Chess: Blindfold ambition

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The Independent Culture
THE INSURANCE Chess Club celebrated its centenary with a remarkable display by Paul Littlewood, who played eight strong club members simultaneously blindfold. The event, held on 20 March, was 100 years to the day after J H Blackburne had beaten the Insurance team by 61 2 -11 2 in a similar display. Littlewood went one better, with seven wins and one draw.

To play several blindfold games at the same time one must keep them as distinct as possible. By playing 1. e4 on the odd-numbered boards and 1. d4 on the evens, he made them easier to remember in two groups of four. When three games began 1. e4 e5, he continued with one Ruy Lopez, one Giuoco Piano and one King's Gambit.

What the Insurance players did not know was the anti-Yugoslav blindfold gambit, a ploy used by a club in Yugoslavia some years ago to destroy an experienced blindfold specialist.

The display was over 20 boards, and the grandmaster played 1. e4, 1. d4, 1. c4 and 1. Nf3 five times each, in strict rotation. All his opponents then replied either 1 . . . d6 or 1 . . . g6. Next move they continued with g6, d6, Bg7 or Bh6, and on the third move, some retreated bishops from h6 to g7, some moved bishops from f8 to g7, others played g6 or d6 or Bh6 or Nf6.

By move four, all had played a random permutation of four moves from a list of six, in a way that nobody can hold in their memory.

The grandmaster then went to the lavatory. Later they found the window open and footsteps in the snow leading to the station.