I've played only two blindfold games so far, but it was against someone who was maybe at a 1000 uscf rating strength, and hence was fairly easy to beat, and once against my friend, who's also rated about 1650, like myself. I also managed to beat him with a sneaky tactical shot, but it was a lot more challenging, as I found it hard to remember where certain pieces were. I've also read that while it benefits your board vision for tournament games, it puts too much strain on your mind to be beneficial overall. Is this true? Any other arguments for/against playing blindfold chess?
In my opinion
I cannot speak to the health benefits or drawbacks of playing blindfold chess (which I find to be, in my opinion, baseless).
What I can say is from experience. I have attempted playing blindfold chess when I was not a very strong player and found it challenging and not worthwhile. However, as my chess progressed I found playing blindfold to be a lot easier, and was even recently able to play a game to the 62nd move where I checkmated my friend. It took 90 minutes.
My main point is that that blindfold chess more than likely does not affect your chess ability. It is your chess ability that affects your blindfold chess.
Here is are some conclusions from an in depth study
In their review of the literature, Hearst and Knott document a number of notable conclusions that may surprise chess players and non-chess players alike:
In case you really want to read up on the subject: http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~cfc/Chabris1999d.pdf
From the following research I gather that the issue was/is under some debate though most people believe that it doesn't harm your health. I personally don't have an opinion on the subject.
In 1930 the USSR banned displays of blindfold chess because they thought it was bad for the health.
That same article states that:
A user from the Red Hot Pawn thread found a study by several universities that goes into the subject on page 5. They state:
That study also says:
I would think developing your board vision must be somewhat useful although I doubt it means a significant difference in playing strength. Blindfold seems a handy way to improve board vision as it can be fun, and you have feedback when you forget the position. Intuitively, a nice benefit of improved board vision would be that it is easier to study. So many chess books and articles are provided with only occasional diagrams; consequently, readers are often utilizing the same board vision skills necessitated by blindfold chess.
I cannot speak for whether it ever improved my chess, but I did try several Chess Visualization exercises. (This was a few years back, and I was inspired by the Amber Tournament where Super GM's played Blindfold games that blew me away.)
If you do a web search for "Chess Visualization exercises" you can find many leads, and some of them are worth it. (I don't recommend spending money on any though. There's plenty available for free.)
One sample: Chess Eye
I found two uses for these:
Other than that, I am not sure if full blindfold games have use, except to maybe impress non-chess players.
From my personal experience playing Blindfold is absolutely beneficial. I tried it pretty consistently for several weeks many years back and suddenly, despite being rated around 1800, I was mowing through 2100 players at my local club at blitz. Blindfold can only help your visualization ability since you not only only have to visualize future moves but also the current position. And I find the "strain on the brain" argument to be utterly absurd.