The Fide world champion, Anatoly Karpov, has been making some uncharacteristic blunders in the Amber Rapidplay tournament in Monte Carlo. When you are restricted to 25 minutes for all your moves, and half the games are played blindfold, occasional blunders are to be expected from even the best players, but a couple of Karpov's mistakes have come so early in the game that neither time shortage nor obscured vision can really be offered as an excuse.

Playing Black against Topalov in their rapidplay game, Karpov was clearly taken by surprise in the opening. After 1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 d5 4.d4 Be7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.e3 c5 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.a3 Nc6 9.Qc2 Qa5 10.0-0-0 Be7 11.Kb1 Rd8, Topalov played 12.Nd2, reaching the diagram position. With Nb3 now in the air, Black's queen is clearly short of squares, but Karpov's attempt to pre-empt Nb3 by retreating the queen with 12...Qb6?? was a huge mistake.

There followed 13.c5! and Black must lose a piece. After 13...Bxc5, White plays 14.Na4, while 13...Qxc5 15.Nb3 Qb6 16.Na4 leaves the queen trapped. Karpov made the best of it with 13...Qxc5 14.Nb3 Nb4 15.axb4 Qxb4, but was still hopelessly lost after 16.Rd4 Qb6 17.Nb5 Ne8 18.Nc7! and did well to struggle on to move 43 before resigning.

That game was played in round seven, and two rounds later Karpov was again careless with his queen. This time it was in the blindfold section of the event, when he was White against Matthew Sadler. The game opened 1.Nf3 d5 2.g3 Nc6 3.d4 Bf5 4.Nh4 Be4 5.f3 Bg6 6.Nxg6 hxg6 7.Bg2 Qd6 8.f4 0-0-0 9.c3 g5 10.Qd3 Kb8 11.fxg5 e5 12.0-0 e4 when Karpov, evidently forgetting where his queen was, played 13.Rxf7 and resigned after 13...exd3.

With two rounds left to play, Kramnik is in the lead, a point ahead of Shirov and Ivanchuk.