Secrets of a Blindfolded Grandmaster Vagabond
By GM Timur Gareyev   
September 21, 2015
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Every chess player plays blindfold chess. Before you play your move, you consider multiple possibilities for you and your opponent. You do that without moving the pieces. Thus you contemplate the positions ahead of time "blindfolded."

I attempted playing blindfold chess as a child. However the first time I faced multiple opponents was in spring 2012. I decided to play blindfolded against four players of about 1200 average strength. Find the full exhibition with introduction from US Chess Events Director and International Arbiter Franc Guadalupe on YouTube.

As I started off, it was a challenge to remember the opening moves. Toward the middlegame, the positions would settle down in my mind and the rest would become a "matter of technique."

My own simultaneous blindfold exhibition record is 20 boards, hosted at Lone Star Cyfair College in Cypress, TX. I played 27 games in Hawaii and 33 games in St. Louis where 3 groups of players joined the match in stages an hour or two appart from each other. The process was adopted in order to speed up the event. The Saint Louis event took around 10.5 hours including a couple breaks.
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As I contemplated my experience of blindfold chess journey, I set my mind on setting the world record. Currently the world records belong to FM Marc Lang & GM Miguel Najdorf, 46 and 45 games played blindfolded respectively. Marc played the most games and Najdorf achieved the most wins. My goal is to beat their records facing 50 opponents simulataneously. Having played over 30 blindfold events, I realize that the challenge lies in both the performance and organizational aspects of the event. 

My goal is to win 40 out of 50 games within a 24 hour period. I am sure that will be tough in such a big simul, though I currently believe my overall average win rate is over 90%.
 
To further hone my blindfold skills, I have been playing small 10-15 person events all around the world.  My recent and upcoming event destinations include Germany, Iceland, Boston MA, Lindsborg, KS, Cupertino CA , Portland OR, Houston TX, Oklahoma City OK, Nashville TN, Fort Collins CO and Chicago, IL.  I have been working closely with Jennifer Vallens (www.offdarook.com) to book these events on my Blindfold Chess Tour.   A listing of upcoming events can be found at www.blindfoldking.com/upcoming-events.

I am particularly excited about an event I have with the Chicago Area chapter of Mensa coming up on Oct 30, 2015 at their annual HalloweeM conference.   I have partnered with Off da Rook and the Chicago Area chapter of Mensa for this event and will be attempting to set the world record at the same event next year.  We are currently working on several other events and hope to broaden our partnership with Mensa to include other annual Mensa gaming conventions around the US.  I will be delighted to see you join my blindfold exhibition match at this year's HalloweeM conference: http://www.blindfoldking.com/blindfold-match-registration

As I undertook this blindfold chess journey I came across "In the Dark" or "Adventures of a Chess Master" by George Koltanowski signed by GK himself. Considering my new found love for travelling I was impressed with Koltanowski's achievements. George got a chance to explore the world inspiring people through the game of blindfold chess. One challenge George mastered to perfection is the "Knight's Tour." The idea is to travel with one knight all around the board hitting every square only once.. blindfolded. Not only that but for every square the audience beforehand gets to pick a city or a famous place. George would examine the board and within a few moments put the blindfold on and go through every square naming the cities. In his most challenging attempt GK did this with three boards simultaneously!

So how do you develop this mysterious sounding "photographic memory" to play blindfold chess? I believe blindfold chess ability is often a by-product of becoming stronger at chess. Here are a few pointers on getting better:

  • Use meditation and harmonious breathing techniques. 
  • As you study a position, work on calculating and visualizing the desired outcome without moving the pieces. 
  • Read chess books trying to get as far through the variations as you can.

There have been many cool ideas and realizations along my journey. For example we played a tandem blindfold exhibition match in Bavaria together with Marc Lang. One interesting coincidence is that Marc lives and set the world record right next to where my sister and brother-in-law live! Together we faced 7 players simultaneously which set a new record, which previously belonged to Alekhine & Koltanowski playing vs. 6 opponents. At one point during the match we held exact same posture with our hands over our heads. I imagine we we were thinking about the same position at the same time!?

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As I travel, people ask me where I live. I have several chess-in-school programs I am working to develop around the US namely in Lindsborg, KS, Las Vegas, and Austin. Other than that I do not pay rent and instead I travel full-time. It's amazing to visit new places for chess and for fun.

Recently I met Portland chess community who challenged me at a blindfold exhibition match. Here are a couple cool games from the event:



This was the toughest battle of the match where the whole time I had to keep calculating. My opponent kept setting challenges. Despite several winning possibilities along the road, in the end I was tired of calculating and accepted a draw. 



After a solid opening, I failed to execute a proactive plan and soon enough missed my opponent's attack. To avoid getting checkmated, I had to fight back. My opponent missed a chance to open the h-file and had his pieces stuck waiting for my counter-attack. In the end I trusted my calculation and let his queen attack my king. That lasted only a few moments as I was promoting my f-pawn and checkmating immediately. 

As I came out to Portland for the first time, this was a great opportunity to finally fly and visit Alaska!

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I will be delighted to come out to your city and face your club's team in a blindfold exhibition match. I am also open to do lectures and training workshops. Keep in touch via blindfoldking.com!