Hazards of blindfold chess

Just concluded: The annual Amber chess tournament in Monaco. It’s an odd duck, even as chess tournaments go. It’s named after the daughter of the rich Dutchman who created the tourney. A dozen of the world’s top grandmasters – most of them ranked in the top 20 – gather to play each other in a double round robin format. In the morning round each day, they play blindfold chess (sort of); in the evening, the same opponents switch colors and play rapid chess (very short games that typically dissolve into a contest of reflexes as both players run out of time). 

Amber

On one level it’s silliness – in the blind games these titans sometimes make egregious errors, giving away pieces for free, et cetera. On the other hand, considering that they can’t see the pieces, the level of play is mostly amazing. “Sort of” blindfold chess means each player has a laptop computer showing a blank board and they use the mouse to move the (invisible) pieces. The computer relays the move to the opponent and also disallows illegal moves.

In a very brief fit of inspiration I revived my old blindfold account on the Free Internet Chess Server. The difference from Amber is that FICS doesn’t show a blank board; you don’t see any graphic at all, and must type your moves in long-form notation (g8e7 instead of Ne7). It’s probably worth doing for mental exercise but it’s also an exercise in frustration. It can also be hazardous. Years ago I played a relatively good blindfold game on the computer, then got in my car to go somewhere and immediately ran a red light. Mentally I was still busy analyzing the game instead of watching the road…

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2 thoughts on “Hazards of blindfold chess

  1. we used to play blindfold chess games in the car while we were driving to tournaments. the driver would play the passenger while the two people in the back played out the game on a magnetic travel chess set.
    We never had any problems with driving, but I was kind of worried being a passenger and all.

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