Breaking the record – a 50-board blindfold attempt

by Timur Gareyev
9/11/2013 – Uzbek grandmaster Timur Gareev, who now resides in San Diego, has, as our readers know, been touring California in the past months. He brings us pictures of the Burning Man festival and the biggest living entity on the planet. He also tells us about his experiences with blindfold simultaneous exhibitions, and a plan to break the world record. Anyone like to host it?

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Breaking the record

By GM Timur Gareev

Before we come to the blindfold simul attemt here some pictures from my travel blog. During the past two months I have visited many beautiful places in California and Nevada. After almost a month of enjoying Las Vegas I took a trip to Nevada for Burning Man Festival, where more than 50,000 participants gather for a week-long annual event held in the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada, in the United States.

It takes its name from the ritual burning of a large wooden effigy, which is set alight on Saturday evening. The event is described as an experiment in community, art, radical self-expression, and radical self-reliance.

"Trying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been to the event is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind," we are told on the Burning Man web site. A brief yet eloquent overview of the event is provided by participant Molly Steenson. Images from this year's festival can be found here.

Black Rock City from space: the European Space Agency's Proba-1 microsatellite took
the above photo of Burning Man on from an altitude of about 373 miles (600 kilometers).

After a couple days at the (temporary) Black Rock City I had enough fun
and moved on to explore beautiful Lake Tahoe for the weekend

An encounter with General Sherman, one of the tallest (83.8 metres =275 ft), widest (diameter of 7.7 metres = 25 ft), and oldest (2,300–2,700 years) trees on the planet. With an estimated bole volume of 1,487 cubic metres or 52,513 cu ft, it is also one of the largest living entities. The ant in the blue shirt is me. General Sherman is located in the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park in Tulare County, California, which in the past weeks has been threatened by the Rim Fire, California's third largest wildfire which burned 68,153 acres inside the park.

Addendum: We have been informed, ba Dave Ayers, that the Rim Fire is not near Sequoia National Park but is about 120 miles northwest of Giant Forest. The fire has burned some acreage in Yosemite National Park and threatens the Tuolumne and Merced big tree groves.

My trip included a wonderful encounter with an eight-year-old inspired to-be grandmaster Kevin and his “chess sensei” Ron. My new friends puzzled me with the following position:

How did the above position arise?

After a wonderful time of relaxing and enjoying San Diego, I returned back to Las Vegas and have been giving regular lectures at Downtown Las Vegas Chess Club. Here is a little piece from an endgame exploration I would like to share:

[Event "Las Vegas"] [Site "?"] [Date "2013.09.07"] [Round "?"] [White "Endgame Lecture"] [Black "?"] [Result "1-0"] [Annotator "Gareyev,Timur"] [SetUp "1"] [FEN "6k1/6pp/2n2p2/1p6/2r5/P1B1PR2/1P4PP/6K1 w - - 0 1"] [PlyCount "33"] [EventDate "2013.??.??"] 1. Rf5 b4 {Black gets rid of the weak pawn. White in turn gets to exchange a pair of rooks.} 2. axb4 Nxb4 3. Rf4 Rxf4 4. exf4 Nd3 (4... Nd5 {is a better choice. White cannot as easily push the b-pawn. The knight is a more useful defender on d5.}) 5. f5 $1 {I fix Black's pawn structure, which will be vulnerable to my bishop's pressure. The knight is now remote from f5. My b-pawn presents the decisive opportunity.} Kf7 6. g4 {Black's pawns are ready for exchange strikes. I am solidifying the crucial f5-pawn. My king is now ready to move along the g2-d5 trajectory.} g6 7. Kg2 h5 {Played in good spirit. .. However this does not work tactically. Black wants to trade material. This does cost him another pawn.} 8. fxg6+ Kxg6 9. gxh5+ {Right about here I realized the possibility for black to give up the knight for the b2 pawn. Sigh. .. yes, the h8-corner indeed in my bishop's reach. This important concept I should have considered in advance.} Kg5 10. h6 (10. Kf3 {is also good}) 10... Kxh6 11. Bxf6 Kg6 12. Bc3 {Two pawns up with few challenges to overcome...} Kf5 13. Kf3 Kg5 14. Ke4 {Black's knight cannot cope with my powerful pieces.} Nc5+ 15. Kd5 Na4 16. Bd4 {Black's knight is dominated. My bishop is ready to direct it's attention to the kingside.} Kg4 17. b3 1-0

My travels continue with a series of blindfold simultaneous exhibition matches – 21 or more players are expected to participate in each city: in Cypress, September 14, Austin September 21 and Las Vegas September 29.

