Blindfold chess960?
By Joel Benjamin   
December 11, 2006
Joel,

I read that in August 2006 in Mainz Germany, future World Chess Champion Levon Aronian won a game of chess960 that he played blindfolded. His opponent was only an amateur. Still this strikes me as substantially more difficult than playing traditional chess blindfolded.

What do grandmasters think: is chess960 a lot harder to play blindfolded than is traditional chess?

Thank you,

Gene Milener

Chess960 is a variant where the placement of the pieces on the back row is drawn by lot (both players will have the same piece position). It is so named because there are 960 possible piece formations that could occur at the start of the game.

A blindfold game of chess960 sounds like excruciating torture! Mind you, I try to avoid all blindfold play; it just gives me a headache. My buddy Larry Christiansen often wows crowds with blindfold exhibitions. More power to him!

In blindfold chess, a grandmaster can use his long-term memory (opening theory, standard strategies) to assist him. It must be much more difficult to remember where all the pieces are in chess960.

I don't know how they did it, but Aronian would have had an easier time if he were given a screen with the starting position of the pieces rather than a scarf over his eyes.

This form of chess has been made more popular since Bobby Fischer lent his endorsement, but back in the 70's a similar game called Prechess had a brief popularity. In Prechess each player would put a piece on the back row one by one until every square was filled. Players could develop strategies from their favorite placements, though it might not work against your opponent's setup. I recall I fared much better against GM Benko with Black, because I would wait for him to put his king down, and then put mine on the other side!

Joel Benjamin