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Hearst, Knott - Blindfold Chess (2009)


Preface and Acknowledgments:
The ability to play chess without sight of the chessboard or pieces is a notable achievement of human memory and imaging. It becomes even more impressive when the player conducts 10 or more such "blindfold" games simultaneously against opponents who do have real chessboards and pieces in front of them. When Philidor played two blindfold games at once in the eighteenth century, eyewitnesses were asked to swear affidavits attesting to this remarkable accomplishment. After such a performance in London in 1782, The World called it "a phenomenon in the history of man" and added that the feat "should be hoarded among the best examples of human memory, till memory shall be no more." But 150 years later, Alexander Alekhine successfully played 32 blindfold games simultaneously, and newspapers described the performance as surely reaching "the limit of the possibilities of the human mind and human memory in this field; beyond this limit there can be nothing but chaos, and madness begins." However, Alekhine's record has been broken more than once since then.
Despite the lack of restraint in these journalistic evaluations and predictions, such exploits have certainly created great interest among chess players as well as others who become aware of them—like Alfred Binet, the great psychologist who wrote a book on simultaneous blindfold chess more than 100 years ago, to which we will often refer. But no book has ever been published that tries to analyze in detail the history and psychological significance of blindfold chess and that supplies a very large number of the most important, newsworthy, and interesting games played without sight of the board (some flawless gems and others not). Our hope is to fill these gaps in the chess literature.
Besides those goals, we also describe the well-publicized tournaments held annually since 1993 in Monaco between grandmasters who are both playing blindfolded. This double-blind type of event is more common now than are attempts by one person to play many games simultaneously against opponents with sight of their board and pieces. And no book has really stressed the virtues of learning to play blindfolded, in terms of its practical advantages for the improving chess player. Almost anyone who is a fairly strong amateur can easily learn to play at least one or two games without sight of the board.
Blindfold chess whiz George Koltanowski believed that practice at developing such an ability improves one's regular game more than does studying books, and Grandmaster Lev Alburt stated that "visualization" is the key to success in regular chess. Susan Polgar, a women's world champion, who began playing blindfold chess at the age of six, credits it with giving ...

"Blindfold Chess: History, Psychology, Techniques, Champions, World Records, and Important Games"
©2009 Eliot Hearst and John Knott

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