Blindfold Chess is a type of chess where the players are not able to see the positions of the pieces on the board, and do not physically touch them. The players are therefore required to maintain a mental model of the entire board, along with the changing of the pieces at each turn. The moves are all communicated through chess notation, which the players can refer back to.
Because of these intense constraints, it’s considered to require a genius level photographic memory to compete in Blindfold Chess, as it requires an incredible memory while still implementing strategy to hopefully win the chess game. Usually an intermediary is present for this game to let each of the players know how which moves are being made.
Blindfold chess originated from the Middle Ages, and the rules of the game were never formally recorded. Its origins are thought to have stemmed from the Middle East and Asia, as a way to handicap local chess masters to try and prove just how talented at the game they really were.
Blindfold Chess continued to evolve and spread throughout Europe over the following centuries, but it really grew exponentially in popularity at the turn of the 20th century. In the year 1900, it was recorded that a chess grandmaster by the name of Harry Nelson Pillsbury managed to play 20 games of Blindfold Chess at the same time in Philadelphia. He’s also famous for attempting to play 15 games of checkers and 15 games of chess at the same time as well. These records were eventually furthered by Czech and Russian champions Richard Reti and Alexander Alekhine.
Moving into the 1920s, the first instance of a mass Blindfold Chess tournament was recorded at the Almac Hotel of New York City in 1924. In this tournament, Alexander Alekhine competed against Isaac Kashdan and Hermann Steiner, among other talented opponents. He ended with a final score of 16 wins, 5 losses, and 5 draws, with a new record total of 26 blindfold games.
Ten years later in 1934, Alekhine set another impressive record with 32 blindfold games that took place simultaneously, winning 19 of them, having draws for nine of them, and only losing four of them. This made big waves in the entire chess world at the time, and really ignited interest in following this sport and future competitions.
Three years later, the world record that lasted the longest amount of time was finally achieved by George Koltanowski in Edinburgh, Scotland, who played 34 concurrent chess games, winning 24, and losing the other 10, all within a 13 hour period. This was the first Blindfold Chess record recorded in the Guinness Book Of World Records.
How To Train For Blindfold Chess
Step 1: Prepare
The first step in preparing to play Blindfold Chess is going to be finding someone that most closely understands the pieces and their movement on the board. This way, once you become familiar with the proper placements of the pieces, you can mix up the placements on your own game board.
Step 2: Become Fluent in Chess Notation
The next step would be to have one person give voice commands for where each piece should move, and also make sure all of your moves are verbalized so that each player knows which piece is moving at which time.
To do this, you’ll have to know chess notation (the names of the squares) like the back of your hand. You won’t be able to keep track of every piece on the board if you have to think for a couple seconds on where the piece in located on the board.
One way that helped me comprehend the board squares faster was to play regular chess and verbally say the name of the square I’m moving to for every piece. So I would mumble under my breath, “pawn to E4” if I played that move. Saying it out loud will help you memorize the squares faster.
Step 3: Practice Without The Board
The last step in training would be to perform the game without a chess board, and do all of your moves in your head. This will truly help you to find out if you have what it takes to play Blindfold Chess or not.
How To Memorize The Chess Board
Once you’ve become quite familiar with the positions of the pieces on your board, you’ll want to memorize their placements. This is going to be your key to making sure that you don’t make a mistake in any moves. There are a few different ways that people have approached the problem of memorizing the chess board, but one of them will work just fine for most people.
The first way is a method called “squinting” or “straining”. The idea is to squint, or strain your eyes to try and find the pieces in your mind, without actually having them there. This will help you more easily remember where everything is on the board, which will make it easier for you to play with a blindfold on later.
The next approach is called “the phenomenological method”. In this method, you’re going to make yourself memorize the position of all of the pieces by imagining where they are on the board while making up your own unique names for each one of them. This method is going to help you come up with your own order for the orders of the pieces, and also help you remember better where each one is at when talking about them.
