Interesting facts about “blind” chess

Posted on Jul 21, 2021      16

Many experienced chess players with an excellent memory can play chess “blind”. During the game, they do not look at the board, remembering all the moves, both their own and the opponent. And some even play simultaneous games against several opponents, which is not only a great way to train your memory but also, according to doctors, to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

The known Arab philosopher Sukolker Muhhamed mentioned in one of his treatises of XIII century about the poet al-Ajali from the city of Khaleb (now Aleppo), who could not only write poems but also play a game of “blind” chess simultaneously.

One of the great lovers of chess, including “blind”. Was the famous Italian Galileo Galilei. He kept an interest in chess till the end of his days, but when he was 76 years old, he complained that his memory failed him, and he could not play the game the way he used to without looking at the board.

In XVIII century the Frenchman Francois-André Philidor could play “blind” chess on three boards at once, and the newspapers of that time wrote about it with admiration. By the way, one of the chess openings was called “Filidor’s Defence”. 

In the thirties of the nineteenth century, one of the strongest chess players in Great Britain was Alexander Mcdonnell.. He was so enthusiastic about playing “blind” that in one of his interviews, he jokingly said that, in his opinion, the major disadvantage of playing chess was the board and the pieces.

The famous English organist of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Walter Parratt, besides music, was also interested in chess. And he successfully combined both activities - for example, he could perform works by Bach and play a “blind” game of chess.

At the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, Russian Grandmaster Alexander Alekhine played a game of “blind” chess on 32 boards at once. The results were impressive - 19 wins, 9 draws and only four defeats. Friends of Alekhine claimed that in normal life, the grandmaster did not have a phenomenal memory. For example, he searched his pockets for a long time, trying to find his points. But he could remember the course of any game he had ever played.

It took just four years, and Alekhine’s record was broken. In Edinburgh, Scotland, the Polish chess player Jerzy Koltanowski played against 34 opponents. He won 24 games and draw 10 more. The session lasted for almost 14 hours. Koltanowski cheered himself up with hot milk and smoking cigars. After the session, the organizers gave him a rather large, for that time, fee - £1,000.

The record for the number of simultaneous blind games was set in 1960 by Hungary’s Janos Flesch, who played on 52 boards at once. Flès sat with his back to his rivals and dictated his moves into a microphone. He lost only three games and had 31 victories. The remaining 18 fights ended in a draw. It is interesting that at that time, the Hungarian was only 27 years old.

The first World Cup in “blind” chess was held in 2007 in Bilbao. Six masters took part in it, and the winner was the Chinese grandmaster Bu Xiangzhi.