Reports | March 20, 2011 2:40

Amber R7: Aronian still leading, Carlsen getting closer

Amber R7: Aronian still leading, Carlsen getting closerIn the 7th round of the 2011 Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament, Magnus Carlsen narrowed the gap with Levon Aronian in the overall standings to half a point. While the tournament leader beat Boris Gelfand 1.5-0.5, Carlsen himself managed to win both games against a struggling Vladimir Kramnik.

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.

Saturday, March 19, Round 7
14.30 Blindfold Giri 0-1 Topalov Carlsen 1-0 Kramnik Gashimov ½-½ Karjakin
16.00 Aronian 1-0 Gelfand Ivanchuk ½-½ Grischuk Nakamura ½-½ Anand
17.45 Rapid Topalov ½-½ Giri Kramnik 0-1 Carlsen Karjakin ½-½ Gashimov
19.15 Gelfand ½-½ Aronian Grischuk 0-1 Ivanchuk Anand ½-½ Nakamura

Carlsen defeats Kramnik 2-0 to close in on Aronian

Round 7 report courtesy of the official website

After seven rounds Levon Aronian is still in the sole lead at the Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament with a score of 10 points from 14 games. Magnus Carlsen improved his position with a 2-0 win over Vladimir Kramnik and now trails the Armenian grandmaster by half a point. Aronian also stayed in the lead in the blindfold competition. In the rapid competition Carlsen is the clear leader, one point ahead of Aronian.
The € 1,000 Game of the Day Prize was awarded for the third time in a row to Vasily Ivanchuk, this time for his rapid win over Alexander Grischuk.

The first blindfold session became a private show for the privileged when the Internet in the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel went down while two games were still in progress. A small group gathered in front of a small monitor in a corner of the VIP-room where the moves could be followed on two small diagrams. That group grew considerably during the final moves of the game between Carlsen en Kramnik, which lasted 91 moves and close to two hours. The length of that game slightly upset the schedule for the remaining games of the day, but it also gave the technicians of the hotel time to remedy the problem Fifteen minutes after the first session had finally finished everything was back to normal in the second session.

When Anish Giri and Veselin Topalov walked into the hospitality lounge no one knew how their game had ended, but soon it became clear from their body language and facial expressions that the Bulgarian former world champion had won. It was the first game ever between the two grandmasters and it was a shaky debut for the young Dutchman. In a King’s Indian it was not a series of tactical shots that decided the issue but a number of strategic inaccuracies. Topalov was critical of Giri’s decision to give up the centre with 13.dxc6 and the awkward placing of some of his pieces. He indicated 15.Qa4 as a better option and explained that once Black could open up the position with 28…d5 ‘all White’s pieces’ were misplaced. Giri tried to fight back with 32.g4, breaking open the kingside, but by that time his position was objectively lost and the invasion of the black forced soon forced his surrender.

In the rapid game Giri, as Black, got an excellent position when he forced a queen exchange (White cannot go 15.Qa4 because of 15…a6 16.bxc4 b5). However, Topalov slowly regrouped and when Giri went astray with 30…Bxb4 (he should have played 30…Nb8) his position was suddenly unpleasant. But Topalov returned the favour with 35.e4, which was based on a miscalculation, and the game ended in a draw.


The blindfold game between Magnus Carlsen and Vladimir Kramnik could not be viewed life by the Internet audience (so far on average around 45,000 unique visitors per day!) and that was a great pity as in line with their previous battles there was again a lot of drama. Kramnik played his trusted Petroff, but contrary to what normally happens, he ended up in a clearly worse position. The tables could have been turned after Carlsen’s questionable 44.Re4, which allowed Black to take on e4 and follow up with 45…Nf6. According to Kramnik this would have given him a position that was ‘winning or in any case very close to winning’. The reason he didn’t take on e4, was that he believed his rook was on d7 and that he only realized that it was on e7 when he tried to play his knight to e7 and the computer refused to accept that move. Next in a panicky reaction he tried to play the rook as quickly as possible and put it on b7. In the following manoeuvring phase Carlsen gradually outplayed him and obtained a winning position. In the final position Kramnik believed his rook was on b1 and tried to take the pawn on b7. When he realized that this was impossible he resigned. Coming out of the playing room Carlsen shrugged his shoulders and commented that he also would have found a winning plan if his opponent had remembered the position of his pieces.

