Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blitz games - Part 1

If you only have 5 minutes in which to make all of your moves, chess becomes a different game.

One of the first things that you learn (or not, as in my case) is not to dwell on any single move for too long. In fact this can give rise to a deliberate strategy of playing your opponent into time trouble. Give him/her lots of possible moves to choose from - OK, you can't do this all the time, but you may notice an opportunity now and then. Is it ethical to do this? Yes, though initially you may be a little uncomfortable with the idea.

Whether blitz play has a beneficial effect on your normal game is debatable. I was given to understand that it would help my "chess sight" in the sense of analysing positions at a glance - the gestalt concept. Training yourself to develop your ability to judge positions in this way (before embarking on lengthy analysis of variations) was supposed to carry over into your OTB play. I spent a few years determinedly trying to improve my blitz game - I may not have improved my chess to any great degree - but it was certainly an exciting way to pass the time and I had a lot of fun.

I still play, but, at the time of writing) I don't take it as seriously [that changed as I report a year later in 'Blitz Games - Part 2'). I think you have to be careful about the openings that you choose. It's very easy to get into a rut and play the same opening line over and over again. Do take a minute before you start a blitz game to think about the opening you want to play. Perhaps you should only play a sharp (or sacrificial) line if you're feeling full of energy (conversely, if you're feeling tired, go for positional stuff).

Before I talk about an idea I recommend for OTB blitz play, I will just point out that I recently used blitz games to practise some new opening lines. It's an entertaining way to get some experience of an opening that you have just added to your repertoire under your belt.

Now let's suppose you are playing blitz with a friend. Let's just even up the game and stop things from becoming too one-sided if one of you turns out to be stronger than the other. For the first game, both players have the same amount of time on the clock (could be any number of minutes, not just 5). For the second game the winner of the first has one minute less than they did for the first game - and the loser gets one minute more. If this idea is repeated over a few games, the stronger player eventually finds himself having to play so fast that mistakes begin to creep in. A balance is reached and it becomes difficult to predict the winner.

Good luck with your blitz play - and don't hit the clock button too hard in the excitement!

Now for two, very different, blitz games on YouTube. The first (not so serious) shows how much fun you can have with blitz. Watch it at your own risk! The second (Nakamura vs Carlsen blitz playoff - Aker Chess Challenge) includes comments from the players (courtesy of ChessClub.com) and is followed by the full moves (from Susan Polgar's blog) of the game in an interactive format for you to look over at leisure.

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