(1978 - )

Desmond Rooplal (in the Drakensberg)

Desmond played in the Durban championship on nine occasions, starting in 2009, before notching up his first title win in 2017. In order to celebrate, the champion traditionally holds a simultaneous exhibition against the other club members. This year Desmond decided to try something a little different, by playing his games without sight of the board. I assisted him by making his moves on the boards and calling out the replies from each of the players, as you can see in this short video clip made by Terry Millard, and in the photos below.

Desmond (facing the camera) and his six opponents

Keith Rust (in yellow shirt) assisted

Most strong players can play one game blindfolded without any trouble, but to play multiple games simultaneously is extremely difficult. The most popular blindfold chess video on YouTube is the one where Magnus Carlsen plays 3 blindfold games simultaneously, with just 9 minutes allowed for him to complete all his moves in all 3 games. The video is well worth watching.

According to Len Reitstein's book, the South African record for playing blindfold chess is 8 games, a record set in the 1880's. Reitstein regarded Arthur Cameron as the best blindfold player in South African history, and he never contested more than 6 games at a time.

Des mentioned that it was 7 years since he did a 5 board blindfold against the DMCA children, and that he had not attempted more than 3 boards since. So six boards simultaneously was an extremely ambitious target.

Nobody was keeping score of the games, so the following excerpts are reliant on my memory of the positions. The first game to finish was decided by a blunder from Desmond, who had built up what was surely a won game against John Khan:

The game continued 1.Bxd6 Bxd6 2.e5 Bb8 3.exf6 Qxf6 4.Ne5 Qh4 5.Nxf7?? Bxh2+ 6.Kh1 Bg3+ 0-1. Des had forgotten that h2 was no longer protected. Either 5.Nf3 retreating, or else 5.Bc4 would give White an overwhelming advantage.

On board 2, Agadhevi tried the Queens Gambit Accepted, and soon found herself in a lost position, making the score 1 each.

The next game to finish was on table 4, against Charlotte. Des blundered a piece in the opening, but Charlotte kept on moving her Queen instead of developing her King-side. Then she grabbed the e5 pawn, opening her King to attack on the open file, and paid the ultimate penalty. Score 2 - 1.

The game on board 6 was very interesting, with castling on opposite sides. It looked like Devon was winning, after sacrificing the exchange for a pair of deadly Knights. Somehow Des survived and reached this position after swapping the Queens off:

The game continued with 1.axb6 axb6?? 2.Rxb6+ Kc7 3.Ra7+ Kc8 4.Nd6+ Kd8 5.Rb8 mate. However, if Devon had played 1...a5! he would have kept his King safe, with a winning position after say 2.Rxa5 Nd4. The point is that 3.b7? loses to 3...Nf3+ 4.Kg2 Re2+ and if 3.Ne5 Rxe5! 4.Rxe5 Nf3+ is a pretty win. In fairness, this was difficult to see after nearly 4 hours of play.

Board 3 was a different story. Desmond won a piece from Keniesha in the opening, but then blundered it back as follows: 1.e4 e5 2.f4 Nc6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 Bd6? 5.fxe5 Nxe5 6.Nxe5 Bxe5 7.d4 Nxe4! 8.Nxe4 Qh4+ 9.Kd2 Qxe4 10.dxe5 0-0 11.Qf3 Qxe5 12.Bd3 Qa5+ 13.Kd1 d6 14.h3 Be6 15.Qe4 g6 16.Bh6?? Qh5+ 17.Kc1 Qxh6+ 18.Kb1 and I can't remember the rest of the moves. Keniesha swapped off into a Rook ending but made a mess of things, eventually getting into a pawn ending with 4 pawns each. The game was abandoned as a draw just after 11pm, although Keniesha had still got some winning chances.

Her brother Lesharn on board 5 also drew for the same reason. At that point he had a Rook and Knight and Desmond had a Rook and a Pawn. He was a little lucky, as Des first missed a mate in one, then blundered a piece in the endgame.

So the final score was 3 - 1 to Desmond, with 2 games unfinished agreed as draws.

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