Blindfold Chess, the Fried Liver Attack, and Playing Multiple Openings

Blindfold Chess, the Fried Liver Attack, and Playing Multiple Openings

| 24 | Opening Theory

Blindfold Chess, The Fried Liver Attack, and Playing Multiple Openings

Goldiga asked:

I wanted to know your take on blindfold chess for the improving player. How difficult is it to learn, and is it true that learning to play blindfold will really help improve your game and minimize blunders?


By the way, I am not an especially good player, 1400 rating. I play 15-minute chess games online and can’t stand it that every game there is always that terrible blunder! It drives my crazy when I blunder away a game!

Also, if you can recommend any chess books for someone on my level I would greatly appreciate it.


Dear Goldiga,

There is absolutely no reason to try your luck with blindfold chess, unless it’s something you simply want to do for fun. Being able to play a game blindfold won’t help you cure blunders, nor will it improve your overall strength. On the other hand, if you are giving a 10-board blindfold simultaneous exhibition, you’ll find that the ladies really dig it.


I remember high school study hall in my early teens. The only reason I took study hall was to sleep, but once several other kids (all bored) found out that I was a chess player, they insisted I play them all blindfold at the same time. So study hall that year turned into me laying on top of a few desks, eyes closed and half asleep, while 3 or 4 kids would call out their moves and try to beat me. I found blindfold chess to be fairly easy, though I must admit to never playing more than 5 games at once.


Blindfold chess has been around for a very long time. It’s said that Sa’id bin Jubair (665-714 … a very, very long time ago!) was skilled at this form of chess. However, memory of Sa’id and others had dimmed by the 1700s, so when Philidor played blindfold against two men at the same time, it was touted as, “A phenomenon in the history of man, and should be hoarded among the best examples of human memory, till memory shall be no more.” – The World (1782).


Of course, nobody could have guessed that this “amazing” record would one day be shattered by a little boy in study hall, or that it would be completely crushed long before the little boy was born by an avalanche of players: Maczuski (1838-1898) played 8 blindfold games simultaneously, Alexander Fritz (1857-1932) played 12, Zukertort did 16 (there were many more with similar numbers), and then blindfold aficionados really kicked it into high gear – Harry Pillsbury did many blindfold simultaneous exhibits, eventually reaching a record 22. There followed Reti - 29, Alekhine - 32, Koltanowski – 34 (he also played 56 consecutively … note this is not simultaneously!), Najdorf - 45(!!), and finally Janos Flesch, who set the bar (unbroken to this day) at 52 in 1960!


For those that want to read about the history of blindfold chess, the definitive source is BLINDFOLD CHESS (McFarland & Company) by Eliot Hearst and John Knott – 437 pages and simply excellent in every way.


As for me recommending a book that will prove extremely instructive for a 1400 rated player (and that’s a very respectable rating – give yourself more credit!), may I egotistically recommend my own, THE AMATEUR’S MIND?

Windows-7 asked:

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5 5.exd5 Nxd5 6.Nxf7


That is the Fried Liver Attack which confers dynamic advantages to White in exchange for a static material advantage for Black. I do not know what game result it usually produces, and so I wanted to have you take a look at that line.



Dear Windows-7,

I’m a Mac, you’re a PC. Should we really be talking? Fortunately, since I’m trouble free, highly intuitive, rather nice on the eye, and always stable, I’ll grant your request. It’s the least I can do for inter-species … errr … inter-platform relationships.


After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 d5


Not the only move. The Wilkes-Barre (also known as the Traxler) is simply insane: 4…Bc5!? 5.Bxf7+ Ke7 and Black hopes that his lead in development will give him active play. More worrisome might seem to be 5.Nxf7, but then 5…Bxf2+! starts the blood pressure rising! Black gives up oodles of material, but gets a very dangerous attack: 6.Kxf2 Nxe4+ 7.Kg1 Qh4 8.g3 Nxg3, while 6.Kf1 is met by 6…Qe7 7.Nxh8 d5 8.exd5 Nd4 threatening …Bg4.


