Reports | March 15, 2009 3:03

Defending champ Aronian starts with two wins at Amber

Aronian starts with two wins"All I need is to improve my table football," was Levon Aronian's answer to the question what he could improve at this year's Amber tournament. The always cheerful Armenian confirmed his wit by winning both of his games against Vassily Ivanchuk. Defending his title from last year, Aronian immediately grabbed the lead as all other minimatches ended in 1-1. Video added!

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 1
Blindfold games: Rapid games:

It was a bit of a strange first round here in Nice. Clearly some players needed to adjust to the different conditions and formats, and this resulted in some heavy blunders and a very weak Ivanchuk today. The Ukrainian played very fast, especially in the second game, in which he suddenly started giving away several pawns and then just resigned out of disgust.


Ivanchuk: a bad start

Before that, the runner-up in Linares had adopted an interesting idea (9…Nb6!?) of retired Dutch GM Jeroen Piket, who had mentioned the move in his annotations to a game against compatriot Van Wely back in 1997. Piket, who works for the patron of the tournament Joop van Oosterom, was in Nice today but asked about it, he couldn’t remember this piece of analysis.

The game followed Piket’s line until 16…Qe7 where he had suggested 16…Qh4. Aronian said Black was better after his mistake 23.Ne4? but he didn’t like 34…Rb1 and thought 35…b5 to be Black’s last chance. And so without too much effort, the defending champion started with two wins, and he’s already a point clear in the overall standings as all other minimatches ended in 1-1.

Gata Kamsky, who returned after a 13-year gap (he played three times during his best years: 1994-1996), is still a bit rusty as it comes to blindfold chess. His 15…Bb3?? would have been okay if the white pawn had been on a3 (this is what the American thought) but it wasn’t. Kramnik, who hasn’t played since the Olympiad in Dresden, started well with a nice victory – Morozevich's 13...Qa6 was a weak response to the unknown move 14.Ng5!? and Black shouldn’t have pushed his a- and b-pawns so early, according to the winner.

Anand‚Äôs win with White over Leko wasn‚Äôt bad at all for a blindfold game, not only because of the pretty finish, but also because of the positional trick 24.c5! which left the black bishop on b7 out of the game. D?©butante Wang Yue made a good impression in his first blindfold game ever, and comfortably held Karjakin to a draw. The same result saw their rapid game and the only other two players who had a peaceful start were Topalov and Radjabov.


Kamsky fared better in the rapid game

And so we save a lot of revenge games in the rapid section, ultimately leading to eight decisive encounters and all points but one scored by the white pieces. Morozevich outplayed Kramnik in a queenless middlegame and easily won the subsequent endgame while both Anand and Carlsen simply collapsed. The world champion inexplicably blundered a full pawn on move 29 and then Leko finished the job demonstrating fine technique.

Carlsen seemed to grab the initiative in the ending against Kamsky with his 36…g5, but thanks to Kamsky’s 39.c4! it was’t so clear. There the Norwegian had gotten into heavy timetrouble (the rapid games include 10 seconds increment per move) and in the queen ending, with just second left on his clock at several moves, he suddenly found himself in a lost position (after the last mistake 46…Kg7?).

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.

Playing hall

The playing hall on the 3rd floor of the Palais de la M?©diterran?©e



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.


Ariel's picture

So much talent (the big Euro bag from the captial of Euro tax evasion helps, I'm sure), but... for what? The rapid games are reasonably interesting, but the blindfold games are a bit of a joke.

Thorn's picture

You have an unusual sense of humor then, Ariel...

Thomas's picture

I think in most cases the quality of the blitz games is amazingly high. Of course there are some 'jokes' even in such a strong field, such as Carlsen-Kamsky where black "sacrificed" a bishop on move 15 (I am 99.9% sure he somehow thought white's pawn was on a3).
Is this Kamsky's first Amber tournament? Then he simply has to get used to blindfold chess !!?

Ariel's picture

It's pretty sad, the whim of a few wealthy people lead to an annual chess circus event in Monaco (next year they could try that underwater version, or blasting the GMs with loud music and flashing bright lights).
Meanwhile, ask yourself about each of these participants: does he participate in his national championship? Many don't, for they are too busy, I'm sure...
Well if the GMs and the ?ºberrich want to organize a circus, so be it, the legal system is not made to forbid it, but why do chess "journalists" treat it like a serious event? It is a joke.

Call Zorbin's picture

Ariel, I think it is a nice tournment. It is fun for the amaterus like you and me who should be awed at the superb quality of the blinfold Chess. See just the blinfold game Karjakin-Wang Yue. It was impressive!.The manouvering is high level. Just relax and enjoy, it is worth and thanks to the,

chessplanet7's picture

I think there were two important tactical moments in the match leko-anand,
one in each game. Anand's tactical vision in the blindfold game is remarkable.

see my blog for the 2 positions which deserve a diagram.
sorry for the shameful blog plug !

Felix's picture

"And so we save a lot of revenge games in the rapid section, ultimately leading to eight decisive encounters and all points scored by the white pieces. "
Ivanchuk lost with white against Aronian, so one victory for the black pieces :)

Peter Doggers's picture

True! (Realized that last night too.)

Arne Moll's picture

Peter, I don't agree with your description of Anand's 'inexplicable blunder'. When you replay the game Leko-Anand without a computer, it just looks like a fine victory from Leko with the bishop pair, gaining space and increasing pressure all the time. And it still does. For what it's worth, my Rybka evaluates the position after 29.Kg1 as +1.05 for White. I assume Anand just collapsed under the pressure of the bishops! Nothing too inexplicable about that in my opinion.

Peter Doggers's picture


Didn't check it with Rybka - I thought using Ljubo's comment on that moment would be safe enough. ;-)

shy_guest's picture

I get Nick de Firmian's commentary on the marvellous Aronian-Leko game.

chessplanet7's picture

Today's brilliancy is Aronian rapid game against Leko.
Rg6+! is a crowd pleasing move, and Rd1! is the quiet move where the spectators should clap in delight !

Aronian with 3/4 should share lead unless Kramnik goes 2-0 today

Anand-Kamsky was a convincing win for the world champ but not nearly as spectacular !

chessplanet7's picture

by the way, keep up the excellent video reports !!

Not only do you cover the scene, but the post-mortem comments from top players give us, mere mortals, an insight to what goes in a 2700+ super GM's mind. And the chessboard in the background helps us follow the moves, as none of us want to show how weak our blindfold abilities are. no need to check that !

Call Zorbin's picture

Guy, has anyone been able to hear the audio commentaries link included in the official live games website?

I simply dont get any audio!

4i4mitko's picture

Topalov is playing Petroff yes:)))

Latest articles