03 September 2016

Panic Mode

Effects of Bullet Chess

After playing too many bullet games over the past few days, I played instant moves during a critical phase of a rapid game. Although I had six or seven minutes left on the clock, I moved as if I was down to the last few seconds.

I played the opening slower, but it did not go as planned. My first few moves were a gambit that I have had success with not only in blitz, but also over the board and in correspondence chess. However, my opponent met my gambit with an unusual reply. If his plan was unsound, I failed to find the refutation. At least, that's how I felt about the game. After sacrificing a pawn, no attack materialized. Soon, Black picked up another pawn and seemed to have as much of an attack as I did.

Nonetheless, the dreaded knight fork of my two rooks was deferred and I was able to get some pressure on the kingside. Postgame analysis with an engine revealed that I was afraid of empty threats. My position was better than I thought. Meanwhile, Black's queenside remained undeveloped with neither bishop nor rook yet mobilized.

Black has just grabbed the second pawn.

White to move

White has a forced checkmate in six, but I did not know that. The first three moves were instantly perceived and instantly played. Then, three memorized patterns competed for my intuitive mode and I selected the least effective.

26.Qe7+ Rf7 27.Rh7+ Kxh7 28.Qxf7+ Kh8

White to move

I played 29.Rh1+, which is still winning, but served to bring Black's queenside bishop into play, albeit without a future.

During postgame analysis before turning on the engine, 29.Rxg6 suggested itself. This move threatens both Qg7# and Rh6#. Black cannot defend against both, but can delay for five moves. Alas, these non-checking moves, even when they force a result, are too easily overlooked when playing in panic mode. Such a move takes only a few seconds to spot, however. With more than six minutes left on the clock, I could have taken these few seconds to check for checkmate patterns.

Even better, and forcing, is the immediate sequence that begins with 29.Qe8+. This move, too, is part of a memorized pattern that I would often play when I am not distracted by the check on the h-file. Perhaps due to play in panic mode, I had subconsciously erased the undeployed bishop from my consciousness. Maybe I thought that Rh1+ was checkmate.

A few moves later, I had a forced draw by repetition while still down material. I played two moves of the repetition and set up my opponent to play the third. Perhaps he, too, overestimated his position. He avoided the draw. After a few moves more, I saw an opportunity to liquidate into an ending with a queen, bishop, and three pawns for me and a queen and four pawns for my opponent.

I won a long ending.


  1. Hello James!

    I have finally decided to QUIT playing bullets. I have played about 20-30K bullets so far. Anyway in comparison to blitz games - they did not teach me anything except fast reactions!

    Yeah, I love playing fast games, but I made a concious decision I can use blitz games to this purpose. After I stopped playing bullets my rating increased for about 120-150 points. I hope it may show why bulles should be abandoned for all the serious (amateur) players to gain chess skills not just quick reactions on the board!

    Would you be able to quit playing bullets completely? Or is it too addictive action to you? I keep fingers crossed on you. I thought I am a hopeless case, but now I know how harmful and detrimental were bullets to my chess level!

    1. I can go months without playing bullet, but to stop completely? I don't know. Sometimes I play 2 1, which is a lot like 3 0 blitz, albeit still too fast for calculation.

  2. Of course I do not mean "long bullets" like 2+1 or even 1+20. I mean 'classical bullets' like 1+0 or 2+0. Anything more than that is "long bullet" or slow blitz.

    And if you want to see how strong are you my friend - just try outplaying guys rated 2100-2200 at (fast) blitz (like 3+0). You will notice the HUGE difference between playing just fast and playing strong and quite fast. I needed to understand that about 100-120K blitzes and 25-30K bullets. Anyway If I feel really strong (f.e. after solving chess tactics or reading/studying attacks and or combinations - I simply try crushing people at 3+0).

    BTW. Ofc it is completely up to you if you want to quit playing bullets. Anyway I just wanted to share my piece of advice.