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Melody Amber 2005

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The annual blindfold and rapid chess event is underway in Monaco. I did some cursory background on blindfold a few years back. The easiest way to impress an amateur player is to offer to play them blindfold. It's impressive in the same way simuls are impressive to non-chess people. Every once in a while there is a brilliant blindfold game in Monaco, and of course it's impressive that they usually play at a very high level. But it's mostly like watching American-style auto racing; you are waiting for the inevitable crash.

With a few months of practice even a weak player can get through an entire game without hanging all his pieces. This sort of visualization practice improves your chess, but more importantly it makes your study time much more efficient. Being able to read through games and analysis in magazines and books without needing a diagram every five moves or a board is a big help.

Anand is off to a 4/4 start. Maybe he's feeling a little extra motivation these days?


make that 6/6

Anand turned from Speedy Gonzalez into Lucky Luke: still very quick, but also very lucky in two of his games (against Shirov and Topalov).

Mig, I didn't read your previous note on blindfold chess but another thing that really impresses novices is not only when you play a blindfold simul but if you are able to replay each person's game for eveybody to see that really leaves them open-mouthed.

Anand won't get through Kramnik and Chuck-star without taking a few body shots. He should drop a game at least.

Van Wely's blindfold blunder against Moro yesterday is emblematic of the gap between GM and club player. Check out the line Van Wely had in mind when he blundered. Recalling Martin Amis on chess:

"Your progress so far has felt like a slow ascent along rising ground. Then you pause, look up, and see a cliff face almost beyond the dimensions of the globe, whose crest is merely a false summit, the first of many. Quickly you relapse into the kind of player who...flounders into the middlegame hoping for errors more egregious than his own. Nowhere in sport, perhaps nowhere in human activity, is the gap between the tryer and the expert so astronomical."

I've always wondered about blindfold: do the players stare at an empty board, or are they just staring off into space?

Ivanchuk stares into space when he's on move with a board in front of him. But if you look at the Melody Amber website photos, the players appear to be studying the empty board.

Traditionally in Monaco they sit roughly across from each other but facing computer screens that display empty chessboards. They make their moves with a mouse and the system tells them if it's illegal. The opponent's move comes in as notation (and/or showing origin and destination square on the board), but the move list is not displayed. I don't think they've changed the format this year but can check.

Chukky and Shirov are both well known for sitting at the board and staring at a random point. Ivanchuk became known for, as Anand put it, "staring for long periods at a point six inches above your head."

Everyone can do blindfold analysis to a certain degree, but the board is mostly just a handy prop for a GM. I remember being amazed at watching Shirov take a roll of gamescores off his fax machine and make relevant comments and analysis about them with a casual glance, with no more concentration than it takes you to read this. That was before I'd had much exposure to the super-GM world, admittedly, but it's still impressive.

Doesn't the opponent move show up on the screen for something like five seconds and them disappear? I thought they did that last year.

Anand's results are indeed impressive. This is even more so considering the tiring wijk and Linares (also applies to Leko, Topo). I will be surprised if he can continue the form as he may be farly exhausted in the later rounds.

Also, note that in some of his games, he was looking for a draw when his opponent blundered. I guess that is what form and confidence of a player does to the opponent. We have seen Kasparov benefiting from that most of his career and now Anand has been benefiting the last 2 years.


So Anand wins because his opponents blunder, but others fight much harder for their games, therefore their results are more valid? What a load of bull. all those who think that people are just gifting games to Anand obviously have never played competitive Chess. Nothing harder than to win a won game. The result is valid over the entire game, not a single phase. Anand wins because he is so darn strong. Doesnt let his opponents carry out their plans.

Why exactly is it that Kasparov never plays/played in blindfold events?

he despices that. he mentioned that he does not like blindfold in post 1985 wc match ...

Maybe Kasparov has a guilty secret: he can't play blindfold ;-)

Yeah, I can't eat steak either!

It is now 7/7

I have been eagerly waiting for a latest article in Chessbase about Amber tournament.Surprising, the famous site doesnt feel this tournament worthy of giving a daily coverage.One may like or dislike rapids/blindfold, but seing so many top players participating in a single tournament itself is a sheer joy.What better things are happening in Chess at this point of time?Already we are starved of tournaments where all top players play.When they do, cant you guys cover them?

I play blind blitz (with increment) on FICS and I must say the games are strikingly bad, and sometimes I resign because I've simply lost track of where the pieces have gotten to.
- Somewhere along the line I have read that a player's blind strength should be about 400 points below sighted. Don't know if that's universally true, but it bears out in my ratings anyway.
- Having a blank board makes an enormous difference (for fish, if not super GMs).

I thought anybody with a 2200+ real rating could play blinfolded without it being a big deal at all.... some of these reactions are incredible...

Depends on what you mean by big deal these guys still play very high quality however in some cases the guys blunder a bit more than regular chess. The game that Shirov hung the knight was actually rapid chess. Only classical play is almost always blunder free. I would say the difference between the blindfold and rapid is not that huge but that these are both enormously worse on the whole than classical play.

Also there is the the additional question of effort and care--- doing something serious versus doing it for fun. This part cannot be underestimated as well. How much better would the play be if this were suddenly called the world championship?

Someone (maybe Mig) mentioned that it takes only a few months to learn how to play blindfold. Is there a method to do that or you just learn it on the fly? (I am a hobby player but I think it might help me improve other chess-related skills.) Thanks!