In the rapid game Kramnik repeated the opening he had played against Giri, but Carlsen chose a different set-up. The Norwegian grandmaster was pleased with his position, reasoning that he would be fine if he obtained a Benoni-structure and it was for that reason that he didn’t want White to take on d5 with a piece. According to Carlsen, White’s 20.g4 was dubious and smelling his chance he decided ‘to go for it’ with 25…Rf8 and 26…f5. White’s 27.Qb7 was an expensive mistake. Kramnik had missed 28…Rxe3, which essentially decided the game. While his opponent sat thinking about his 31st move he resigned. Black’s has more than one option to continue successfully, 31…Nxg4 and 31…Rxb3 are just two of them.


The shortest game of the day was the blindfold game between Vugar Gashimov and Sergey Karjakin. The reason was a mind slip of the Azeri grandmaster. On move 8 he should have first played 8.a4 and only after 8…b4 push his d-pawn to d4. When he pushed d4 immediately his set-up lacked all punch. Black’s structure was fine and disappointed by this development Gashimov accepted Karjakin’s peace proposal after a mere 17 moves.

The rapid game also ended in a draw. Black got good play with the ‘sacrifice’ 13.Ncxe4, but after 21.Qg4 White forced the split of the point by perpetual check.


Levon Aronian as not really proud of his win against Boris Gelfand in their blindfold game. ‘I don’t even get swindle points’, he concluded after his opponent had lost his queen by putting it on a protected square. In the opening the Armenian grandmaster had certainly tried to exploit his ‘swindling talent’ by ‘putting his pieces on rather random squares’. But by doing so he only helped Black. White’s 18.N5e4 was not the best (he should have exchanged on d7) and Black got the better play with 21…Ra3! (22.Nxf7 Rxc3!). Aronian had to work hard to create counterchances and after 28.b5 it looked as if he might save the draw, but all those considerations lost their urgency when Gelfand believed to capture a knight on c3, which happened to be on e2.

In the rapid game Aronian mixed up moves, without doing any damage. Having played 7…c6 he realized that this is normally done with the black-squared bishop on d6. Gelfand was slightly confused by his opponent’s choice and so was Aronian himself, but he didn’t show it. And in fact everything turned out well for Black and with 13…Nf6 he could equalize comfortably. A number of careful and not too exciting moves later the game was drawn.


In their blindfold game Vasily Ivanchuk and Alexander Grischuk discussed a well-known pawn sacrifice in the Sämisch King’s Indian, as if they were producing a text-book example for this variation. Black always had enough compensation for the pawn and in the end a repetition of moves determined the result of the game.

The rapid game was a masterpiece by the Ukrainian grandmaster that in the words of GM John Nunn contained ‘various nice touches’. One of them was 19…a5 with which Black forced the queenside to be closed as 20.bxc5 would lose a rook after 20…b5. Having accomplished this, Black got a beautiful knight on d6. Grischuk offered an exchange, hoping to improve the qualities of his own knight, but for the moment Ivanchuk ignored it, shifting all his attention to the kingside. Seeing the danger Grischuk strived for a blockade there with 28…g4, but it didn’t help him as now Black decided to penetrate on the queenside with 37…c4. Ivanchuk crowned his efforts with an exchange sacrifice and that was it.


In the blindfold game between Hikaru Nakamura and Vishy Anand the World Champion briefly got excited when he could play 16…c4, until he realized that there was not real damage for White because his h-pawn was on h3. Had it been on h2, Black would have been winning after 18…Nf6, now the position was more or less in balance. White gave two pawns to create an initiative, but Black could thwart that same initiative by giving back the pawns. A repetition of moves ended the game.

