- The Washington Times - Friday, April 7, 2006

The annual Amber Chess Tournament is back in all its gimmicky glory.

The tournament, which regularly draws a top-flight field, includes a rapid tournament and a concurrent blindfold event in which neither player has sight of the pieces. With a hefty prize fund and a cushy venue — Monaco’s Fairmont Monte Carlo Hotel — this year’s tournament attracted nine players rated 2700 or better in the 12-grandmaster field.

India’s Viswanathan Anand and Russian star Alexander Morozevich shared the combined score prize, both going 141/2-71/2. Morozevich proved a superstar at blind chess, scoring eight wins and three draws, while the lightning-quick Anand took the rapid portion of the competition with an undefeated 8-3 score.

The Indian’s calculating skills and attacking prowess were on display in his rapid game against Spaniard Francisco Vallejo Pons. The Spanish GM, the third-lowest-rated player in the field, had a good run at the Amber, finishing alone in third, but he was overmatched against Anand.

A typically sharp struggle results from this Najdorf Sicilian, and Vallejo Pons as White seems to get in the first shot with 19. Ne3 a4 20. Nef5!? gxf5 21. exf5, when 21…Bd7? 22. g5 Nh7 23. f6 Bh8 24. Qc2 e4 25. Bxe4 Re8 26. 0-0 Nf8 27. Bxc6 Bxc6 28. Nf5 would give White strong compensation for the piece.

But Anand counters with 21…e4! 22. fxe4 (22. Bxe4 Nxe4 23. Nxe4 d5 24. fxe6 dxe4 25. Qxd8 Raxd8 26. e7 Nxe7 27. fxe4 Bxb2 is better for Black) Ne5! (Bd7 23. g5 is again strong for White), giving back material to seize the initiative.

The two players balance attack and defense on 23. fxe6 Nfxg4! (Nxd3+ 24. Qxd3 fxe6 25. Qe2 Qa5 26. 0-0 is good only for equality; Black now threatens 24…fxe6 25. Bg1 Rf3, winning a piece) 24. e7 Qxe7 25. Nf5 Qe6 26. Rg1 h5 27. Be2 Rfe8, but now White falters under the pressure of the shorter time control.

Thus: 28. Bd4?! (more forceful was 28. Qd5!, putting the question to Black) Nf3+! 29. Bxf3 Qxf5 30. Bxg7? (the decisive mistake, though White faces an uphill task on the superior 30. Qe2 Qf4 31. Rd1 f5 32. Bxg7 Kxg7, when 33. Rd5 is answered by 33…Ra5! 34. Rxa5 Qc1+ 35. Qd1 Qe3+ 36. Qe2 Qxg1+) Rxe4+!, and Black’s attack crashes through.

The rook is immune (31. Bxe4?? Qf2 mate), but Vallejo Pons can’t save himself on the game’s 31. Kd2 (Kf1 Ne3+) Qf4+ (good enough, but 31…Re3! 32. Be2 Rae8 33. Bf1 Qf2+ produces a quicker mate) 32. Kc2 Rxc4+ 33. Kb1 Rxc1+ 34. Qxc1 Qxf3, as the last-ditch try 35. Qg5 is blocked by 35…Qd3+ 36. Kc1 Rc8+ 37. Bc3+ Kf8 38. Rd1 Qe3+ 39. Qxe3 Nxe3 40. Rd3 Nf5 and the White bishop is lost.

Black emerges two pawns to the good, and accurate play by Anand snuffs out any White hopes for counterplay. By 43. Rd1 d5, all White’s pieces are pinned on the back rank and the Black pawns are ready to roll; Vallejo Pons resigned.

Blindfold chess has a long and honorable history, burnishing the legends and fattening the bank accounts of such legends as Philidor, Morphy, Pillsbury and Alekhine.

Among the more colorful blindfold specialists was the Belgian-born American master and chess writer George Koltanowski, who set a world record for simultaneous blindfold play by taking on 34 players at an exhibition in Edinburgh in 1937, winning 20 and drawing 14.

Koltanowski, who died in 2000 at the age of 96, had a remarkable feel for blindfold play. English chess writer Harry Golombek wrote of him: “His talents are such that he has produced many more brilliancies in blindfold play than he has done in sighted play.”