I am only 1825 or so USCF and can play blindfold. I've only done it twice, and it was against very weak, casual chessplayers. I wasn't sure at all that I could do it, but I surprised myself. At the time I think I was still a mid-level B player. I won both games with checkmate, but the real point of the games was to see whether I could keep track of all the pieces (oh yeah, and to impress a girl :))

In the second game I played I tried one illegal move rather late in the game, but all my other moves were OK. I decided to wear an actual blindfold as opposed to just shutting my eyes, as this helped block out annoying ambient light sensations. And plus, it looked dramatic. :)

I think players who specialize in tactics might tend to be better equipped for blindfold play, at least for the lower levels. When you calculate tactics all the time, you tend to strengthen your ability to "visualize" (though that is a somewhat insufficient description of the mental process inherent in blindfold play as well as normal calculation).

I think the ability to just play a legal game of chess blindfold can be cultivated by almost any player above D category. You just have to practice.

If you meet a chick who digs a guy with brains, this is definitely a nice maneuver. :) Just make sure you pull it off!

Have you seen the picture of Anand, Kramnik and Topalov in TWIC? All grinning broadly, they must have been thinking:

Anand: "Yeah, I won!"
Kramnik: "Yeah, I lost!"
Topalov: "Yeah, I'm last!"

I've often wondered how many GM's capable of performing blindfold simul's can't remember their Wife's birthday, can't program a VCR to tape a show when they're away from home and can't remember how to boil an egg. Of course if you're that good you shouldn't need to boil your own eggs. Are many top GM's basket cases when it comes to non-chess mundane details?

Nice photos of Melody Amber. When's the last time we've seen a photo of the top four active Grandmasters in the world analyzing a game together...or laughing together?

During just about any of the past Linares events. Look them up at ChessBase.

Found a couple photos of pairs of top GMs analyzing after their Linares games. There's Kasparov smiling with Pono after beating him, Linares 02. And Leko, Kasparov and Kramnik standing in line smiling during an opening ceremony Linares 04. Not much.

We've had bad blood atop the chess world for some thirty years: Fischer-anybody, Karpov-Korchnoi, Karpov-Kasparov, Kasparov-Shirov, Kasparov 2000-05 howling for a rematch.

Are the Melody Amber photos of the three or four top GMs laughing and analyzing together a few weeks after Kasparov's retirement grounds for hoping there will now be joy in the chess world just as there was joy in Oz after the Wicked Witch of the West melted?

I knew this was coming. True to your form Greg. Keep it up!

Actually once Kasparov manhandled a photographer for taking pictures of Kramnik and Anand grinning and discussing chess!

There is no love lost between Shirov and Kramnik, too:

"Anand won't get through Kramnik and Chuck-star without taking a few body shots. He should drop a game at least."

Not a bad prediction; they're the only two players to manage a "close" mini-match loss against him!

Looking at the results of Anand, Topalov, Leko, and Vallejo, one might suspect inverse proportionality between form in classical chess (see Linares results) and form in rapid/blindfold chess, where less technical precision is required.

Morning: ouch, thanks for tossing that back at me! Bad prediction -- I was close but not at all. Anand is a runaway train, crushing even the mighty Kramnik and Ivanchuk. Moro must feel like he's facing a trip to the dentist.

Bareev took him down to planet Earth again.

And Leko took him back to where he was.

Yeah, how about that blunder! Not exactly characteristic for Leko. It's interesting to note that it's the blindfold section Anand leads really convincingly, and the rapid section he only leads by 0.5 points while at the same time he has been given free gifts more than once there.

Let's see today. My bet is +1.

A performance like this by the big K would not have been treated like this. My point is Adand's good perperformances are getting watered down on this board for whatever reason!

Chill man, it is a blindfold/rapid tournament where guys regularly drop knights and rooks or even both in one game(see Van Wely's game where he hung two pieces!). I am sure that if Anand had a 3100 performance in any classical tournament it would respected wholeheartedly. Hell, even his OTB rapid matches in general get alot more credence than I give them personally. Anand probably isn't even too impressed, so why should we be?

DP, Yes there are blunders in many games.Yes, Anand did save couple of games by opponents blunders.And yes a 3100 performance in classicals would have been touted to the sky.But you know what, all these things are true for everybody playing there.But it is only Anand who is having +9 score.His blindfold wins are genuine.So are all but couple of rapid wins.It is ridiculous to belittle this feat when whoever matter in chess(save Kasparov) are competing.Kramnik,Ivanchuk,Moro,Topo,Shirov and Leko are no pushovers in any type of games.Anand scored 9.5/12 against them.
When was the last time you saw such a dominating performance by anybody in any kind of tournament where the average rating is 2726?

It has nothing to do with Anand, it has to do with Amber not being classical chess. Anand is a great rapid player, he is apparently also a great blindfold player, but many of us just don't consider these forms of the game as interesting as what we see in Corus, Linares, Dortmund and the WC matches. The main reason has been given a countless number of times.

(Especially not blindfold. That's just ridiculous really! I follow it, but when players put pieces en prise time after time, Kramnik forgets about ..Rf8-e8 having been played, etc etc in absurdum, you quickly realize that it has very little in common with traditional chess.)

Why compare Amber with Corus,Linares etc..
When all but those are essentially rapid events , if one discounts rapids then there is not much enterrtainment you get in chess.There is huge prize money and I dont think top players are wasting their time just like that.Everyone wants to win there.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on March 21, 2005 3:34 PM.

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