David Wolpe
David Wolpe

The True Story of a Record-breaking Feat

In 1943, chess grandmaster Miguel Najdorf played 40 opponents simultaneously – blindfolded. As interesting as the feat itself is why he chose to do it.

Najdorf grew up in Poland as Mojsze Mendel Najdorf and became one of the leading players in the world. In 1939, he was representing Poland in the chess Olympiad in Buenos Aires when World War II broke out. He stayed in Argentina and could not communicate with his family.

Najdorf wanted to let them know how he was, and perhaps establish contact. He decided that if he did something that would make the newspapers all over the world, his family might see it and know that he was all right. To keep all those games in memory without a board is phenomenally difficult and no one had managed more than 34. Najdorf decided to break the blindfold record.

Sadly, although covered by the press all over the world, the feat did not bring him news of his family, who perished in the Holocaust. In 1947, seeking once again to find anyone who might have known him from his previous life, he increased the number to 45, a record that stood until 2011. A remarkable man who played blindfolded to get the world to see.

About the Author
Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California.