Have you ever wondered why chess players challenge themselves and play chess blindfolded? Sure, playing chess with a blindfold decently might surprise and awe your friends but practicing to play chess with a blindfold on has more benefits than what you might see at first glance.
In order to play chess with a blindfold decently, you would need certain prerequisites and foundational knowledge in the game.
Practicing to play chess with a blindfold on will actually help you improve in certain aspects of the game, improving your prowess on the board. That is what I am going to answer with this article, does blindfold chess make you better?
As a chess player here is what I know:
Mastering blindfold chess can help players hone in on memorization that is essential in pre-prepared lines, this can massively improve their game. Blindfold chess can also help with visualization and calculation that can be applied in practical games. Learning blindfold chess does help.
Here we will explore how and why playing chess with a blindfold on can actually help you improve your skills overall. This can be particularly helpful to you especially if you are interested in a novel way of improving your chess skills.
Mastering blindfold chess can help you with preparations
Mastering blindfold chess cannot be done overnight, it requires you to get used to constantly memorizing the position on the board and tons of practice.
Playing blindfold chess will undoubtedly help you with memory retention which is an essential recipe for preparation.
Just by practicing with playing blindfolded chess will train you to constantly remember the position on the board allowing you to familiarize yourself with the sequences of moves being performed.
By then when it comes to the serious matches the moves would be long imprinted into your mind.
Modern chess games are usually won with a good home preparation, this can improve you in that particular aspect. A good preparation can allow you to reach a position that you understand better than your opponent, even catching them off guard in some cases.
Blindfold chess practices your calculation and visualization
Chess is a game of planning and calculation, you have to visualize several moves ahead on multiple occasions in practical games. Blindfold chess lets you practice the visualization aspect of chess.
This is because while playing blindfold chess an image of the board is constantly on your mind, keeping track of the board and the pieces. It will be an advantage to your calculation because you will be training your mind to constantly look over the entire board.
You will be able to see the interactions between your pieces and those of your opponent better. Blunders and inaccuracies can be avoided better as a result of you practicing playing blindfold chess.
This will also prevent issues such as you getting tunnel vision during intense moments of the game, perhaps causing you to miss that bishop at the corner of the board eyeing down a critical square. By always seeing the big picture your calculations will be more accurate.
Learning blindfold chess helps in over-the-board analysis
The more subtle way that learning blindfold chess can help with improvement is over-the-board analysis. Most evaluation that is made over-the-board is dictated in notations and has to be visualized, if you master playing blindfold then you can easily do this.
In our modern times, we now have engines that could help us analyze our own games. Since most engines use chess notation to record every move it will allow you to better analyze your games and keep track of possible variations that you see.
It is not just your games that you can analyze too, games are recorded using chess notations. In order to analyze the games that other players have played you would need to know how to read chess notations to reproduce the moves that were played.
You will also be able to read more advanced chess books that have been written. Those books rely on chess notations to show and guide their readers in order to teach them.
A layman would have a hard time keeping up with such chess books. They would not be able to follow even a simple guide teaching a basic checkmate of rook and king vs king.
Mastering blindfold chess can boost your confidence
Wouldn’t you just love to see the shock and admiration of your friends when you beat them with a blindfold on?
Just imagine telling that street hustler “who needs eyes anyway?” as you put on the blindfold with the crowd cheering in the background.
You would surely be encouraged and feel good seeing people acknowledge your abilities. It will not only boost your confidence it can even make you more passionate towards playing the game.
It will drive you to keep learning more about the game, to constantly improve yourself.
Being able to play without looking at the board is a major accomplishment, and the confidence that you acquired through that might get transposed to real games.
Blindfold chess can make you more intimate with the game
Overall learning blindfold chess just makes you more intimate with the game, it is easier to identify moves if you can even do so without seeing the board.
It will improve your focus in the game, allowing you to focus on the game right in front of you. For some chess players solely concentrating on the game is hard and distractions sometimes take their attention away from the board.
