Blindfold chess[ edit ]

Blindfold Chess is a way to play chess, whereby play is conducted without the players having sight of the positions of the pieces.

Blindfold chess was first played quite early on in the history of chess, with perhaps the first game being played by Sa´id bin Jubair (665-714) in the Middle East. In Europe, playing chess blindfold became popular as a means of handicapping a chess master when facing a weaker opponent, or of simply displaying one´s superior abilities. The great French player Philidor was able to play up to three blindfold games simultaneously with great success, having taught himself to visualize the board while in bed at night when he had trouble sleeping. In 1858, the legendary Paul Morphy held a simultaneous blindfold exhibition against the eight strongest players in Paris with the stunning result of 6 wins and 2 draws.

As time went by the records for Blindfold exhibitions increased. In 1900 Pillsbury played 20 games simultaneously in Philadelphia; not long after having attempted the unusual feat of playing fifteen chess and fifteen checkers games simultaneously (the record for Blindold checkers being 28 simultaneous games). The Czechoslovakian player Richard Réti and Russian World Champion Alexander Alekhine were the next to significantly further the record, with Alekhine playing 28 players in February of 1925 with the impressive result of 22 wins, 3 draws and 3 losses. In the same year, Réti bettered this record by playing 29 players simultaneously in Sao Paulo and amusingly commented on his poor memory after leaving his briefcase behind after the event.

While blindfold chess has been recommended in moderation by many sources as a method of increasing one´s playing strength, simultaneous blindfold exhibitions were officially banned in 1930 in the USSR as they were deemed to be a health hazard. This regulation somewhat slowed progression of the record, however in 1939 a number of the top chess players were stranded in Argentina when World War II broke out during the chess olympiad. One such player was the Polish master Miguel Najdorf and in 1943 he set a new simultaneous blindfold record of 40 opponents in an effort to gain sufficient publicity to communicate to his family that he was still alive. Evidently possessing quite a skill for this form of the game, he increased this record to 45 opponents in Sao Paolo in 1947, with the result of 39 wins, 4 draws and 2 losses. Today this feat is considered the most impressive in the history of simultaneous blindfold games. The last increase in the record was achieved by the Hungarian Janos Flesch in Budapest in 1960, playing 52 opponents and winning 31 games, with 3 draws and 18 losses. However, this record attempt has been somewhat sullied by the fact that Flesch was permitted to verbally recount the scores of the games in progress. One other notable blindfold record was set in 1960 by the blindfold specialist George Koltanowski in San Francisco, when he played 56 consecutive blindfold games at a rate of 10 seconds a move. The exhibition lasted 9 hours with the result of 50 wins and 6 losses. Koltanowski´s specialty was conducting a Blindfold Knight%27s Tour on boards of up to 192 squares.

Today there are Blindfold Chess Tournaments held throughout the year, with the highest profile event being the Melody Amber Tournament, held in Monte Carlo. This event is partly funded by the billionaire Correspondence Chess Champion Joop van Oosterom and attracts many of the world´s chess elite to compete in unique circumstances. Of the modern day players, Alexander Morozevich and Viswanathan Anand have proven themselves to be particularly strong at Blindfold Chess, winning the 2004 and 2005 Amber Tournaments respectively.

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article No 595 / last change on 2005-06-30, 01:28pm

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