Reporter Alex takes on 17 people at chess

Alex Therrien giving a simultaneous chess display at Worthing Chess Club
Alex Therrien giving a simultaneous chess display at Worthing Chess Club

IT is known as a test of chess skill and mental stamina.

So when I was invited to play in the annual simultaneous chess match at Worthing Chess Club, based at the Tarring Club, in Pavilion Road, I knew I was in for a long night.

A simultaneous chess match is when one player plays a number of opponents at one time, making one move a time on each board until all the games are finished.

It is a tradition which dates back hundreds of years, and has even occasionally been done blindfolded, where a player makes the moves without sight of any of the boards.

At the simultaneous, held earlier this month, my 17 opponents ranged from children who had recently learned the rules to those who had been playing most of their lives.

But it was the sum of their number, and the growing mental exhaustion from playing multiple people at one time, that was the hidden opponent.

When things were going well I moved confidently from one board to the next without having to think for much more than a few seconds.

But during the bad times, of which there were plenty, the stays at each board grew longer, as I desperately attempted to get the brain working and make chess moves – and resist the temptation to collapse in an exhausted heap.


After a couple of hours, the excursion of concentrating on 17 games of chess at one time had left me so tired I couldn’t remember whether I’d lost any of my games.

It turned out I had been lucky enough to have won all of them at that point, but my inability to remember events which had happened only hours before was a good indication my brain was going into shut-down mode.

As my opponents began to drop off one after the other, I was left with a much more reasonable number of games to concentrate on.

The talented 17-year-old Will Graham had been winning for almost the whole game, but let me escape with an undeserved draw.

The rest then quickly ended, and after several hours and more than 600 chess moves, I ended up with the flattering score of 13 wins and four draws. But I left in no doubt about how difficult it had been to play 17 games of chess at one time.