Flying High: GM Timur Gareyev

by Macauley Peterson
3/4/2019 – When you think about popularizing the game of chess, a lot of ideas may cross your mind, but few could be crazier than what Timur Gareyev did in collaboration with US Chess Federation last year: Sky-diving for the Chess Life magazine cover. Watch the amazing video and read a new interview along with recollections from IM Sagar Shah on Gareyev's trip through India. Next stop: The U.S. Championship in St. Louis!

Developing the initiative Developing the initiative

Dynamic play is what makes your chess effective and most importantly fun! Timur Gareyev shows severeal examples which aspects are important to remember when seizing for the initiative!

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Exotic travel experiences and more

The 'Blindfold King' always has a story to tell. Timur Gareyev, who just celebrated his 31st birthday this past weekend, is well-known to have tastes which are different and off-the-beaten-path. Marathon runner, yoga enthusiast, globetrotter and blindfold chess Guinness World Record holder, Timur is known as one of the most outlandish characters in the chess world today.

Now he's getting set to compete in the super-strong U.S. Championship, which begins in two weeks. It's a tournament he hasn’t played for the past three years, but this time he qualified by winning the venerable U.S. Open last August, scoring 8.0/9 (eight wins and a loss).

When Gareyev won the 119th edition of the U.S. Open, Chess Life magazine knew it had to do something special with the adventurous grandmaster. All of his various activities lend themselves to a potentially exciting cover with the Kansas-based player (born in Uzbekistan). But it was when his manager Jennifer Vallens told the magazine's editors that Timur is also a skydiver with close to 150 solo jumps that they knew a cover was born:

 Watch the skydiving session for the November 2018 issue

According to USChess.org:

Vallens coordinated the cover and video shoot with Joe Jennings of skydive.tv, who is experienced filming stunt dives with everything from snowboards to bikes, all-terrain vehicles, and even jeeps. Seemingly a chess board would be simple compared to those other shoots, but a square piece of wood is anything but aerodynamic. Imagine how your hand reacts to the wind when you stick it out a car window at 60 mph; Timur would be falling at 120 mph while "flying" the board. This required Jennings to not just permanently attach the pieces but to also doctor the board with a cone attached underneath to help provide aerodynamic stability.

The position, chosen by Gareyev, is based on a game, probably apocryphal or misattributed to Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the prince de Conti, supposedly played in 1760 in Montmorency, France.

Timur on the cover of two issues of Chess Life, the flagship publication of US Chess, a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to empowering people through chess, one move at a time

Gareyev is most well-known for his incredible blindfold feats. When he received an award from US Chess for this 2017 blindfold simul record, US Chess Digital Editor Jennifer Shahade introduced him as the grandmaster "who seems to be everywhere at once, giving simuls in Hawaii, Las Vegas, India or Kansas, often running marathons or engaved in some kind of new adventure sport — whatever it is Timur was probably doing it while playing blindfold chess...Garyeyev truly embodies the adventurous spirit that attracts many young people to the culture of chess."

Here's a little-known example: A tandem blindfold blitz game with Norwegian number three and former World Junior Champion, GM Aryan Tari. The grandmasters were both blindfolded and taking turns calling out White's moves.

In the video below the game starts at approximately the 12:50 mark.

 

Matt & Patt on Facebook

Although this task proved easy, it was but an appetiser for the assembled audience who were subsequent treated to Gareyev playing four simultaneous blindfold rapid games in Chess960 (a.k.a. Fischer Random Chess) from four different starting positions! That turns out to be quite a challenge, even for the Blindfold King. (Watch, starting from about 48 minutes in the video above.)

A year in a blur

At the Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Sagar Shah and I sat down with Timur to hear some of the highlights of his recent travels, and how he still has ambitions to improve his playing strength to 2700.

Interviewing Timur in Batumi

Timur (left) with David Llada, Macauley Peterson, Amruta Mokal and Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam | Photo: Sagar Shah

What was the craziest thing you did in the last six months?

TG: Travelling intensely. On average over the past three or four years I’ve said OK I’m just going to go and hit the road and then from there I go to the next place and on and on and on. I think on average I might have spent four or five days in one place.

So 13 or 14 new places every year.

Yeah, something like that. Well, coming back — lets say we have a chess camp in Kansas. I come out there — that’s our home, the Karpov Chess School. My mother’s there. Or Kazan, I have a lot of relatives there on my dad’s side. So I combined playing a [rapid] chess tournament there, recently. [Won by Maxim Chigaev on tiebreak. -Ed.]