I have been exploring blindfold chess for over 1.5 years now. I have played over 1000 blindfold games in classic simuls, online events, and practice games. I have defined my goals and expectations more clearly. The major challenge that inspires me is 50-game world record blindfold simultaneous attempt. There are several potential organizers and venues that would host the event. If you think your city or club has what it takes to host the event, feel free to respond. A few requirements/comments:

  1. The priority of the event is to create a wonderful experience for the participants.
  2. The duration of the event is 20 hours or longer.
  3. Creating the environment where everyone is happy takes resources.

A 27-games blindfold simul which I conducted in Hawaii was described in an article on the ChessBase news page. My previous experience in blindfold chess had included five blindfold events run in Texas:

  • Laura Bush Library: first blindfold match vs. four players, with four wins for me
  • Houston Chess Club: blindfold simul vs. ten players, all games won by me
  • Checkmate Chess Club, Austin, TX: blindfold vs. twelve players, all games won
  • Lone Star College-CyFair, Cypress, TX: blindfold vs. 19 players, two loses, one draw
  • Westlake Chess Association, Austin TX: blindfold vs. 18 players, +17 =1 –0
  • Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis: blindfold vs 33 opponents

33-board blindfold simul in Saint Louis, where my score was 29 wins, four draws and zero losses

My inspiration of exploring blindfold chess is associated with the ability of such demonstrations to spark people’s imagination. “How do you do it?” is obviously the most common questions I get. In simple terms, blindfold chess on multiple boards is similar to playing a highly competitive game of chess. The major challenge, however, is the consistent intensity and duration of thought. During a tournament game you move around, take a peek at your friends’ games, have a snack, exchange a couple laughs, etc. Blindfold chess requires complete presence of focus. Developing powerful concentration is one of the major benefits of playing multiple games blindfolded.

Food for thought – the diet of a blindfold simul record breaker

The duration of the blindfold match requires a high degree of physical and psychological endurance. The Hawaiian simul lasted nine hours, with actual play time, excluding breaks, of around eight hours; the Saint Louis event took ten hours and 39 minutes. Surprisingly, on some level I feel refreshed when I complete my blindfold simuls. In the Hawaiian event, after I negotiated a draw in my last game and returned to normal life, I felt initially dazed. But after speaking with the participants and wrapping up the evening I got to fully experience my state of concentration, which brought a remarkable sense of presence and peace.

The GM and the Pacific – Timur Gareev is currently located in San Diego, California

There are transition points during a blindfold simul that take more energy. In terms of an empowering metaphor, beginning a simul is like light spreading across remote and unknown lands as the sun is rising. It takes a while to settle into the necessary mind-set and rhythm. As I enter the “zone”, move execution and transition from one board to another become smooth. As the positions become complex the task gets more challenging once again.

The record attempt

My major blindfold simul goal for the year is to play 50 games simultaneously, setting the world record. The key to succes is clear vision and fast pace, and this requires considerable blindfold practice before the event. My training has been consistent and is starting to gain momentum. 10,000 hours is what it takes to achieve mastery. Considering that I am a pretty good chess player already, I may need considerably less to get there: I will be attempting to break the world record after 1,000 hours of preparation. The qualities I desire to develop are deeper visualization, clearer vision, faster pace, and infinite endurance.

Previous articles on Timur Gareev

Timur Gareyev is a chess grandmaster originally from Uzbekistan. He has held the rank of 3rd highest rated chess player in the US and top 100 players in the world with a peak USCF rating of 2780. He is best known for his exceptional Blindfold Chess playing ability.


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