Eliot Hearst and John Knott blog about blindfold chess
Monday, October 05, 2009

Two Australians and a German: Absent From Our Book But Worthy of Mention

In writing our book on blindfold chess, we had strict space and page limitations imposed by McFarland Publishers to prevent the book from being prohibitively expensive. Consequently we had to delete from our final manuscript many games that we would have liked to include (of the thousands we collected) and to abbreviate descriptions of the achievements of masters who did not seem to us to deserve much more than a few sentences or a footnote, in comparison to the champions we believed required appreciable attention and emphasis. It’s been almost a year since publication of the book and correspondents around the world have not informed us of more than a very few blindfold experts that we had really completely overlooked and failed to mention at all. Here we discuss three players that fall in that category, two Australians and a German.

Writing in The Washington Post (August 31, 2009) Lubomir Kavalek notes the absence of Australian blindfold masters in the book (which is especially disappointing to me because my children are half Australian!). One person Kavalek lists is John Kellner (1931- ) who holds the Australian record for number of opponents faced in a simultaneous blindfold display. He set this record in 1973 when taking on 17 players at once. He is also known for his prowess in postal chess, where in 1968 he achieved the title of International Master of Correspondence Chess. If readers from Down Under or elsewhere can supply us with details of his record-setting exhibition and other accomplishments in blindfold chess, we will be glad to publish them on this website. Please insert your remarks in the email Comment section below this blog.

A more internationally-known Australian blindfold player is Grandmaster Ian Rogers (b. 1960, GM 1985), who in addition to his triumphs in regular chess has given numerous displays of 12 boards or fewer without sight of any of his opponents. Kavalek published a blindfold game of his against Josef Horejs, played in Prague in 1996. Rogers’s score in that exhibition was 9 wins and 1 draw against 10 club players rated up to 2300.The display took about 4 hours. Here is the score of that game:

1.c4 c5 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.Bg2 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Nc6 7.Rb1 e5 8.Qa4 Qc7 9.Bxc6+ Qxc6 10.Qxc6+ bxc6 11.Nf3 Bd6 12.d3 Be6 13.c4 0-0 14.Ng5 Rab8 15.Rxb8 Rxb8 16.Nxe6 fxe6 17.Kd1 Kf7 18.Kc2 Ke7 19.Be3 Kf6 20.Rb1 Rxb1 21.Kxb1 g6 22.Kc2 Ke7 23.g4 Kd7 24.h3 Ke7 25.Kd2 Kf6 26.f3 Ke7 27.Bg5+ Kd7 28.Ke3 Bc7 (and then seeing that White will pick up his e-pawn, Black resigned).

Reviewing our book on ChessCafe.com. on August 23, 2009, Olimpiu Urcan noted a 19th-century German who was a promising blindfold player. He was Berthold Suhle (b.1837 in Poland, but who spent most of his life in Germany; he died in 1904).Urcan gives the following quote from The Chess Player’s Chronicle (1859, pages 71-72):

In Germany a new star has also appeared on the Chess horizons, which threatens to dim the light of the Morphy star. Herr Berthold Suhle, in Bonn, twenty-one years of age, has completely defeated several of the German Chess celebrities, amongst others the well-known player Captain Bothe in Cologne, and the strongest player of Venice, Signor Torliko. In blindfold play he has successfully rivalled the performance of Morphy and Harrwitz, having on 20th December last [1858] played eight players at the same time, without seeing the board, and, in a series of 295 moves, won six games and drawn two.

The same journal supplied the score of one of the games played by Suhle against Mr. Kr. in this display, as follows:

1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.h4 g4 5.Ne5 h5 6.Bc4 Rh7 7.d4 Bh6 8.Nc3 c6 9.Nd3 Qf6 10.e5 Qf5 1l.Nc5 Qg6 12.Bd3 Qg7 13.Bxh7 Qxh7 14. N3e4 b6 15.Nd6+ Kd8 16.Nd3 f6 17.Bxf4 Ba6 18.Qd2 Bf8 19. Rf1 Bxd6 20.exd6 Qe4+ 21.Qe3 f5 22.Qxe4 fxe4 23.Bg5+ Ke8 Here Suhle announced mate in ten moves with the continuation 24.0-0-0! c5 25.Rde1 Bb7 26.Ne5 Bd5 27.Ng6 Bf7 28.Rxe4+ Ne7 29.Bxe7 Nc6 30.Bg5+ Ne7 31.Bxe7 …. 32.Bg5+ Be6 33.Rf8 checkmate. [Since some of these 10 moves are not absolutely forced, it is doubtful whether Suhle was justified in announcing a mate in 10 moves. Perhaps Black could have lasted longer than that and perhaps Suhle could have mated more quickly than in 10 moves. Ask your computer!: E. Hearst]

Urcan goes on to note that Suhle drew a match with Adolf Anderssen in Berlin in 1864 and became an active chess writer in later years. Urcan does not know whether Suhle continued to give frequent blindfold displays after the above event, but it is significant that by December 1858, Louis Paulsen had already played 8-, 10-, and 12-board blindfold displays and Morphy had given two exhibitions of 8 boards each. So Suhle did not set a new world record in this display, but he did equal Morphy’s number.

We thank Kavalek and Urcan for providing information about the blindfold achievements of the three players we have mentioned above. Whether they deserved a reasonable amount of space in our book we will let readers and book critics decide, especially since we had strict word limitations imposed by our publisher.

Permalink  |  Posted by Eliot Hearst at 09:55 PM


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