Reports | March 27, 2009 0:11

Levon Aronian wins 18th Amber after dramatic last round

Levon AronianLevon Aronian won the 18th Amber tournament after a dramatic last round in Nice today. He had a narrow escape in his blindfold game against Topalov and drew his rapid game quickly to secure victory, since both Anand and Carlsen couldn't catch him anymore. Just like last year the Armenian grandmaster was the strongest player in the combined tournament of blindfold and rapid chess held in Nice, France.

The 18th Amber Blindfold and Rapid tournament, organized by the Association Max Euwe in Monaco, takes place from March 14 (first round) to March 26 (last round) at the five-star hotel Palais de la Mediterran?©e, splendidly located on the famous Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France. The total prize-fund is ‚Ǩ 216,000 and this year‚Äôs field is stronger than ever with all the world‚Äôs best players taking part.

Round 11
Blindfold games: Rapid games:

Kramnik beating Leko - the effort was Rybka's

Like in the penultimate round, Vladimir Kramnik was the first to emerge as a winner in the first blindfold session of today's last round. For his blitz victory against Leko he had used some deep preparation in the Anti-Moscow Gambit, something that he had looked at already before the World Championship Tournament in Mexico City in 2007.

With "this is not completely a holiday tournament," he answered the question whether he didn't want to use it in a FIDE rated event. "Besides, it's nice to go up at the end of the tournament." The preparation ended only with 28.Ng3 (!) and according to Kramnik the last chance for Black was 33...Rxd6 34.Qxd6 Bc8 but it should be winning for White there too.

The next winner was his compatriot Morozevich, who had played strongly in the middlegame and finally was a pawn up in a queen ending against Kamsky. The Russian then won the ending at move 85.

One could say that it was something to be proud of for most of us mortals in a normal game, but the way Karjakin punished Ivanchuk for a small mistake was even more impressive. It should have been a draw, but 68...f4 was pushing it too much, according to Karjakin, who used all the tricks that were available in the ending to reach a winning position. The participants of the second blindold sessions praised his play while watching the game in the VIP room (as the time was way beyond 14:00 at that point).

After yesterday's disaster Carlsen suffered another loss in his blindfold game against Radjabov. In an equal position he had to give a knight when suddenly his queen was threatened to get trapped, and then Radjabov couldn't remember the position of Black's rook on c7 anymore (otherwise he would have certainly played differently, e.g. 43.Ne6+). After the game the winner said he was lucky that the plan he went for also won.

Aronian, the leader of the tournament, then escaped against Topalov. Already under pressure, the Armenian GM allowed 25.Nxe6+! and then followed up with 26...a4? after which White was winning (the easiest with 33.Kd3). 38.fxg5? allowed counterplay and Topalov immediately started shaking his head after 38...Rf2. Then Aronian erred with 41...Rb1? when 42.Rb8+ and 43.Rxb6 seems to be winning again. Even at the very end White is winning of course, but there Topalov thought that Black's rook was on f2 instead of f1. What can we say...


Wang Yue & Anand - both escaped with a draw!?

More drama in the game Wang Yue-Anand. The Chinese reacted very interestingly to Anand's novelty 14...c5 by sacrificing a piece. After some amazing defence by the World Champion Black started to get better and better and at some point most certainly winning. Black could have won White's c-pawn while keeping his b- and g-pawns with 57...Nf4! 58.Kb4 Nd5+ but instead he allowed White to reach the famous two-knights-vs-pawn ending.

The days of grabbing the Ch?©ron books are over: it's all in the tablebase. The starting position is won for Black and theoretically speaking Anand gave away the win three times, while Wang Yue gave away the draw two times. We give the game again according to the "Nunn convention": question marks change the evaluation of the position, exclamation marks are only moves to keep the evaluation the same.

It's quite instructive. As GM Erwi l'Ami explained to me, the biggest mistake was not to go for 61...Ne4-c5, because the basic idea is to block the pawn with a knight as soon as possible, not with the king. After that a win in 62 moves isn't relevant of course, but 70...Nb8 was the last practical chance. In a way 70...Nb6 is the wrong idea because the White king should be driven to a1, not to a8, where the c-pawn only gets in the way of the mating constructions, as was shown in the game.

Levon Aronian

Aronian, the glorious winner - again

With the first rapid session, for half of the players the tournament came to an end. Kramnik slowly outplayed Leko in a Sicilian and after White missed 30.Bc4! Bc5 31.Re2 Rd4 32.Bb3 Rxf4 33.g3, it was lost.

After Kamsky and Morozevich finished their tournament with a draw, Karjakin was lucky for a second time against his compatriot Ivanchuk, who for a long time was two healthy pawns up. As happened to many players in this last round, Chuky just totally collapsed, missing several wins at move 37 and 38 and then blundering another half point away with 49.Be4+?? - poor man!

Aronian then drew quickly with Topalov to secure victory in the combined tournament, and accepted congratulations from many GMs and others. Anand and Carlsen, who had not chance to catch him anymore, did win their last games against Wang Yue and Radjabov respectively.

And so for the second year in a row Levon Aronian proved to be the strongest in the combination of blindfold and rapid chess. Both the blindfold and rapid tournaments ended in a three-way tie: Kramnik, Carlsen and Aronian ended on 7/11 in the blindfold while Anand, Kamsky and Aronian scored the same number of points in the rapid.

Videos of today's round and the closing ceremony will be posted later on - naturally!

The Amber videos are now also available as an iTunes video podcast! (Link launches iTunes, if installed) You can share the Amber videos on your own web site or blog too. Just click the “Email and embed this video” button next to the volume control in the player.



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.


me's picture

Big mistake Bacchus. You could get shot for that!

Armenians and Azeris don't get along all that well.

Mauricio Valdes's picture

Nice victory by aronian
Bacchus, i believe you are mistaken.....
aronian is from armenia
kasparov is from azerbajan.

i could be wrong anyway....

nice day everyone

Bacchus's picture

Great performance for Levon Aronian. Kasparov must be proud of his compatriot's achievements :)))

Winning two years on end in Blindfold/Rapid/Combined - a record?

jussu's picture

Congrats! Kramnik went really mad in the end but Aronian's lead was a little too much.

rajeshV's picture

>> Even at the very end White is winning of course, but there Topalov thought that Black’s rook was on f2 instead of f1. What can we say…

Peter, was this what Topalov said post game or just an assumption being made in this article? Of course blindness happens in blindfold, but *this* kind of blindness? doesn't make sense. the 3 fold repetition happened with the white rook moving between E1 and F1 3 TIMES... and Topalov assumed the rook was in f2 when f1was flashing (or however they represent the latest move) in front of his eyes? very strange!!

I am not supporting any conspiracy theories btw, simply, this explanation just sounds very weird.

Vlad's picture

Kasparov is half jew / half armenian from Baku, Azerbajan.

CAL|Daniel's picture

they are all pointing out the same that then topalov rolled over in the next game in 17 moves.

Peter Doggers's picture

Yes, this is what he said.

guitarspider's picture

"For sure Topalov is planning W Ch. and so tactics does not allow him to win"

LOL! Topalov is tired, because he played so much during the last months. That's all. The rest of the field was also fairly tired, so that's no excuse. He just didn't do very well this time. Considering his lacklustre performance against Kamsky I wasn't very surprised by his result here, although 3 full points behind Anand (and Kramnik) is a bit surprising to me.

CAL|Daniel's picture

I believe Kasparov considers him Russian. The other russian to be exact. Especially since during his youth it was all USSR

Thomas's picture

I partly agree with Frank - though "freak show" is a bit of an exaggeration, many players seem to take the tournament rather seriously after all ... .
However, it is simple: rapid and especially blindfold chess have limited "predictive meaning" for performances at slower classical time controls.