The rapid game was a long and gritty struggle. The balance was never really upset and after 65 tense move the fight ended in a draw.


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Amber Tournament 2011 | Blindfold | Round 7 Standings

Amber Tournament 2011 | Rapid | Round 7 Standings

Amber Tournament 2011 | Combined | Round 7 Standings

Next round

Sunday, March 20, Round 8
14.30 Blindfold Grischuk-Nakamura Anand-Aronian Gelfand-Ivanchuk
16.00 Kramnik-Gashimov Karjakin-Giri Topalov-Carlsen
17.45 Rapid Nakamura-Grischuk Aronian-Anand Ivanchuk-Gelfand
19.15 Gashimov-Kramnik Giri-Karjakin Carlsen-Topalov


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.


Mauricio Valdés's picture

Wazzup with you Vlad?
Terrible result!

Rob Brown's picture

I was wondering the same thing, Mauricio. The competition may be about as stiff as competition gets, but losing matches 2-0 has never happened to Vlad before.

Fireblade's picture

Kramnik is giving the impression he is beatable.... and in the candidates if people take unnecessary risks he is gonna take home the ....this is assuming his health is in best shape.

Fireblade's picture

Kramnik is giving the impression he is beatable.... and in the candidates if people take unnecessary risks he is gonna take home the ....this is assuming his health is in best shape.

Mauricio Valdés's picture

I was thinking the same....
Vlad is keeping a low profile just to deliver his real level when it matters most (the candidates tournament).
I hope Kramnik wins the candidates. If not Aronian is my second choice and I really hope Topalov doesn´t get far!
Don´t get me wrong! Topalov is a formidable player but his off-the board tactics are despicable!
Topalov and Danailov should part ways!

eh's picture

What are you saying here? Kramnik lost deliberately to make the others underestimate him in the candidates tournament? Come on ...

Fireblade's picture

Yes why not...he can afford to's not going to effect his rating....I hope he is in good physical health though.

Fireblade's picture

Yes why not...he can afford to's not going to effect his rating....I hope he is in good physical health though.

john's picture

Kramnik is rather proud of his blindfold ability, this is obvious in many of his interviews, so it is extremely unlikely he would deliberately lose any blindfold games imo If anything, Amber gives players a chance to open the throttle and see how they do in less typical style. Playing ultra-conservatively here gains nothing.

gg's picture

Carlsen has beaten him 2-0 before :)

suleiman's picture

I think the biggest challenge for those guys who will join in the Canditates matches is not to give away their preparation, and I am 100% sure that Kramnik is the most cautious among all of them as to this issue. Anyway, as long as it does not affect their ratings, let them enjoy this very last edition of the tournament and in return we can enjoy these 1-0s, and 0-1s. It is better than to witness those theoretical and dull draws, isn't it?

RuralRob's picture

Vlad stands (and sits) so much taller than the others that the air he breathes is thinner, thus his brain is not getting as much oxygen. An unfair disadvantage! Perhaps he should be allowed a portable oxygen bottle like pilots in small planes sometimes use.

Prashant's picture


Chess Fan's picture

Carlsen again shows his brilliance. You can't beat Kramnik 2-0 in blindfold + rapid even by chance.

Aronian and Magnus again showing (so far) that they are a real deal.

Excalibur's picture

Yeah his match with Radjabov (who I havent seen play in ages) should be interesting

ussr's picture

I trust Vishy for two things: How to change a winning position to Draw and How to escape from a losing position to a Draw

ronny's picture

in the end results are important arent they.
aronian is leading , but he has been exceedingly lucky in this tournament.
look at yesterdays win. he was loosing and then again in one shot gelfand blundered his queen!

