as good for black, so it's unclear what he prepared in this line, even without Ivanchuk's unusual reply 7...Qa5, which must have caught him by surprise.

I have always (naïvely) thought that every child knows that 6.Qxg7 cannot be played in this variation, but Carlsen has already dared to play many opening variations that are labeled "don't try this at home", sometimes successfully. He's clearly the most enigmatic among the top players today: brilliant games next to very bad ones, off-beat openings one game after another, controversial career moves, etc. It's impossible to predict in what direction he will develop.

Excalibur's picture

Interesting take on Aronian but they dont call him the 'swingman' for nothing.He is best in the world in turning unfavourable positions into favourable ones,thats one of his talents

S2's picture

I'd say "swingman" must refer to the Bermuda party with Caolli.

Vamsi krishna's picture

Anand will win

Adolfo's picture

Happy birthday Vasyl, what a brilliant mind!

unknown's picture

Happy birthday to GM Vassily Ivanchuk.

Thomas's picture

As a matter of fact, Aronian's 2-0 against Gashimov may have been his first "clean and convincing" match victory, even more scary that he can also win from favorable positions!!? :) His 2-0 against Giri in the first round could have been 0-2, he was tricky and lucky in his blindfold game against Ivanchuk, and plain lucky against Nakamura.

In two blindfold games, a player put his rook en prise in a winning position. Their "correct" results, neglecting earlier twists and turns in both games, would have been Nakamura-Aronian 1-0 and Topalov-Grischuk 0-1. In that case, current standings would be Aronian 7, Anand + Grischuk 6.5 - still pole position for Levon, but the tournament would remain wide open.

I know it's questionable to reduce the tournament to some single games, and in no way I want to diminish Aronian's result. For one thing, it can't be just coincidence that he's "always lucky" - not just this time, but also during earlier editions of Amber ... .

hc's picture

The tourney is not over yet. Luck has a tendency to balance out in the end.
Also, a lot of what you would call luck is just not making many mistakes and capitalizing on your opponents mistakes.

Septimus's picture

Why diminish Aronian's achievements with "what if's?" You can say a lot of random things attached to a "what if" and come to any conclusion you want. Ridiculous.

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