Magnus Carlsen Plays Three-Board Blindfold Simul

Magnus Carlsen Plays Three-Board Blindfold Simul

| 29 | Chess Event Coverage

On May 5th GM Magnus Carlsen played a blindfold simul on three boards as part of the 2015 Sohn Conference, an annual fundraiser for the research, treatment and cure of pediatric cancer.

Fully named the Annual Sohn Investment Conference, the event celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. It was started in 1996 by colleagues and friends of Ira Sohn, a talented Wall Street professional who died of cancer at the age of 29. 

One of the founders, Doug Hirsch, has become a growing fan of chess in recent years and it was his idea to invite the world champion, Magnus Carlsen. The Norwegian played a blindfold simultaneous exhibition, with clocks, on three boards.

Carlsen's opponents were J. Christopher Flowers, the chairman of J.C. Flowers & Company; Paul Hoffman, the chief executive of the Liberty Science Center and Gbenga Akinnagbe, a star of the HBO series The Wire.

A three-minute summary of the blindfold simul.

All players got just nine minutes on the clock, effectively giving Carlsen only three minutes per board. He was blindfolded while GMs Pascal Charbonneau and Anatoly Bykhovsky made his moves on the three boards. Commentary was provided by GM Maurice Ashley.

Carlsen's audience, at the Avery Fisher Hall in New York, was a hall full of investors and hedge fund managers. All had paid $5,000 for a seat.

In his report for the New York Times Dylan Loeb McClain names e.g. William A. Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management, Ian Bremmer of the Eurasia Group, David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital, David Tepper of Appaloosa Management and Leon G. Cooperman of Omega Advisors.

Carlsen easily defeated all three opponents in what was his first blindfold simul with clocks. As an exception, video footage has been released and uploaded to YouTube which includes the full simul:

The full version of the simul (close to half an hour).

Carlsen got the audience laughing when he said: “The thing is that you only need to keep one game in your head at a time...” and Ashley emphasized: “ONLY one game at a time!”

Carlsen continued: “It’s a little bit difficult to play when I have no idea what my time is, if I’m running out of time. But... it’s manageable for a good chess player to play blindfold, but really the time control does not allow me any time to think, to ponder on my moves and that’s the difficult part.”

Blindfold chess is as old as the game itself, but blindfold simuls are rare. An early predecessor of Carlsen is André Danican Philidor, who also played on three boards in 1783 to make headlines in the newspapers.

Other early masters who played blindfold simuls were e.g. Paul Morphy, Louis Paulsen, Joseph Henry Blackburne and Wilhelm Steinitz. In the 20th century, simuls over 30 boards were played by Alexander Alekhine, George Koltanowski, Miguel Najdorf and Janos Flesch.

Currently the world record is held by German FM Marc Lang, who played 46 opponents without seeing them in November 2011 in Sontheim. He won 25 wins, drew 19 draws and lost just 2. 


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