Oh to be young, gifted, and chessed

Posted: November 11, 2018 in chess
Tags: , , , , ,

When you’re teaching chess to kids, it helps to use superheroes in your lessons. For example, François-André Danican Philidor, a musician and composer and the best chess player of the 1700s. In 1783, Messr. Philidor revealed his superpower: He could play chess blindfolded, that is, without sight of the board.

When he announced that he would play three blindfold games simultaneously, the scientists of that era begged him to reconsider. They feared his head would explode. They asked spectators to sit at a safe and respectable distance. This is how you hook your typical 5th grader.

Philidor won all three games. He went home that night with his head intact.

The record has expanded in the centuries since. The American Harry Nelson Pillsbury played 22 simultaneous blindfold games in Moscow in 1902. Before his blindfold exhibitions, he often memorized lists of difficult, abstruse words, then repeated them correctly after he had spent hours clobbering everybody.

The Belgian-American George Koltanowski played 34 blindfold games in 1937 (in honor of his turning 34), and Kolty didn’t begin playing seriously until he was 14. Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana were already grandmasters by 14.

To give you some context, when I was playing lots of tournament chess, I could play up to one (1) blindfold game. This will surprise anyone who has ever seen me frantically searching for my car keys.

This year the record for blindfold chess games grew to 48. The record-holder, the Uzbekistan-American Timur Gareyev, is so exciting and inventive that he makes Mag Wheels and Fabio look like the guys who come once a year to audit your employer.

Timur Gareyev is thinking
Grandmaster Garayev is thinking.

Garayev often rides an exercycle while playing blindfold, eats bags of tomatoes and cucumbers, is a kid magnet, and recently jumped out of an airplane for chess:

I love chess, but not this much.

The board, btw, is set up in a position from a game played in 1760 by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, another French polymath, who once wrote, “I have always said and felt that true enjoyment cannot be described.” This seems to be Garayev’s philosophy, as the man has spent his first 30 years on our planet doing exactly what he most loves, exploring his skills and enjoying the hell out of it. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be this young, this talented, and this unbounded.

Timur Gareyev t shirt
Better than the shirt gamers wore in the ’90s: EAT SLEEP PLAY WARHAMMER.

I’m not coaching chess this school year, but when I go back to the classroom, it’ll be with a story about Timur Gareyev.

Timur Gareyev with kids
Garayev teaches chess at a tournament in India.

Tomorrow: Game 3 of the World Chess Championship. Get a good start, get your game face on, get into your rhythm, and let’s take that crowd out early.

Photo credit: ChessBase.com
  1. John Franko says:

    Hey Steve. I don’t think I’ve played chess in fifteen plus years. And, not being all that interested in the game, I would have bet a considerable amount, maybe a dollar, that I would never be into reading about it. But I find myself really looking forward to your posts and thoroughly enjoying them. If only I had made that bet, someone would be enjoying a pack of gum or a small Snickers bar.

  2. Philip Dickey says:

    Steve, I never thought I would read a shoutout to Danican Philidor in these pages. They were a relatively important family in French Baroque music, yet relatively obscure today. I used to play music by several members of the family, but I had no idea of the chess connection. I’m glad to see our diverse passions meet in the middle.

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      I knew Messr. Philidor was a composer, but I never hear his music on the “best mix of the 17th and 18th centuries” channel. After reading your comment, I looked him up and was impressed to find that the Philidors made music for 200 years. Today they’re mostly in health care and database management.

  3. Accused of Lurking says:

    Okay, so you’ve got me hooked. Now what I need is context and background. Like many (most?) Americans, the last time I paid any attention to the World Chess Championships was in 1972 during Fischer v. Spassky. In this year’s match, how many games will they play? Where will the games be played? Where are the games broadcast? How many people are there in the studio audience (if any)? How did these two players get to the finals? How many days can you continue to give us news reports? What are you wearing?

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      12 games.
      Worldchess.com (subscription), Chessbase.com (free, no videos), https://tv.nrk.no/serie/sjakk (Norway’s ESPN).
      100s, I think. That’s a guess. They’re playing in a restored Victorian hotel. (Graham Chapman as one of the four Yorkshiremen: “Luxury.”)
      A series of six tournaments that match the best players in the world, by rating, over a period of two years.
      Every day! I’m committed! Or I should be.
      My bat thermal underwear.

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