One of Kolty’s very best blindfold efforts was an amusing combination he visualized at a 1929 10-game blindfold exhibition in Antwerp.

A lot of Koltanowski’s puckish wit seeps into this Max Lange Attack. Black gets into early trouble on 11. Nce4 Bb4? (0-0-0 12. g4 Qe5 was a safer alternative) 12. c3 dxc3 13. bxc3 Ba5 14. g4! Qg6 15. Nxe6 fxe6 16. f7+, fixing the Black king in the center.

Black tries to simplify after 17. Ng5+ Kg8 (Kf8 18. Qf3+ Qf6 19. Nxe6+ Kg8 20. Qd5! Qf7 21. Re3 Bb6 22. Rf3, winning) 18. Rxe6 Qd3 19. Qe1! Rf8, but White reloads with 20. Re8 Qd7 21. Rxf8+ Kxf8 22. Ba3+, bringing fresh pieces into the action.

Black (who could see the board) now misses a strong riposte: 22…Bb4! 23. cxb4 Qxg4+ 24. Kf1 Qxg5 25. b5+ Kf7 (Ne7 26. Qe6 Qf6 27. Qxf6+ gxf6 28. Re1) 26. bxc6, with some drawing chances.

Instead, 22…Ne7 sets up a piquant finish in which the blindfolded Koltanowski “sees” that Black’s pinned knight and overburdened queen can be exploited brutally: 23. Rd1!! Qxg4+ 24. Kf1 Qxg5 (see diagram) 25. Rd5!! Qh4 (Qxd5 26. Qxe7+ Kg8 27. Qf8 mate) 26. Rh5! (a lot more entertaining than the pedestrian 26. Bxe7+ Qxe7 27. Rf5+ Ke8 28. Re5) Qf6 (we are grateful Dunkelbaum didn’t find the dreary 26…Bxc3!, though White should still win on 27. Qe6 Qf6 28. Rf5 Ke8 29. Rxf6 Bxf6 30. Bxe7 Bxe7 31. Qc8+ Bd8 32. Qxb7) 27. Rf5!, once more taking advantage of Black’s underachieving pieces.

His queen is pinned, his pinned knight can only watch, and 27…Qxf5 again allows 28. Qxe7+. Black resigned.

15th Amber Rapid Tournament, Monaco, March 2006

Vallejo PonsAnand

1. e4c523. fxe6Nfxg4

2. Nf3d624. e7Qxe7

3. d4cxd425. Nf5Qe6

4. Nxd4Nf626. Rg1h5

5. Nc3a627. Be2Rfe8

6. f3e628. Bd4Nf3+

7. Be3b529. Bxf3Qxf5

8. g4b430. Bxg7Rxe4+

9. Nce2h631. Kd2Qf4+

10. c4e532. Kc2Rxc4+

11. Nc2Nc633. Kb1Rxc1+

12. Ng3Be634. Qxc1Qxf3

13. h4a535. Bh6Qf5+

14. Bf2g636. Ka1Rc8

15. Ne3Bg737. Qd1Kh7

16. Rc10-038. Bc1Qc2

17. Bd3Nd439. Qf1f6

18. Nc2Nc640. Qe1Kg6

19. Ne3a441. Qe3Kf7

20. Nef5gxf542. Qe1Rc4

21. exf5e443. Rf1d5

22. fxe4Ne5White resigns

Blindfold simultaneous exhibition, Antwerp, 1929


1. e4e515. Nxe6fxe6

2. Nf3Nc616. f7+Kxf7

3. Bc4Bc517. Ng5+Kg8

4. 0-0Nf618. Rxe6Qd3

5. d4exd419. Qe1Rf8

6. e5d520. Re8Qd7

7. exf6dxc421. Rxf8+Kxf8

8. Re1+Be622. Ba3+Ne7

9. Ng5Qd523. Rd1Qxg4+

10. Nc3Qf524. Kf1Qxg5

11. Nce4Bb425. Rd5Qh4

12. c3dxc326. Rh5Qf6

13. bxc3Ba527. Rf5Black

14. g4Qg6resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at [email protected]washington times.com.

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