A Victory Made Possible by a Blindfolded Warm-Up
Published: January 20, 2013
In an article on the United States Chess Federation’s Web site, Gareev said an important part of his training for the tournament was a simultaneous blindfold exhibition against 27 opponents in Hawaii the week before. “Try blindfold exhibition matches and see how you can handle one game,” Gareev said in the article.
Gareev — a grandmaster originally from Uzbekistan who now lives in the United States — said in another article on the federation’s Web site that he was training to simultaneously play 64 opponents in blindfold matches next New Year’s Eve. It would be a world record,eclipsing the one set in November 2011, when Marc Lang, a German master, played 46 people at the same time, winning 25 of the games, drawing 19 and losing 2.
These are almost-impossible feats, but Gareev explained how he handled his 27 opponents in Hawaii. He said that each time it was his turn, he visualized the board and the position “pops up automatically.”
Other players who have competed in blindfold exhibitions, including George Koltanowski, an international master who set a record in 1937 by playing 34 people, have described the process in a similar way.
Among Gareev’s accomplishments in Las Vegas was an impressive victory in the last round against Giorgi Kacheishvili, a grandmaster originally from the republic of Georgia.
Kacheishvili played the Pirc Defense, which is not popular among top players because White usually has little trouble gaining an edge.
Gareev’s 18 Nd6 was surprising, but a tactical finesse made it work. If Kacheishvili had played 18 ... Qd6, the game would have continued 19 Rd1 Qe7 20 Rd8 Qd8 21 Bc5, when Gareev would have restored material equality. Kacheisvili soon lost a pawn, although he had compensation because of his powerful bishop pair.
He made another mistake with 24 ... f5, when 24 ... c4 would have been better. But then Gareev made his own miscalculation by playing 25 Qa3. If he had played 25 Qe2, he would have retained his extra pawn.
Kacheishvili made a more serious error in playing 28 ... Qf6. The move he needed to make was 28 ... Be4. And this time, Gareev took full advantage with 29 Qa5.
He soon crashed through Kacheishvili’s defenses, beginning with 31 Re4. Kacheishvili did not play 32 ... bc4 because 33 Qd5 would have forked his king and his rook, quickly leading to defeat.
As it was, the end did not take long anyway: Gareev delivered the elegant coup de grâce of 38 Qf8, which forced checkmate two moves later.