5.exd5 Nxd5


This is generally looked at as a dubious move, but some sources aren’t so sure. Nevertheless, most fans of the Two Knights avoid 5…Nxd5 like the plague and devote much of their lives to hyper-chaotic lines like 5…Nd4!? and 5…b5!?, while the main line with 5…Na5 also leads to many complexities that have yet to be fully explored.


Now White has two moves (I’ll only give a very basic analysis – there have been much deeper looks done in other sources, so if you have a desire to explore these lines in a proper manner, look elsewhere):


1) 6.Nxf7!?


Welcome to the Fried Liver Attack!


6…Kxf7 7.Qf3+ Ke6


This is the only way to defend d5.


8.Nc3 Nb4 9.Qe4  


9.a3 Nxc2+ 10.Kd1 Nd4 11.Bxd5+ Kd6 12.Qf7 Qe7 13.Ne4+ Kd7 14.Nc5+ Kd6 15.Nxb7+ Bxb7 16.Qxe7+ Bxe7 17.Bxb7 Rab8 18.Be4 Nb3 doesn’t look very tempting for White.


9…c6 10.a3 Na6 11.d4 Nc7 12.Bf4


12.Qxe5+ Kf7. 


12…Kf7 and now both 13.Bxe5 and 13.dxe5 (Keres) give White compensation for the sacrificed piece, but probably not more than that.


2) 6.d4!


Most sources view this as a refutation of 5…Nxd5. It might be true, but a few other sources claim otherwise. There’s obviously a lot of undiscovered country here!




6…exd4 7.0–0 leaves black’s centrally placed King in grave danger. 


7.c3 Be7 8.Nxf7 Kxf7 9.Qf3+ Ke6 10.Qe4 b5!


This seems to be black’s last, best hope. However, I still suspect that black’s worse.


The older 10…Bf8, making way for the c6-Knight to move to e7 and give the d5-Knight support, is almost certainly bad: 11.0–0 Ne7 12.f4 c6 13.fxe5 Kd7 14.Be2 Ke8 (14…Kc7 15.c4 Nb6 16.Bf4) 15.c4 Nc7 16.Nc3 Be6 17.Bg5 and Black was under serious pressure in Barden - Adams, Hastings 1951.


11.Bxb5 Bb7 12.f4 g6


Given as equal by MCO, but I doubt it.


13.fxe5 Rf8 14.Qg4+ Rf5 15.Bd3?


15.Rf1! seems to be the move, and I’m sure a detailed analysis has to have been done somewhere. One possible line: 15…Kf7 16.Rxf5+ gxf5 17.Qxf5+ and White has all the chances. 


15…Nxd4! 16.Rf1??


This loses. White had to try 16.cxd4 Nb4 17.Bc4+ Bd5 18.Qe2 Bxc4 (18…c5!? might be stronger) 19.Qxc4+ Qd5 20.Qxd5+ Kxd5 21.Be3 Nc2+ 22.Ke2 Nxa1 23.Nc3+ Ke6 24.Rxa1 and white’s okay.


16…Ne3 17.Bxe3 Nf3+ 18.gxf3 Qxd3 19.Qd4 Bh4+ 20.Qxh4 Qxe3+, 0-1, Kalvach - Drtina, correspondence 1986.



Josh asked:

Many people advocate picking a repertoire and sticking to it, but do you think this should apply to beginners? I have been experimenting with lots of different openings to try to expand my comfort zone, do you think this is a mistake for a beginner?


Dear Josh,

There are two schools of thought here, and it really depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Most want to create a sound opening repertoire, which will help their immediate results and (with the opening out of the way) allow them time to study other areas of the game.

But other players want to enjoy the feel of many openings. This actually helps you learn lots of different kinds of positions, and this can pay dividends as the years roll by. Eventually you will create a repertoire that is more or less your opening base, but there’s no rush, and if you find it fun to play all sorts of stuff, then keep it up!

Simply put, if you’re having fun, don’t change anything!

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