The world record for blindfold chess has been broken by Timur Gareyev, a 28-year-old US grandmaster. He played 48 games simultaneously in Las Vegas in December, scoring 80%, wearing an actual blindfold and taking 23 hours, all the while on an exercise bike on which he rode the equivalent of 50 miles.
For decade,s Miguel Najdorf’s 45 games at São Paulo in 1947 stood as the record.
Najdorf had stayed in Buenos Aires when war broke out during the 1939 Olympiad and took up blindfold displays in the hope that news of his achievements would reach his relatives in Poland, who had actually perished in concentration camps.
George Koltanowski had played 34 games at Edinburgh in 1937 against weaker opposition than Najdorf and there was bad blood between them.
Koltanowski, a Belgian-born American, claimed Najdorf had access to opponents’ score sheets and he managed to keep his own total in the Guinness records book.
Eventually, participants at São Paulo, led by the grandmaster referee Erich Eliskases, upheld Najdorf.
Next up was Janos Flesch, who claimed 52 blindfold games at Budapest 1960. Flesch’s performance unravelled when it emerged that it had taken only five hours and that many opponents had departed quickly.
When the Hungarian came to London in 1978 for the Lloyds Bank Open, he was notably coy in discussing blindfold chess and refused to give a 12-board exhibition despite the offer of a large fee.
In 2011, the German master Marc Lang set a record of 46 games in 21 hours at Sontheim, typing his moves on to a computer screen which showed only the latest move by an opponent.
Arguably, this technique helped his performance but Gareyev spoke directly to his opponents and wrote that hearing different voices was a memory aid.
The key to multiple blindfold play is to keep the games distinct and separate.
All specialists have mixed a variety of openings and Gareyev took Black in half the games and adopted sharp gambits to bring speedy decisions.
How high could the record go?
Gareyev says he is ready to take on 55 games but there are serious practical problems.
His event lacked a sponsor and was financed by a mixture of crowdfunding and high entry fees.
Searching for a suitable venue for a 24-hour event led Gareyev to Hawaii, Prague, Chicago and Stockholm before settling on Las Vegas.
Players have to be prepared for a 24-hour stint with half an hour between moves. In short, the future for the world blindfold record is unclear.
Here, Gareyev overwhelms his highest rated opponent, 2150 expert standard, with a lively gambit: White goes wrong early, as 9 d4! exd4 10 exd5 Qxd5 11 Bxc6 Qxc6 12 cxd4 keeps it level. Given his chance, Gareyev then storms the white king with a series of sacrifices.
Tom Brownscombe v Timur Gareev
1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 a6 4 Ba4 Nf6 5 0-0 Bc5 6 Re1 Ng4 7 Re2 0-0 8 c3 d5 9 exd5? e4! 10 dxc6 exf3 11 gxf3 Nxh2! 12 Re5 Qf6! 13 Rxc5 Nxf3+ 14 Kg2 Bh3+! 15 Kxh3 Qh4+ 16 Kg2 Qg4+ 17 Kf1 Nh2+ 18 Ke1 Rfe8+ 0-1
3481 1 Nf6 Bg7 2 Qxg7+! Kxg7 3 Ne8+ and 4 Nxd6 guards the b5 bishop and puts White a piece up.
EDITED FROM: theguardian.co.uk