I heard that some of the best players in the world like Alekhine have the best photographic chess memory and they can play blindfolded?

How to develop such memory? What are the ways to learn it?

I am just a beginner, and i struggle to recognise notations like Bxh8, CxD4 and takes me long time.

Finally, if you are born with a photographic memory, does that mean it will help you to WIN in chess?

2 Answers 2


Photographic memory is closely related to board vision in Chess, where in you instinctively and instantly know something is wrong with the position ( yours or your opponent's) or it clicks to you that you've seen this or a similar position before.

Though memory capacity might seem like an "in-born" talent, I would argue it can be developed to some degree with practice. Play as many professional games as possible. By professional, I mean tournament games with real humans face-to-face. Tournament games build the seriousness that is necessary for forming long term memories. I've seen in my experience that when I am playing a lot of serious chess, I can easily detect board patterns and tricky positions than when I am out of touch with chess.

One more technique to improve board vision and memory is to try NOT to write down the moves while playing but replay the whole game from memory after the game. I've seen that over a period of time, you are better at remembering your own games. Even though you will not be able to remember every game you play, it will improve your memory in general.

Regarding the notations, start speaking in terms of them whenever you describe a game to a friend or whenever you self-analyze a game. It is tricky. Especially the 4th and 5th ranks. I always say Bg4 from White when its supposed to be Bg5 and vice versa.

Keep practising and I am sure you will get good at both board vision and notations.

EDIT To answer your edited question,

Finally, if you are born with a photographic memory, does that mean it will help you to WIN in chess?

Winning in chess has to do with many more things than just photographic memory. Tactics, Strategies, Staying calm under time pressure are just a few things that are vital to success but hardly have anything to do with memory. Having a good memory helps in chess but there are still a lot of other aspects to master to become a master!


I don't think you can develop a photographic memory, but this article might be of interest to you: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-there-such-a-thing-as/.

As far as algebraic chess notation is concerned, here are a few basics:

  • 'N' = kNight, 'B' = Bishop, 'K' = King, 'Q' = Queen, 'R' = Rook. Pawns are represented by the file they are on.
  • When a piece moves, the piece abbreviation followed by the destination square is used. For example, 'Qd2'. It doesn't take into account where the piece moved from (there's an exception to this rule that will be explained later).
  • The 'x' in notation such as 'cxd4 signifies that the c-pawn is capturing on the d4 square. 'Bxf2' signifies that the bishop is capturing on the f2 square.
  • Pawn moves are represented by the square they are going to. For example, on white's first move, 'e4' means that the pawn on e2 moved to the square e4.
  • Kingside castling = '0-0', queenside castling = '0-0-0'.
  • Checks are represented by a '+'. So, if the bishop moves to f4 and checks the enemy king, then the move would be 'Bf4+'.
  • Checkmates are represented by a '#'. If the above move delivered checkmate instead of check, then it would be 'Bf4#'.
  • There is a slightly more complex rule for Rooks when either rook can move to the same square. For example, 'Rad1' means that the rook from the a-file moved to the square d1. This is only needed when it was also possible for the other rook (let's say the rook on f1), to move to the same square. The same rule applies to knights.
  • The last rule, where more than one of the same kind of piece might have made the move, needs to be a bit more general in that a) it can also apply to queens after promotion (or even bishops, after under-promotion), and b) its possible that the 'other' rook or queen is on same-file-different-rank rather than same-rank-different-file. Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 23:48
  • Yes, that would cover all the bases I believe. I was just trying to cover the basics.
    – BrianRT
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 23:10

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