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Rapid Light

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186,000 miles per second, piffle. It was Vassily Ivanchuk showing off some speed and flash today at the Melody Amber tournament with a remarkably high-class effort against world champion Vladimir Kramnik in their rapid game. Big Vlad was the clear leader of the combined standings going into today's fifth round, but it was Chucky's day to shine. He outplayed Kramnik with the black pieces in what Garry Kasparov called, "a brilliant game. He may blunder everything tomorrow but today he was a genius!" Kasparov highlighted the move 11..b5! for special praise, disrupting the white flank. After that Black steadily took over the position. It was all finely calculated out to 26..Nb6! and Black keeps the piece. Not spectacular, but as rarely as you see Kramnik lose, you even more rarely see him squeezed like this with white. They'd already drawn the blindfold game so Ivanchuk moved into a tie with Kramnik and Aronian in the combined standings with 7/10. Aronian and Anand top the rapid, Kramnik leads the blindfold.

Other highlights included the Leko-Carlsen match. Both games were amazing. (And what's up with the sudden reappearance of the Nimzo at Amber? White was all about the QID at Linares. Fashionistas!) Carlsen went kitchen sink style in the blindfold but Leko held on and could have played for a win had he had more time. Their rapid game also caught Garry's attention, "an amazing game!" Is there any position in which White can't play g4 and get away with it these days? Leko didn't exactly get away with it here though. He must have been busted. Carlsen missed a chance to shut things down with 14..Qd8! and also 16..Qg4+ would have won White's queen. But instead he took the rook and Leko scammed enough counterplay to draw when it was Carlsen's turn to force a perp instead of playing on with 20..Kb8. Slam-bang stuff.

Anand polished off van Wely in pretty fashion in their blindfold. White to play and win after 20..Kh8. The final mating sequence of their rapid game, also an Anand win, is an unusual Q+N mate against a fianchettoed king. Onsite reports and photos at the official site.


If being able to beat anybody, absolutely anybody on your day is a criterion for judging Chess genius, the Chukster is way up there.

I have always disliked the kind of player Chucky is--natural talent, but bluster and choking. Blowing out 2600 and losing big games. Then I played through several of his games. Aside from Karpov, I don't think I enjoyed anybody else's games as much. Vassily shows amazing vision in the games--his plans are far thought out and cover the entire board. He is obviously not much of a sportsman (doesn't fare well in competitive play) but the appeal of chess is not just as a competition.

Not easy for the other pros to prepare against the Chucky, since he nearly plays every opening - except Latvian Gambit.

"The final mating sequence of their rapid game, also an Anand win, is an unusual Q+N mate against a fianchettoed king. Onsite reports and photos at the official site."

Yes, it took me a little bit of time to realize that Van Wely is actually mated in the final position by 1 ... Nf3-d2+ 2 Kf1-g1 Qe4-e1+ 3 Kg1-g2 Qe1-f1#. The White g2-king is mated in this position because the Black d2-knight is ideally placed, supporting the Black queen on f1 and covering the f3-flight square.

Just like Mig wrote, an unusual Q+N mate against the fianchettoed king. How I hate fianchetto positions sans bishop!

Quite a brutalesque performance in blindfold by K so far. It makes me wonder if that´s the difference.

1. Kramnik, Vladimir 5.5
2. Gelfand, Boris 4.0
Ivanchuk, Vassily
Svidler, Peter
5. Aronian, Levon 3.0
Leko, Peter
Radjabov, Teimour
8. Anand, Viswanathan 2.5
Morozevich, Alexander
10. Carlsen, Magnus 2.0
11. Van Wely, Loek 1.5
12. Vallejo, Francisco 1.0

Personally, I find that even when Ivanchuk is blowing out 2600's, it's fascinating to watch. The man is brilliant. He has a unique gift of generating a bizarre, unorthodox sort of initiative and maintaining it throughout entire games. It's not like other attackers that rely on canned, well-known techniques; with Ivanchuk, every blowout is different.

"Blowing out 2600 and losing big games."
Ivanchuk does not in fact play weaker against strong players, he plays slightly weaker against lower rated players. You might be confusing him with Morozevich. :)

This tournament suggests Kramnick is beatable in a match, if an Aronian or Anand can tie the standard time rate games and proceed to rapids.

Too bad for Kramnick that WC tiebreak isn't blindfold games!

This tournament suggests Kramnik is either out of form or very unmotivated. He's lucky to have 50% in the rapid event, and the games are not like him at all. Of course, he played much better in the Elista tiebreak, which was also rather more important and a more significant indicator of how he would do in a WC match if that occured again.

Kramnik always specialises in blindfold chess in Monaco. He complicates things and seems to have a perfect grasp of the position of the pieces (while still being able to see all the tactics) - which makes him a big favourite against almost anyone. I think the problem with rapid chess is that he tends to treat it the way he treats playing with the black pieces in normal chess - i.e. happy to play solidly and take a draw. He might be tired out by the blindfold, or find it harder to switch to rapid chess than some of the other players, or just be happy to win the mini-matches.

In any case, I wouldn't draw too many conclusions about his form. I'm sure if this was a tournament without the blindfold element he'd be up there in the rankings.

Don't give FIDE any ideas, tjallen!

Kramnik usually scores around even, maybe +1 or -1, in the Amber rapid section. I'm not talking the last year or two during health problems, but even in 2000, when he went +1. He's on an even score now, business as usual. I don't think he's done better than +2 in the last decade. He usually does very well in the blindfold though (+5, +6, etc.), although when Moro showed up at Amber he proved just as gifted at it. I think they've both hit +7 before. Moro did an insane +8 last year, Kramnik absent.

I don't see any big deal. Kramnik's a phenomenally strong player playing rapid, not an unusually strong rapid player. As for tiebreaks and such, nerves are what matter in those, not case history at a certain time control.

