Blindfold chess and chess improvement

May 9, 2009, 8:38 AM |

Many strong players recommend practicing blindfold chess in order to improve board visualization, which is essential for accurate calculation. This blog posting will show you how you can begin doing this yourself.

I first began working on blindfold chess after reading the chapter on it in Jonathan Tisdall's Improve Your Chess Now (Everyman Chess, 1997). I found Tisdall's exercises too difficult, so I decided to make up some more appropriate for my level. I found a number of games in which checkmate is delivered in 10 moves or less. (If you have the Chessbase database program, you can find such games by using the maneuver tab of the database filter. If you don't have chessbase or a similar database program, you can find a few appropriate games in the links to short games at Once I have located the games, I play them through in my head, very slowly, one move at a time, trying to establish in my mind's eye the relation of forces on the board. When I reach checkmate, I try to prove to myself that checkmate has been delivered. Finally, I try to figure out what the losing side's key mistake was. Here is a very simple example:

Landa,K (2678) - Grall,G (1812)

ch-Euro Blitz Ajaccio FRA (2), 25.10.2007

 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 Bc5 3.Qh5 Nf6 4.Qxf7# 1–0

Why is it mate? Because the King on e8 is attacked by the Queen on f7. It can't take the queen because it is protected by the Bishop in c4, and it can't flee because it is surrounded by its own pieces.

What was the crucial mistake? 3...Nf6.

Here is a slightly more difficult one:

Kinoshita,Akira - Jegaden,Didier

Stillwater Winter FIDE Oklahoma USA (7), 18.02.2008

 1.d4 d5 2.Nc3 e6 3.e4 Ne7 4.Nf3 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Nbc6 6.Bd3 g6 7.Nf6# 1–0

Why is it mate? The Knight on f6 delivers check to e8 and covers d7 as well. The knight can't be taken, and all other escape squares are blocked by black's pieces: bishop on f8, pawn in f7, knight on e7, and queen on d8.

What was the game ending error? 6...g6.

If you find these examples too difficult start by trying to learn which squares on the chessboard are dark and which are light. Then try, without looking at a chessboard, to move each piece on an empty chessboard. For example, with no other pieces on the board where can a knight on b1 move to? Answer, a3 and c3. Where can a knight on c3 move to? b1, a4, b5, d5, e4, e2, d1. Etc.