Pursuits: Chess

After two fairly low-key tournaments at Wijk aan Zee and Linares,

Vladimir Kramnik has taken hold of the Eighth Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament with impressive performances in both disciplines.

After six of the 11 days, he had amassed an imposing point-and-half lead with 9/12, well clear of Lautier and Topalov 7.5. The main component was Kramnik's massive 5/6 in the blindfold ahead of Alexei Shirov on 4.5, but he was also second equal with Topalov with 4/6 in the Rapidplay behind Anand on 4.5.

Interestingly, some of the best finishes have been in blindfold section.

Shirov vs Ljubojevic (Round 4)

The white knight dominates the board. Shirov had just played 20 h5 which Ljubojevic should perhaps have taken, though of course the attack down the h file would be very strong.

20 ...Kh8 21 Rg6! Rg8 22 Rdg1 h6 23 Nxf6! Bxf6 24 Rxh6+ gxh6 25 Qxh6+ Qh7 26 Qxf6+ Rg7 27 h6 Rag8 28 Rg6 1-0.

If 22...Rc8 23 h6! (23 Qh3 h6! loses some time) hxg6 24 fxg6 Qe8 (24 ...Qd7 25 Rh1!) 25 Qh3 Rc5 26 Ne3! followed by Nf5 and mate. Black should have tried 23 ...Qxf6 24 Rxf6 Bxf6 - as played he lost the house.

Gelfand vs Piket (Round 5)

Gelfand cleaned up crisply:

32 Nxe6+! fxe6 33 Rxd7! Qxd7 34 Nf5+! Nxf5 35 Qxd7+ Kh6 36 hxg6 hxg6 37 Qxe6 Kh7 38 Bd3 1-0.

Ivanchuk vs Lautier (Round 5)

27 Nh6+ Kh8! 28 Rf3 Rxf3 29 Qxf3 Qxf1+! 30 Kh2 Rb8 31 Qf7! 1/2-1/2

27 Nh6+! looked strong: if 27 ...gxh6 28 Qg4+ Kh8 29 Rxb3 is unpleasant, but after the further blow 28 Rf3, Ivanchuk himself got hit by 29 ...Qf1+!. At the end the threat of 32 Qg8+! forces 31 ...gxh6 32 Qf6+ Kg8 33 Qxe6+ with perpetual check.