Photo: Association Max Euwe

Round 11

Hopeless battle
Anish Giri repeated an opening in his blindfold game against Vishy Anand that his second Loek van Wely had played against the same Anand in the 2006 Amber tournament! White deviated with 10.cxd4, where Van Wely had gone 10.Qxd4, and introduced his new idea one move later, 11.Kf1. An interesting battle developed in which White had space, but an awkward king (could he put it on h1, he would be fine) and Black wanted to develop counterplay on the queenside with …Rb8, …b5 etc. as soon as possible. Giri went astray with 20.Qc4 after which both players agreed he was essentially lost. White’s position quickly fell apart and after 27 moves, about to lose a rook, Giri resigned.

Anand also won the rapid game. The line he played against the Petroff he didn’t think to be very impressive, ‘but you have to play something’. Giri’s 17…b6 was clear mistake (the correct move was 17…Rc8) for exactly what happened in the game. White won the pawn on b6 and when Black missed his last chance to get substantial counterplay with 23…Rc8 (he exchanged rooks on a7) the young Dutchman was fighting a hopeless battle.
Report: Amber Chess Tournament

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Round 10

The blindfold game between Boris Gelfand and Anish Giri ended in a disappointment for the Dutch grandmaster. ‘I studied this line!’, he said, annoyed with himself.. Looking back he was unhappy with his 19th move and 20…Nh4 was already ‘the losing mistake’. Instead he would have had good drawing chances had he played 20…Nxe5 21.Qxc3 Bc6!. A further mistake (22…Rc2, he should have tried 22…Rdc8) sped up the end, which came after only 24 moves.

In the rapid game Gelfand didn’t play his pet Najdorf, as Giri may have expected, but a Nc6 Sicilian with 4…Qb6. The Israeli number one was looking for active play and kept offering his d5 pawn. In the first instance Giri kindly declined, but once he took it he didn’t regret it. He got the clearly better position and had he captured a second pawn with 53.Nxb5 (on 53…Kg7 follows 54.Rb7) he would have scored a fine win. However, in time-trouble Giri didn’t find the right plan and in the end he had to settle for a draw.
Report: Amber Chess Tournament

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Round 9

Convincing win for Grischuk
Anish Giri faced the King’s Indian of Alexander Grischuk, the Russian’s pet defence in this Amber tournament, in their blindfold game. The first 19 moves were all known, with 19…a5 Grischuk chose his own course. Instead of the traditional queenside offensive to counter Black’s kingside play, Giri opted for a more positional approach hoping to thwart Black’s ambitions. He believed he had a good position, but after Grischuk had activated his pieces on the kingside it became clear that there was little ground for White’s optimism. The game ended with a repetition of moves, after which Giri concluded: ‘Maybe it was a quite logical game after all.’

The rapid game saw a Grünfeld Defence and ended in a convincing win for Grischuk. In fact Giri twice made the same mistake. First he missed 14.d5, which forced him to retreat his bishop to d7, as he realized that 14…Nxc3 15.dxe6 Nxd1 16.Rxd1 Qe8 17.Ng5 would spell disaster. The second time that he missed White’s threats along the a2-g8 diagonal it proved fatal. When Giri went 17…c5 he was hit by 18.Ne6 and now there was no escape. For some time Grischuk checked if there were some deeply hidden traps, but after he found that for instance 19…c4 20.Bxc4 Ba4 21.Nxa4 b5 22.Bxd6 bxc4 23.Qxb8 leads nowhere, he was reassured and quickly cashed the point.
Report: Amber Chess Tournament

Photo: Association Max Euwe

Round 8

Heated discussions
Anish Giri was slightly disappointed that his blindfold game against Sergey Karjakin ended in a draw. He had hoped for more, although he was the first to stress that objectively speaking there were not too many objective reasons for his expectations. In the opening he was satisfied about his moves 15…Ne5 and 16…Qc6 and he believed that White should have looked for equality with 17.Bd4. Instead, Karjakin sacrificed a pawn. This was a risky decision, but he kept good drawing chances and secured the draw without too much effort.

