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
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:
When I had a few minutes to kill, I could attempt some of these exercises when I didn't have a board or computer in front of me.
The biggest value for me from these attempts at blindfold was that I could follow variations much more easily. If you watch high profile games on ICC, there will be a lot of people kibbitzing lines non-stop. Being able to follow them made me better appreciate the positions.
Other than that, I am not sure if full blindfold games have use, except to maybe impress non-chess players.
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.
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.
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:
Botvinnik spoke out against it, which may be why his top student, Kasparov, has declined to test his blindfold play. Most of the Melody Amber players agree that it is more tiring than a regular game even with a faster time control.
A user from the Red Hot Pawn thread found a study by several universities that goes into the subject on page 5. They state:
Hearst and Knott (2005) generally find that supposed examples of serious health hazards from playing simultaneous blindfold chess are unfounded.
That study also says:
Similar training procedures were a commonplace part of instructional techniques in the Soviet Union, and even the three Polgar sisters, now among the best woman players in the world (Judit Polgar, the youngest, competes at male world championship level), have commented on how learning blindfold play at the age of 5 or 6 helped them to develop certain chess skills. However, we do agree with Gobet that the causality goes both ways: blindfold practice may improve chess skill, and the ability to play blindfolded improves as general chess skill improves. There is hardly any master we know who cannot play at least one or two games blindfolded, even without any special training at that form of chess.
Based on my experience, absolutely!
In a nutshell:
- It improve your calculation and visual representation abilities
- It increase your capacity of concentration (you have to work quite hard to be able to play your first full blindfold game!)
- It boosts your self-confidence when you play regular over-the-board games
- and best of all, this fun and rewarding! Playing (and winning) a blindfold game against a family casual player will establish your Chess reputation in the family for the years to come! :-)
If you want to more about blindfold play in general, you can take a look at some post I wrote on this very topic: