Levon Aronian wins 18th Amber after dramatic last round
Levon 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 ‚Ç¨ 216,000 and this year‚Äôs field is stronger than ever with all the world‚Äôs best players taking part.
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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.
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!
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