Kindred’s Special: A Visit with Blindfold Chess

From earliest recorded times, board games like chess and checkers has been the attraction of audiences whereever such spectacles have been organized and history shows the beautiful games that emerge from the wits of the immortals.  To the public who may find a work here or there, usually through the written word in newspapers of the day, such a display of brilliant combinations and mating attacks was a crowd pleaser.  As world blindfold champion George Koltanowski writes in his excellect book, In The Dark, “This natural interest in the spectacular is nowhere so well reflected as in the long history of blindfold chess.”

Blindfold exhibitions have been recorded before modern rules or manner of such play was known.  In 970 A.D. Joseph Tchelebi, a Greek traveler, astounded the players in Tripoli with his ability to play without sight of the board or pieces. He had been to India, Persia, and throughout the Near East giving such exhibitions of his play.

In 1266, a famous Saracen player named Buzeccia was invited to Florence, Italy by Count Popoli to display his chess prowess without viewing the board or pieces. He played 3 games, two blindfold and one with sight. He won two games and drew one to the applause of the guests present.

Carrera, in his work on chess printed in 1617 in Sicily, noted the names of Mangiolini, Zerone, Medrano and Ruy Lopez as superb blindfold artists.

The modern chess blindfold exhibitions in part show the accomplishments among many well known players– Morphy (8); Zukertort (16); Pillsbury (22); Reti (24); Breyer (25); Alekhine (28 and 29); Reti (29); Koltanowski (30); Alekhine (32); Koltanowski (34); Najdorf (45) claimed; Flesch (52).

Fast forward to the Rochester Chess Club.  Ken Rogoff  played a 10 game blindfold simultaneous against most of the best local players one Saturday with 9-wins and 1-loss to me.

Dave Love and I played  a number of blindfold games against each other and can attest to what George Koltanowski wrote in his book that playing blindfold chess increased the skill for critical thinking in demanding resourceful play and sharpening the visualization of what I have called jump moves.

At a five board blindfold exhibition at the Wayne Chess Club, I played the following game:

1. e4  c6  2. Nc3  d5  3. Nf3 dxe4  4. Nxe4 Nf6  5. Qe2  Nbd7???  6. Nd6 checkmate.

This trappy idea of Qe2 has been played numerous times in different or similar ways. It points to some of my previous lectures on squares, having King mobility and art for castling early to avoid getting the King trapped in the center and or elimination of freedom to move.

Actually my opponent was not a bad player. But he said he simply was playing by rote and not thinking.  Always have a plan in mind and watch out for checks.

The blindfold player often collects a mental record of classic games. This often brings about repeats or a variation of a thought. Note my comments that history has a high repeat ratio. Here maestro Koltanowski versus Dunkelblum displays what I often dream about but never achieve.

1. e4  c6  2. d4  d5  3. Nc3  dxe4  4. Nxe4  Bf5  5. Bd3.

Often, the blitz and blindfold artists will surrender a bit of material for open lines and freer development.

5. …. Qxd4  6. Nf3  Qd8  7. Qe2  Nf6  8. Nxf6 check gxf6  9. Bxf5  Qa5 check.

No doubt Black was feeling pretty good using this bank shot to regain material.

10. Bd2  Qxf5  11.  O-O-O Qe6  12. Qd3  Qxa2.

Often times the player has false assurance that the game is in the bag because of his opponent not having sight of the playground.  This proves an asset as this game illustrates the folly of such pawn grabbing. DEVELOP, DEVELOP, DEVELOP.  He should have played Nd7. The position is now identical  to Reti vs. Tartakower which arose out of a French Defence.

13. Qd8 check!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Kxd8  14. Ba5 double-check  Kc8  15. Rd8 checkmate.


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