In the next two weeks, I will be playing two blitz events. The first one will be at my chess club, Steinitz, to determine the best blitz player in Steinitz. I have always enjoyed blitz and remember fondly the many blitz sessions I had in Port Elizabeth where I grew up and learned my chess.
My friend Jannie Saffier visited me four nights a week after work to play blitz. He came so often that my mother dished up without even asking if Jannie is coming! At school, Winston Dalpat and I were the strongest blitz players and we played every day at school!
When I arrived in Cape Town in 1991, Roland Willenberg and others fetched me most weekends to play blitz. We played in Heideveld at the late Ashley Daniels house and of course at Roland’s house in Belhar. Those blitz sessions lasted the whole weekend with very little sleep. I cannot confirm or deny that Bacchus was also present on many of these occasions!
I lament the fact that nowadays many of the young players are not playing sufficient blitz. Playing blitz has certainly been part of the arsenal of all top players. The famous Ukrainian coach Alexander Vaisman had this to say about Blitz in a chapter in the book, the Chess Instructor (2008, New in chess, p110), ” Talented children can usually play blindfold games almost immediately. They move quickly, calculate variations rapidly, and are good at blitz and rapid games. There is a good rule of thumb for trainers – blitz reveals talent. I mean, specifically talent, not strength, for the latter, talent is necessary.”
I recently bought a book called Blitz Theory by Jonathan Maxwell (2nd edition, 2005, silent Lyric Productions). I’ve always heard about the book and when I had the opportunity to purchase it, I took the plunge. Let’s hear what Maxwell has to say about blitz theory. I shall highlight salient points.
The foreword was done by six time Us Champion Grandmaster Walter Browne. He said ” while regular chess requires a lot of pondering, suffering, and preparation, blitz is a physical as well as mental game contested with intuition, speed and just plain determination. “
His personal formula for success has been to play very fast for the first fifteen to twenty moves, and then play at a comfortable pace of about one move every three seconds. Falling behind one
minute usually spells disaster. He believes that the optimum pace depends on his individual endgame technique, and plain speed in the last minute.
Jonathan made the following important points which I have summarised to ten.
- The game of blitz chess is only a relative of slow chess as Blitz chess is chess within a time crisis. While in slow chess the situation is always dictated by the board, in blitz both the board and the clock dictate the advantage.
- In blitz there is no room for us tempered artistry as the time crisis directly forbids it. If we attempt to find romantic slow chess moves, we will chronically run out of time and not attain either our creative or competitive goal.
- The most important concept in blitz chess is that the clock is a blitz piece just like any other; and thus, we should make a strong effort to use it for attack. If we don’t, our opponent will attack with it.
- You need to eliminate the ego. By simply releasing the excessive importance from the outcome and appreciating the fact that our emotions do radically influence our play, our game will improve dramatically.
- The cardinal rule according to Maxwell is to diffuse our opponent’s superficial tactics as soon as possible.
- Tactics are the soul of blitz. The more your playing style embraces tactics, the stronger will be your blitz game. Players can recover from a bad pawn structure or bad bishop, but it is more difficult to recover from a tactic. It is possible to steer all situations away from poisons, channels to tactical skirmishes since closed positions can be opened.
- The best defence is a good offence. It is always best to attach because if your attack fails you have lost the initiative, but if your defence fails then it is curtains. Try to keep the initiative.
- If a sacrifice looks good, then it is good. Most blitz players know how it feels when a knight or bishop drops in unexpectedly!!! Maxwell opines that the psychological advantage from the lack of serenity merits investigation!
- He then gives a series go openings to adopt in blitz chess which I shall leave for now as I believe each player as his own repertoire.
- He spends a chapter on clock play and situations that occur. Maxwell makes the point that you need not hurry when you are ahead on the clock and your opponent is not, because you are then in pseudo time pressure, and as I can attest, you could quite possibly lose your advantage.
I shall end off Maxwells discussion with some practical advice from the author:
1. If you have secured a time advantage, then you must not draw attention to it and this may require
some acting. When examining the clock, your eyes should shift without any head movement that might draw your opponents attention! When moving the pieces and pressing the clock, you must be gentle and unassuming. Keep the pieces on the board. Even if you are up in material, decline exchanges as you are mating him with the clock!
- Try to move in pairs. Once you think in pairs it means that when your opponent makes a move play your second move quickly so that he does not have time to adjust to the new situation.
- If your game no longer has any winning chances, then you should play a move that is totally unsound, because if your opponent doesn’t see the threat you will win!
- Maxwell spends some time on distraction. If you want to disguise a threat, place your piece that you have just moved against the side of a square and not directly in the centre. This will cause your opponent to get agitated because the piece is not perfectly in the middle while one of your pieces is actually attacking his queen…. (mmmmmhhhmmm)
- If you are short of time, try to move the piece that are closest to the clock so that you don’t waste time!!
Well you can’t say you not been emboldened by the advice offered.
Grandmaster Kenny Solomon recently played a blitz tournament in Italy in February. The event started at 10:00am and ended at 3am the next day. The event had 59 rounds. It started on a Saturday and ended on The Sunday morning. GM Solomon scored a massive 56.5 points in the event!! Well done Kenny.
The next blitz event is the Cape Town blitz event which will take place on the 19th of March. Cape Town Chess Club was established on that day in 1885. Let’s celebrate the day with them.
Entries so far http://chess-results.com/tnr510768.aspx?lan=1 Players can email or WhatsApp David Gluckman to reserve a spot.
So good luck to all of you that love playing blitz, and may be involved in playoffs and the like, good luck with your blitz.