Exercise 162 Learning Blindfold Chess Playing

Some chess players can play a single game of mental chess moderately well, but Alekhine in 1933 played 32 games simultaneously! Then in 1937, Koltanowski broke that record and played 34 games simultaneously! Now the record is held by J. Flesch with 52 games in 1960. Not all blindfold players agree on how they play mental chess and there is some difference of opinion regarding their methods. As George Koltanowski points out in his book, In The Dark, ..."every blindfold player develops his own technique of retaining positions in his mind. One player memorizes all of the moves made in each game; another has a photographic mind; a third insists that he himself doesn't know... "

Visual minded masters either visualize the actual shapes of pieces on an imagined chessboard or their equivalent symbols on perhaps a flat, scaled down version like that which is represented in a book. The picture of the board is retained in their mind at any given point so that they can easily break off and do something else, then they come back to the same mental image later without difficulty. Auditory minded masters rely on reiterating the whole sequence of moves mentally before they make any subsequent move. They only see the board momentarily in their mind after they have done so. Kinesthetic minded players aren't sure how they play mental chess. They just 'feel' their way through it.

Many strong players are unable to play blindfold games, because they cannot visualize in their mind the location of the different colored squares. When they use an empty chessboard in front of them though, they can play almost as well as when the pieces are on the board. One trick to master the color of the squares better is to divide the board up into 4 equal quarters. Since each quarter looks identical, memorizing one quarter allows you to understand the square colors in the other 3 quarters as well. Of course, all players use some form of mental chess during each normal game just to look ahead a few moves at hypothetical positions.

Self-confidence and a belief that you have the ability to conjure up mental images is important in blindfold chess. Although it is easy to visualize a naked person of the opposite sex, you may be a bit surprised that with a little practice it is just as easy to visualize a chessboard and its pieces.

The following drill is for the visual minded chess player. Place an empty chessboard 2 feet in front of you. Take several deep, abdominal breaths and relax. Now look directly at the chessboard and study the squares and their arrangement. Feel comfortable with the flow of the diagonals across the board as well as the square colors. Now close your eyes and imagine the board still in front of you. See all the same features in your mind's eye this time. Hold the image for 30 seconds; then open your eyes. Compare the inner image with the outer one. Notice any aspects you were not aware of when visualizing. Close your eyes again and repeat the exercise. Next, repeat the same procedure with all the pieces on the board. After completing this, close your eyes again and visualize the pieces from different angles. Imagine yourself overtop of the chessboard looking down at the pieces or from the side of the board or from the opponent's position. This teaches you that you can move your inner conscious awareness around the chessboard at will.

In the next drill, take your position as white or black and look at your starting position. Now close your eyes and make your first move. Make a comparable move in your mind for your opponent (even if you have to visualize moving to his side of the board). Do this for 6 more moves back and forth. Afterwards, open your eyes and place the pieces where they should be on the chessboard. Then close your eyes again and make 6 more moves. Open your eyes and reposition the pieces and repeat the process. If 6 moves are too many, lessen the amount, but be consistent. With practice, you should be able to increase the amount of moves gradually until a whole game is played without looking at the board.

If you're having trouble holding the colored squares in your mind, you might practice making your mental moves while looking at an empty chessboard in front of you. With practice, thinking ahead 2 or 3 moves in various combinations, and coming back to your original, mental position will also be eventually mastered. Whereas ordinary visualizations are usually quite brief, blindfold chess in this manner offers duration to your visualizing abilities. It is a powerful mind strengthening exercise. As a side benefit to mastering blindfold chess, you will also improve your memory with everyday matters as well.

For auditory minded players, have a friend play you a game of chess while your back is to the board. Have your friend call out his move to you every time he plays. Each time it is your turn to play, repeat mentally the whole series of moves that preceded your current move. Since your mental picture of the chessboard will not be as permanently in place in your mind as a visual minded player, you must rely on this reiteration process to flash the current position of the board at any one time. With practice, you'll find that it will only take a few seconds to do this reiteration process, and your memory powers will be greatly enhanced as well.

Body Language Basics

Body Language Basics

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