Independent Pursuits: Chess

AS EXPECTED, Vladimir Kramnik completed a fine victory at the Eighth Amber blindfold and rapidplay tournament on Sunday, though deceleration in the second half of this most demanding of tournaments reduced his lead, which at one stage was a full point and a half, to the bare minimum.

In the blindfold, last-round victories by Topalov and Shirov enabled both to catch Kramnik up, with the three finishing joint first equal on 8/11, well clear of Lautier 6.5, Nikolic and Karpov 5.5, Ivanchuk 5, Gelfand 4.5, Piket and Anand 4 and Ljubojevic and Van Wely 3.5.

Meanwhile Anand belied his lousy blindfold play with a powerful 7.5/11 in the rapidplay ahead of Kramnik 6.5, Ljubojevic, Topalov and Shirov 6, Karpov and Van Wely 5.5, Piket and Lautier 5, Gelfand and Ivanchuk 4.5 and Nikolic 4.

So the final combined scores were: Kramnik 14.5, Topalov and Shirov 14, Anand and Lautier 11.5, Karpov 11, Nikolic, Ljubojevic and Ivanchuk 9.5 and Piket, Gelfand and Van Wely 9.

After this barrage of figures, a stampede of blinkered horses - which must surely have given both players serious headaches!

In an Averbakh King's Indian, White gained space on the kingside and Black on the queenside. 16 Nf2! was essential to prevent ...b4 followed by a thematic knight sacrifice on e4, smashing White's carefully constructed position.

After the exchange of queens, White looked to have a clear edge but Ljubojevic's excellent 20 ...gxh5! left White with a weak h5 pawn to defend and after 32 ...Bg5! it was fairly unclear.

36 ...f5? was a bad blunder though - 36 ...Nd7 looks correct - and after 38 Nc7! the white cavalry carried the day. At the end if 48 ...Nce5 49 Ng6+ Nxg6 50 hxg6 Nf6 51 Rh7!+ Nxh7 52 g7 is mate.

White: Vladimir Kramnik

Black: Ljubomir Ljubojevic

Amber Blindfold 1999 (Round 2)

King's Indian Averbakh variation

1 d4 Nf6

2 c4 g6

3 Nc3 Bg7

4 e4 d6

5 Be2 0-0

6 Bg5 Nbd7

7 Qd2 e5

8 d5 Nc5

9 f3 a5

10 g4 Bd7

11 h4 c6

12 h5 cxd5

13 cxd5 a4

14 Nh3 Qa5

15 Rb1 b5

16 Nf2! b4

17 Ncd1 b3

18 a3 Qxd2+

19 Kxd2 h6

20 Be3 gxh5

21 gxh5 Rfc8

22 Nc3 Rab8

23 Rbc1 Ne8

24 Bf1 Nf6

25 Bh3 Kh7

26 Rxh3 Nb7

27 Rxh3 Nb7

28 Rxc8 Rxc8

29 Nc3 Nd7

30 Nd3 Bf6

31 Nb4 Ndc5

32 Nb5 Bg5!

33 Bxg5 hxg5

34 Ke3 Kh6

35 Nc6 Re8

36 Rh1 f5?

37 exf5 e4

38 Nc7! Rc8

39 Ne6 exf3

40 f6 g4

41 Ne7 Ra8

42 f7 Nd7

43 Nf5+ Kh7

44 Rg1 Na5

45 Rxg4 Rc8

46 Rg7+ Kh8

47 Ne7 Nc4+

48 Kf2 1-0