 

(L-to-R) Narkiz Saifutdinov (former Director of the Rashid Nezhmetdinov Chess School), Timur Gareyev (2nd place), Maxim Chigaev (1st place), Ivan Bocharov (3rd place), Gennady Zakharov (President of the Chess Federation of the Republic of Tatarstan) | Photo: ruchess.ru

TG: That was cool…actually kind of the pattern has been to the point where I’d be like ‘listen if I could get the hell out of this tournament I would because I’ll have like 2 points out of 4 — it’ll just be really not a good score so I’d just be ready to give up, but then somehow I just win the rest of the games.

The tournaments I started to play recently like the Pacific Coast Open — so smaller US tournaments over a couple of days — I join the quickest schedule. Two days and you’re done. You play five, six rounds [in one day] — the quicker the better, the faster time-wise, schedule-wise — it’s just easier to maintain focus. Just cram it all in [and] be done with it. You don’t have to overthink it too.

I was going to play like every weekend. Anytime I get now to play, I play...[At] the US Open...I still join the quickest [schedule] and then the last few rounds were just a game a day. [For the] first six rounds you play game 45 or 60 and then you switch to the classical, which is a little exhausting, going from the faster pace games. So, like Round 8 I was really like, man, if we could just play this game out in like five minutes we would pretty much do the same thing and I’d be done with this game, but it just lasted another hour and a half or something...

...I had to beat Stukopin in the eighth round and then Awonder Liang in the last round. Somehow it worked out, I was able to capture the title — prize money was quite good and also getting a spot in the US Chess Championship.

Gareyev's travel schedule had him jumping back and forth across the Atlantic, with consecutive tournaments in Iowa, Kazan (Russia), Illinois and Minnesota, with a very brief stoppover in Iceland!

TG: Iceland — they said it is very healthy — you have to drink a lot of vodka in Iceland, so I bought three bottles. It’s made with the Iceland water, so it’s very healthy, the Icelandic water. I wasn’t so crazy, but I just landed in Iceland, bought three bottles at duty free, came to some hostel at the bus station [in Reykjavik] and then we’d just hammer away, just drank it all. OK it was a big circle of people from the hostel. We play games — stupid games, drinking games. And then pretty much the next morning I just take a ride back to the airport and fly on. The next time I go, I’ll at least spend a week.

I’m anticipating my passport — I got it last year and it’s all stamped away — especially as I have a lot of visa — so I’m anticipating as soon as my new one is ready I’ll be applying for a New Zealand visa. [He tied for first at the New Zealand Open with 7/9 then crushed the field in the rapid (8½/9) and blitz (9/9) championships. -Ed.]

 

Replay all Gareyev's games from the New Zealand Open 2019

"Being the Blindfold King is not enough"

Gareyev has been resident in the USA for the past ten years, and has a green card, but intends to apply for US citizenship. He still has big goals for his (non-blindfold) chess.

TG: My green card expires next year, so I have to extend that anyway...I was 17 when I first came. Studied and played chess for a team in Texas — it’s UTRGV nowadays — it was UTB, University of Texas at Brownsville. When I first came out it was Roman Dzindzichashvili who was coaching the team. I was the only grandmaster and the next strongest player was like 1800. Now they were able to build it up over the years and even win the championship.

Chess wise I just want to win the games I’m playing — I’m not training too much. Optimally I would like to take that final push. I mean I’m not doing so much for it — I’ll just sign up for any tournament I could play, but in terms of preparation, no — just about nothing.

So how are you going to make the final push?

Well one thing I realised is that you just have to want it, and really focus on winning. I changed psychology a little bit. The problem is that I won the US Open, which is a very major victory, but overall it seems like I’ve been getting better results, good results. One thing is just playing, being in the rhythm. You notice the decision-making speeds up and then it’s a good way to learn your openings, though mistakes, and also it kind of pushes you to check things. I’ll always go over my games and stuff like that, so when I do play a chess tournament it’ll be like four or five hours of chess a day — quality work...

I just want to get that final final final final push, and I think that primarily for blindfold chess legacy — so that people who studied the ideal of blindfold chess and how they could really improve your game overall will say, ‘well Timur Gareyev played blindfold chess’. In terms of my results I haven’t really gone up so much since my major accomplishment, but if I do, at least try to get better, and then see how far I can go I think that at least to have that official achievement, say 2700, winning the World Cup, winning the World Rapid Championship, World Blitz — just some kind of cool…tournament results. From there I’ll say, ‘ok well I think this is good’ and I’ll try to use my potential, the ability, elsewhere — because I think that it will be ultimately at least more profitable, more lucrative, to try and direct the efforts that way. And also try something new [laughs]. 25 years — at least for the past 20+ years — every year I’ve at least played like 10 tournaments, on average for sure.

So what’s the strategy with the beard?

