Derren Brown's chess trick – once more with feeling

by ChessBase
4/8/2008 – A few years ago British magician, illusionist and mentalist Derren Brown performed a chess trick: he played against a group of very strong English players, many of them grandmasters, in a simultaneous exhibition and beat them. It is a well-known trick and was explained by Brown after the show. We reported on the experiment at the time – now you can watch it as a YouTube video.

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Derren Victor Brown, 37, is a British magician, psychological illusionist, mentalist – and a skeptic of paranormal phenomena. He studied Law and German at the University of Bristol, and during these studies attended a show by hypnotist Martin Taylor, which inspired him to turn to illusion and hypnosis as a career. He worked as a conjuror, practising the traditional skills of close-up magic, and in 1996 started performing stage hypnosis shows. In 2000 he was commissioned to do a pilot for his Channel 4 television series, Mind Control. He began his television work with three sixty-minute specials over two years, which led up to the six part series which incorporated new footage with the best of the hour long shows.

Derren Brown states at the beginning of his "Trick of the Mind" programmes that he achieves his results using a combination of "magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship". Using his knowledge and skill he appears to be able to predict and influence people's thoughts with subtle suggestion, manipulate the decision making process and read the subtle physical signs or body language that indicate what a person is thinking.

In his book Tricks of the Mind, Brown writes, "I am often dishonest in my techniques, but always honest about my dishonesty. I happily admit cheating, as it's all part of the game. I hope some of the fun for the viewer comes from not knowing what's real and what isn't. I am an entertainer first and foremost, and I am careful not to cross any moral line that would take me into manipulating people's real-life decisions or belief systems."

The Chess Trick

A few years ago Derren Brown performed a chess trick, one well known to insiders: he played against a group of strong players by secretly mirroring the moves on different boards, essentially playing them against each other. We reported on the experiment at the time. Now we have found a video of the event on YouTube. It is well worth watching.

Derren Brown's simultaneous chess prank

The trick is not new. Alekhine and his twice world championship challenger Bogoljubov are said to have been challenged separately to games of correspondence chess at money odds. In effect the opponent, who had little chess skill, was playing in neither game. He was simply passing on the moves of the players. Since he had received money odds he ended with a net profit whoever won the game.


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