November 28, 2011 17:35

FM Marc Lang sets new blindfold simul record of 46 boards

FM Marc Lang sets new blindfold simul record of 46 boards

Last weekend a German chess player played a simultaneous exhibition blindfolded over 46 boards in Sontheim an der Brenz, Germany. With a score of 34.5-11.5 in a simul that lasted 21 hours and 9 minutes, 41-year-old FM Marc Lang (2306) improved upon Miguel Najdorf's famous (but not universally recognized) record from 1947.

Marc Lang in a press photo for the promotion of the event

Event Blind simul | PGN
Dates November 26th-2th, 2011
Location Sontheim an der Brenz, Germany
System Blindfold simul against 46 boards
Players FM Marc Lang (2306) against 46 amateurs

Marc Lang's blindfold simul took place in the Gemeindehalle in Sontheim an der Brenz, a municipality in southern Germany, almost exactly between Stuttgart and Munich. It wasn't the first time that Lang, a 41-year-old computer programmer (married, 2 children), tried the toughest form of chess possible. The member of chess club Sontheim/Brenz played a simul over 35 boards in November 2010, thereby setting a new German and European record. He surpassed the previous European record of 34 games set by George Koltanowski at Edinburgh, Scotland in 1937.

According to some sources, including the Guiness Book of Records, Koltanowski's achievement still counts as the official blindfold simul chess world record. On Wikipedia it says that

later both Miguel Najdorf and Janos 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 with 31 wins, 3 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.

Apparently Marc Lang himself considered Najdorf's achievement as a valid record, because a year after 'beating' Koltanowski he put his number of boards to one more than Najdorf: 46. And he managed: Lang successfully broke Najdorf's record that wasn't touched for 64 years!

The simul started on Saturday, November 28th at 09:45 hrs and finished on Sunday morning at 06:54 (21:09 hours). Marc Lang scored 34.5 out of 46, his opponents 11.5. Lang won 25 games, drew 19 and lost only 2. The strength of his opponents varied between around 1000 as a national rating and 2138 FIDE, but most of them were below 1700 and so over 600 points weaker than Lang himself. However, they could all see the board!

Video by Frank Hoppe

On Sunday night at 22:26 Lang wrote on the official site:

I'm still groggy - when I got home, I could barely keep my eyes open and went straight to bed. When I woke up it was already dark outside and my head throbbed like a truck. (...) Now my mind can handle at best a Donald Duck, but probably not even that.

There were some side events as well. Vlastimil Hort played a (regular) simul while Jan Gustafsson played handicap blitz chess. Guest of honour was 1972 javelin throwing Olympic champion Klaus Wolfermann, who performed the first move.

In July of this year Marc Lang had already broken the world record for playing many rapid blindfold games in succession (but not simultaneously). According to this exhibition (also held in Sontheim) lasted 14 hours and his score was 45 wins, 11 draws, and 4 losses, a wining percentage of 84%.


PGN file

You can find more about the simul on the German Chess Federation's website and on Frank Hoppe's YouTube channel (and of course the official website).

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers


christos's picture

He played interesting, tactical chess for a blindfold simul. Some of his primitive traps went better than one would expect.

choufleur's picture

The music of the video is VERY strange, for those understanding french. Weird !

Septimus's picture

The lady with the blindfold is smoking hot!

saturnz's picture

I agree!

Marc's picture

I make a lot of money selling her phone number :-)

Septimus's picture

How much? :)

Sofa's picture

In Game #34 8. Bb5 winning the queen seems quite nice. I guess we must chalk that one up to the fact that the lad is playing 46 blindfold games at one time.

Marc's picture

Yep. I simply missed this move, thinking his pawn was still on d7. One move later, I recognized my error and was very upset with myself. It could have been the first game to end, but in the end it turned out to be the last :-)

pat j's picture

wow, super super impressive

Bob's picture

Well done indeed! Phenomenal achievement. I won't be challenging you on this one...

S3's picture

How do you remember all the different positions? Photographic memory or something?

jan van der marel's picture

How else? By counting on his fingers?

Marc's picture

Good one - how did you find out :-)?

S3's picture

Well, maybe he uses some tricks to remember or classify positions. I'm just wondering if it's just about a very good memory or if there are techniques that help. At any rate it's very impressive.

jan van der marel's picture

Wow, this puts the achievements of Dutch draughts/checkers-legend Ton Sijbrands in a different perspective. How can someone achieve this and be 'only' a FM? Strange, hope he didnt do with a computer trick, but all was probably checked well.

Marc's picture

We had all monitored and supervised by literally dozens of people, so don't worry :-). I don't think that memory and FIDE title necessarily have to correspond - but of course, I played much weaker that a GM would have done.