Since I don’t have so much time, and I need to study chess every day...

Just save time and see what happens? But there’s got to be maintenance involved too…

No, I don’t. I’m going to have to borrow some of Lennart’s [Ootes'] paint cream [i.e. hair dye -Ed.] One thing also, you know, I realised how old I’m getting — getting all this grey hair. Might as well not care about shaving a beard, then I’ll look like a proper old man.

One more game...

Timur's 2018 travels also took him to Amsterdam where he visited the famous 'Max Euweplein' and played a game on the giant chess set. He recounts:

As I started my onslaught vs local Dutch champion Tanim, I managed to pull off a beautiful attacking sequence leading to black's demise!

 

Timur in Amsterdam

Gareyev in Amsterdam | Photo: Farid Gareyev

Sagar Shah and Frederic Friedel contributed to this story


Timur Gareyev in India

By IM Sagar Shah

Amruta and I began our homeless, nomadic journey for a year towards the end of 2017. We began with the four major tournaments in India — Bhopal, Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. We thought we were doing something crazy and bold, but it faded when we compared it to the man whom we met on this journey — GM Timur Gareyev! He was our constant companion through these 35 days of tournaments in India. Everyone knew him as the Blindfold King, but I am glad that I could get to know him better through our interactions and interviews. These are the things that I learnt from the American GM:

1. Never afraid to experiment!

When Timur arrived at the Bhopal tournament he was given a garland at the opening ceremony. The round was about to begin in thirty minutes. And (of course!) Timur never removed the garland and played his first round with it!

Garayev garland

Photo: Amruta Mokal

At the IIFLW Mumbai event Timur wore the Santa cap as a part of the new year celebrations:

Timur Santa hat

Photo: Niklesh Jain

After a great simul at the same event he was gifted a turban by the organizer Praful Zaveri:

Gareyev turban

Photo: Sagar Shah

Sure enough, he took it to his next tournament in Delhi and wore it during his game!

Gareyev turban distraction

Distracting? | Photo: Niklesh Jain

2. Now is the time!

After a nice dinner at the Bhopal GM I asked Timur if we could a video with him on the Trompowsky on any one of the following days. It was already 11 p.m. and I expected all of us to go to our respective beds, especially because there was a morning round on the following day. But Gareyev asked me, "What are you doing now? Why don't we have a look at it right now!" And the location? Gareyev was in the mood for some fresh air and we chose the garden outside the playing hall. It was pitch dark and filled with mosquitoes! But I truly enjoyed the session.

Gareyev and Shah

Why delay when you can do things now!


Trompowsky for the attacking player

Tap into your creative mind and start the game on a fresh note. The Trompowsky (1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5) is an opening outside of conventional wisdom. Create challenges and make your opponent solve problems early on.

More...


3. Always ready to help others!

His highest rating was 2680 Elo, he is the most prolific blindfold chess player in the world. Yet, Timur Gareyev is always ready to help others. His affection towards kids was visible at just about every event that he went to.

Gareyev with kids

Just interacting with a player of his stature gave so much to these kids to learn from! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

It didn't matter what your rating was Timur always cared for the feelings of people around him. Check out this video where he interviews youngsters around him:

At the Bhopal tournament when I was giving a lecture to the parents and players, I suddenly saw Timur passing by. I called him and asked him a few questions about how to become a better blindfold player. In the video below you can see the great conviction and accuracy with which Gareyev tries to explain the basics of his art. It's like world's greatest scientist trying to explain basic physics to the listeners. Timur never really behaves like a star, and that, in my opinion, made him one!

Gareyev explains how to become better at blindfold chess

4. Serious about chess!

With all the things he was doing, it is easy to believe that Gareyev was not really interested in chess. But nothing could be farther away from truth. When he was at the board Gareyev was a complete picture of concentration.

Gareyev in black and white

(Click or tap to enlarge) A brilliant image by world-class photographer David Llada

Gareyev legs crossed

Meditating during the game to find the best moves! | Photo: Amruta Mokal 

After an intense last round against Ivan Rozum in Chennai, Timur's chess trip in India had ended. There were no more games. But Gareyev spent nearly an hour ananalysing his game with Rozum. It was just fantastic to see his dedication. And after that he even recorded a video for ChessBase India.

Gareyev with Ivan Rozum

Photo: Amruta Mokal 

Timur Gareyev shows his last round win over Ivan Rozum

5. Eat healthy

To become the best blindfold player in the world, Timur Gareyev had to ensure that he remains physically fit. Playing blindfold against multiple opponents (sometimes even 48!) means that you cannot take your health lightly. When Timur was in India, he didn't let junk things enter his body. Sometimes he would tell me that he needed to keep his body hydrated and hence would only eat cucumbers and tomatoes!

