14 November 2016

Good Blitz, Bad Blitz

Blitz chess is popular and fun. It also can be useful as a training tool. On the other hand, blitz can reinforce bad habits by cultivating sloppy thinking and rewarding reckless play. Blitz chess is characterized by blunders.

Today, while watching game three of the World Championship between challenger Sergey Karjakin and reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen, I played a few blitz games on Chess.com. Two of my wins featured successful mating attacks. These were successful because my opponents' errors matched my own.

Internet Opponent (1853) -- Stripes,J (1883) [A22]
Live Chess Chess.com, 14.11.2016

Black to move

11...Bf5+ 12.Kb3 Na5+ 13.Ka4?

13.Kb4 minimalizes Black's advantage

13...b6–+ 14.b4 Nb7


If I cannot find checkmate in one, maybe I should find a new hobby.


15.Kb3 and White's king is safe.

Black to move


15...Bc2+ 16.Kb5 Rd5+ 17.Kc6 Ba4+ 18.Bb5 Bxb5#.


16.Kb3 again leaves Black with a minimal advantage.


Finally, I find my way.

17.Kb5 Nd6+ 18.Kc6 Be4# 0–1

This flawed miniature could be useful instruction for beginners learning checkmate patterns, but it is nothing to brag about for the winner. Both players seem overrated.

Stripes,J (1899) -- Internet Opponent (1946) [B32]
Live Chess Chess.com, 14.11.2016

White to move


This beautiful strike suggests that I see the checkmate in six, or at least that I recognize a familiar pattern. I have certainly seen many chess problems with sacrifices of a rook on f7 in similar positions.

17...Kxf7 18.Qxh7+ Ke6 19.Qxg6+ Kd7

19...Kxe5 20.Re1+ Qe3 21.Rxe3+ Kf4 22.Qg3#.


My move is clearly winning, but why not deliver checkmate immediately: 20.Qd6#. I had about two minutes left in a three minute game. There was no reason not to slow down and find the checkmate. Instead, I'm playing by instinct, making moves that might be good in similar positions. That is the sort of poor thinking that blitz cultivates.

20...Kd8 21.Qf6+??

21.Qd6+ finishes things 21...Bd7 22.Qxd7#.

Black to move


21...Kc7 22.Qf7+ Kd8 23.Qf6+ and a draw by repetition is White's best option.

22.Qf8+ Kc7 23.Qxe7+ Kb8 24.Qd6+

Black to move


24...Kb7 25.e6 Rb8 26.Re1+-.

25.Rb1+ Bb7 26.Qf8+ 1–0

White delivers checkmate next move, so Black resigned.


  1. I have a couple of suggestions to help prevent sloppy errors:

    1) Do tactics every day. These should be done untimed, with a focus on seeing all variations before you make your first move. If you can manage an hour a day for a full month, you will notice an increase in sharpness.

    2) Use the computer less. Analysis after a game is a really important learning tool, and although the computer is great at helping us find the truth, it can make us REALLY passive. The next time you post one of your games, analyze it without the computer, and post it without engine checking. I think this could be particularly useful because there's an external motivator (fear of posting errors) that will encourage you to be thorough and analyze hard.

    I am particularly guilty of computer-induced laziness myself.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions Todd. Most of the time I analyze my games without a computer and then check my analysis. This process was used in both of these games. Most of the variations posted were found without computer assistance.

      If you look back a couple of years on this blog, you can find "McDonnell -- De La Bourdonnais 1834: Index", where I analyzed 25 games and posted wholly without engine checking. You are correct that I should do this with my own games.

      An hour per day of tactics for a month is a lot. I've done that, but it has been a few years. Lately, I've been doing tactics lessons on Chess Mentor on Chess.com several days per week and timed tactics on the same site about once per week. My OTB performance has been good the past month: first in a quick event (4th seed), second in a quick event (top seed) that was won by an underrated former student, and two wins with one game to go in Turkey Quads (I'm top rated in my quad).

      Online blitz is another matter. My rating swings between 1950 and 1760 almost daily and I'm playing far too much.