In the rapid game the players repeated the game Kramnik-Karjakin from this tournament. On move 15 Karjakin improved with 15…c5. The position that arose led to heated discussions after the game when Giri’s optimism about his chances was heavily undermined by an enthusiastic group of some of the world’s leading grandmasters. Having listened to their opinions he concluded that in fact White has nothing at all and that Black’s perspectives are better. However, all this didn't bring Karjakin anything when he went seriously wrong with 25…g5. This optimistic push was rudely refuted by 26.e4. Now Giri was winning and grabbing his chance he finished the game in fine style.
Report: Amber Chess Tournament
Anish Giri-Sergey Karjakin analysed by Maurice Ashley    

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Round 7

Shaky debut
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.
Report: Amber Chess Tournament

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Round 6

Pleasant play
The longest game of the blindfold sessions was the one between Vladimir Kramnik and Anish Giri. In the opening Giri felt attracted to a move he had never seen before, 9…Ba6. His interest was understandable, as in actual fact the move had already been played more than a hundred times! As he had expected, Black got pleasant play. Kramnik opened up the position with 19.d5, as otherwise Black would get control of the d5-square. The game took a different turn after Kramnik’s knight sortie to b5. The resulting position the Russian grandmaster assessed as highly favourable for White, whereas Giri believed chances were at least equal. The players traded pieces and entered the endgame, and here Kramnik lost control. He lost his a-pawn and let his rook be trapped. With 51.f5 White could have secured the draw, but when he didn’t Black had a last chance to play for a win by pushing his own pawn to the very same square, f5. When that didn’t happen either the game nevertheless ended in a draw.

The rapid game was a disappointing experience for Giri. The Nimzo-Indian variation that appeared on the board he had been studying deeply not so long ago, but he failed to remember the exact details. Kramnik got the better chances, but nevertheless Giri managed to equalize and had he played 30.Kf1 he would have made an easy draw. Now he had to suffer and although he retained chances to make a draw, the black position was much easier to play and after 67 moves the young Dutchman had to resign.
Report: Amber Chess Tournament

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Round 4 and 5

Anish vs Magnus in round 4
Magnus Carlsen arrived seven minutes late for his blindfold game against Anish Giri. The Norwegian grandmaster was under the impression that the second session started at a quarter past four (he wasn't too proud of this, as this isn't exactly his first Amber and the starting times have not changed recently) and was chatting with a friend from his room. Fortunately he mentioned at some point that his next game would start at a quarter past four, which gave his friend the opportunity to tell him that he better hurry as the correct starting time was 4 p.m.! In the meantime Chief Arbiter Geurt Gijssen had started his clock as it was not the first time that Carlsen arrived late for his game.

In a Grünfeld with g3 Carlsen got the initiative. He was pleased with his position and felt he had a nice advantage, but he misplayed it and had to settle for a draw. It was all about the black-squared bishops: 'I should have exchanged my black-squared bishop, but I thought that his black-squared bishop was bad. But gradually I discovered that my black-squared bishop was even worse.'

In the rapid game, Carlsen opted for some sort of Dutch defence in his wish 'to just play something'. He won a pawn, because Giri had missed 22…Qd3, but even after that loss the young Dutchman had serious drawing chances. But so far Giri has fared better with black than with white and it was not to be. Once Carlsen managed to reach a knight ending he was easily winning.

The blindfold against Nakamura.
Round 5:
Finally a winning point!

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.
Exchanging thoughts after the game.

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.

Report: Amber Chess Tournament

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Round 2 and 3

Comfortable draws against Vasily Ivanchuk
Anish Giri recovered from the losses in his first two games with a highly comfortable draw against Vasily Ivanchuk, although the young Dutchman was absolutely right when he disagreed with the qualification 'recovered'. After all he had been winning in both these two games. This time too he got excellent play, about which he said with a modest understatement 'I was happy that I saw some lines'. Still, Ivanchuk could have forced an easy draw if he had played 26...Rdb8. When he let that chance pass by Giri got the chance to liquidate all the pawns on the queenside and reach a rook endgame where he was a pawn up. But it was not a very big pawn and after Black had restricted White's manoeuvring space with 52...h4, it became clear that the players would soon split the point.

The rapid game also ended in a draw. At the board Giri had initially had some worries, but at the same time he was puzzled why Ivanchuk had chosen the line they played. It was known to offer White nothing special and as far as he could remember most of their moves had been seen before. As it turned out only Ivanchuk's 24.h3 was a new move! And nothing to be worried about. In fact, the first question that suggested itself in the ensuing phase was if Black had any chances to play for a win. But that thought was too optimistic.

