Throwback Thursday: Anand shines at Amber Tournament 2005

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
6/5/2020 – A memorable and dearly missed event for chess fans — the Melody Amber Tournament took place each year since 1992 until 2011. In its fourteenth edition, Vishy Anand won both sections outright, blindfold and rapid. This was the second time a player managed to do it. But who was the first one to do it? Vishy himself! He achieved the same feat back in 1997.

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An unparalleled event

Plenty of tournaments have come and gone in the yearly chess schedule, but one that is likely missed the most by fans around the world is the Melody Amber Chess Tournament. The elite event celebrated exactly twenty editions, from 1992 to 2011. It was sponsored by Dutch businessman Joop van Osteroom, who was also a two-time correspondence chess world champion. When the event was created, it was named after the Maecenas' newborn daughter.

The first edition in 1992 was a twelve-player double round-robin. Starting in the second edition, however, it turned into a rapid and blindfold extravaganza. The grandmasters played one rapid game and one blindfold game per day, with a time control of 25 minutes to finish, with 10-second increments in the rapid and 20-second increments in the blindfold. Blindfold games were played in front of empty boards on computer screens, with the players sitting opposite each other nonetheless.

Vassily Ivanchuk was both the winner of the first edition and the only player to participate in all twenty events. The Ukrainian genius also shared first place in the overall standings (rapid plus blindfold) in 2010, when a certain Magnus Carlsen tied with him atop the leader board. The only player to win both sections outright in the same year was Vishy Anand, who did it twice, in 1997 and 2005. Anand won the rapid event the most times (nine), while Vladimir Kramnik got the highest number of wins in blindfold (also nine).

Melody Amber Tournament 1992

The picture above was taken in 1992, at the first Melody Amber Tournament, played in the Vista Palace Hotel. Standing from left to right: Susan Polgar (?), Jon Speelman, Judit Polgar, Bent Larsen, J.J. van Oosterom, Viktor Korchnoi, Lev Polugaevsky, Larry Christiansen, Vishy Anand, Vassily Ivanchuk; squatting: Yasser Seirawan, Mrs van Oosterom, their daughter Melody Amber, Anatoly Karpov, Ljubomir Ljubojevich, Jeroen Piket. 

Besides gathering the strongest players in the world year after year (with the notable exception of Garry Kasparov), the tournament was known for creating a friendly, hospitable environment thanks to the generosity of Mr. van Oosterom.

We could have chosen almost any edition to reminisce on this event, as the excellent conditions provided and the fact that the games were not rated (no list of rapid ratings existed back then) naturally prompted the players to show their creative side. The 2005 tournament, however, allows us to look back on Anand's astounding strength in rapid time controls. As mentioned above, this was the last time a player managed to win both events outright — Anand did it for a second time, and was the only player to ever achieve this feat!

Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo, in the city-state of Monaco, is known for its casino (above), beaches, glamour, and sightings of famous people

Rounds 1-4: Anand cannot stop winning 

Each player faced an opponent twice a day, first in blindfold and later in rapid. Anand wiped out his first three opponents, beating all of them twice for a perfect 6 out of 6 start. The Indian's first rivals were Alexei Shirov, Veselin Topalov and Francisco Vallejo. In round four, he met Kramnik and signed his first draw of the event — Anand defeated ‘Big Vlad’ in the morning's blindfold session and split the point in the afternoon's rapid encounter. 

At that point, Ivanchuk and Alexander Morozevich were sharing second place on 5½ out of 8. In the first four rounds, ‘Moro’ scored a 2:0 win over Evgeny Bareev and lost his mini-match against Peter Leko. Ivanchuk, in the meantime, had not lost any of his two-game confrontations and had only traded wins with Kramnik.

Viswanathan Anand, Veselin Topalov, Vladimir Kramnik

World champions sharing a laugh — Vishy Anand, Veselin Topalov and Vladimir Kramnik

Alexei Shirov, Vassily Ivanchuk

Alexei Shirov facing a comfortable Vassily Ivanchuk in blindfold

Rounds 5-8: Bareev inflicts Anand's single loss

The first rest day was scheduled after round four. Anand was paired up with second-placed Ivanchuk in round five and continued to show he was there to win it by beating his colleague 1½:½ with a victory in the rapid. Anand's first drawn mini-match came the next round, when he split the point twice with Morozevich, while his first and only loss of the tournament was surprisingly seen in the seventh round, when he lost in rapid to tail-ender Bareev. After this loss, the ‘Tiger of Madras’ took down Leko 1½:½, beating him with black in rapid.

Ivanchuk climbed to sole second place after eight rounds, as he was a half point ahead of Morozevich and two-and-a-half points behind the leader. Peter Svidler, Kramnik and Leko shared fourth place on 8½ out of 16.

Vladimir Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand, Evgeny Bareev

Kramnik and Anand analysing with the one player that beat the Indian — Evgeny Bareev

Veselin Topalov, Loek van Wely, Peter Leko

Also going over a game — Veselin Topalov, Loek van Wely and Peter Leko

Rounds 9-11: A winner on all fronts

No one even really threatened to catch Anand. With a mini-match win over Loek van Wely and two draws apiece against Svidler and Boris Gelfand, the Indian star secured first place in both sections. Only in the rapid was his outright first place in doubt, but in the end Morozevich could not catch up and finished a half point behind the champion.

The ever-creative Morozevich ended up in sole second place, while Ivanchuk and Leko shared third place a full point behind the Russian. 

Anand achieved a startling overall performance of 2871.

Viswanathan Anand, Peter Svidler

The tiger could not be tamed — here facing Peter Svidler

Viswanathan Anand, Alexander Morozevich

Fan favourite Alexander Morozevich finished in sole second place!

Hopefully, reminiscing on such an attractive tournament for fans and players alike prompts organizers to create a similar initiative, as there is no elite event that features blindfold chess at the moment — a type of chess that might attract the attention of mainstream media.

And, of course, if that happens, please do invite Ivanchuk and Morozevich!


Final standings - Blindfold

Melody Amber Tournament 2005

Final standings - Rapid

Melody Amber Tournament 2005

Overall standings

Melody Amber Tournament 2005


Master Class Vol. 12: Viswanathan Anand

This DVD allows you to learn from the example of one of the best players in the history of chess and from the explanations of the authors how to successfully organise your games strategically, consequently how to keep your opponent permanently under press


All games - Blindfold

 

All games - Rapid

 

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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