CHESS

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

BLIND­FOLD play without sight of the board and pieces has in­trigued spec­ta­tors for cen­turies. The ex­po­nent re­lies on spe­cialised chess mem­ory and com­ple­men­tary at­tributes such as imagination and con­cen­tra­tion.

In the 18th cen­tury, France’s lead­ing player, Fran­cois-An­dre Dan­i­can Phili­dor, played two games si­mul­ta­ne­ously without sight of the board, an event seem­ingly so un­be­liev­able that wit­nesses were asked to sign af­fi­davits at­test­ing to his feat.

In the 19th cen­tury, Amer­i­can chess phe­nom­e­non Paul Mor­phy took on the eight strong­est Parisians in an en­gage­ment last­ing more than 10 hours. He de­feated six and drew with the other two. A jour­nal­ist waxed lyri­cal, writ­ing that Mor­phy had proved him­self su­pe­rior to Cae­sar, in that he came, he did not see, he con­quered.

There was a quan­tum leap in the num­ber of blind­fold games played si­mul­ta­ne­ously in the 20th cen­tury. World records were es­tab­lished and bro­ken, though the strength of the op­po­si­tion af­fected the in­trin­sic mer­its of the per­for­mances. World cham­pion Alexan­der Alekhine capped his two ear­lier dis­plays by play­ing 32 op­po­nents (score +19 =9 -4) at the world ex­hi­bi­tion in Chicago in 1933, in a ses­sion last­ing 12 hours.

Ge­orge Koltanowski played 34 blind­fold games si­mul­ta­ne­ously (score +24 = 10) at Ed­in­burgh in 1937, over nearly 14 hours with three short breaks.

Miguel Na­j­dorf lifted this to 45 (re­sult +39 =4 -2) at a demon­stra­tion at Sao Paulo, Ar­gentina, in 1947, last­ing nearly 24 hours.

Janos Flesch played 52 op­po­nents (score

Spassky v Pet­rosian: White to play and win +31 =18 -3) at Bu­dapest in 1961, re­port­edly over only 12 hours, at­tempt­ing to set a new record, which has been dis­puted.

There is a gen­eral be­lief that the in­ten­sive, pro­longed con­cen­tra­tion re­quired for th­ese dis­plays is detri­men­tal to health. But it has been sug­gested that, played in mod­er­a­tion, blind­fold games can im­prove vi­su­al­i­sa­tion.

Dur­ing his pro­fes­sional ca­reer, Aus­tralian grand­mas­ter Ian Rogers gave many dis­plays of mul­ti­ple game blind­fold chess.

The blind­fold, rapid-play Am­ber tour­na­ment, held an­nu­ally in Europe, re­quires games to be played quickly but not si­mul­ta­ne­ously. A new trea­tise on the sub­ject is

by Eliot Hearst and John Knott. The women’s world team cham­pi­onship

C. Mans­field: White mates in two in Ningbo, China, was nar­rowly won by China on 21.5/36, ahead of Rus­sia 21 and Ukraine 20.5.

Next year’s Aus­tralian Cham­pi­onship and as­so­ci­ated events will take place at Norths Club, Cam­meray, Syd­ney, in Jan­uary. More: www.aus­tralianchess­cham­pi­onship.com.

Last week’s so­lu­tions: (1) 1.Ng5! (not 1.b7+? Qxa5+ 2.Rd2+ Kc7 3.bxa8=Q Qxa8 4.Rd7+ Kxc6 5.Rxe7 Qa1+ 6.Ke2 Qb2+ and black wins) 1 . . . Qxg5 2.Rh8+ Ng8 3.Rxg8+ Qxg8 4.b7+ Ke7 5.Bd8+! Qxd8 6.c7!, and white forces a draw. (2) Key 1.Qc6, threat 2.Qd6#. If 1 . . . N(d5)f6 2.Ne2#, or 1 . . . N(d5)c3 2.Ne6#, or 1 . . . N(d5) ran­dom 2.Qe4#, or 1 . . . g4 2.Qh6#, or 1 . . . N(e7)xc6 2.Rxf5#, 1 . . . Bxd4+ Rxd4#. Phil Viner

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