Says one who also doesn't like Topalov as a person, but enjoys his performances ON the board.
BTW, I don't think he threw away half a point on purpose in the blind game against Aronian - but I think he would have been more motivated (choosing a different opening) in the rapid game if the opponent had been Kramnik rather than Aronian ... .

brujito's picture

As for the blindfold blunders I can only marvel at players such as Alekhine who managed to play so many masterpieces in blindfold simuls up to 35 games. Why cant these super GM's play a Single game without forgetting where their pieces are? :-)

GG's picture

And let me ask you, who were the opponents of Alekhine in these blindfold simuls?

Frank Str?§ter's picture

Kyoshi, don't bother making conclusions on this tournament (unrated, blindfold and rapid) on who stands where in classical chess. Although it's hard to ignore a tournament where all the top GM's are playing, it's still nothing more than an annual chess freak show.

Bacchus's picture

Guys, let's listen to Kasparov (Kasparian) himself.

"There's No Way to Move Forward Unless They Use the Word 'Genocide.'"

New York, July 22, Armenpress: World chess champion Garry Kasparov spoke to an audience of 300 gathered at New York City's St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral on July 13, reported. Those in the audience included Armenia's ambassador to the United Nations Armen Martirosian, former Primate of England, Archbishop Yeghishe Gizerian and NY City Sports Commissioner Kenneth Podziba. The event was organized by a committee of young leaders of St. Vartan's Cathedral Projects Committee, headed by cathedral dean Fr. Mardiros Chevian. On behalf of the Eastern Diocese, the Primate presented Kasparov with the Renaissance Medal for his accomplishments and
contributions to international culture.

Bacchus's picture

Hmmm... the continuation of this article is not being pasted.

ChessGirl's picture

Oh come on, Topalov is a great player. There are many great players below the top 10, but someone who stays in the top 5 for such a long time being so active like Topalov has got to be awesome. You might like his style or not, but Kyoshi´s comment sounds stupid to the logical mind. Nobody can be the best in every tournament, and by your logics someone could have said the same about Anand in Bilbao, for example, and it would have been just as stupid.

Bacchus's picture
Hugo van Hengel's picture

In the blindfold game Morozevich-Kamsky white could have won much faster by playing 72. Qg6 Kg8 73. Qe8 Qxe8 74. Kxe8 and the b-pawn decides the game. But white won anyway.

GG's picture

What is weird for those of you, who think that Topalov is a machine and can't even forget on which square his rook is?
Why don't you ask the same conspiratorial questions when Aronian in Round 2 played a good part of the blindfold game vs Leko under the impression that his black-squared bishop was on f8 instead of e7 and thus losing his queen in the early beginning?
Where were you, when in Round 3 the Chinese grandmaster forgot the placement of his opponent’s rooks and gave away his queen?
What about the Round 9, when Topalov (again conspiracy) in the opening mixed up moves and played 9.Nc3 at a point where 9.Qa4 is the normal move?
What about the Round 10 when Anand himself dropped his queen due to a classical error?

To put it in a nutshell, this is blindfold.

Bacchus's picture

During his speech, Kasparov reflected on his personal history. He was born in Baku, Azerbaijan to a Jewish father and an Armenian mother. In 1985, at the age of 22, he became the youngest chess champion in history. "Of course, as someone who is half Jewish and half Armenian, I always try to carry both of those nationalities. It is simple because they're very similar," said Kasparov.

jussu's picture

Are you okay? Being a rather passionate Topalov-hater myself, I think you are hallucinating.

Kyoshi's picture

Topalov is clearly overrated. His mediocre performance in this unrated tournament is no surprise to any informed chess player. He lacks the class and creativity of Anand, Kramnik, Aronian and Carlsen. Even though, he has a very strong opening preparation, his aggressive style play is computer-like. He is no match for Anand.

Bacchus's picture

to be continued...

Castro's picture

"Jewish", as "nacionality", has nothing to do with Armenia.
As religion, not specialy much...
Ah! Because there are jews in Armenia, or Armenians in Israel? Well... nothing so special either :-)
Anyway, if Kasparov was to be proud of Aronian because of an Armenian winning some tournament, maybe he would have choosen to be an Armenian...

