Lubomir Kavalek on Chess

By Lubomir Kavalek
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, December 22, 2008

In the fall of 1970 I played a blindfold simultaneous exhibition at Georgetown University, winning all 15 games in under four hours. Playing without seeing the boards and the pieces seemed easy and I began thinking about playing 30 opponents on my next try. Then it hit me: For three nights straight afterward, I could not sleep. Every time I closed my eyes, positions from the exhibition paraded in my brain. I have never played a blindfold exhibition since, but I have admired those who did.

Blindfold World Record

The most comprehensive and unique work on the subject of blindfold play is "Blindfold Chess: History, Psychology, Techniques, Champions, World Records, and Important Games" by Eliot Hearst and John Knott, recently published by McFarland ( According to the authors, who worked on the 445-page book for decades, the world record in blindfold simultaneous play belongs to Miguel Najdorf, who played on 45 boards in 1947 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The late Polish-Argentine GM finished the exhibition in 23 1/2 hours and the games were not easy. Here is one example.


1.e4 e5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Be7 4.f4 exf4 5.Nf3 g5 6.0-0 d6 7.d4 Bg4 (The game turns into King's gambit and Najdorf makes an intuitive sacrifice.) 8.Bxf7+!? Kxf7 9.Nxg5+ Bxg5 10.Qxg4 h5 11.Qe2 (11.Qd1 Qf6 12.Ne2 is a simpler way to win the f-pawn and open up the kingside.) 11...Nxd4?! (Playing into white's hands. After 11...Kg7 12.Qc4 Nf6 13.Bxf4 Bxf4 14.Rxf4 Qe7 15.Raf1 Raf8 the chances are roughly equal.) 12.Qc4+ Ne6 13.Bxf4 Bxf4 14.Rxf4+ Nf6 (Black could have tried a fancy defense, 14...Ke7 15.Nd5+ Ke8, because after 16.Nxc7+ Qxc7 17.Qxe6+ Ne7 only 18.Rf7! maintains winning chances.) 15.Raf1 Rh6 16.Rf5 (The retreat 16.R4f2, leaving the square f5 free and preventing a check on the diagonal a7-g1, was more precise, for example 16...c6 17.e5! dxe5 18.Ne4 Qd4 19.Ng5+ Kg6 20.Qxe6 and white wins; or 16...b5 17.Nxb5 Qd7 18.Nd4 with white's edge.)

16...c6 17.e5 (This leads to a queen exchange. It could have been avoided by first playing 17.Kh1.) 17...dxe5 18.Ne4 Qd4+ 19.Qxd4 Nxd4 (After 19...exd4, 20.Nxf6 Ke7 21.Nxh5 Rah8 22.g4 wins.) 20.Rxf6+ Rxf6 21.Rxf6+ Kg7 (Najdorf has to win the endgame and his technique is excellent.) 22.c3 Ne2+ 23.Kf1 Nc1 24.Rd6! (Cutting off the black knight.) 24...Rf8+ 25.Ke1 Rf4 (After 25...Nxa2 26.Nc5 Rf7 27.Ne6+ Kg6 28.Nd8+ Rf6 29.Nxb7 white is clearly better.) 26.Rd7+ Rf7? (Loses the knight, but after 26...Kg6 27.Nf2 e4 28.g3 Rf5 29.Nxe4 Re5 30.Kd2 white has good winning chances.) 27.Rxf7+ Kxf7 28.Kd2 Nxa2 29.Kc2 (Threatening to pick up the knight with 30.Kb1.) Black resigned.

Unstoppable Topalov

Veselin Topalov, the world's top-rated player, triumphed yesterday in the Pearl Spring tournament in Nanjing, the strongest chess event ever held in China. The Bulgarian grandmaster scored 7 points in 10 games. Armenia's Levon Aronian finished second with 5 1/2 points, China's Bu Xiangzhi had 5 points and Russia's Peter Svidler ended with 4 1/2 points. Last place was shared by Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine and Sergei Movsesian of Slovakia with 4 points.

Solution to today's three-mover by F. Giegold (White: Ke7,Ra6,Bf7,Ng6,P:b2,h4; Black: Kh7,P:b3,g7,h5,h6) 1.Ra2! bxa2 2.Bxa2 Kxg6 3.Bb1 mate.

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