Chess News

Interview with Martin B. Justesen, author of Say Chess

Martin B. Justesen is an avid chess player from Denmark. Justesen is a chess author who published multiple chess books and he creates content about his own journey towards chess improvement on a regular basis in his podcast Say Chess. His latest book is dedicated to opening visualization in blindfold games.

Get your copy of Blindfold Opening Visualization here and check out also the previous book on the topic by Martin B. Justensen on Blindfold Endgame Visualization

You have been working on blindfold chess for quite a while in multiple areas. What got you so passionate about it?

At some point, I started to notice how strong players could talk about the game without seeing the board or position. I couldn’t do that and I wanted to develop my ability to see the position. I then started to search for training materials and found it hard to find blindfold puzzles, so I decided why not make some. That is how it all started.

How fast can one improve in blindfold? What are the key points to have in mind?

I would say that you can get started if you practice a little every day for a month. But if you are a complete beginner at chess it might be better to get familiar with the chess board first, before moving on to training blindfold chess.

Does playing blindfold help with increasing OTB rating? Is there a correlation between FIDE ELO and blindfold chess strength?

I can’t say for sure, but for my substack newsletter I did a survey asking chess players about blindfold chess. I asked: “How clear (on a scale from 1-5) is your mental picture of the position? (1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 d6 4. Nc3 Ne7 5. Nd5 g6)” As you can see there is a correlation between the clarity of the position and playing strength, so we should be able to say that practicing this skill cannot hurt your chess.

The “Blindfold Opening Visualization: 100 chess puzzles” is your seventh chess book. Tell us something special about it that differentiates us and makes it better than the others

To make this book I made a giant excel-sheet with all the opening puzzles from Lichess. I then added the puzzles difficulty and how often they occurred on Lichess. I used this sheet to pick the opening lines you have to visualize. I think this is pretty unique. The book also includes some equal positions, where you have to find a defensive move or avoid an opening tactic, so you cannot just assume that there is a tactic. Finally, it is the book that I have used the most time setting up, testing, and rewriting.

Besides the books, you are a real treasure to the chess community: you have a fantastic newsletter, a very interesting blog, and a YouTube channel. How do you manage to constantly produce quality content over all those media?

Thank you! First I would like to say that at this moment I’m not actively producing content across all these platforms. It started with a blog, then I tried YouTube and Twitch, and now I think I have found the format that suits my life the best, which is my newsletter on Substack. I think by being very engaged and listening to a lot of chess podcasts I get new ideas. Sometimes getting new ideas is a problem for me because I want to start on the new idea before finishing ongoing projects.

If you are to give one important advice to amateur chess players, what would it be?

Find a chess community either online or at the local club to take part in. Practice and play a little each day and find out what part of chess you enjoy. If you want to read about the lessons I have learned along the way I have recently written a long newsletter about them.

Now that Magnus Carlsen wants a different World Championship format, would you push for a blindfold game to be included?

This is just my opinion as a chess fan, but I don’t think blindfold chess would work to be honest, even though it might be good for my book sales! Blindfold chess will be hard to market to a broader audience. Instead, I think the time controls should be shortened to games like 45+15 or 60+15. Chess is very time-consuming and it is hard for adults to find time to play classical chess. I also think it would be easier to market chess if there could be two games a day during the WCC. Another idea I like would be a 6 player quadruple round-robin held every second year. The players invited could be: world champion, candidates winner + runner up, World Cup winners, FIDE Grand Prix winner.

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