Friday, July 12

To Blitz, Or Not To Blitz

Conventional wisdom states that speed chess interferes with serious tournament games because the blitz player relies on intuition and shallow calculation.  Indeed, there is precious little time to calculate a deep variation or thoroughly evaluate multiple candidate moves.  At a slower time control, such shallow thinking opens the door for a patient opponent to discover a subtle refutation.

Regardless of how "bad" these fast and furious games may be, the benefits must not be ignored.  Each blitz contest counts as a live tactics exercise between you and your opponent.  Despite imperfections on both sides, most speed games inevitably boil down to who sees more tricks.  In addition, the veteran blitz player develops poise to handle time pressure at a slow tournament.  Speed chess also offers repeated opportunities to practice new openings or new middlegame strategies.  As the saying goes: practice makes perfect!   

Lastly, blitz is fun!

GM Hikaru Nakamura is one of the strongest ICC
blitz players under the username CapilanoBridge.
Without a doubt, all of my 2000+ rated chess students (past and present) love blitz and are quite proficient.  They compete among the many titled players available online and learn from their style of play.  No doubt, the correlation between blitz specialists and competitive masters remains strong.  An increase in someone's online blitz rating often precedes a boost in serious tournament performance.  

Once an improving player understands the value of wisely using the clock in slow games, the many benefits of speed chess outweigh any drawbacks.  Ideally, blitz practice should not substitute for other forms of chess study (books or software), but rather complement the overall study plan.  Steady practice leads to improvement over time.

I highly recommend participating in the 5-minute pool on ICC.  Press the "5" button to be automatically paired within a few seconds (this is different from regular 5 0 blitz).  Over the years, I have observed that G/5 is the fastest time control to play a sound game of chess without relying on mouse races all the time.  Conveniently, the ICC 5-minute ratings tend to correlate most closely to USCF ratings. 

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