Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Board Visualization and Blindfold chess

I've been absent from posting for a couple of days now. I'm on break from school for a week so I'm trying to take a little break from almost everything in my life. There are two major tournaments going on, one of which is a blindfold/rapid tournament taking place is Monaco. I think blindfold chess is one of those things that a layperson might think of as some kind of circus trick. However I think a person's ability to calculate accurately and a person's ability to play blindfold. I feel the more I have forced myself to analyze in my head the more I've seen an improved accuracy in my calculations.

Even just thinking back to 8 months ago, I would much more often in my calculation think a piece was still on a square it had already moved from hence miscalculating the whole variation. I'll admit, I still sometimes have this problem, but I've gained experience and hence catch myself when I'm doing it most of the time. I can play a blindfold game with some of my friends even at blitz time control but quite often the game ends to blunders I would never make with a board in front of me. I realize my ability to visualize will improve over time, but I think it's important to realize the connection.

The question of course then becomes how to improve visualization. Just playing games of chess does this. There are also exercises that can be done to help improve visualization. One I would like to highly recommend is outlined in an article on Chess CafĂ© by NM Dan Heisman and can be found among his archives here, but unfortunately I forgot which article it is. They are all very good articles so you won’t waste your time looking through them. I’ve also seen suggested chess mazes to quickly be able to visualize the patterns which pieces move. One I personally do is when I’m reading a chess book or magazine quite often it will spit out many moves in a row without a diagram. Rather than succumb to the urge to grab a chessboard, I try to walk through the moves slowly and I try to get a clear picture of the position in my mind as I move through and try not to make more moves on the board until I do. A good way to test your visualization of a position is to ask questions about why some “obvious looking” moves weren’t played. If anybody else has some good ideas I would love to hear about them in the comments.


Anonymous said...

People look at me like blindfold Rubik's Cube solving is a circus trick as well. Like blindfold chess, it's not. But unlike blindfold chess, it isn't an improved tactical vision of the sighted version of the activity. Instead, blindfold Rubik's Cube is a different system which makes the tactical vision and calculation necessary in chess unnecessary in solving a Rubik's Cube blindfolded.

IA said...

You said, "If anybody else has some good ideas [on chess visualization] I would love to hear about them in the comments."

You can look at my blog to read about a practical new approach to chess visualization based on 800 (!) positions taken from real games that stretch the readers vision from 4 to 39 half-moves deep while expanding from 1 to 2 to 3 sectors of the board. Check out my blog at