Jeu à l’aveugle

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Parties à l’aveugle

Les parties à l’aveugle sont une variante du jeu d’échecs dans laquelle l’un ou les deux joueurs qui jouent ne voient pas l’échiquier, et s’annoncent donc les coups oralement. Cette forme de jeu très spectaculaire est principalement utilisée lors d’exhibitions, ou de démonstrations.

Paul Morphy en démonstration à Paris, en 1858


1. Image mentale de l’échiquier
2. Records

Comment les joueurs font-ils pour mémoriser la partie ?

Contrairement à une idée reçue, la plupart des joueurs de parties à l’aveugle n’ont pas tous une image photographique de la position sur l’échiquier, à chaque instant donné. Si chaque joueur qui pratique ainsi est capable de citer les cases accessibles sur l’échiquier à chaque pièce à l’instant T, l’enchaînement des déplacements précédents est aussi souvent mémorisé. Avec de l’entraînement, un joueur expérimenté et concentré est capable de mener à bien une telle partie, même si son niveau de jeu sera sensiblement rabaissé.

Tournoi de Bilbao

Image mentale de l’échiquier

La question du processus de représentation mentale de l’échiquier n’est pas absolument résolue. Hyppolyte Taine pensait pour sa part que les joueurs d’échecs à l’aveugle avaient une mémoire visuelle de l’échiquier, que c’était là un cas général et universel. Puis, après les réflexions d’Henri Bergson, qui pensait que les joueurs refaisaient la partie dans leur esprit en déployant sa théorie de pensée « schéma-image », la question était encore d’actualité.


Bergson pensait que les joueurs rejouaient systématiquement le début de la partie dans leur esprit afin de retrouver la position actuelle des pièces sur l’échiquier. Or, cela n’est qu’exceptionnel. Christophe Bouriau, ayant interviewé Éric Prié sur ce processus, souligne le fait que les joueurs n’ont pas à se représenter en image toutes les pièces sur l’échiquier pour mener à bien la partie, mais qu’ils voient plus des schémas de rapports de force en présence. La question reste donc toujours plus ou moins d’actualité, à propos de la représentation intérieure de l’échiquier.

Un jeu spécial pour non-voyants


En 1960, George Koltanowski jouera contre 56 joueurs à l’aveugle, à San Francisco, mais consécutivement, et non simultanément.



– Variant of chess

Blindfold chess

Blindfold chess (also known as sans voir) is a form of chess play wherein the players do not see the positions of the pieces or touch them. This forces players to maintain a mental model of the positions of the pieces. Moves are communicated via a recognized chess notation.

Blindfold chess was considered miraculous for centuries, but it is now accepted that any strong player today can play blindfolded, and many can keep track of more than one simultaneous blindfolded game. [1] In simultaneous blindfold play, an intermediary usually relays the moves between the players.




Before chess

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The first written commentary to a predecessor of blindfold chess appears in Buddha’s mild rebuke to monks.

« Monks were – as some ascetics – addicted to such idle pursuits such as board games on an eight-row or ten-row board, or those games in the air (mentally), hopscotch, spillikins, dicing, ball games, guessing letters, hand pictures, guessing thoughts, mimicking deformities, playing with toy ploughs; the ascetic Gotama refrains from such idle pursuits ». [2] [3]

Early history

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Blindfold chess was first played quite early on in the history of chess, with perhaps the first game being played by Sa’id bin Jubair (665–714) in the Middle East. In Europe, playing chess blindfolded became popular as a means of handicapping a chess master when facing a weaker opponent, or of simply displaying one’s superior abilities.

Harold James Ruthven Murray recorded another type of unseen chess: two Central Asian horsemen riding side by side playing chess by calling chess moves to each other without using a board or pieces.

Morphy playing blindfold chess



The first known blindfold event in Europe took place in Florence in 1266. [1] The great French player André Danican Philidor demonstrated his ability to play up to three blindfold games simultaneously in 1783 with great success, with newspapers highlighting his achievement, having taught himself to visualize the board while in bed at night when he had trouble sleeping.

Paul Morphy held in 1858 a blindfold exhibition against the eight strongest players in Paris with the stunning result of six wins and two draws. Other early masters of blindfold chess were Louis Paulsen, Joseph Henry Blackburne (he played up to 16 simultaneous blindfold games) and the first world champion Wilhelm Steinitz, who played in Dundee, in 1867, six simultaneous blindfold games (three wins, three draws). It was seen by these masters as a good source of income.