Many outside thoughts compete for their focus on the game, work-related problems, paying bills, fixing the broken tire and many common problems in everyday life break their attention. Playing blindfold trains you to only keep your attention towards the board.
You will be intimate with the game in the sense that during the moment you are moving those pieces all other concerns disappear from your mind, leaving only the game right in front of you at that moment in time.
It will also improve your pattern recognition of the position of the board, allowing you to feel as if you can instinctively know when there’s a checkmate pattern or if a sacrifice has merits or not.
Don’t learn blindfold chess as a beginner
I wouldn’t recommend trying to improve with blindfold chess as a beginner, if you are just starting to learn the basic positional nuances of chess then this is not good for you.
It will do more harm than good since you are more likely to be confused and it will tamper with your natural learning curve.
Blindfold chess mainly helps with your tactics and visualization of the board. But it doesn’t really help that much in thinking critically of your opponent’s moves, long term-term strategy, and creating imbalances in the board.
Blindfold chess can help you improve in the game but it is absolutely not a substitute for other forms of study and improvement. It can only be regarded as a strong supplement for you.
For beginners, it can even be enough to just reduce the number of blunders that they make. It will be more beneficial to keep playing more games, learn chess principles, and study openings than to try to play chess with a blindfold on.
Blindfold chess is more helpful to strong players
If you are a highly rated chess player and are looking to tackle a good challenge, blindfold chess might help you understand something that you are lacking.
When you are just starting to play blindfold chess it can be daunting at first. This is why you need to have the mindset of slowly improving your ability to play blindfold chess, to be patient and consistent in your practice.
You can start with baby steps when you are just starting out. Try doing the first 10 moves blindfolded and slowly get used to it.
When you feel that you have gotten used to it you can increase the number of moves you do blindfolded until you can play a full game blindfolded.
If you feel that you are plateauing in your skill level even after continuous playing and studying perhaps you should give blindfold chess a try.
You might just find it to be a fun and novel way of learning the game, perhaps even getting better along the way.
Don’t learn blindfold chess even if you are decently rated
If you are decently rated (between 1500-2000 Elo points) I still wouldn’t recommend trying to improve using blindfold chess. There are many ways for you to be better at this level by just doing some basic study, focus on that.
Trying blindfold chess can be difficult for you even if you are a decent player. It is not necessarily better to invest your time learning to play chess with a blindfold on when it could be used elsewhere.
Try playing blindfold chess against a weak computer
The best way to see if blindfold chess can accommodate your level is to try it against a weak computer. Playing with a blindfold on at first would be difficult, and a strong opponent can easily overwhelm you.
By playing with a weak computer you would be able to test how good you can still play while blindfolded.
If you are having a hard time against a subpar computer that has predictable moves, then it means that learning blindfold chess won’t probably improve your game all that much.
A player can still be strong without learning blindfold chess
Even though playing blindfold chess can help you improve in your games, it is not necessary for you to become strong in chess. If you keep playing and learning foundational knowledge about chess you will naturally be able to increase your ratings.
As I see it, getting better at playing normal chess will make you better at playing blindfold chess more than the reverse.
In actuality there are more strong chess players than there are people who can play blindfolded chess, so don’t worry if you think that blindfolded chess is not for you!
If you plan to be competitive without learning blindfolded chess it is completely fine. Most games that you will play in tournaments are not in the blindfold format, you can still be very good even without learning this.
As you can see, playing chess blindfolded can help you in many ways. Even though it could be exhausting at times playing blindfold chess it is also extremely fun as the feeling is very different from the traditional games you usually do.
By playing blindfolded chess you naturally imagine the board inside your head which means that you do not need a board or pieces to play because the entire game is played inside your mind.
If you are bored with nothing to do you can even visualize interesting positions from your previous games on the spot, entertaining you and killing time whenever you want.
If you have the time it is definitely worth it to try playing blindfold chess with your friends. Perhaps you too will see its merits and have fun along the way.
In the future, you may even attend a blindfolded chess tournament after many blindfold games later. I hope you find this article helpful, sleep well and play chess.