Serge's picture

With a little luck anyone can be 2800+

mathri's picture

well said :)

Cheesus's picture

Excuse me for being pedantic, but there's a mistake in the results:

Saturday, March 19, Round 7
14.30 Blindfold Giri 1-0 Topalov Carlsen 0-1 Kramnik Gashimov ½-½ Karjakin
16.00 Aronian 1-0 Gelfand Ivanchuk ½-½ Grischuk Nakamura ½-½ Anand
17.45 Rapid Topalov ½-½ Giri Kramnik 0-1 Carlsen Karjakin ½-½ Gashimov
19.15 Gelfand ½-½ Aronian Grischuk 0-1 Ivanchuk Anand ½-½ Nakamura

'Giri 1-0 Topalov' should be 'Giri 0-1 Topalov'.

midi's picture

there is a mistake in the results table. It says that Giri an Kramnik won the blindfold games

The Devil's picture

Poor Nakamura

gg's picture

The best part of the "Carlsen is my client" interview was "I've also beaten him regularly in rapid chess". After 2007 Carlsen now has one win and the rest draws in rapid, Kramnik's only win came when Carlsen was 16.

mathri's picture

You are twisting the facts and the perspective the question was answered.

kramnik also added in same line that it wont always be the case and time is in Carlsen's favor. please read his interview again.

gg's picture

It won't always be the case that Kramnik beats Carlsen regularly in rapid chess as he did once when Carlsen was 16?

mathri's picture

now i know, if you read that interview at all.

mishanp's picture

Actually I'm not sure "rapid" was the right translation as he said "active" in the Russian, but I think he was just referring to quicker time controls. In any case, blindfold, as well as being blindfold, is of course also rapid.

At the time of the interview - October 2010 - the recent record between the two players was:

Bilbao 2010 - Kramnik won convincingly with White and had a dominant position with Black (probably won, but not so easy to demonstrate).

Amber 2010 - Kramnik won the blindfold with Black and failed to win a totally won position with White.

Wijk 2010 - Kramnik beat Carlsen with Black, in the game that Carlsen recently said was what brought an end to his cooperation with Kasparov.

Carlsen won in the first round in London and dominated in the Tal Memorial Blitz, but before that Kramnik beat Carlsen in Dortmund and was close to winning in the Tal Memorial.

So at the time what Kramnik said, with humour, and after being led on by the interviewer, was pretty reasonable - especially given what he went on to say about Carlsen:

"You, Vladimir, are one of those known for regularly “jolting” the Norwegian phenomenon. It seems as though you’ve become a classic “inconvenient” opponent for Magnus…

In terms of results, yes. I’ve got a good score against him, and I’ve also regularly beaten him in rapid chess. For now I’m a very tough opponent for him. You could even say, using the professional slang, that for now Magnus is my “client”. But I understand perfectly well that it won’t always be that way, especially as time is working in his favour. Given that we’re playing together in the Candidates Tournament, and also the fact that it’s entirely possible that we’ll meet there “on a narrow path”, it’s clear that he’ll work very seriously specifically in order to improve his play against me. Magnus is young, he’s developing, and the main thing is that he’s mentally resilient. This guy won’t lose heart after temporary setbacks. I understand that completely and I don’t have any illusions, but for now I’m his problem, rather than him being mine."

Though agreed the "rapid/active chess" comment is overstating things, gg :) Of course if you were talking now after Kramnik's horrible blunders against Carlsen in important games you might start to wonder if Kramnik does have a psychological problem with Carlsen - though as Carlsen withdrew from the Candidates it's not a direct problem for the near future!

gg's picture

Kramnik would never call Leko his client even though Carlsen has been a much more difficult opponent over the last years. I wonder if Anand or Ivanchuk ever would use such a term about anyone, but maybe it has something to do with Kasparov being involved with Carlsen. After winning Dortmund for the ninth time Kramnik said in more than one interview that he now had surpassed Kasparov, who only won Linares eight times. Kasparov won Linares nine times but Kramnik and Kasparov aren't the best of friends so it's tempting to remember it as eight :)

mishanp's picture

In the same interview context, and couched in terms that make it obvious he's not very serious and respects the other player, I could see Kramnik saying that about anyone.