Gareyev spinach

Gareyev with his favourite vegetable - Spinach!

Gareyev eating

Eat, Sleep, Chess, Repeat! And every once in a while you can enjoy that Gulab Jamun! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Originally published on ChessBase India


Previous ChessBase reports on Timur Gareyev

Blindfold king Timur Gareyev on tour
4/6/2016 – In 2016 Timur Gareyev wants to break the world record in blindfold play by taking up 47 opponents simultaneously. In March he played a 35 player blindfold simul in Santa Clara, California. Gareyev lost one game, drew two and won 32. As Gareyev believes that physical fitness and mental excellence go together he spun a stationary bike for over nine hours during the simul!

Gareyev gives blindfold simul in Amsterdam
5/31/2016 – The Caissa Amsterdam chess club, the largest chess club in Amsterdam, just celebrated its 65th anniversary. In honor of the moment they organized a series of activities for both the youth as well as the adults in the club. One of thesewas a blindfold simul by Timur Gareyev on thirteen boards. Lennart Ootes was there and brought some excellent photos.

Timur Gareyev Breaks World Consecutive Blindfold Chess Record
9/28/2016 – GM Timur Gareyev is a man with a mission: the man who likes to call himself "Blindfold King" wants to set records in blindfold chess. And he does: on September 24th, at the Coralville Marriott Hotel in Iowa, from 9:32 in the morning to 7:45 in the evening, he played 64 consecutive blindfold games, winning 54, losing 8 and drawing 2. That's a new world record!

Breaking the record – a 50-board blindfold attempt
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?

Breaking records in blindfold tandem chess
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.

The Blindfold King vs The Machine
6/30/2016 – Later this year GM Timur Gareyev will try play 47 opponents simultaneously, blindfold, breaking the current world record of 46 games. Neuroscientists found this interesting enough try to find out how his brain works – they put the GM into a MRI scanner while he played four blindfold games. In CHESS Magazine Timur provides a look into how he is preparing to take on arguably the game’s most impressive record of all time.

ChessBase Christmas Puzzles 2015 (3)
12/27/2015 – In the previous installment we showed you a study that Garry Kasparov gave to a ten-year-old prodigy to solve – in his mind. Today we bring you the solution and tell you how 2600+ GMs fared with the same task. And then there is a second study which Garry gave the lad to solve, one that will help you understand some important principles and improve your calculation skills.

Blindfold against ten detainees
11/2/2013 – On Friday, Timur Gareev's quest to break a world record by playing 50 simultaneous games of chess took a detour into Cook County Jail's Division Six. The 25-year-old grandmaster faced the top ten finishers from the medium-security division's first-ever chess tournament. Chapeau! The No. 3-ranked chess player in America is doing a lot for chess in the media. Chicago Tribune report and video.

The Maverick: play hard, party heartily
5/29/2013 – GM Timur Gareev of Uzbekistan, now living in the USA, is one of the most energetic mavericks in the chess world. He is sure to remain a stellar grandmaster for many years, but is also a representative of the new generation of grandmasters with a passion to bring the game to a wider public. Marck Cobb reports on his adventurous 1000-mile journey from St. Louis to San Diego.

33-board blindfold simul at US Championship
4/30/2013 – The 2013 U.S. Championships is scheduled to be held from May 2 to 13 in the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. Today, to kick things off, Uzbek GM Timur Gareev will be conducting a 33-board blindfold simultaneous exhibition – preparation for a world record attempt on 64 boards, to be held on December 21 on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Press release.




Macauley is Editor in Chief of ChessBase News in Hamburg, Germany, and producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast. He was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.
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fons3 fons3 3/6/2019 12:09
Apologies for being so skeptical, but how do you keep a cap on while skydiving? A helmet yes, but a cap?


(PS: I think Timur is great btw, I just have a questioning mind, I see something that does not make sense (to me), I look for answers.)
Jenguild Jenguild 3/5/2019 04:23
Jen Vallens here. I was with Timur and Joe at the photoshoot. No photoshop. Not even a touch up. Timur had a flawless jump without the cap, but we decided the cap completed the look for the cover, soooo Timur jumped again!
macauley macauley 3/5/2019 01:55
@fons - No Photoshopping. They did many jumps (10 or more) mainly to "learn" how to fly the chess board, which proved very difficult.
fons3 fons3 3/5/2019 12:05
In the cover photo he wears a cap.
But in the skydiving video he wears no cap.

Some photoshopping going on?
royce campbell royce campbell 3/5/2019 07:41
Mmmm. Gulab jamun!
anandymous anandymous 3/5/2019 04:45
My favorite GM.
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