06 April 2012

The Problem with Blitz

One problem with blitz is missing easy stuff. As one opponent several years ago on the Internet Chess Club stated to me after some egregious errors, "speed kills".

Last night on ICC, I had Black.

Black to move

The combination to create a mating threat was easy to find, found, and executed.

19...Qxe1+ 20.Rxe1 Rxe1+ 21.Bf1 Bh3

Then White defended against checkmate with 22.Qd3.

Black to move

Was my 22...Rfe7 borne from panic that White avoided checkmate? I could have snatched the bishop. The queen has nowhere to go. After 22...dxc5, I could have played 23...Rd7 to decoy the queen, making Rxf1# possible.

After 23.Be3 Bxf1 24.Qxf1 Rxf1+ 25.Kxf1 I was up the exchange. Several moves later, I was able to trade my rook for the bishop and a pawn, reaching an easy pawn endgame. My opponent resigned a few moves later. It would have been much simpler after 22...dxc5.

Black to move


  1. Speed may kill, in chess, or when driving.

    But we need to remember that our brain is a powerful pattern recognition machine conducive to survival.

    Pattern recognition is the ability of an individual to consider a complex set of inputs, often containing hundreds of features, and make a decision based on the comparison of some subset of those features to a situation which the individual has previously encountered or learned. The brain is constantly checking and comparing the information coming in through your vision faculty with the picture you have in your mind.

    Through repeated exposure to a type of (chess) problem, the brain naturally begins to identify the patterns that yield to successfully solving the problem. Eventually, this enables us to become experts and be able to find answers automatically.


    So when speed kills us in blitz that looks like the Nature is suggesting that our pattern recognition skills have yet not been developed to the level we would like to see in our game...


    1. Great! So, my Blitz Addiction is possibly helpful as part of pattern recognition training. Just what a junkie needs. ;-)

  2. Blitz helps, seems not the most efficient way of developing patterns though.

    Traditional teaching focus around top-down learning, especially in science and math: teach the rules first, how to apply those rules, and then finally introduce students to a problem set. However, the brain is a pattern recognition machine which naturally solves problems by identifying patterns. Therefore, in order to induce perceptual learning (which will eventually enable problems to be solved automatically), scientists are now supporting a more bottom-up approach to teaching: introduce students to the problems first and then teach the rules (http://wp.me/p1BAmu-ou, and http://wp.me/p1BAmu-tm).

    So it seems that software applications that combine in-depth brain research and a powerful technology platform create the world's fastest way to learn chess, or something (even faster than blitz:)

    James, you have a great weekend

  3. Nice cashing in on the opportunities,even if it had to be two times after 22. Rfe7 :).

    I'm kind of skeptical on the usefulness of Blitz except for fun. It looks like unless one is very advanced at positional chess Blitz often ends up just waiting for the last big blunder.

    For instance in this game, I'm assuming White walked into 19. Re1 figuring he had the pin and attack on the Queen.

    Maybe something like 19. Be3 closing the e-file and getting time to consolidate is more likely considered in a longer time, hopefully his Rook wasn't coming from the awful b1.

    1. White played 18.Rfe1, then I played 18...Nc5 hitting the queen, and so 19.Bxc5 (the bishop had been on e3) set up the first diagram.

      My opponent might have thought he or she was getting a discovered attack on my queen while snatching the knight, but it practically forces me to see my checkmate threats.

  4. A never ending debate. Although not for me. I can't stand playing blitz. It is the antithesis of why I got into chess in the first place. But those are just my thoughts on it.

    As an aside, did you like that book Counterplay by the Anthropologist? I have thought about getting it.

    1. I read about half of Counterplay when it first came out, but was rather busy with work and did not finish. After it sat around in several places in the house unfinished, I found a place on the shelf. It is an interesting look into the lives of chess players by a scholar with enthusiasm for the game. If you find anthropological approaches to culture of interest (I do), you will find it illuminating.