The last way that people have gone about memorizing the chess board is by using a “memory palace” technique.
The basic idea behind this approach is that you’re going to create a mental “palace” full of different locations, such as a church, a house or an office. Then, in each of these rooms, you’re going to place each piece on a certain object.
This approach may take a bit longer to come up with, but after that it’ll be easy to remember the pieces and their positions for quite some time afterwards.
Master Basic Theory
Some other techniques that you can use for both Blindfold Chess and regular games of chess include:
1. Practice Opening Move Theories
The first thing you’re going to want to do is look at the opening move theory of both the white and black player. Spending a lot of your time, if not all of your time, doing this will allow you to do anything that they’ve done in games before. From there, you can try and piece together possible moves that they might do against each other based on what they’ve done in the past.
For more information, see the complete guide on chess openings.
2. Practice Endgame Theories
After that, you’re going to want to start trying to piece together possible endgame theories. You can do this by talking with people you know who play chess, and also doing online research.
This will help you more easily tell where the end game of a game is at, and how the pieces are likely moving based on where they are at in the end of a game.
By studying all of the most common endgame theories, you can start to strategize how you’ll try to win the game without needing to see the board in front of you.
3. Focus On The Colors Of The Squares
Another thing you’re going to want to do is focus on the colors of the squares when you’re playing. This may take a bit of time, especially if you don’t play chess very often, but it’s going to help you get used to each square and how pieces move over them.
If you have a chess board in front of you, then try and picture where each piece is as well as possible while just looking at the board. Once this becomes easy for you, then try and play games without actually having one in front of you.
4. Practice Diligently With Friends And A Computer
You’re going to want to make the most of all of the things you can do at your disposal. In order for this to work, though, it’s going to be helpful if you have a friend or computer that you can play against. Then, you can progress through this list of games more easily and quickly by trying it on your own first before playing against someone else.
There are special computer programs that will keep a ledger of your moves like in a real life Blindfold Test tournament, and will have varying degrees of difficulty so that you can practice at any speed you need to.
5. Start Small With Single Games
If you want to get the most out of this, then you’re going to need to start small. You can start by playing against another person or computer for just one game. Then, you keep going until you’ve reached a point where your skills are getting better and better.
If this seems too much for you at first, then try reducing it down even further. It can be easy to want to compete how champions do with multiple games at once, but you’re going to want to gain confidence in the mental model of the board first before getting involved in multiple games.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is blindfold chess dangerous?
There’s no reason why playing Chess blindfold would be dangerous. It would only be dangerous to your self-esteem as the odds of you losing are increased by default unless you’re a higher rated player.
Can all grandmasters play blindfold?
Every grandmaster can play Chess blindfold. Not only GM’s, but FM’s and IM’s can play chess without having to see the board as well.
Are there any blind chess masters?
There are highly rated Chess players that are blind. Darpan Inani is one example. He’s visually impaired and is the highest rated blind chess player in India with an elo of around 2100.
How long does it take to learn blindfold chess?
You can learn how to do it within about 6 months of playing every day. The more you play and study chess, the faster the chess notation will come to you.
How do you play blindfold chess against a computer?
You can play blindfold chess on Chess.com. It has a great feature that hides all of the pieces on the board and just tells you the chess notation, the moves being played. And of course, you can play this way against any of their many computer powered players.
Once you’ve reached a point where you feel confident with the core skills, then you can start to practice under pressure and learn some of the advanced techniques. This is the stage where your skills are refined like a diamond. If you continue to practice for hours on end, then your game is going to start improving at an exponential rate.
Chess in general is an extremely mentally taxing sport, playing without seeing the board just adds on to the complexity. But it isn’t impossible by any means. Mental training is essential for improving at blindfold chess because it allows you to train your mind to control your emotions and thoughts, which is something chess players get extremely good at.
I hope guide on blindfold chess help you. If you liked this post, you may also like the other posts on Chess strategy.