| ANAND: Joint fourth after Round I
Monte Carlo: Viswanthan Anand started his campaign with two exciting draws against Grandmaster Boris Gelfand of Israel in the opening round of the 12th Amber blindfold and rapid chess tournament Sunday.
Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine, Linares champion Peter Leko of Hungary and Bulgarian Veselin Topalov became the early leaders in the tournament with 1.5 points apiece from their first outing in this unique event that has one rapid and one blindfold game in each round.
Russian duo of Vladimir Kramnik and defending champion Alexander Morozevich, Dutch Loek Van Wely, Hungarian Zoltan Almasi, Anand and Gelfand jointly hold the fourth place with one point each while veteran Ljubomir Ljubojevic of Yugoslavia, Russian Evgeny Bareev and Spaniard Alexei Shirov are at the bottom with a half point each.
The blindfold games were played first and Anandís board against Gelfand was the only one to end in a draw despite both the players staring aggressively.
Anand played the Queenís Indian with black and came up with a very interesting piece sacrifice as early as on the 15th move.
Gelfand won the piece on the 19th but had to part with a rook for bishop in the final bargain. The pieces got traded as if in a heap thereafter and it was soon a rook versus two minor pieces endgame on board.
The draw was agreed to on move 36 after Anand swept all white pawns on the king side.
The rapid game was also not devoid of action as the Indian embarked on the English attack against the Sicilian Nazdorf.
Gelfand was pushed to the wall after some lacklustre play but saved himself by the skin of his teeth in the ensuing rook and opposite colour bishops endgame where he had a pawn less.
The game took final shape in the bishops ending and Gelfandís king came to the defence just in time to get the half point. The game lasted 59 moves.
Amongst the first round winners, Leko was most impressive as he made mince-meat of Bareev in the Winawer variation of the French Defence in the blindfold game and then warded off the Russianís threat skilfully to manage a draw in the rapid game.
Van Wely surprised Morozevich in the blindfold to score a fantastic victory but was battered in the rapid to reach an even score while top seeded Kramnik lost unexpectedly against Almasi in the rapid after a display of his technical prowess in the blindfold.
Blindfold: Gelfand (Isr) drew Anand (Ind), Almasi (Hun) lost to Kramnik (Rus), Van Wely (Hol) bt Morozevich (Rus), Ljubojevic (Yug) lost to Ivanchuk (Ukr), Topalov (Bul) bt Shirov (Spa), Leko (Hun) bt Bareev (Rus).
Rapid: Anand drew Gelfand, Kramnik lost to Almasi, Morozevich bt Van Wely, Ivanchuk drew Ljubojevic, Shirov drew Topalov, Bareev drew Leko.
Standings: 1-3: Ivanchuk, Leko, Topalov 1.5 each; 4-9: Anand, Kramnik, Almasi, Van Wely, Morozevich, Gelfand 1 each; 10-12: Bareev, Ljubojevic, Shirov 0.5 each.