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Independent Pursuits: Chess

THE EIGHT Amber Blindfold and Rapid Chess Tournament started on Tuesday at the Metropole Palace Hotel in the casino square in Monaco, Sponsored as always by the Dutch multimillionaire Joop van Oosterom, it will run until 28 March; those with an Internet connection can find daily coverage at http://www.tasc.nl/amber8.

As the name implies, this is no ordinary event but rather follows its own unique format. Each day consists of two games against the same opponent. The first is a normal rapid game at the time limit of 25 minutes plus 10 seconds extra per move; but the second, with 25 minutes and 20 seconds extra, is played "blindfold" with the players mousing in their moves on a blank computer screen - a somewhat traumatic variant which can take a lot of getting used to and last year was extremely tough on Matthew Sadler, who scored badly. Sadly he has not been invited this time.

Not that anybody would be totally blithe about jumping into such a bear pit. The next fortnight should see some splendidly bloodcurdling combat as these heavyweights get stuck into each other. Indeed, there was already plenty of action and and some big surprises in the first round as Karpov beat Gelfand 2-0 and Predrag Nikoloc made the same score against Ivanchuk; while the score was 1.5-0.5 in Lautier vs Piket, Kramnik vs Topalov and Ljubojevic vs Anand, and the only drawn match was between Shirov and Van Wely.

Anand would not normally be your favoured choice of first-round opponent but this time Ljubojevic rose to the occasion. By transposition they reached a Sicilian Maroczy bind in which Anand initially seemed to get some advantage with 13 c5 which can't be met by 13 ...dxc5 in view of 14 f4 Neg4 15 e5 Nxe3 16 Nxe3 winning a piece for not quite enough compensation.

Anand with 22 Ne2 initiated an operation whereby with 25 Rd7 he was first to penetrate to the seventh rank but then the bishops started to count.

The very sharp position after 29 b4 would be hard enough at a slow time limit, let alone rapidplay. Anand's idea was that if 29 ...Rxe2? 30 Bc5! but after 29 ...Kg7 30 Nxf4 looks better when one line goes Bd6 31 Ra8! exf4 32 Bd4+ Kg6 33 Rxa6 Rc1+ 34 Kf2 Rf1+ 35 Kxf1 Bc4+ 36 Kf2 Bxa6 37 a3 and White has quite reasonable drawing chances. White was in trouble after 31 ...Bxb4 and at the end fell into a snap mate.

White: Viswanathan Anand

Black: Ljubomir Ljubojevic

Sicilian Maroczy Bind

1 d4 Nf6

2 c4 g6

3 Nc3 Bg7

4 e4 d6

5 Nf3 0-0

6 Be2 c5

7 0-0 cxd4

8 Nxd4 Nc6

9 Be3 Bd7

10 Nc2 Qa5

11 Qd2 Rfc8

12 f3 Ne5

13 c5 Ne8

14 Rfd1 Be6

15 Nd4 Nc4

16 Bxc4 Bxc4

17 cxd6 Nxd6

18 Rac1 f5

19 b3 Bf7

20 exf5 Nxf5

21 Nxf5 gxf5

22 Ne2 Qxd2

23 Rxc8+ Rxc8

24 Rxd2 a6

25 Rd7 e5

26 Rxb7 f4

27 Bb6 Rc2

28 Rb8+ Bf8

29 b4 Kg7

30 Nd4 Rc1+

31 Kf2 Bxb4

32 Nf5+ Kg6

33 Nh4+ Kh5

34 Nf5? Be1+! 0-1