31 October 2015

Bad Blitz

Blitz chess can be fun. It also can serve as part of a training regimen that develops chess skills. For several years, during the questions after IM John Donaldson's annual lecture in Spokane, he was asked whether blitz was helpful to a player's improvement. His answer was that he did not play blitz, but that another IM friend of his who plays a lot recommends limiting play to five games at a time and following the playing session with analysis of the games.

Sometimes I limit my blitz (see "Improving through Blitz").

When life is stressful, on the other hand, blitz serves to refocus my thoughts and work out some frustrations. It also becomes a self-fueling source of additional frustration as unfocused play is often substandard. Through the past ten days, I have had several multi-hour blitz marathon sessions and have played several hundred games of blitz. The following game is illustrative both of the poor quality of play in these sessions and of some of the lessons that can be gleaned from such games.

Stripes, J (1696) -- Internet Opponent (1702) [C41]
Live Chess Chess.com, 29.10.2015


During my blitz marathon, I alternated between 1.e4 and 1.d4 with the White pieces, occasionally playing 1.Nf3 or other moves. Some 1.e3 or 1.d3 moves were played due to mouse slips (or touch screen errors). "The First Move", posted last week, offers data concerning my opening patterns.

1...e5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bc4 h6?!

This unnamed opening move might be dubbed the Anti-Fried Liver.

3...Be7 is the most popular move in Philidor's Defense.


The third most popular move scores best among games in the database.

4.Nc3 is slightly more popular; 4.0–0 also scores well. Is one move better than the others? It seems to me that 4.d4 is a principled response to Black's time wasting 3...h6.


With this move, the game transposes into an obscure line of the Hanham variation of Philidor Defense. It was Black's early h6 that renders it obscure.

White to move


5.0–0 leads to two reference games worthy of further study.

5...Ngf6 6.Nc3 c6 7.a4 Qc7 8.a5 g6 9.h3 Bg7 10.dxe5 Nxe5 11.Ba2 0–0 12.Nh4 Kh7 13.f4 Ned7 14.Be3 Qd8 15.Qf3 Nxe4 16.Nxe4 d5 17.Bf2 dxe4 18.Qxe4 f5 19.Qd3 Bxb2 20.Rad1 Qf6 21.Rfe1 Qg7 22.Qg3 g5 23.fxg5 hxg5 24.Nf3 Bf6 25.Be6 Ne5 26.Bxc8 Nxf3+ 27.Qxf3 Raxc8 28.Qxf5+ Qg6 29.Rd7+ Bg7 30.Qxg6+ Kxg6 31.Rxb7 Rf7 32.a6 Rcc7 33.Reb1 c5 34.Bg3 Bd4+ 35.Kh2 Rce7 36.Bb8 c4 37.R1b4 Re1 38.Rxf7 Kxf7 39.Rxc4 Bg1+ 40.Kg3 Kg6 41.Kg4 Re6 42.Ra4 Re2 43.g3 Rxc2 44.h4 gxh4 45.gxh4 Be3 46.h5+ Kf7 47.Rb4 Ra2 48.Bxa7 Bxa7 49.Rb7+ Kf6 50.Rxa7 Ra4+ 51.Kf3 Kg5 52.Ra8 Rf4+ 53.Ke3 Rf7 54.Rb8 Ra7 55.Rb5+ 1–0 Kotronias,V (2628)--Dervishi,E (2543), Cappelle la Grande 2008.

5...c6 6.dxe5 dxe5 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Nxe5+ Kf6 9.Qd4 Ke6 10.Ng6 b5 11.Nxh8 Qf6 12.Qxf6+ Kxf6 13.b3 Bd6 14.Bb2+ Be5 15.Bxe5+ Nxe5 16.f4 Ng4 17.e5+ Ke6 18.Nc3 Ne3 19.Rf3 Nxc2 20.Rd1 Ne7 21.Rd6+ Kf5 22.Ne2 c5 23.h3 1–0 Peng Xiaomin (2590)--Du Shan (2399), Xiapu 2005.

5...c6 6.dxe5 dxe5 7.O-O

Another reference game: 7.Bxf7+ Kxf7 8.Nxe5+ Ke6 9.Qg4+ Kxe5 10.Qf5+ Kd6 11.Bf4+ Ke7 12.0–0–0 Ngf6 13.Rd6 Qb6 14.Qe6+ Kd8 15.Rd2 Bb4 16.Rhd1 Re8 17.Qf7 Bxc3 18.bxc3 Qc5 19.Rd6 Qxc3 20.f3 Re7 21.Qf8+ Ne8 22.R1d3 Qa1+ 23.Kd2 Qxa2 24.g4 Qf7 25.Qxf7 Rxf7 0–1 Nadal Garcia,L (2048)--Munoz Pantoja,M (2499), Barcelona 2008.


White has a development advantage with more minor pieces mobilized and the king safely castled. Now, White must find a plan for developing pressure through the course of the middle game. In blitz, these plans are a matter on instinct.


Aimed at preventing b7-b5. Two other games had reached the prior position. The players were well below master. Both moved the light-squared bishop. One to d3 and the other to b3.

8...Be7 9.Be3 Ngf6 10.Qd2

Maybe a sacrifice on h6 to expose the king. Maybe a queen and rook battery along the d-file.

Black to move

10...0–0 11.Rad1 a6 12.Nh4 b5 13.axb5 axb5 14.Bb3 b4 15.Nf5 Bd8

15...bxc3 16.Nxe7+ Kh8 17.bxc3

White to move

Threats have been made and parried by both players. Now, White must determine how to address the threat on his knight.


With this error, my game began to deteriorate.

16.Na4 was acceptable. 16...Nxe4 17.Qxb4±.

16.Nxh6+! should have been seriously considered. I recall glancing at it briefly. 16...gxh6 17.Bxh6 Nh7

The alternatives:
17...bxc3 is worse. 18.Qg5+ Kh8 19.Qg7#.
17...Ne8 gives White a clear material advantage.

18.Nb5 cxb5 19.Bxf8±.

16...Nxe4 17.Qc1 Ndf6

White to move


Amaurosis scacchistica!

18.Nxh6+ gxh6 19.Bxh6 Re8 20.Ng3
     (20.f3 Qb6+ 21.Kh1 Nf2+? 22.Rxf2
        [22.Kg1?? Nxd1+ 23.Kh1 Nf2+ 24.Rxf2 Ne4–+]
        [22...Qxf2 23.Qg5+]


I could resign.

19.Bg5 Be7 20.Ng3 Bg6 21.f3 Bc5+ 22.Kh1 Nf2+ 23.Rxf2 Bxf2 24.Bxf6 gxf6 25.Ne4 Bxe4 26.fxe4 Rad8 27.Rf1 Qb6? 28.Qh6 Qe3 29.Qg6+ Kh8 30.Qxf6+ Kh7 

I was looking for a perpetual, but Black's queen covers h6. Moreover, decoying the queen there does not net the bishop due to a back rank weakness.

White to move


31.Qf5+ Kg7 32.Qxe5+ f6 33.Qe7+ Kg6 34.Qxb4.
31.Bxf7! Qxe4 32.Qxf2 with an advantage for Black.

31...f5 32.Qe7+ Kh6 33.Qe6+ Kg5 34.Qe7+ Kh6 35.Qe6+ Black lost on time 1–0

So many blitz and bullet games are won by the player who made worse moves. Sometimes it seems that the clock is more the game than what happens on the board.

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