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Confession’s of a Blitzaholic – Will’s Opinion on Chess

Alexandra Kosteniuk is infected with "Chess Blitz Fever" ... Are you?

Blitz Chess: Helps or Hurts?

The timeless question … Does Blitz Chess do more harm than good for your serious chess game? This question has puzzled chess players since the beginning of the game itself.

What our other contributors have said about the matter

I’m not surprised that in the short 5 months we’ve been running this website the topic has been already been brought up 3 times. Our contributing editor Martin wrote a popular article for our site entitled: Blitz Chess – The Pros and Cons where he concluded that playing blitz chess in moderation is ok. Contributing editor Daniel Naroditsky also mentioned his opinion on the subject in his introduction to his live blitz chess video Their consensus is that in moderation, chess blitz is OK. My opinion is a little bit different. While I love blitz chess far more than either Martin or Daniel, I’m here to admit it isn’t good for you at all. This article is the confession of a true blitzaholic.

Blitz in moderation: a correct conclusion or nothing more than the fallacy of the middle ground?

But wait? If you’re trying to become a good chess player we clearly know that too much blitz chess is bad for your game, but that doesn’t automatically mean that a little bit is good, or at least not harmful for your game. Wikipedia refers to the fallacy of the middle ground as “a logical fallacy which asserts that any given compromise between two positions must be correct.” E.G. If too much chess blitz is bad, and no chess blitz is bad, then a little bit of chess blitz must be good! As an avid blitz players it hurts me to say this but playing chess blitz in any amount is almost never beneficial for improving your low time-control chess game. It hurts me to admit this because I am, in fact, a Blitzaholic.

But chess blitz is so much fun!

Alexandra Kosteniuk is infected with "Chess Blitz Fever" ... Are you?

Alexandra Kosteniuk is infected with "Chess Blitz Fever" ... Are you?

Blitz is definitely entertaining to play, and very fun to watch. It also allows players the opportunity to try out new ideas in a short period of time in an inconsequential game. Also, blitz can increase your tactical awareness and obviously facilitate faster play. Personally, I enjoy blitz because I can wildly sacrifice pieces and my opponent has less time to clarify the mess and refute objectively unsound attacks. Any of my friends know that I love playing blitz chess. Most young high rated players that got sucked into the chess world starting playing chess blitz online (the classic example being Nakamura). In our super ADHD technological society I’m not surprised that the version of the game where the pieces move lightening fast has become the most popular form of the game. However, the popular opinion of nearly all high-level chess players is that blitz is NOT good for your game and I reluctantly join them.

Why Does Blitz Make You Suck?

In the words of Vladimir Kramnik:

“Playing rapid chess, one can lose the habit of concentrating for several hours in serious chess. That is why, if a player has big aims, he should limit his rapidplay in favour of serious chess”.

Admitting you're a blitzaholic is the 1st step in a long road towards improving your FIDE rating

Admitting you're a blitzaholic is the 1st step in a long road towards improving your FIDE

I’ve been pushing hard to become a 2300 FIDE player for the last year without much success until just very recently. It seems I’ve been stuck and I think my lack of progress is highly due to my “blitzy” style of play (I’m currently training with GM Yuri Shulman to try to break free of this mode of thought. Totally off-topic but expect an interview with him on our YouTube channel very soon.) Essentially when you play Blitz, you will reinforce the bad habit of rapidly and partially assessing positions without taking sufficient time. When I was a 1900-2100 level player a few years ago I’d always play in “blitz” style even during regular time controls. My mistakes were overlooked by intermediate 1800-2000 level players who were frankly intimidated by my quick moves and sharp quick play, which was enough to overwhelm them. Let me make this clear, when you get to 2200+ level tournaments, fast quick play isn’t going to intimidate your opponents during regular time control games, instead he/she’ll be pleased you are basically giving up the time that was allotted to you for your game.

Compartmentalize your Blitz Skills and Regular Time-Control Skills Seperately

To succeed in chess you need 2 mind sets: your “Blitz” mind and your “Regular Time-Control” mindset. I am struggling with this myself. I’d love to use a real analogy from my life to show why this is difficult. I just moved back to the United States a few weeks ago after living in Argentina for almost a year and before this I lived in Brazil for a long time. I got a pretty good grasp of both languages after extensive study. Portuguese and Spanish are very similar languages but they still have quite a few key differences, that without paying attention to them when speaking, you will fail at communication with a speaker of one language or the other. It took me a while to compartmentalize and understand that although there are similarities between the 2 languages, one should not be a reference point for the other. Chess Blitz can be the same way, on a superficial level, there’s a clock, there’s the same rules, the same pieces, the same player on the other end of the table, but the mindset must separate how much time is given to you on that clock regardless of the similarities. They seem the same, but they are 2 separate “languages.” This is tough, but it must be learned.

My Final Thoughts on Blitz

Your ability to concentrate on a single game diminishes as playing habits are built around blitz games. For many of the same reasons that blitz is so fun – playing out many games in a short period, quick positional and tactical assessments, and unsound sacrificial attacks – blitz can be very harmful to your serious, slow chess game. I’m not recommending that people stop playing blitz, I’m simply saying that if you want to progress as a serious chess player – maybe you should reconsider the time you dedicate to playing meaningless blitz games and the time that you spend legitimately studying and deeply learning the game. And yes, this is coming from a blitzaholic.

“Blitz chess kills your ideas.” – Bobby Fischer

By Will Stewart (USCF 2256, FIDE 2234)

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