Should I play blitz or slow chess?
Amateur players always asking, should I play blitz? For years, chess grandmasters have been warning us that playing too much blitz chess will adversely affect our slow game. This makes sense. Faster time controls ( 3 mins + 2 seconds increment) lends themselves to quick, often impulsive decision making. In a classical tournament game, the time controls are 40 moves in 120 minutes . This breaks down to 3 minutes per move. A player taking 3 or more minutes for a tough move is not at all uncommon. The conclusion is that more thinking and less reactive decision making leads to better chess understanding.
Will playing blitz hurt my game?
Truthfully, it really depends on the player. There are many players who have never played in a slow tournament game. Nevertheless,they have a strong chess sense about them. The know how to place their pieces on good squares. They understand concepts like positional compensation and sacrificing the exchange. These motifs are usually revealed during home analysis or personalized study. So playing classical or blitz chess are different approaches towards the same goal.
Different paths to improvement
I would compare the differences between blitz and classical chess to weightlifting. If you want to gain muscle mass and strength, you will need to lift heavier weights at lower repetitions. For a leaner look, you should lift lighter weights and do higher repetitions. Slow chess is the heavier lift. You will gain the most most understanding if you play at tournament time controls and carefully review your games.
Blitz chess is the leaner approach. You might get the same understanding that you would in slow chess but it will require more repetitions. How many? That ratio is different for everyone. Some people can rapidly improve their game by only playing 10 blitz games per day. Other players might need twice that amount. If you don’t believe me, try playing a chess hustler in New York City. You’ll see what I mean.
Tactics and more tactics
Seeing familiar patterns and addressing them quickly is what makes you a better blitz player. Many chess game outcomes are decided by tactics. Faster time controls exacerbate this even more. In a 5-minute blitz game, you have to make decisions quickly and accurately if you hope to win. Tactics training can help.
If you haven’t read my post on tactics, I suggest you start there first. Practice by solving a minimum of 10 problems per day. You can solve more if you like but don’t try too many. The reason is that fatigue will often set in and you’ll find yourself missing obvious problems that you would normally find when well rested.
I like Lichess for tactics solving but you can use any site. Some websites you timers that encourage you to solve the problems as quickly as possible. That’s good for blitz but not always for understanding. Keep a good pace but don’t take too long to solve problem. If you’re solving 10 problems a day, limit yourself 30-60 seconds per problem.
Should I play blitz?
There is something to be said about doing what you enjoy. If you’re an amateur that likes to play blitz and nothing else, great. However, aspiring tournament players want to improve their results. For me, playing blitz is an experimental laboratory. I can test out my ideas and opening strategies to see how my opponent replies. With fast time controls, I can’t fully validate the strength of my moves but it gives me a general idea. Playing blitz chess has its place on the road to chess improvement. Should I play blitz? Yes, playing blitz helps to sharpen the mind and helps your pattern recognition of chess positions. For tips on improving your blitz play, read this interesting article.
Thoughts? Post them below!