Eliot Hearst and John Knott blog about blindfold chess
Sunday, April 19, 2009

Blindfold Chess Featured in Amsterdam Chess Festivals, 1988-1999

In the current issue of New in Chess (#2, 2009), Hans Ree describes a little-publicized series of blindfold exhibitions that took place for a decade in Amsterdam. They were the “main course” in an annual festival that was held in a tent set up on Spui Square in the center of town. In the mornings a regular blitz tourney was held to select four players to participate in a simultaneous blindfold display given later that day by a grandmaster against five opponents. The fifth player was a “mystery guest” who might be a politician, artist, or a strong player. Many people walking in that crowded area stopped to watch the action in the blindfold exhibition. It was a real attention-getter.

Similar events have been held at several places in the U.S. and elsewhere (including my current home, Tucson, Arizona). Other locations around the world might want to think about holding such festivals to publicize chess in general and the chess activities available there. Of course it would be difficult in many places to find an experienced enough and strong enough blindfold player to take on five opponents at once, but even a single blindfold game in a public setting would be a real spectacle and attract attention to chess. Recall that when Philidor played only two games blindfolded in the 18th century he amazed the audiences that watched him and he became a national celebrity in France.

Amsterdam has had many local grandmasters who could handle five blindfold games at once, but sometimes players from outside The Netherlands were also paid to give the display. The last two festivals were moved from Spui Square to VondelPark. These Amsterdam festivals ended in 1999 because of a loss of sponsorship to handle the expenses for the event.

Ree lists the blindfolded players who played their five opponents in each year the festival was held. The list of grandmasters is impressive (including two players who have held the world championship). Here are their names and scores against the strong opposition they faced (there was no event in 1997):

1988: Sosonko 2.5-2.5
1989: Timman 3.5-1.5
1990: Korchnoi 1-4 (the only minus score by any exhibitor!)
1991: Anand 4-1
1992: Karpov 3.5-1.5
1993: Van der Wiel 3.5-1.5
1994: Ivan Sokolov 4-1
1995: Jussupow 4-1
1996: Predag Nikolic 5-0
1998:Van Wely 3-2
1999: Shirov 3-2

Very few games from these relatively informal events appear in the vast blindfold-chess databases we possess, but here are three that we were able to locate. Unfortunately or fortunately, two of these involve losses by the exhibitor. But losses can be very instructive, too.

Korchnoi, V. - Krudde
Amsterdam Blindsimul, 1990
1.e4 d5 2.exd5 Qxd5 3.Nc3 Qa5 4.Bc4 Nf6 5.Nf3 Bg4 6.Qe2 e6 7.h3 Qh5 8.d4 Bxf3 9.gxf3 c6 10.Bd2 Nbd7 11.0–0–0 0–0–0 12.Bb3 g6 13.h4 Bh6 14.Kb1 Bxd2 15.Rxd2 Nb6 16.Qd1 Qf5 17.Rd3 Nbd5 18.Ne2 Nf4 19.Ng3 Qa5 20.Re3 Qb6 21.c3 c5 22.Ne4 cxd4 23.cxd4 Nxe4 24.Rxe4 Nh5 25.Qc1+ Kb8 26.Qg5 Rd6 27.d5 f6 28.Qd2 Qd8 29.Rhe1 e5 30.Rc1 Nf4 31.Qb4 Nd3 32.Rc8+ Kxc8 0–1

Karpov, A. - Krabbe, T.
Amsterdam Blindsimul , 1992
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0–0 Be7 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.d3 Nd7 8.Nbd2 0–0 9.Nc4 f6 10.Nh4 Nc5 11.Nf5 Be6 12.b3 Bxc4 13.bxc4 Ne6 14.Qg4 Kh8 15.f4 Bc5+ 16.Kh1 g6 17.Ng3 Nxf4 18.Bxf4 exf4 19.Rxf4 b5 20.e5 f5 21.Qf3 Bd4 22.Re1 c5 23.e6 Qd6 24.e7 Rfe8 25.Nxf5 gxf5 26.Rxf5 Rg8 27.Rd5 Qg6 28.g3 Rae8 29.Rd7 c6 30.Re2 Qg4 31.Qxg4 Rxg4 32.Rd8 Rgg8 33.Rd6 Rg6 34.Rd8 Rgg8 35.Rd6 Rc8 36.Ree6 Rge8 37.Kg2 Kg7 38.Kh3 Rc7 39.Rxc6 Rxc6 40.Rxc6 Rxe7 41.c3 Be3 42.Rxa6 bxc4 43.dxc4 Re4 0–1

Shirov, A. (2734) - Piket, J. (2235)
Amsterdam Blindsimul, 1999
1.e4 d6 2.d4 g6 3.Nc3 c6 4.f4 d5 5.Nf3 Bg7 6.e5 Bg4 7.h3 Bxf3 8.Qxf3 e6 9.Be3 h5 10.g3 Nd7 11.0–0–0 b5 12.g4 Qa5 13.Kb1 Ne7 14.Bd3 b4 15.Ne2 c5 16.dxc5 Nc6 17.Ng3 h4 18.Ne4 dxe4 19.Bxe4 Ncxe5 20.fxe5 Nxe5 21.Bc6+ Kf8 22.Qe4 f5 23.gxf5 gxf5 24.Rhf1 Rd8 25.Rd6 Bf6 26.Rxf5 exf5 27.Rxf6+ Nf7 28.Rxf7+ Kxf7 29.Qe5 Kf8 30.Qxh8+ 1–0

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