The Guinness world record for most simultaneous blindfolded chess games belongs to grandmaster Timur Gareyev. The 28 year old Uzbekistani-American broke the record in 2016 when he played 48 matches simultaneously without looking at any of the boards.
In order to have the record certified he needed to start all 48 games at once, play opponents of decent strength, and achieve at least an 80% score across all games. He started the matches simultaneously on Saturday, December 3rd at 8:30 am, and managed to meet the other criteria by facing opponents with an average elo of around 1700, and achieving a final score of 80.2% (35 wins, 7 draws, 6 losses). When all was said and done, over 19 hours had passed, including a half hour break for a fire alarm.
Gareyev used a ‘memory palace’ to keep the games straight in his head. The memory palace technique (also called the method of loci), is a mnemonic device which dates back to at least ancient Rome. It still used today by many memory contest champions. He also added some variety to the games by playing half with the black pieces, another technique which he claims helps him tell apart the different matches, along with meeting his opponents the night before the match to learn their voices.
The previous record was set by German FIDE master Marc Lang when he played 46 games over the course of 21 hours in Sodenheim, Germany. Lang played his matches over the computer, whereas Garayev played most of his in person (and 5 over webcam). Typing the moves into a computer may have been an advantage for Lang, especially since he was able to see his opponents’ most recent move. On the other hand he wasn’t able to differentiate his opponents by their voices. Lang did fall short of several important metrics which Garayev achieved; he ended with a score of 75%, and most of his opponents had below 1700 elo.
Lang’s record was still a very impressive feat, especially considering the fact that the record had not been broken in over half a century! The record, before Lang broke it, was 45 games, set in 1947 by Miguel Najdorf of Brazil. Adding to the surprise was the fact that Lang was not a grandmaster, and that this was his first attempt at breaking the record.
How long will Garayev’s record stand? It’s impossible to say. He may break his own record in a future exhibition, or perhaps it will be beaten by a fellow chess player hoping to usurp him as the ‘Blindfold King’ (the name of his blog), but it’s also possible that Garayev has set the bar high enough that the record will once again remain unbroken for many years. Only time will tell.