Chess is oft regarded as the sport of kings and throughout history, exceptional chess-playing ability has been a highly regarded and respected skill. While the overall strength of master chess players has definitely trended upwards over the years, early masters were capable of some astounding feats of mental prowess. Like MIND CHESS.
More commonly known and referred to as blindfold chess, the idea of playing chess without being able to see the board is one that has existed for almost as long as the game itself has, with masters of the game frequently using it as a way to flex on weaker opponents or in some cases, just to be a dick.
For example, unofficial Fact Fiend mascot Paul Morphy is said to have near-exclusively played chess either blindfolded or with his back to the board purely to piss people off. Why? Well Morphy famously retired from professional chess at only 22 years old, reasoning that he had nothing left to prove after beating every self-professed master of the game that challenged him.
This reportedly didn’t sit well with other chess players who spend years harassing Morphy to play the game again, which only served to annoy the young prodigy who, on the rare occasions he could be coaxed into playing a game, steadfastly refused to take it seriously. Like at all. Playing with, as mentioned, his back to the board or sometimes, without using all of his pieces just to be annoying.
This said, some grandmasters played blindfold chess out of necessity since they didn’t always have access to a board. Examples of this include early Arab and Asian chess masters who would sometimes play from horseback since radios didn’t exist back then.
To explain, various accounts from history note that a common way chess boss-kings would pass time while travelling would be to play invisible chess, calling out moves to one another and simply remembering where all of the pieces would be on a real board. Although this was, as noted, sometimes used as a way of flexing one’s skill. Horseback mind chess was noted as being a great way for masters to hone their already impressive skills to a razor-like edge capable of cutting through an opponent like a lightsaber through a youngling’s torso.
The reasoning being that forcing players to remember where everything was on a board and focusing their attention to just the necessary moves required to play could improve their game. As well as looking cool as fuck to passersby. As there’s not really another way to describe the image of two stout men with immaculate turbans mentally parrying another another’s chess moves like a showdown between psychics in the X-Men Universe.