After having lost the rapid game poorly yesterday, it was time to get back on track against Gelfand today. As white in the blindfold game I employed an unusual continuation on move 8, and did not get any advantage from the opening, as my opponent played actively and well. Eventually we reached a position where my prospects didn't look that great due to the passive position of my rooks, that both had to defend my weak pawn on c2. However, I was not that unhappy, as he had some weaknesses as well, and not many squares for his minor pieces. I gradually improved my position, and when I opened the position on the kingside on move 41, black was already in big trouble. Ten move later the game finished with a picturesque
checkmate in middle of the board. In the rapid game I employed the kings indian defence, the opening I had used to beat Aronian in good style earlier in the tournament. This time however, the game went less smoothly for me. I got a worse position without much counterplay a mistake on move 14. However, my opponent quickly returned the favour, allowing me to solve my problems, and even get an initiative. He then spent a lot of time and found a great resource, that apparently would force perpetual check and a draw. However, as I had a lot of time left I calculated for a while and found out that it was still possible to pose him some serious problems, though I had to be careful not to fall into mate. For instance, in one variation, my king would have run all across the board to safety at b4. There was still a narrow path to a draw, but short of my opponent could not surprisingly not find it, and in the game I eventually escaped from the checks, and finished the game with a nice little combination that won his queen. Since Ivanchuk only made two draws from superior positions today, I am now leading the tournament with 9/12. Ivanchuk is second with 8.5, while Gelfand, Kramnik and Grischuk are sharing 3rd place at a respectful distance with 7/12. Tomorrow I am playing Vugar Gashimov. The 23-year old Azeri recently broke into the top ten in the world, and is a dangerous opponent for anyone.

Magnus Carlsen, Nice, March 19th 2010