Amber Blindfold and Rapid Chess Tournament

Posted on 2022-09-21 by Odin Chess
Updated on 2022-09-21
Blindfold Chess
Amber Blindfold and Rapid Chess Tournament logo on a chess themed background

These days it is rare for us to see top players compete against one another in blindfold chess tournaments. Despite being an impressive feat, and an essential skill that every great chess player must develop, blindfold chess is generally treated as an oddity and relegated to exhibitions. But it wasn't long ago that an important annual tournament, attended by all the greatest chess players, included blindfold chess as part of its round robin structure.

It was called the Amber Chess tournament, and it was first held in February 1992 in France. The structure of the original tournament was a double round robin of rapid chess, with the winner taking home US$20,000 of the US$100,000 prize money. Viswanathan Anand won the first round robin, and was undefeated, with a score of 8/11, followed by Vassily Ivanchuk with 7.5 points. In the second half of the event, Victor Korchnoi was the most successful with 7/11. Anand dropped three matches (including his last round game against Larsen), allowing Ivanchuk to pull ahead in the very final match with an overall score of 14/22. Anand ranked second with 13.5 points while Karpov, Korchnoi, and Ljubojević tied for third place at 12.5/22 games each. It is also worth noting that one of the competitors at the first Amber tournament was 15-year-old Judit Polgar, who finished 10th.

From the second annual event onwards, the structure was changed. Instead of two rapid round robins, the players would compete in one rapid round robin and one blindfold round robin. This new format made Amber a truly unique event, and one of the most anticipated tournaments on the chess calendar.

The tournament was named after its main sponsor, Dutch businessman Joop van Oosterom's daughter Amber. Throughout the 20 years that the tournament was held, it switched back and forth several times between Monaco and France.

Alas, all great things must come to an end, and in 2011 the final Amber tournament was held. It was won by Levon Aronian, who had previously won both the 2008 and 2009 Amber tournaments as well. He managed to score 15.5/22 points, a full point ahead of second place finisher Magnus Carlsen. Vishy Anand, who was world champion at the time, came third with 13 points. Interestingly this ordering was an inversion of their FIDE ratings at the time, with Anand, Carlsen, and Aronian occupying the top spots with elos of 2817, 2815, and 2808, respectively.

Also in the final year's lineup were all the greatest names in chess at the time (with the exception of Gary Kasparov who refused to attend the tournament every year). The lineup was as follows:

  • Anand, Viswanathan - 2817

  • Carlsen, Magnus - 2815

  • Aronian, Levon - 2808

  • Kramnik, Vladimir - 2785

  • Ivanchuk, Vassily - 2779

  • Karjakin, Sergey - 2776

  • Topalov, Veselin - 2775

  • Nakamura, Hikaru - 2774

  • Grischuk, Alexander - 2747

  • Gashimov, Vugar - 2746

  • Gelfand, Boris - 2733

  • Giri, Anish - 2690

You can watch a video of the players arriving at the final Amber tournament below:

For a few years, the Amber Chess Tournament was the premier event on the chess calendar, and its blindfold round was always the highlight. It was a truly unique event, and one that will be remembered fondly by all who witnessed it. While we may never see another tournament like Amber, we can still be impressed and inspired by the skill and dedication of the chess players who competed there.

If you want to develop your blindfold chess skills to the point that you might one day be able to play in a blindfold chess tournament against the greats, check out our blindfold chess training game.

A hand drawn image of the Norse God Odin playing chess
Odin Chess
The Odin Chess team is composed of several members. We have various levels of chess skill, from beginner to expert, but are united by our love of chess. Writing blog entries is a team effort, and each blog entry is written with the intent of helping our users improve their chess abilities.