   " was very nice how he finished it"
A defeat against Gashimov in the blindfold
In the blindfold game between Vugar Gashimov and Anish Giri, the young Dutchman took a gamble that backfired. He knew full well that the line he played against the Keres Attack was dangerous, but he hoped his opponent wasn't familiar with it. And, on top of that, they were playing blindfold, weren't they?. Indeed Gashimov's knowledge ended relatively early (after 13.f4), but that didn't stop him from continuing forcefully. His move 18.Rd3 was strong and soon Black made a mistake with far-reaching consequences. Instead of 20...f6 he absolutely should have played 20...f5 with reasonable play. After his mistake Black's minor pieces were shut off from the action and White could start his final assault. The last chance of survival Giri had was 23...h5, when he missed that opportunity the rest was suffering. Giri was annoyed with himself, but when he watched the replay of the moves on a monitor he magnanimously admitted: 'Actually it was very nice how he finished it.' Indeed you shouldn't miss the textbook mating net that Gashimov weaved.
The kibitzing in the press room.
Faced by a Benoni in the rapid game, one of Gashimov's favourites, Giri opted for a line that he had once seen Loek van Wely use to beat Veselin Topalov. The choice was intended as a tribute to his second, who will arrive in Monaco later tonight to assist Giri. There was nothing wrong with this choice, but with 23.Bf1 he spoiled the advantage he would have had after 23.Qd2. And things got even worse when he erred with 31.g3 instead of stopping the black rook from coming to a1 with 31.Re1. Suddenly Giri was fighting for survival, which he managed to do when Gashimov allowed himself some inaccuracies.
Report: Amber Chess Tournament

Photo: Association Max Euwe

Amber 2011:

Unputdownable opening ceremony
For the twentieth edition the Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament has returned to Monaco and what better place was there to celebrate this home-coming last night than the Café Paris in the heart of the Principality. From the terrace on the first floor where the opening dinner took place the guests had a splendid view of the most photographed spot in Monaco, the Casino Square.

The evening started with an introduction of the players and the drawing of lots in which bathing towels and sun glasses played a pivotal role. A special moment was the speech of Melody Van Oosterom who thanked her parents for the tournament that carried her name for twenty years. However, her role during this farewell event is not limited to being the daughter after who the tournament was named. For two weeks there will be an exhibition of her paintings and drawings at the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel.

The dinner was further enlivened by two high-class acts. Ukrainian sand artist Ksenia Simonova delighted her audience with a marvellous 'tale' based on various chess themes. Next, after the main course and before the dessert the guests were entertained by electrifying performances of The Electric String Quartet, a string quartet (right) consisting of four (right) ravishing ladies, playing electric (right) string instruments with virtuoso panache.

   "What went wrong?!"
The dramatic first round: Anish lost both games against Levon
The blindfold game between Levon Aronian and Anish Giri was the most exciting clash of the first session. Aronian won, but avoiding any empty boasting he commented that is had been 'the traditional swindling'. The Armenian grandmaster emerged from the opening with a pleasant advantage that he blew with the over-impetuous 25. c5, a move he immediately regretted when he saw Black's answer 25...Bh4. Suddenly it was Black who was calling the shots, but the sudden turn-around also affected Giri. First he missed the 'easier' 27...Nxg2 28.Kxg2 Re8 which would have left White speechless and even on move 40 he still could have won with 40...Re1+. However, after the mistaken 40...Qxd8 White was left with a position in which little could go wrong for him and a lot for Black. Aronian could have decided the issue immediately with 45.d8Q, but even if he took a bit longer the result was never in doubt anymore.

If the first game had been a typical case of swindling, the rapid game was vintage Aronian in swindling overdrive. With a broad grin he admitted after the game that indeed he had gone too far, calling his highly dubious 16...c6, 'too wise'. Typical for his sense of humour was his choice of the opening. As Giri is living in the Netherlands these days, Aronian chose the Dutch Defence, and as Giri was born in St. Petersburg, Aronian had selected the Leningrad Variation. But as said, after his 'too wise' move he ended up in a totally lost position. But instead of confidently converting his advantage Giri lost his calm. Viktor Kortchnoi (born in Leningrad!), who attends the first week of the Amber tournament as a guest of honour, chided the young Dutchman for his move 24.Nb6, calling it 'the worst move he had ever seen'. Probably his memory failed him at that point, but it is true that it would have been a steep task for Aronian to confuse his opponent if Giri had kept the knight on d7. With the knight sidetracked and Black's pieces closing in on the white king, the Armenian's task was a more grateful one and exploiting the chances he got he also won his second game.
Report: Amber Chess Tournament


Rounds 1 - 11    

Final standings - Combined
  1. Aronian 15½
  2. Carlsen 14½
  3. Anand 13
  4. Grischuk 11
    Ivanchuk 11
  5. Gashimov 10½
    Gelfand 10½
    Nakamura 10½
    Topalov 10½
  6. Karjakin 10
  7. Kramnik 8
  8. Giri 7