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The Open File - Blindfold Play

  • NM Zug
  • | Dec 15, 2008

The Open File

by Life Master Mike Petersen (Zug)

Blindfold Play

How many times have you found yourself going over a tournament game with a friend and exclaiming, "I didn’t see Rf7 followed by Rxg7!" or something similar?  Just what does that mean?  Of course you didn't "see" it, no more than you "saw" the other moves in the game.  What you really should say is, "I didn't anticipate Rf7 followed by Rxg7!"

Semantics?  Not really.  Anyone who plays a game of chess never "sees" any of the moves in advance.  What the player actually does is visualize them in his mind's eye. In reality, all the moves in a chess game are played "blindfolded".  How else can you explain "looking ahead" five or six moves in a given position?  It's not surprising, then, that all players who are fairly strong at the game (over 1800, say) can probably play an entire game of chess without sight of the board.  They may not play very well, but they can do it.  If you are rated near the 1800 level and have never tried it, why not give it a go?  You might find you have a knack for it.  Besides, it's fun.

I play blindfold chess and, according to my friends, am quite good at it.  I have given simultaneous exhibitions where I play something like 25 opponents, but two of them without sight of the board.  I have also given an exhibition where I played five games simultaneously blindfolded (lost three, won two). How do I do it?  Well, to be truthful about it, I really don't know!  I do know that I visualize the pieces and squares, but without any reference to "color". I picture the pieces basically as a set of geometric possibilities on a grid. Incidentally, I was very good in geometry in high school, so I tend to equate ability in geometry with the ability to play blindfold chess.  As a matter of fact, I think that if you are good in geometry, you have the potential to be good at chess in general.

Many famous players were world class blindfold players.  Morphy, Blackburne, Alekhine, Philidor, Pillsbury, Najdorf, and the renowned George Koltanowski, just to name a few.  Because of what happened to Pillsbury, the theory exists that blindfold play is dangerous to your health.  Sure, if you smoke while doing it!

George Koltanowski wrote a book on his blindfold escapades called "In the Dark", and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in this type of play. According to Kolty, nothing brought the house down like a well engineered attack in blindfold play.  I can certainly testify to the accuracy of that statement!  I once had the opportunity to see Kolty perform his Knight's Tour exhibition.  It was one of those rare chess events that I will remember forever!  Oh yes, for your information, Kolty still holds the "real" record for blindfold simultaneous play: 34 games in 1937.  Others have played more, but not under the same conditions: no notes, no early draws, no illegal moves allowed, etc. There have been numerous discussions on this topic, but now you know the official scoop.

Anyway, the use of blindfold chess is the quickest way to impress your friends who are not "real" chessplayers.  Believe me, they will think you are a genius! But, what happens if you get confused and lose your Queen or something? Well, it’s simple.  Tell 'em you didn't see it.


Click here for links to Mike's other work on Chess.com


  • 5 years ago


    I'm 1300 rated and can play blindfold with weak players.

  • 7 years ago



  • 7 years ago

    NM Zug

    To dpakoh:


    Tongue out

  • 7 years ago


    well for me it is quite difficult to play blindfolded, read i CANT play, and i am 1800+ rating player. is it only me? :)

  • 7 years ago


    cool article

  • 7 years ago


    Hi!! My rating is 1800 and it is true I can play blindfold. The true about blindfold is that it doesn't help your chess. It is side effect of intensive study. You know pattern recognition and board vision you get from doing tactics, endgames, openings, playing games help you to play. I've got friends who are much lower rated than me and believe that I'm pure genius when I calculate nine move mate or play blind. I didn't tell them I'm not.

  • 7 years ago

    NM Zug

    To ajgreen:

    The best advice is to keep it simple.  Just have both players keep score, and compare/verify scoresheets after each move.  No computer, board, or referee is necessary.

    Good luck, Zug

  • 7 years ago

    NM ajgreen

    Nice article!  I don't know that blindfold is the fastest way to impress people, though... It's been a long time since I've tried it, but when I attempted to play at the local club the other night, the game took like 45 minutes because my opponent was thinking for so long and I was missing some of the combinations that would've finished him off were I looking at the game!

    I didn't realize there were any books about blindfold-chess escapades.  I'm definitely interested in checking that one out!

    Also, I've been interested in trying to host a blindfold tournament at my local chess club with both players playing blindfolded (like Amber)  Thus far I've thought that either each game would have to have a minimum of one computer (and make the moves on a blindfold board like in Fritz), or each game would have to have a referee to verify that moves by both players were legal.  Any ideas that could be more efficient than that?

  • 7 years ago

    NM Zug

    To styxtwo:

    Blindfold play goes like this.  Let's say you have White.  You announce your move.  Your opponent then announces their move, but first they tell you what your last move was.  For example, you say, "e4", and your opponent must say, "Your last move was e4, and my reply is c5."  When you next move, you just say your move, something like "Nf3."  Your opponent says, "Your last move was Nf3, and my reply is d6." 

    So, they do tell you their last move.  Got it? Smile

    Regards, Zug

  • 7 years ago


    just wondering how it works,

    do your opponents tell you which move they made?

    else t would become impossible after like 2 moves :P

  • 7 years ago


    excellent article

    Try playing blindfold chess with me.  That's simply incredible!  Especially if you win.

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