In chapter one of Blindfold Chess, we tell of the chess exploits of the Jesuit priest Giovanni Girolamo Saccheri (1667-1733), who played three or four simultaneous blindfold games decades before Philidor. Joseph Sucher, of the University of Maryland’s Department of Physics, wrote in with some interesting details about Saccheri’s non-chess accomplishments:
In connection with your remarks on the Jesuit Priest Saccheri’s prowess in blindfold chess, if there is a second printing of your book you might want to note that Fr. Saccheri was not just a “public lecturer on mathematics at Pavia”, as described in your quote from a British journalist. As a result of his investigation of Euclid’s parallel postulate he has a permanent place in the history of mathematics. Indeed, he and Omar Khayyam are regarded as the two founders of non-Euclidean geometry. It is therefore amusing to note that both these gentlemen also have an enduring connection with chess: Saccheri because of his early accomplishments in blindfold chess and Omar Khayyam because of his immortal lines in the Rubaiyat, in Fitzgerald’s translation:
Tis all a Checkerboard of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and stays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.