By GM Aman Hambleton
In recent years, the way that chess is studied, played, and consumed by the general public has changed quite a bit. While chess books, magazines, clubs, and tournaments have their place, a lot of the attention has been shifted online where bullet and blitz chess are gaining popularity. Bullet chess is usually played with a time control of 1 minute with no increment, and blitz chess at either 3 minutes with no increment or 3 minutes with 2 seconds increment per move. The fast-paced online environment allows chess fans, beginners, and elite competitors alike to feed their addictions and sink hours of their day into their favourite online server. Popular interfaces include www.chess.com, www.lichess.org, and www.chess24.com.
Because of how much fun it is to play, up to hundreds of bullet or blitz games in a single session at the computer screen, an important question is raised: is speed chess bad for you? I’ve heard mixed answers to this question, but to me it’s actually very clear. Personally, all my serious chess improvement happened when I started to play nearly exclusively online; but, you have to approach speed chess with the right mindset. I think bullet chess can improve your instincts, which are very important in a tense time scramble in a serious tournament game. Bullet chess also trains those quick tactics that you need to see immediately – the faster the better.
Blitz, on the other hand, is a great way to train your repertoire against other strong players. The short time control allows enough time for both players to give some time and consideration to each move while still being able to play multiple games in a one hour period. This actually gives a larger sample size to review afterwards and learn from than one tournament game could after six hours!
I hate to see coaches live by definitive statements like “speed chess ruins your game” when I firmly believe that it comes down to your approach to the games and most importantly your mindset. I think we will continue to see online and speed chess be a useful weapon in everyone’s improvement in the coming years.