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CHESS

One of the most spectacular and little-known feats of blindfold chess occurred in New York in 1945 when Reuben Fine -- one of the top 10 grandmasters in the world -- played rapid transit chess (10 seconds per move) against four opponents simultaneously without sight of the board. Fine won all four games including one against 17-year-old Robert Byrne, later a candidate for the world championship.

It's hard to evaluate Fine's performance because no attempt has been made to duplicate or exceed it. Clearly even one such blindfold game would seem a formidable undertaking, four to pose insuperable difficulties. In a rapid transit game, each player must move in an allotted 10 seconds or be forfeited -- an obviously scary constraint for a blindfold player who may have to struggle to recall a position.

Another staggering blindfold effort occurred in January of 1947 when Argentinian grandmaster Miguel Najdorf played 45 opponents simultaneously in Sao Paulo. During a 23 hours and 25 minute span, he won 39 games, drew four and lost only two.

Before the event, (anticipatimg 42 opponents rather than the 45 who showed up), Najdorf discussed the scale of the task before him.

"After memorizing 42 games, which multiplied by 32 pieces of each board results in a total of 1344 pieces, I'll have to keep, with total security and no hesitation, no fewer than 2,688 little squares in my head and reconstruct no fewer than 3360 moves over the different boards."

Both Fine's and Najdorf's efforts challenge the limits of human chess performance. Surprisingly, more than a half-century later, they have yet to be duplicated or surpassed.

The following game is from Sao Paulo in 1947.

Najdorf Lieblich
1. c4 e6
2. e4 Nc6
3. d4 Bb4ch
4. Bd2 Qe7
5. Nf3 b6
6. Bd3 Bb7
7. O-O Bxd2
8. Qxd2 d6
9. d5 Ne5
10. Nxe5 dxe5
11. Nc3 O-O-O
12. a4 a5
Najdorf Lieblich
13. b4 Qxb4
14. R(a)b1 Qe7
15. R(f)c1 Ba6
16. c5 Bxd3
17. Qxd3 Kb7
18. cxb6 cxb6
19. Rxb6ch! Kxb6
20. Qb5ch Ka7
21. Qxa5ch Kb8
22. Rb1ch Kc8
23. Qa8ch Kd7
24. Qc6 mate

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