• jennifervallens

Blindfold Chess: Chess played in the Mind’s Eye

https://www.timurgareyev.com/world-record-eventChess has been known as a game that requires critical thinking and intense focus and calculation. Many say playing it is an exercise in visualization and pattern recognition. Blindfold Chess is the act of playing chess without sight of the board or pieces. Moves are communicated verbally through chess notation. You may wonder how that is even possible. Even for the many who have witnessed a blindfold chess exhibition, they still find this ability an extraordinary feat. To play one game blindfolded is already impressive, but what about playing multiple boards simultaneously? How does someone remember the chess piece positions of multiple games without ever looking at the board?


One interesting finding by psychologists is that many blindfold chess masters report that what they visualize are not even images of chess pieces on the chessboard, but rather abstract images.


Alfred Binet was a French psychologist who invented the first practical (IQ) intelligence test. Binet was interested in the connection between chess and mathematics and conducted extensive research on Blindfold Chess and how it relates to memory. He found that being able to play Blindfold chess was not a matter of having a photographic memory, but rather those good at Blindfold Chess were using more efficient ways of storing the positions in their minds.


One of his subjects, Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch explained that basically some part of every chess game is played blindfolded. Strong chess players play out a combination of five or more moves in their head. The sight of the whole board can even interfere with their calculations. Advanced chess players remember and visualize meaningful patterns via a process called “chunking” instead of positions of individual pieces on the board. Chunking reduces the complexity of a position and allows a chess player to reconstruct a game or position with ease. (Source: http://www.chessmaniac.com/alfred-binet-and-chess/)


A sample of a chunk or cluster would be; a castled king with three pawns in front of it and a knight in front of the pawns might constitute one cluster, while an isolated pawn blockaded by a bishop might constitute another. This method of recalling information in chunks can be seen as a form of shorthand.


What is essential to playing Blindfold Chess is the proficient knowledge of the board. One must master the coordinates and color of each square on the board, as well as the intersecting squares and colors of the diagonals. This has to be second nature before any attempt is made at Blindfold Chess.


If you want to improve your blindfold chess playing abilities, there is a website that can assist you with this. http://www.blindfoldchesstrainer.com/blindfoldtrainer.php

Even though you can improve your visualization by playing Blindfold Chess, it can be extremely taxing on your overall health. You need to be in top physical and mental health to successfully play multiple blindfold chess games.


If the history and psychology of Blindfold Chess is interesting to you, check out www.blindfoldchess.net/



Blindfold Chess Player extraordinaire, GM Timur Gareyev broke the GUINNESS WORLD RECORD for blindfold chess. He played 48 chess games blindfolded simultaneously. He won 83% of his games. Read more about this event HERE

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