Chess v

Before I tell you what it's all about, play through the following game and see what you think:

White: V. Anand

Black: J. Polgar

1 e4 c5 17 Rac1 Ne5

2 Nf3 e6 18 Nxb4 Bxe4

3 d4 cxd4 19 Nxa6 Qb7

4 Nxd4 Qb6 20 Rxe4 Nxe4

5 Nb3 a6 21 Nxb8 Nxd2

6 Nc3 Qc7 22 Bxb7 Nxb3

7 Be2 Nf6 23 cxb3 Rxb8

8 0-0 b5 24 Rc8+ Rxc8

9 Bf3 Nc6 25 Bxc8 Nc6

10 g3 Bb7 26 Bb7 Na5

11 Bg2 d6 27 b4 Nxb7

12 Re1 Be7 28 a5 Bd8

13 a4 b4 29 a6 Bb6

14 Na2 0-0 30 Be3 Nc5

15 Bf4 Rfd8 31 bxc5 dxc5

16 Qd2 Rab8 32 b4 resigns

From two such brilliant tacticians as Anand and Polgar, the fireworks in the middlegame are no surprise. Black's 18...Bxe4 invited 19.Bxe4? Nxe4 20.Rxe4? losing the queen to Nf3+ or 19.Rxe4 Nxe4 20.Bxe4 Qc4! when Black's double attack on b4 and e4 wins material.

Anand countered cleverly with 19.Nxa6! and 20.Rxe4! leading to an endgame in which he had an extra pawn, though after 25...Nc6, he needed to give some thought to the threat of a black-square blockade with ...d5 and Bb4.

He came up with a splendid solution. 26.Bb7!! looked like a blunder, inviting a fork of the bishop and the pawn on b3, but 27.b4! revealed the point of the idea. The knight on b7 just does not have sufficient space to turn in the tight corner and stop the a-pawn.

The bishop did its best to come to the rescue, but 30.Be3! and 32.b4! (again) stifled all resistance.

The remarkable feature of all this, however, is that the game, for all its bewildering tactics, was played at the rate of 25 minutes for each player. And, I nearly forgot to say, they couldn't see the pieces either.

It was played in the 4th Amber Rapid Chess and Blindfold tournament in Monaco, where 12 of the world's top players are enjoying themselves in a mixture of quickplay and quickplay blindfold matches.

First they play fast, then they play fast, with only an empty board on a computer screen to help their thoughts. Games such as the above support the view that chess pieces and a board are pure luxury for the top grandmasters. But it's hard work without them.

After four rounds in Monaco, the lead is shared by Kamsky, Karpov and Anand, each with 51/2 out of 8.