The Fabulous uhhh… 1930’s. Questions about Koltanowski’s Blindfold Simul

Famous Record-Setting Blindfold Simul:  Faked Ego Boost or Legitimate?

From Wikipedia, note the item in Red.

George Koltanowski (also “Georges”;September 17, 1903, in Antwerp, BelgiumFebruary 5, 2000) was a Belgian-born American chess player, promoter, and writer. He was informally known as “Kolty”. Koltanowski set the world’s blindfold record on September 20, 1937, in Edinburgh, by playing 34 chess games simultaneously while blindfolded, making headline news around the world. His record still stands in the Guinness Book of Records. 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. Also in San Francisco,California playing fifty games with ten seconds a move winning forty-three, losing two, and drawing five. And he was playing blindfold. Then December 4, 1960 in San Francisco, CA he played fifty-six games blindfolded. With only ten seconds a move he won fifty and drew six.

What I Heard

When I was active in Belgium and Holland, many strong players told me Kolty’s Edinburgh simul was rigged.  The story I heard from various sources was that he had boated over some Belgian buddies and they dumped in short order to simplify his record-breaking task.  The strange thing is I heard this tale, fairly consistently, in both countries from guys who did not know each other.  In an unrelated amusing turn of events, I also heard that Max Euwe was quite the night-time reveler given the right circumstances (quite different from his “quiet mathematician persona”).

However, recently on ICC John Henderson told me Scottish records showed all Kolty’s Edinburgh opponents were local.

I am curious if anyone else heard the “Pays-Bas” stories that I heard about this (controversial?) simul.

Evidence?

It would also help if anyone had access to the gamescores to see if people were perhaps dumping in short order to help George set the record.  One can imagine in a blindfold simul of 34 games, if everyone is playing competently, it’s going to get mighty tough. 🙂  It all boils down to, what help did he get?  Or what help can we deduce he got from the historical evidence?   If none, were the “Pays-Bas” stories just “sour grapes” – a vendetta against the K-man?  What would inspire this vendetta?  Many questions, no answers.  Note that this occurred in a fascinating period in chess history, when blindfold records were being set and toppled and then toppled anew.  It was quite the ego-battle between the various record-setters, with a lot of accusations flying around .

Weird “Health” Factoid

From Wikipedia, “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.[1]

I am sure the Melody Amber players would agree!

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2 Responses to “The Fabulous uhhh… 1930’s. Questions about Koltanowski’s Blindfold Simul”

  1. Anthony Boron Says:

    Mark,

    Check out my friend Jonathan Berry’s blindfold page
    http://members.shaw.ca/berry5868/blind.htm
    I played him in his 1974 Winnipeg simul.

    He has info on the major exhibitions at the bottom of the page.

  2. fluffybunnyfeet Says:

    I just finished a book by the Linders (Russian father-son historical team) on Lasker – he gave his opinion that it was the blindfold simuls that drove Pillsbury to an early grave. He was actually using that to support his main point, about providing a decent, steady living to chessmasters, so they wouldn’t have to perform like circus animals.

    How little things have changed…

    Bizarre opinion by the Linders. Isn’t it commonly thought Pillsbury’s syphilis was the main (only?) cause of his untimely demise? Unless they are postulating his blindfold simuls drove him to the disreputable ladies?

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