Eliot Hearst and John Knott blog about blindfold chess
Sunday, May 10, 2009

Grandmaster Blindfold Ratings, 2008

When I was a spectator at the 16th combined blindfold-and-rapid Amber tourney held in Nice in March of 2008, I became acquainted with Geurt Gijssen of the Netherlands, who has been either one of the main arbiters or the main arbiter at all16 of these events. He mentioned that he had recently calculated individual ratings for the blindfold half of the Amber tourneys since their inception in 1993, but had not published them. A few months afterwards he graciously sent me a copy of these ratings, which included results from the 2008 event, and he mentioned that I could publish them if they seemed to be of general interest. They arrived too late for inclusion in our book, but I thought many chess aficianados would still like to see them. A description of the specific conditions or rules for the blindfold games, played with individual computers and no visible positions, as well as a list of all the winners since 1993 and some of the games, can be found in our book on pages 141-146 and in the games section.

GM Levon Aronian of Armenia won the 2008 event, scoring 6.5 points out of 11 in the blindfold half and 8 out of 11 in the rapid half, outdistancing those finishing second by 2.5 points when the two scores were combined (14.5 total points). In the blindfold half he was tied at 6.5 points with GMs Kramnik, Morozevich, and Topalov, and he suffered no losses in a blindfold game. The following ratings do not include this year’s tourney, held just over a month ago, which was again won by Aronian, scoring 7 points out of 11 in both the blindfold half and the rapid half. However, his 14 total points placed him only 0.5 points ahead of the second-place finishers this time! He lost only one blindfold game, whereas all the other participants lost at least two. His total blindfold score was tied by GMs Carlsen and Kramnik.

In Gijssen’s rating calculations he used as a starting point the “normal” FIDE rating that a player had achieved in regular tournaments just before the beginning of his or her first Amber blindfold tourney. This seems reasonable, but a critic might argue that blindfold chess is a different variety of chess from regular chess and using regular FIDE chess ratings gives the highest ranked players a rating advantage to begin with. An alternative might be to have all players start with the same rating, say 2650. However, it is unlikely that the below rankings would be very much different if this second method had been used.

Thirty-seven players played in the 16 events that were taken into consideration in calculating the blindfold ratings. However, some players played in only one or very few of the Amber tourneys. GM Ivanchuk is the only player who competed in every single one of them. Below we list the 2008 blindfold ratings achieved by players who participated in at least three of the events, since scores in only one or two events may not be too meaningful statistically. (Unfortunately, this eliminates powerful young players like Carlsen, Karjakin, and Radjabov, whose first Amber tourneys were in 2007 or 2008.)

1. Morozevich 2811
2. Kramnik 2809
3. Anand 2761
4-5. Aronian 2744
4-5. Svidler 2744
6-7. Leko 2735
6-7. Topalov 2735
8. Shirov 2734
9. Ivanchuk 2707
10. Kamsky 2705
11. Gelfand 2686
12. Karpov 2681
13. Bareev 2667
14. Lautier 2662
15. Almasi 2656
16. Vallejo 2653
17. van Wely 2631
18. Nikolic 2630
19. Piket 2629
20. Polgar, J. 2612
21. Ljubojevic 2579

So far as I know, GM Kasparov is the only top player to refuse all invitations to the Amber tourneys. He said he wanted to stay “mentally well” and was apparently anxious about “going mad” if he played blindfold chess seriously (see pages 126-127 of our book for more discussion of Kasparov’s refusals).

It is interesting to note that the top ranked players in regular chess are clearly also the ones who do best in blindfold chess. Perhaps some reader would like to examine the average ratings of the above players since 1993 in regular chess and see how closely they correlate with their blindfold ratings.

Permalink  |  Posted by Eliot Hearst at 03:58 PM


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