Bacchus's picture

Castro, a lack of sense of humor? or maybe a little bit armenophobic/antisemitic? Really, nothing so special either :)))))

Castro's picture

Maybe I was the one lacking sense of humor there, yes. I didn't notice the :))) on your comment, but anyway, either I still don't understand the joke, or anyway I'm not finding it funny. I just treated it as the comment it was, and I can't see much more yet :-)
As for "armenophobic/antisemitic": It is posible too, those weird feelings are always out there, but surely not from my side (and here is about chess, I wish).

Topalov being overrated: LOL

rajeshV's picture

@GG, relax. look (yes, actually look) at the last 5 moves of the game, then read his comment. I think that is "weird". You have the right to think whatever you want. peace.

Axl's picture

Kasparov isn't playing in Amber, and never has. Take it to another forum; last I checked this was a chess website and an Amber post, not a place to bicker about semantics like a couple of man-children with giant egos and an overdeveloped sense of injustice.

Bacchus's picture

Oh, Axl, say it to my Greek grandma, about semantics... blah blah blah

brujito's picture

There's no need to listen to Garry unless he is talking about chess...

Samarth's picture

For sure Topalov is planning W Ch. and so tactics does not allow him to win @ Aronian while he has no chance to win Amber and Anand does have if Aronian loses! So simple.
It sucks.

Mehrtash's picture

Dear friends,
I do not intend to bring some mess to our environment but the draw between Veselin (a great chess player in my opinion) and Aronian in the blindfold is very strange to me, considering the will of Veselin to win every game. For one second, I thought maybe he offered the draw in order to spoil Kramnik chances for the top spot. I know it may sound crazy but maybe it is an explanation why he offered draw in a wining position

ChessFan's picture

Great games, Aronian! Kramnik did well too!

fridel's picture

About the result of the blindfold game Topalov - Aronian, lets put a few facts:
1- Topalov hates Kramnik
2- Kramnik was the first one to finish is game beating Leko
3- With that result he gets chances, again, to win in Amber if Aronian was defeated
4- The final posicion in wich the draw was agree, by repeticion, was objectively winning by Topalov.
5- The justification given b?? Topalov of the wrong posicion of the R on f2 instead of f1 is far from convincing, as the last two moves where Re1, Rf1.
6- Even with Black its very unusual for a player like Topalov to agree in a draw in just 17 moves.
And so what this facts sugest? ..... :)

Jonas's picture

Why some of you say that grandmasters playing in Amber don't take this tournament seriously?
Especially those who defend Topalov.

First of all they are all prfessional chess players and they play for money.
Amber isn't some obscure rapid tournament.
In this tournament players get one of the best (if not the best) prizes of all the elite tournaments.
That's why there was so many novelties in this tournament.

It's absolutely cleat that most of the grandmasters playing in Amber would prefer wining this tournament that several other "rated tournamnets".

GG's picture

Will you be so kind to explain how Topalov could know the result of Kramnik-Leko game?
and one more thing... the only chance to win Amber for Kramnik was 2-0 in Topalov-Aronian match. (I doubt strongly that it could ever happen). Just check tie-breaks in overall standings.
and 'bout ur dubious question - your "facts" suggest that Topalov is a cheater? Or maybe you r just another adept at solving conspiracy theories? Based on your point 1?
Sorry, but your "speech" is just a load of crap.

GG's picture

I do think that Amber is a supertournament, the unique place where we can see Anand, Aronian, Kramnik, Topalov, Ivanchuk, Carlsen, Leko, Morozevich all together.

...and I don't defend Veselin, i just see that some people here try to cover his name in mud, making also Aronian's deserved win a result of some last-round backstreet intrigues.

