Friday, October 17, 2014

Blindfold Chess -- Resources and Ideas

I wanted to share a little of my experience with BF chess and to share some of the resources for blindfold chess and visualization that I have used.

I started playing blindfold chess about 15 years ago when I lived overseas and my coach had me focus on dynamic play, calculation, tactics and studying mostly Tal's games. One day he handed me a pencil/paper during a lesson and literally threw me into BF chess.  It only took a few games before I was comfortable with it, and since then I have intentionally tried to keep up my visualization/blindfold skills. I have also taught kids how to play blindfold using some of the basic mating patterns as building blocks.

There are lots of great techniques out there and I think any of them will do you well.  Here are a few I have used and would recommend to anyone:


1. "Chess Blitz 3"

-- this covers a range of easy questions like colors of squares, knight movement, and openings. No board, no pieces. I use these questions to open up training sessions.

2. Basic Mates (no pieces, no board)

-- start with two White rooks on a1/b1, White king somewhere out of the way (like h1), and the Black king in middle (like d4). Mate using the staircase pattern up the a- and b- files, while being mindful of the location of the black king and the safety of your rooks.

-- to up the difficulty a bit, move the rooks to a8 and a7 and do the mate across the top, and then h8 and g8 and go down, etc, until you get the hang of it. You will definitely know when you're comfortable with it.

-- to up the difficulty a bit more, change the starting location of the white king on a square that it is 'in the way'. If your rooks are on a1 and b1, and the black king is on d4, put the white king on d6 or d8.

-- Once you're comfortable with two rooks, then do queen and rook vs king what I call 'walking the dog' (not the staircase pattern). Change the direction to go up, down, left, right, and change the location of your king.

-- then you can do QvsK and RvsK.

-- then you can move on doing simple mate in 1 or 2 problems using only 4 pieces.

These basic patterns are an easy way to get a feel for the board, because you already know HOW to mate (or you should!) with that material so you don't really need to calculate anything. You can just focus on remembering where the four (three really) pieces are on the board. You can even do these in your head for practice!


1. The Chess Eye program is available online and has 10 levels from easy to very challenging. I try to do 10 questions from each level every day, and it takes about 15 minutes.

2. Blindfold chess against Fritz 13 (handicapped). I try to play 1 game a day. I set it on the lowest handicap possible and then once I can beat that level without blundering a piece due to bad visualization, I go up to the next handicap.


1. Chess Visualization Course -- available online, the exercises show you a position and then you have to visualize a series of moves that the book gives you, and then rate (1) the quality of the image in your mind, and (2) whether you evaulated the material properly at the end of the exchange.

2. Stoyko exercises -- I have written several blogs about this (here, here, and the entire series of 20+ blogs on calculation), but the BF piece is that you don't move the pieces at all.

3. Opening Traps -- Pandolfini has an excellent three book series on opening traps. The one I like best is the 'winning way'. To do this blindfold, just follow the text of the opening moves and look for the tactics (usually a queen fork or an initial exchange before a queen fork). Dont look at the graphic unless you're having problems finding the tactic. I would recommend though that if you have look at the graphic, you should really think about what you weren't visualizing and why. A common problem for me was not clearly seeing how pawns moves changed things, so now I spend extra time thinking about pawn moves.

I hope this is useful for everyone. I look forward to hearing what you guys are doing to improve your visualization and blindfold skills!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Purdy makes simple and effective suggestion for blindfold practice. Name a square, identify its color as quickly as possible.

    At first, everyone uses h1 as a reference. "f6. The square on White's right — h1 — is white, so h2 is black, h4 is black, h6 is black, f6 is black".

    With practice, you learn the relationship between squares other than h1. For instance, "f6. f6 are bishop moves f8-e7-f6 or f8-g7-f6 and c1-g5-f6 or c1-b2-f6, which all have to be black. A knight move g8-f6, so g8 must be white. Pawn move f7-f6 so f7 must be white. Queen move d8-f6 so d8 must be black". And so forth.

    It's the best way to spend idle moments at traffic lights, while shaving, better than counting sheep before sleep.

    1. That's a cool idea. I do go straight to h1 when I need a reference and this sounds like a good way to build connections between other squares. I'll try this today!

    2. I've seen you reference Purdy several times -- would you recommend any of his books/writings in particular?

    3. Thinkers Press has done an excellent job anthologizing Purdy's magazine pieces, but the thing about Purdy is that many folks don't like his style. The guy was the best chess teacher who ever lived — Fischer thought so — but for his pithy phrasing and the odd terms he coined, he didn't catch on nearly as well as Nimzovich (who said all the same things, but in a way that gave people a false sense of knowledge, and chessplayers are all about inflated self-images).

      I don't do anything in my writings and teachings but repeat what Purdy said (or what my old chess teacher said, while he was repeating Purdy).

      Seen this?

  3. I'll suggest your entire blogroll is suspect for the inclusion of "Chess Book Reviews for the Real World".

  4. here you can find links to visualistaion exercises :