Remco Gerlich's picture

I seem to recall that Sijbrands' opponents were relatively stronger, but can't find any evidence with some Googling. And to me as a non-draughts player, it seems draughts positions are more similar and therefore harder to remember, but perhaps I'm just wrong on that. Anyway, hard to compare and definitely a fantastic achievement by Marc.

Sander's picture

G. Kasparov never wanted to play blindfolded because he was afraid it would mess with his mind...Are you all right Marc? :)
Some nice games too, very tactical.

Marc's picture

I'm fine, thanks. But very tired today. I feel like I was sucked by a VERY thirsty vampire :-).

cak's picture

Keeping track of 46 positions blindfolded is truly impressive and hard to beat.

So what about the "opposite" record, the largest number of blunders with full sight of the board, does Guiness have anything to say about this?

Thierry's picture

Congratulations Marc !
Amazing performance

Septimus's picture

Even if you play noobs, beating so many of them blindfold is a super achievement. Congrats man and tell the hottie I said hi. :)

Marc's picture

LOL. I will do :-)

Clifford's picture

Marc, were there some special rules regarding resignations? There seem some very early resignations, especially game 31. I know that in some past record attempts players were instructed to resign when a clear piece down, but in 30 and 31, the opponents seem to have decided that just a pawn down was enough, which certainly made your life easier.

Spectator's picture

well, at least game 30 is totally fu****. He cannot avoid losing another pawn and also the activity of the white pieced guarantees a enourmous advantage. 2 pawns up + initiative is enough to win very easily.

Marc's picture

I was surprised by black's resignation on board 31 (which actually was board 36, the numbers on the above list don't match the actual board order) indeed. However, I can understand him very well: He's a pawn down in a completely hopeless ending and we already played for almost 20 hours - who would want to be tortured for another 4-5 hours with only few chances to hope for, as playing such endings is very easy, even blindfolded.
But to answer your question: No, we didn't set up such a rule. I wasn't even aware that such a rule existed or was applied before, but it's an interesting one and I will think about it before my next display.

E's picture


I believe blind fold chess is banned in Russia and many Russian GMs such as Kasparov are convinced since it happened to Alexander Alekhine.

Didnt Koltanowski play 56 boards?

Anonymous's picture

Blindfold chess MUST be bad for you. Koltanowski played it and he is now DEAD! ;)

Marc's picture

Argh..that's true! And what I found out...Najdorf played blindfold chess as well and...excuse me, got to take care of my life insurance.

Ziggy's picture

Koltanowski played 56 board consecutively, not simultaneously.

Born's picture

To Marc: first of all congratulations on this impressive performance! I am able to do 3 games blindfolded but 46 seems almost impossible! Do you use mnemonic techniques or is it just practice? Could you point me to a source of information to learn this skill?

Marc's picture

I have a few techniques to make life a little easier in exhibitions with more than, say, 20 opponents. In that case, I divide the boards into sets of five, taking the white pieces on the first four of each group and black on the fifth. Then, I give each group a theme. For instance, on last weekend the first group had the theme "knight to the left", the second "c-pawn", the third "d-pawn" and so on. Then, I play the themativ move on board 1, 4 and 5 of each group, 1.d4 on board 2 and 1.e4 on board 3. Applying this to the motto "knight to the left" of group one, I played 1.Nc3 on board 1&4 and 1...Nc6 on board 5. This helps you a lot when you're coming to a board and just can't remember what position's currently on it. You think about the theme you used and then in most cases the position "returns from the grave" :-).

As for be honest I don't know as I am lucky to having been able (oops, is this correct grammar? Sounds strange) to memorize chess games since I started playing chess at the age of 8. I can forget everything quite easily, but not chess games. Don't know why, maybe a "checkered malfunction" :-).

Anyway, I think practising is probably best. Being able to play 3 games at a time is more than most people can do, so you surely have the talent to increase your skills. You can also study the excellent book by Hearst and Knott ("Blindfold chess") to learn more about the different techniques used by the grandmasters.

Guest's picture

It is not natural for men who can see to play chess blindfolded. If I could, I would strongly advise against it. Anyone promoting blindfold chess to men who can see should be investigated for mental disorders, in my viewing. Cheers.

Septimus's picture

You know what man, after looking more carefully, I discovered a ton of busted Sicilians. Really enjoyable for non-serious players to see the traps.

Septimus's picture

Just to clarify, I meant that I did a search for busted Sicilians online and came up with a lot of short wins for white/black. So it was pretty cool to see some short games here.

TK's picture

to chessVibes:
You made a quotation,
which was introduced by Your words
"On Wikipedia it says that [...]".
Your whole formalism of quotating is rather ok,
but Wikipedia is not a source worthy to quote.
Wikipedia is merely a special kind of forum.

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