Thomas's picture

"Will you be so kind to explain how Topalov could know the result of Kramnik-Leko game?"
Well that's easy to answer - the Kramnik-Leko games were finished before the Aronian-Topalov games even started. As a matter of fact, the organizers had changed the order of last-round pairings so that Aronian, Anand and Carlsen would all play at the same time (and "forgot about the fact that Kramnik also still had winning chances?!").
It wouldn't have changed the outcome, but it would have been even better to have all six games simultaneously for the last round - don't tell me they don't have enough space on the stage, or not enough laptops for the blindfold games available ,:) .
"the only chance to win Amber for Kramnik was 2-0 in Topalov-Aronian match"
1.5-0.5 would have been good enough to put Kramnik into shared first - in my book, tiebreak points are not that relevant. I don't know if they affect the prize money, but I rather hope they wouldn't.

Thomas's picture

@Jonas: I am not sure if all GM's took the Amber tournaments equally seriously. Some indeed gave away their novelties, for others it may have been "serious fun" (experimenting with uncommon openings).
As far as Topalov is concerned, some of his fans argued that his 'mediocre' performance is not that important because the tournament wasn't rated. Indirectly, Topalov said more or less the same (in an Europe Echecs interview published on Chessbase).
Now this could be considered a pragmatic (professional?) approach. But it could also be considered as sort of an insult against the organizers?

Popuscu [Bulgaria] 's picture

I agree with Thomas.

Moreover, poor Topalov: he tried hard to win the tournement and when he did not manage to do so, he claim that the tournement is not interesting (i.e. rated??)

The arguments of the bad losers are the same.

Thomas's picture

I don't know if Topalov even "tried hard to win the tournament". While others may have considered him one of the favorites (looking at ELO ratings of the participants), he may actually realize that he is not as strong in rapid and blindfold chess. And a simple statement acknowledging this fact would have been more polite towards the organizers.
Looking at the fourth column of the tournament tables, very few players performed "as expected" (within 20 points of their nominal rating):
- Leko and Karjakin in the blindfold (though I would consider Karjakin a bit underrated in classical chess)
- Carlsen in the rapid
- Morozevich and Kamsky in the combined standings (based on very "asymmetric" results in the two subsets).

This seems to confirm my earlier statement that ratings based on classical time controls have limited predictive meaning for rapid and blindfold. Rating performances are still an interesting aspect (and a default option of the software creating tournament tables?), but should be taken with a few grains of salt for the Amber tournament.

acirce's picture

This does smell suspicious.

I despise Topalov, so my judgment may be biased. But I did not think there was anything weird going on at all, watching the game. OK, he was winning but agreed to a draw anyway. Maybe he was hallucinating something. It's blindfold, and the players are becoming tired. Such things happen.

I didn't think so when I first heard the explanation either. Ah, OK, so that's why. He just forgot where the rook was. That's the kind of thing that has happened many times in blindfold. Simply natural.

And the short draw in the final game was also nothing special at all. I still don't think so. It was not at all his only short draw in the tournament, and he has made quick last-round draws many times anyway, even when he has been otherwise fighting through the tournament.

But then it was pointed out to me that his explanation was actually very, very odd and the blunder very strange EVEN FOR BLINDFOLD. Then, and only then, did I start having suspicions! There is no proof, obviously. But, given everything I know about the situation at this point, do I think it is more likely than not that Topalov deliberately avoided winning? I truly don't know. Maybe I am leaning towards that position, yes.

brujito's picture

GG: "And let me ask you, who were the opponents of Alekhine in these blindfold simuls?"

The opponents have nothing to do with not knowing where your pieces are in these blind games. lol! And I'm talking about 30 board simul vs just One. :-)

brujito's picture

...Not to mention that these current players have the use of a computer screen to help guide them. It's obvious that the old timers like Alekhine and Najdorf were much superior in Blindfold play...

chessfan's picture

Performance calculations based on Amber 1992-2008 tournaments revealed clear answer: Topalov is fourth after Morozevich, Kramnik and Anand. Does mean one thing - Topalov 's aproach is very serious.

Popuscu [Bulgaria] 's picture

to brujito,
I do not remember well if Topalov lost to a 2400 player in a "worth" blindfold game,
i.e. where neither the board nor the pieces are available.

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