Breaking records in blindfold tandem chess

by ChessBase
8/8/2015 – In 1934 Alexander Alekhine and George Koltanowski set this world record for Tandem Blindfold Chess, playing six opponents with a score of +3 =2 –1. Last week in Germany two blindfold experts, GM Timur Gareev and Marc Lang broke this 80-year record by playing seven opponents. Together they won five games and drew two,making them the new wonder twins. Report by Jennifer Vallens.

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Lang and Gareyev – Breaking Records in Blindfold Chess

Report by by Jennifer Vallens

They are an unlikely looking pair. Timur Gareyev, an unconventional American grandmaster from Uzbekistan with unique hair, curious style of dress and a thirst for adventure (see this promotional video); and Marc Lang, a FIDE Master, who is a hard-working family man and currently holds the world record for playing 46 Blindfold Chess games simultaneously. Gareyev is currently training to beat Lang’s world record by playing 50 blindfold chess games next year.

These two may not look like they would be friends and by most accounts should be rivals. However, when it comes to testing limits, taking on an insane challenge and playing blindfold chess, they are two peas in a pod. These blindfold chess experts worked together testing their extraordinary blindfold chess abilities and successfully set a new record for Tandem Blindfold Chess.

A tandem blindfold chess exhibition involves two players who team up to play multiple chess games with a number of other opponents, making successive moves without consulting one another. Neither partner has sight of the board or the pieces. Alexander Alekhine and George Koltanowski set this world record for Tandem Blindfold Chess in 1934 in Antwerp, Belgium. As a team, they played six opponents, scoring three wins, one loss and two draws. Last week, Lang and Gareyev broke this 80-year record by playing seven opponents. Together they won five games and drew two, making them the new wonder twins.

The evening began with media interviews and what else but some good old football

The weather was a near perfect 77 degrees. Timur, true to form, tried to keep the mood light as he rode a bicycle around the square – blindfolded of course! The games began promptly at 7 p.m. Marc donned a black blindfold and Timur, of course, wore pink.

FM Marc Lang and GM Timur Gareev playing seven opponents in blindfold tandem

They played seven games in all. Boards 1-3 they played as white. On board 4 they switched things up and played black, and returned to play as white on Boards 5-7. The age of the opponents ranged from 14 to 50 years, with an average USCF rating of 1900 – with one player rated 2200. The seven-game blindfold match lasted 4.5 hours with two five-minute breaks.

Prior to the start of the game, both Lang and Gareyev agreed to three different openings in a sequence. They opened with Nf3 on boards one and five, d4 on boards two and six, and e4 on boards three and seven. They played board four as black as a way to break up the sequence.

When asked what he felt was the most difficult thing about working as a team blindfolded, Lang responded “From my perspective, it wasn’t that difficult and I think Timur felt the same. For me it was sometimes difficult to guess what Timur had in mind with his move, as he’s the much stronger player. However, some of the positions didn’t quite fit my style, which told in my play on that particular board. Especially the King’s Indian on board 4 was not really my cup of tea”. He further explained “the position on board five right after the opening, I would have played it completely differently than Timur, but unfortunately (for me) it was Timur’s move when the crucial moments occurred. Thus, I somehow lost track or better: I tried to return the position to “my style”, but this was of course, a serious error, as we then played, to a certain degree against each other. As a result, our position became a bit shaky. But in the end we finally emerged as winners in a nice knight endgame.”

After the last game came to a close around a quarter past midnight, it was time for none other than – blindfold bughouse. This popular chess variant is played on two chessboards by four players in teams of two. Normal chess rules apply, except that captured pieces on one board are passed on to the players of the other board, who then have the option of putting these pieces on their board.

Lang was exhausted after the match – regrettably he was somewhat preoccupied with a major work project that had him busy on the very day of the event. But Timur insisted that the challenge continue. The consummate professional, Lang played on. Lang and Gareyev donned the blindfolds once more to challenge Roland Mayer (the club’s chairman) and Andreas Klein roughly 2100 USCF rating and stuck it out to win both games. They played bughouse with clocks with seven minutes for the blindfold team and five minutes for the opposing team. The moves were called out by a helper who sat across from the opposing team. Timur and Marc were allowed to ask questions on material such as “what do I have?”.

In the first game, Timur mated Roland Mayer, while Marc held his own against Andreas. The second went roughly the same way, only in game two, it is Marc who mated Roland with a nice attack with three knights against a wandering black king.

After the match, Marc shared that he had a lovely experience meeting Timur in person and getting the opportunity to team with him in such an unusual event. He wished he was less exhausted, but was happy with how the event turned out.

Interestingly, Timur and Marc’s approach to recall is very different. Marc is used to having sight of the players and seeing the move in notation on a computer screen. It is still blindfold chess because he has no sight of the chess board or pieces. The traditional blindfold chess player has his back to the opponents. Timur, on the other hand finds the physical blindfold benefits his recall. He relies purely on auditory processing for visualizing the board. Timur says that the opponents voices are very important to him, where as faces are very important to Marc for visualizing the individual games. Marc went on to say that he was deeply impressed by the strength of Timur’s play and thinks he has an excellent chance to break his record.

In Timur’s attempt to beat Marc’s blindfold chess world record of playing 46 chess games, Timur must extensively train mentally and physically. The event is expected to take 24 hours. Timur is developing his memory techniques and playing practice games. He is currently scheduling blindfold chess matches all over the US to help him prepare. If you are interested in having him come to your city for a match, please contact him at Timur has also partnered with OFF da ROOK and Chicago Area Mensa for the world record event. This event is scheduled for October 2016 and will take place in Chicago.

Both Timur Gareyev and Marc Lang are also in talks about doing more off the wall blindfold chess events together. Perhaps a Blindfold Knight’s Tour……stay tuned.

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Pictured here are five of the seven opponents in the back row. Front row, Marck Cobb,
President of Karpov International School of Chess, GM Timur Gareyev, FM Marc Lang
and Roland Mayer, the chairman of the chess club in Sontheim an der Brenz.

Jennifer Vallens is a Chess Mom living in the Conejo Valley, Southern California. She originally started the "OFF da ROOK" chess newsletter after her son taught her to play chess. "I wanted to create a place for parents to get information on where they could play chess and help build chess awareness in our community," she says. This effort led her to earn a coaching certificate. She now teaches Beginning Chess at several local elementary schools and runs local and national chess events. She created a special blog to share her journey.

"Chess is cool, people!" Jennifer says. "I am making it my mission to help bring it to the masses. People don't realize that you do not need to be smart to play chess.... but in fact, chess makes you smart!

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