September 4, 2011

Is blitz harmful for your chess?

Have you ever heard the following advice: play some blitz games, it will improve your chess skills?! Me neither:) Well...actually, a few players support this idea, as long as the number of games played online will not interfere with your normal preparation hours. We know it already, whatever turns into obsession, cannot be good.
And yet, what should we understand from this? Is playing blitz a useful practice or a waste of time? What are the others saying?

Most of the coaches will tell you: "the biggest mistake would be to join an internet site and start playing blitz games! There is no way in hell that you would improve your skills in playing blitz. Blitz is all about thinking fast in much less time than you are normally allotted. Additionally, blitz games though thoroughly addictive do NOT improve your chess. In fact the opposite is true - your skills deteriorate. So the best advice to those who want to improve: stay away from blitz!"

A Blitzaholic might tell you: "as an avid blitz player, 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. I'd always play in 'blitz' style even during regular time controls; playing too much Blitz, especially online, programs your brain through repetition to play superficial chess."

In the Grandmasters words:

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".

Bobby Fischer: "Blitz chess kills your ideas."

In short: 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.

OK. If presented under the above terms, blitz seems to be a small devil under cover. But I honestly think that this little creature is not as black as many of you think it is.

If you are using blitz as a working tool in your preparation and not as a substitute, than you can embrace this type of training as a very useful one! Here's why:

I suppose every player who takes himself a bit more serious, is dragging a faithful laptop, with a faithful engine, in all tournaments. Everything else is dispensable, but not our precious! Also, while working at home, we tend to follow what Houdini, Firebird, Fritz etc, is saying! We become lazy in our calculations without even noticing. And of course, this is extremely harmful.
In our modern days, when computers run the show, we lose contact with the wooden board. And I completely agree with what Fischer said: "Blitz chess kills your ideas", if I speak about the times when he was playing. Back than, people were moving the pieces, they were thinking themselves, with their own brain. The chess set was their best friend.
Today, we experience a slightly different situation: everything is sorted on files, on ECO, and why losing time when we can ask the super powerful engine?!

The time has come to make blitz a part of our training. If done properly, it can only help you. Of course, if you play just for the sake of your online rating, than maybe you should reconsider your actions. But if you are focused when you play online (you should ignore those bullet games and choose a more normal tempo) and if you check afterwards the lines where you didn't react properly, than blitz can be your ally and not your enemy.
You can test your openings, you can work on your self-control while in time trouble and, most important of all, you keep contact with the board! Not to mention that you become trickier and sharper, gaining practical skills which can be transferred for the longer games, especially nowadays, when the time controls tend to become shorter and shorter.

Check Playchess or ICC, you will see that ALL Grandmasters are playing! Using their real names or fake accounts, they are always around and it doesn't surprise me. Plus: it's so much fun:) Just be careful, it's kind of addictive.


  1. Blitz suits for some people and there are quite many, who do not like anything but the blitz. I never liked it - for me chess was a game of reflection and thinking, not a game of immediate reaction and hurry. I played usually blitz only because in the typical clubnight the "main course" was the blitz. I now go only rarely to club as I do not like to play blitz at all. I hope that blitz would not be so overhelmingly popular in the clubs - it turns us "slow players" away from the chessclubs!

  2. Blitz is playing on instinct - without deeper thoughts of tactic. Even for a low-rate player like me, Dennis :)

  3. I think it depends what you are doing after the game..
    after every game, blitz or slow, i do a blunder analysis with fritz/houdini ( 0.3 centipawns ). While my computer analyse the game i check and improve my private opening-theory based on the gameopening. Then i look at my "blunders" and try to see why the computermoves are better.

  4. Blitz and solving chess puzzles asap (literally in seconds, albeit Mate in 2 or 3 Moves, for the most part) is something that website favours strongly. They even hold 1, 2 and 3 minute game tournaments with the participation of US best player Naka (Nakamura Hikaru). And the website has it written all over it that it's about teaching chess. So opinions differ instantly.

  5. Thank you, great article. I suspected there might be a link between playing a lot of blitz and not advancing at all in classic chess, and wondered if blitz even contributed negatively. Im kinda addicted, but after reading this which really drives the point home, im going cold turkey.

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