Steinitz's Memory

May 17, 2013, 1:35 PM |


He Wins Three out of Four Games of Chess Blindfolded.

     The rooms of the Manhattan Chess Club were crowded last evening with lovers of chess.  They had assembled to see Steinitz, the Austrian champion, play, blindfolded, four games of chess simultaneously.  In a blindfold chess game the handicapped player does not necessarily have a bandage tied around his eyes.  It is sufficient if he sits at a distance from his opponents and has no chess-board before him and does not make any notes.  Four tables with chess-boards on them were ranged [sic] in a row near the windows of the front parlor of the chess club, and behind them sat J. W. Baird, William de Visser, Eugene Delmar, one of the best chess players in this country, and D. G. Baird.  These were the gentlemen who had undertaken to play Steinitz.  In front of the tables four rows of chairs were placed, and behind the chairs stood the spectators who had been able to secure seats.  Behind all these, in the middle room, Steinitz sat at a table.  Being so heavily handicapped, he took the first move in each game, but almost every one of his opponents replied by a different opening.  Their moves were announced in a loud voice, as soon as they were made, by Mr. Saulison, while Mr. Fisher, the secretary of the club, who stood near Steinitz, echoed back each of Steinitz's moves.  Each player was required to make a move when his turn came round, and Steinitz replied to it before proceeding to examine the combination on his next opponent's chess-board that he had photographed on his mind.  He afterwards said that this process was not so very difficult after all, although when a combination on a board was very complicated he was sometimes obliged to run aver in his mind every move that had been made since the opening of the game.  After replying to four moves of each opponent, Steinitz impatiently called for a glass of water, and when six moves had been made he said that any persons in the room wished to play a game of whist he would accommodate them.  Two ladies in the rooms were invited to play with him, and another gentleman joined in the game. A pack of cards was produced, and Steinitz with his lady partner won the game.  He then said he would resume the game of chess, and immediately after the first move was announced he replied, showing that he remembered the positions of the pieces on the different boards.  At about the twelfth move on J. W. Baird's board Steinitz ordered "Knight take pawn."  "Which pawn?" asked Baird.  "There's only one pawn to take," replied Steinitz.  Steinitz was right, there was only one pwn that could be taken by the Knight, and Baird, who had his board before him, had failed to see what Steinitz had kept in his memory.  After a few more moves, when J. W. Baird's turn came around again, Steinitz said he could mate him in five moves and announced them.  First Baird said he would continue the struggle, but after deliberating for some time, he resigned.  Delmar remarked:  "By _____, Steinitz plays better blindfold than otherwise."  Soon after Delmar took one of Steinit's Bishops with his Bishop.  Owing to an oversight of Steinitz's or tot he fact that he had not heard a previous move announced, he was unable to get equivalent for this loss, and soon resigned in Delmar's favor.  There then remained only two players pitted against Steinitz:  D. G. Baird moved near de Visser and the two, together with Saulison, often conversed together, seemingly consulting as to the best moves to be made.  This would handicap Steinitz still more heavily, but the long-headed little man was too much for them and they were both compelled to resign.  This gave Steinitz the victory of three games out of four.  He afterward walked up to where Delmar was sitting and the two played their game from the stage where Steinitz had resigned, and Steinitz easily beat him.  Steinitz said he would remain a few days longer in this City, and then he thought he would go to Vienna.

"The New York Times," Feb. 18, 1883