Saturday, June 1, 2013

To blitz or not to blitz?

Like dogs who sniff each other when meeting, chess players have a ritual at first acquaintance: they sit down to play speed chess.
- Anatoly Karpov
That shows how prevalent and widespread Blitz (speed) chess is in the Chess culture!

But what is Blitz Chess exactly anyways?

It's a game where you have to play the entire game within 15 minutes. Usually, this is less than that and the most popular time controls are 5 minutes or 3 minutes plus a 2 seconds increment for the entire game.
Faster than that it's called "Bullet" usually 1 to 3 minute games but I have to say that I agree with V. Kramnik's statement:
To be honest, I consider [bullet chess] a bit moronic, and therefore I never play it.
- Vladimir Kramnik
That being said Bullet Chess can be fun....but, to me, this is not Chess anymore....

One thing for sure: Blitz Chess is fun....but is it hurting my level of play?

Well, You can see the glass whether half-full or half-empty...

Why Blitz can be good for you....

  • It can help you develop an opening repertoire:
    As I said in a previous post, if used properly, Blitz Chess can be a great tool to help you developing, enhancing and broadening your opening repertoire.
  • It leaves room for experimentation:
    You definitively have less inhibitions in Blitz games than longer time controls games so it is an opportunity for you to be creative or, at least do things you wouldn't normally do in regular games.
  • Being a good blitz player helps when in zeitnot:
    That one is pretty easy to figure out
  • You learn to keep your composure when things go awry:
    Because of its very own nature, your Blitz game can go from huge plus to a huge minus in a split second! this usually teaches you how to regroup quickly, look for opportunities, develop tenacity and a "can do" attitude, skills very useful during regular games

Chess Blitz is fun!

But not till you drop....or your chess strength will too!

  • No deep thinking is involved in Blitz:
    You tend to rely on what you already know (standard tactics & plans, same old openings and so forth);
    Most of the time (but not always) no real creativity is involved, just Pavlovian reflexes!
  • Bad habits can develop pretty quickly:
    You tend to rely more and more on tricks (because it works!) rather than healthy tactics or true strategy;
    Also sometimes positions to be avoided in Blitz (declining an obviously incorrect sacrifice for the sake of "Blitz pragmatism" for example....) could be playable and even desirable in regular games...
    and per the various reasons listed above Blitz Chess is not to be advised for true beginners...
In conclusion  Blitz is fun and, to some extend, has some upsides but, in my opinion, you should never play it more than 10-20% of your Chess time if you want to make any significant and steady progress...

To wrap things up, below is a video of Hikaru Nakamura playing Blitz Chess with the white pieces: there are several great Blitz players in Chess History (R. Capablanca, A. Karpov, M. Tal and the much lesser know Genrikh Chepukaitis) and Nakaumura (CapilanoBridge on ICC) is without a doubt among the very best today...

Enjoy this fantastic fight!

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