I meant more that he underperforms when he is playing for something major rather than against super-GMs--Ivanchuk doesn't usually get as far in championship cycles as you would expect him to and also has failed in tournament games a few times when a win would have meant finishing up top. The Fischl link is fascinating though. A few years back everybody was talking about Ivanchuk blowing out lower-ranked tournaments to prepare for returning to the top tournaments. That and his style made me think he would have a very high rating against lower ranked players. Another case of perception being stronger than reality, I guess.

acirce, very well. Your unmotivated or out of form Kramnik beat Leko 2-0 today.

As far as I know, Anand has really crushed Kramnik historically in rapid. Any thoughts on the thought which occured to me that skill in blindfold chess is the indication of pure talent/chess genius.

Yeah, he did, Zombre. And both games were very nice. Indeed, the rapid game was clearly the best he's played so far.

I made the point that I wasn't just talking about the result but about the games - he could easily have been -2 when I posted that, and he was struggling in a couple of other games too. But let's see (some) earlier results in the rapid section:

Amber 2005: Kramnik +1
Amber 2004: Kramnik +2
Amber 2003: Kramnik -1
Amber 2002: Kramnik =
Amber 2001: Kramnik +4!
Amber 2000: Kramnik +1
Amber 1999: Kramnik +2
Amber 1998: Kramnik +2
Amber 1997: Kramnik +3
Amber 1996: Kramnik +3
Amber 1995: Kramnik -1
Amber 1994: ?

Double-checked where I could. It was a little worse than I had expected; I had thought something like an average of +2. Of course, in at least some of the latest years he WAS out of form. Still fairly consistent, and now he's back in good health and all.

Anyway, it doesn't matter a lot either way, of course.

Looking at the quality of games played in rapid or blindfold one could easily get the feeling all of these guys are out of shape...blunders, odd moves, combinations that don't quite make sense...then you remember that this is blindfold/rapids and you are amazed as to what these guys can do and your evaluation changes.

Mig has disparaged these blindfold exhibitions, but I personally find it fascinating to see how the players play under the various possible handicaps.

Blindfold chess somehow exaggerates whatever aspect of talent or skill that Kramnick has that the others do not. In the same way, rapid chess exaggerates the element that Anand has, that the others do not.

In studies showing how players remember positions, it's been shown that players remember close groups of interacting pieces, "chunks" of the board. As an example, the castled king with its 3 pawns, knight and rook is a chunk familiar to every player - one doesn't have to calculate who guards what, it's all one memorized chunk. When we see the grouping on the board, it is easy to remember.

I suspect blindfold chess is similar, in that players easily remember familiar chunks of interacting pieces in close proximity, but have more difficulty "connecting the chunks." And Kramnick is best at connecting the chunks. Long moves, and interactions between widely separated pieces seem to come more easily to him than to the others in blindfold.


Well, another pair of great games by Kramnik...now he does look convincing even in the rapid games.

"‘I think I played a good game’, Vladimir Kramnik said after his win in the blindfold game against Boris Gelfand. ‘I was pressing and Black made no obvious mistakes.’ As the World Champion isn’t the sort of player who loves to pour praise on himself these were telling words. Indeed it was fascinating to see how Kramnik obtained a small advantage and gradually turned on the screws. The only move of his opponent that he mildly criticized was 19…Ba5, where he felt that 19…Na5 would have been better. The rest of the game is recommended study material for anyone who wants to work on his or her endgame technique. Or as Gelfand put it, ‘Incredible how he played this. I can only think of Fischer or Karpov who could do this. Most grandmasters wouldn’t even manage this with sight of the board.’

The rapid game was a complicated Slav. Playing the black pieces Kramnik managed to get an edge in a difficult middlegame. Again he was pressing and again the players ended up in a rook endgame in which Kramnik was a pawn up. But this time had to be satisfied with a draw. As Gelfand explained, ‘I know this endgame well, as I drew it against Karpov in Reggio Emilia.’ Small wonder. ‘I learned it when I was ten.’"


Well I must say I am really impressed by Kramnik's mastery of blindfold. He is obviously one of about the ten or 20 best ever Chess players in history. That cute little tactic right at the end of the blindfold game against Leko is just awesome.

Which other World Champions have excelled in blindfold besides Kramnik? Alekhine, I think. The Soviets shunned it for years, didn't they?

I'm not sure any of them have played it much, have they?

d_tal wrote:"That cute little tactic right at the end of the blindfold game against Leko is just awesome."

Actually it was just a blunder by Leko, who forgot the location of the h-pawn, but it´s impressive that Kramnik never seems to blunder blindfolded.

Kramnik did leave a few pieces en prise once in one of these things against Anand, having thought Anand had played one move when in fact he'd played another. (This was a curious feature of Anand's blunder; why on earth would Kramnik have put his rook on f2?)

It looked quite different during Kramnik's "annus terribilis" in 2005.

Kramnik-Vallejo: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1334597

Kramnik-Morozevich: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1334652

Van Wely-Kramnik: http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1334694

It's a blessing for chess fans that such a fantastic player did manage to recover.

In the USSR, the authorities believed that playing blindfold was damaging to chessplayers' mental health and banned simultaneous blindfold exhibitions. I also remember reading that Botvinnik was strongly opposed to it, which may have rubbed off on Kasparov.

In "Psychology in Chess", which I think was written in the 1970s, Krogius felt obliged to reassure readers that playing blindfold as part of their training regime would not make them go insane!

Later, opinion changed completely, and players like Ivanchuk and Shirov were trained to use blindfold analysis (i.e., not look at the board while thinking) during their games.

For Amber, does anyone know what the time control is for Blindfold and Rapid games?

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on March 22, 2007 11:56 PM.

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