20th century history

As time went by the records for blindfold exhibitions increased. In 1900 Harry Nelson Pillsbury played 20 games simultaneously in Philadelphia; not long after having attempted the unusual feat of playing fifteen chess and fifteen checkers games simultaneously (the record for blindfold checkers being 28 simultaneous games). The Czechoslovak player Richard Réti and Russian World Champion Alexander Alekhine were the next to significantly further the record.

In 1924 at the Alamac Hotel of New York Alekhine played 26 simultaneous blindfold games against very strong opponents ( Isaac Kashdan and Hermann Steiner among them), with the score of +16 -5 =5. This was probably the strongest of any blindfold exhibitions ever held. The next year in February in Paris he faced 28 teams of four players each, with the impressive result of 22 wins, three draws and three losses. In the same year, Réti bettered this record by playing 29 players simultaneously in São Paulo and amusingly commented on his poor memory after leaving his briefcase behind after the event.

On July 16, 1934 in Chicago, Alekhine set the new world record by playing 32 blindfold games, with the result +19 -5 =5. Edward Lasker was the referee for this event.

George Koltanowski set the world’s blindfold record on 20 September 1937, in Edinburgh, by playing 34 chess games simultaneously while blindfolded, winning 24 games and losing 10, over a period of 13 hours. The record was included in the Guinness Book of Records and is generally accepted as the world record to this day. Later, both Miguel Najdorf and János Flesch claimed to have broken that record, but their efforts were not properly monitored the way that Koltanowski’s was. Najdorf’s first record in Rosario, Argentina was against 40 opponents (+36 =1 -3) and was organised in an effort to gain sufficient publicity to communicate to his family that he was still alive, as he had remained in Argentina after travelling from his native Poland to compete in the 1939 Chess Olympiad. He increased this record to 45 opponents in São Paulo in 1947, with the result of 39 wins, four draws and two losses. The Guinness Book of Records does not acknowledge Najdorf’s record, because he allegedly had access to the scoresheets, and there were multiple opponents per board. Koltanowski claimed that he could have managed 100 games under those conditions. However, Najdorf’s record is considered legitimate by other sources.

The last increase in the record was claimed by the Hungarian Janos Flesch in Budapest in 1960, playing 52 opponents and winning 31 games, with three draws and 18 losses. However, this record attempt has been somewhat sullied by the fact that Flesch was permitted to verbally recount the scores of the games in progress. It also took place over a remarkably short period of time, around five hours, and included many short games.

There have been no serious attempts to increase the record since then, due to lack of interest in mere numbers.

One other notable blindfold record was set in 1960 by Koltanowski in San Francisco, when he played 56 consecutive blindfold games at a rate of 10 seconds a move. The exhibition lasted 9 hours with the result of 50 wins and six losses. His specialty was conducting a blindfold Knight’s Tour on boards of up to 192 squares.

A new European record was set in November 2010 by Marc Lang in Sontheim/ Germany, playing 35 opponents and winning 19 games, 13 draws and 3 losses over a period of 23 hours.

Health concerns

While blindfold chess has been recommended in moderation by many sources as a method of increasing one’s playing strength, simultaneous blindfold exhibitions were officially banned in 1930 in the USSR as they were deemed to be a health hazard. Mikhail Botvinnik also warned against it. Blindfold players have reported that it is more tiring than regular play, even if faster time controls are used.


Given that it seems to require extraordinary visuo-spatial abilities and memory, this form of chess has led to considerable research in psychology, starting with the research of Alfred Binet in 1893, continuing with the work of chess grand master and psycho-analyst Reuben Fine in 1965, and culminating in the last two decades with several scientific articles describing experiments on the psychology of blindfold chess. In general, this research shows that what is crucial for blindfold chess are both the knowledge that chess players have acquired and their ability to carry out visuo-spatial operations in the mind’s eye.

Modern status

Today there are Blindfold Chess Tournaments held throughout the year, with the highest profile event being the Melody Amber Tournament, held in Monte Carlo. This event is partly funded by the billionaire Correspondence Chess Champion Joop van Oosterom and attracts many of the world’s chess elite to compete in unique circumstances. Of the modern day players, Vladimir Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand, Alexei Shirov and Alexander Morozevich have proven themselves to be particularly strong at blindfold chess, being alternating winners of the Amber Tournaments between 1996 and 2006.