Blindfold Master of Disaster- My Impressions Of The Amber

GM KaydenTroff
Mar 21, 2011, 3:36 PM |

I can’t imagine there is anyone out there that doesn’t know what The Amber is, but just in case, The Amber is Blindfold and Rapid Chess at it’s best!  The Amber is an 11-Round, Round Robin tournament played by some of the best chess players in the world.  Each round the players play 1 blindfold game and 1 rapid game, against the same opponent.  

The players playing are:



Rank In The World       Name                             Nationality       ELO

             1                       Anand, Viswanathan           IND            2817

             2                       Carlsen, Magnus                 NOR           2815

             3                       Aronian, Levon                   ARM          2808

             4                       Kramnik, Vladimir              RUS           2785

             5                       Ivanchuk, Vassily                UKR          2779

             6                       Karjakin, Sergey                  RUS           2776

             7                       Topalov, Veselin                  BUL          2775

             8                       Nakamura, Hikaru                USA          2774

            10                      Grischuk, Alexander             RUS         2747

            11                      Gashimov, Vugar                  AZE         2746

            16                      Gelfand, Boris                       ISR          2733

            43                      Giri, Anish                            NED         2690


Standings after Round 8:

                                           Blind  Rapid  Total   Placement

GM Levon Aronian           6.0      5.5        11.5      1

GM Magnus Carlsen         4.5       6.5        11.0      2

GM Vassily Ivanchuk       3.5       5.0          8.5     3-4

GM Viswanathan Anand  4.5       4.0          8.5

GM Vugar Gashimov        4.0       4.0          8.0     5-6

GM Alexander Grischuk   4.5       3.5          8.0

GM Hikaru Nakamura       3.5       4.0          7.5     7-8

GM Veselin Topalov         4.0       3.5          7.5

GM Sergey Karjakin         4.0       3.0          7.0    9-10

GM Boris Gelfand            4.0       3.0          7.0

GM Anish Giri                  3.0       3.0          6.0      11

GM Vladimir Kramnik     2.5       3.0          5.5      12


One of the things I love about the blindfold games is that you never know exactly what is going to happen.  You can check with computers and have your own personal opinion of the position, but it is hard to tell if one of the players will lose track of the position and make a mistake.  The rapid games are fun too, it is a good time control for the players to think and for the people watching so they don’t have to sit there forever watching the game.


My first GM teacher, Igor Ivanov, (the only GM to live in Utah who would give me a lesson whenever he came up to Salt Lake) would tell us that Russians believe that you cannot be a GM unless you can play blindfold.  Because if this, my brothers and I would play blindfold games against each other to help our visualization, two of us playing and the other one making the moves.  If someone made an illegal move, and the other person called it on them they would lose.  Some games we played to checkmate others ended quickly after an illegal move.  I was 6 years old at the time.  We also have gotten a couple computer programs that cater to calculation and/or visualization.  A long time ago, I played my grandpa in a chess game with me blindfolded and him not, I don’t remember the game or have it recorded anywhere, but I remembered the important thing… that I beat himSmile.  Unfortunately, he has not played me in a game of chess since then Frown.


I can play a game blindfold, but the coolest thing about The Amber is how good these games are (with few exceptions).  Maybe not incredibly surprising seeing how high rated these players.  The average of these players is higher than most people’s rating (the average is 2770). 


Then the rapid, I would guess, mostly helps balance it out, so for the players that might not be as good at blind chess have the rapid and visa-versa. It makes it a lot more challenging because the players have to be balanced and be able to switch back and forth. 


I also like there being two games in one round, because it makes the tournament very tight. In one bad round you can go from first place to 4th just like that, or in one good round you can catch up a lot or pass several people.  Aronian and Carlsen seem do be pulling away from the rest of the competition though right now.  It will be fun to see what happens in the last few rounds! Who knows maybe one of them will just crash and burn (doubtful, but it is possible).


There are the leaders and then there is Kramnik who going into the tournament was 4th and is now in last place with no chance at first no matter what happens. I feel bad for him.  Anyone who plays chess knows what it is like to have a bad tournament. The American, Nakamura, is doing ok (being around the middle) after a rough start. He had to play Aronian and Carlsen in the first 2 rounds (tough beginning!!).  His loss against Aronian, was tough… he played good until he (I would guess) lost track of Aronian’s Bishop and dropped his Rook.  That is what I love about blind chess.  Everyone that is watching the game, can see “Oh man, that drops a rook” but the player may not even realize it until the rook is gone!! A bit of a surprise for me is Ivanchuk who had a horrible start and came back by beating Carlsen twice and getting 4.5 in his last 3 rounds and is now tied for third.  Ivanchuk is a good example of what I was talking about when I said how tight 2 games in 1 round makes this tournament.


It will be fun watching the last few rounds, and it would appear that will be doing coverage on the last few rounds.  I personally think that Aronian will beat out Carlsen for first place, but that is my opinion. Feel free to post you comments just no bad language.


And in case anybody playing in the Amber is reading this, I think you are amazing and good luck!