It'll be interesting if Carlsen does adopt Kasparov's approach of bearing grudges against/having contempt for his opponents. I'd say it'd probably be better if he didn't, for his and chess' sake, though on the other hand it does make things entertaining :)

This Kramnik interview was good for that psychology:

"They say there are no friends in politics. Is it the same situation in chess?

It depends on your character. I have a good relationship with the vast majority of chess players, even with the World Champion Anand, who took the title from me. But there’s another approach. Fischer was once asked, “What do you like most in chess?” and replied: “Above all I like to see that I’ve crushed my opponent’s ego”. I don’t have anything against my opponents. It strikes me that when someone takes a defeat as a personal insult it suggests a low level of personal development. It’s only a game! I do, of course, get upset after a loss. But first and foremost I blame myself, not my opponent.


Do you consider Garry Kasparov your friend? After all he once promoted you, and then you took his World Championship title.

We’ve had different periods in our relationship. There was a time when I helped him in his World Championship match in 1995. And then we played a match for the title. After that, unfortunately, our relationship soured. It seems that Kasparov took that sporting defeat as a declaration of war, although it was nothing other than sport."

Thomas's picture

Thanks mishanp! I also consider Kramnik's words at most as some rather friendly teasing, it's a typical case where "Carlsen is my client" is subsequently quoted out of context.

At least, it's "nothing" compared to the recent New Yorker piece on Carlsen, mentioned in rather great detail by Mig on Dailydirt and now also briefly by Dennis Monokroussos at his site:

"Kramnik is said to resent the attention that Carlsen gets, and to take special pleasure in beating him [source unclear, WHO said so?? not Kramnik himself, but some second- or third-hand rumors?] ....Carlsen's dislike of Kramnik is even stronger. He blames his former tutor Kasparov, whom Kramnik dethroned in 2000: "Kasparov really hates Kramnik. And so by listening to Kasparov . . . it's really hard not to get some of those thoughts myself. [if correct, that's literally quoting Carlsen]".

In that context, one snippet from your post is particularly interesting:
"Wijk 2010 – Kramnik beat Carlsen with Black, in the game that Carlsen recently said was what brought an end to his cooperation with Kasparov."
Very interesting and a bit strange, also because Carlsen 'somehow' still won Corus 2010. What's your source?

mishanp's picture

This is "Kazzak" on the Magnus Carlsen thread at Chessgames (about 4 or 5 pages back), paraphrasing (I assume) the New Yorker piece:

"And, yes, it was that game against Kramnik in Wijk which soured the collaboration - Kasparov Skyped a suggestion for an opening to Magnus an hour before play began; Magnus spent a long time before his first move, going through the variations, and concluded his collaboration with Kasparov after the game."

It's also mentioned that working with Kasparov was too intense and very expensive.

Funnily enough, Bobby Fiske there notes this from the Corus website:

"At the start of the game Magnus just sat there with his eyes closed to the point where I wondered whether he’d fallen asleep and I should wake him up,” Kramnik told reporters afterwards. “But, seriously, my guess is that Gary (Kasparov) called him beforehand and told him he should try 1. e4. In the end he came up with 1. d4, which was the wrong choice, I think. He should have avoided the Catalan, a line I have a great score with, no matter whether I play white or black."

Paul V's picture

The last four decisive games between Carlsen and Kramnik has favored MC.
One blitz, one classical, one blindfold and one rapid...

Fireblade's picture

You mean the client has mastered !

Merlinovich's picture

In the first paragraph, it says that "Magnus ... managed to won both games" which I think is not good English - he won or he managed to win. Peter?

Peter Doggers's picture

Thx, corrected, also the results.

Barthod's picture

Look at Kramnks openings in this Amber tournamnet. He is clearly not playing the openings that we will see in the Candidates match this May. He has played 1. c4 in his white games and the Ragozin a couple og times with black. Anyway my prediction is that Kramnik will win the Candidates match. I also predict that Carlsen will not!
Carlsens comments about Kramnik in the New Yorker is close to outrageous. No class what so ever.

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