01 August 2015

Why Play Bullet?

Most of the time that I'm playing bullet chess, I'm unhappy.* I lose completely winning positions because my opponent shuffles pieces almost randomly with enough speed that I cannot execute the win before my clock expires. Other times, I revel in the absurdity that giving away one's queen with five seconds left on the clock is a more effective route to victory than making good moves. I've been on both sides of that farce. The key seems to be making unpredictable moves.

Playing bullet against a lagging opponent is even worse. The rhythm of the game feels like the opponent is using more time, but the reverse is true. That's when I become bellicose. My dogs usually head outside when I curse at the computer screen.

Despite the misery, I play thousands of bullet games every year. Usually, I go on a two or three week binge where I play hundreds of games per day. Then many months transpire between bullet games.

What draws me to this misery? Sometimes I execute a decent combination that required less than a second to spot. Bullet can test, and maybe develop, quick recognition of the patterns that are essential to chess skill. I enjoy executing elementary checkmates when I have less than ten seconds on the clock. In simple endings that involve a pawn race to promotion followed by checkmate with a queen and king or two queens, I have sometimes made as many as fifteen moves in six seconds. These few moments are exhilarating.

Sometimes I win a nice game against an opponent who usually stomps me.

Yesterday, I played half a dozen bullet games while cooling off after my shower. I lost the first one on time with a superior position. I blundered away a nice position in the second when I allowed my opponent's lag (almost a minute in a two minute game) to distract me. I split a handful with a much weaker player who played the same subpar opening because I was trying several different ideas against it. Then, I won this nice game against a much stronger bullet player. I used 45.5 seconds to make 51 moves. My opponent used 49 seconds.

We both made serious errors, but relatively few by bullet standards.

Internet Opponent (1940) -- Stripes,J (1645) [E17]
Online Chess, 31.07.2015

1.Nf3 b6 2.g3 Bb7 3.Bg2 d5 4.d4 e6 5.0–0 Nf6 6.c4

With this move, the game transposes from some obscure, rarely played lines, to a more common position.

6...Be7 7.Nc3 c6



8.Ne5 leads to a position that I'm fairly certain that I've played as White.

Black to move 


8...h6 9.Bxf6 Bxf6  was played in a game that White won in 42 moves Medina,A (1853) --
Torres Cardenas,L, Bogota COL 2013, The Week in Chess 996. The computer prefers my move, but by an insignificant margin.

9.Re1 Nbd7 10.Rc1 Ne4 11.Bxe7 Qxe7 12.Nxe4 dxe4 13.Nd2

Black to move

13...Nf6? loses a pawn


14.Nxe4 Nxe4 15.Bxe4 c5 16.d5 exd5 17.Bxd5 Bxd5 18.cxd5 Rad8

18...f5 preventing e4 was better.

19.e4 Qe5 20.Qc2 f5

White to move



21...Qxd5+/= 22.Rcd1 Qa8?

22...Qxa2 was a missed opportunity for near equality.

23.Rxd8 Qxd8 24.Qe4 Qf6 25.Qe6+? 


25...Qxe6 26.fxe6 Re8

White to move



27...Kf8 28.g4 g6 29.f5 gxf5 30.gxf5 Kg7 31.Kf2? 


31...Kf6= 32.e7? Kxf5=/+ 33.Kf3

33.Re3 was better, with the idea of making the rook active and keeping rooks on the board. White needs to play for equality.


White to move


Black is now winning.

34.Rd1 keeps the game close to even.

34...Rxe7 35.Rxe7 Kxe7–+ 36.Ke5

Black to move


Throwing away the win.



37.b3 secures the draw.


All other moves lose.

38.Kc5 a6

All other moves lose.



Black to move


From here to the end, the game was played almost entirely through premoves. The only remaining battle is with the clock, and I have plenty of time, relatively speaking. I probably had 18-19 seconds remaining at this point.

40.Kxa6 c3 41.bxc3 bxc3 42.a4 c2 43.a5 c1Q 44.Kb6 Qb2+ 45.Ka7 Qxh2 46.a6

Black to move


46...Qc7+ 47.Ka8 Kd6 48.a7 Qc8#.

47.Kb7 h5

I went for a much slower win, but one possible via premoves.

47...Kd6 48.a7 Qb2+ 49.Kc8 Qg7 50.Kb8 (50.a8Q Qc7#) 50...Qc7+ 51.Ka8 Qc8#.

48.a7 Qxa7+ 49.Kxa7 h4 50.Kb6 h3 51.Kc5 h2 0–1

I'm certain my opponent was confident that fifteen seconds was more than enough time for me to deliver checkmate. He or she resigned.

*Bullet chess is less than three minutes per game. One minute for all moves seems to be the most common time control, but I've played a fair amount of two minutes per player or two minutes plus one second increment. Playing with an increment reduces the losses on time.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post! I don't know if I have ever played bullet chess. I don't really even like blitz that much. Not sure what that says about me but I have taken to avoiding blitz. And not because Dan Heisman says to not play blitz. I just don't enjoy the frantic time element. I think bullet chess might actually hurt me. :)