Saturday, July 22, 2006

Blitz is OK

At our club there was an old guy who was very good at blitz (G/5) games.
He has won many blitztournaments with players U2000 rating.
But in long games he wasn't that good, he had only a rating of 1650.
The reason for that was that he hadn't the patience to think long, and his ego wanted to impress the opponent by playing as fast as possible. Often having only 5 minutes used of a G120 game.
It was not easy to play against him, because you had to realize that he deprived you from half your usual thinking time. You couldn't think in the time of your opponent, since he thought so little.

And there was a young lad at the club.
He only played once a week a serious game at the club.
He didn't study or something like that, but there was only one thing he did besides his one long game per week.
He played thousands and thousands of blitzgames with the old guy.

Below you see a rating graph of the young lad.

From september 1994 till september 1997 his rating went up from about 1520 to 2020. Which is 500 points in 3 years.
After that he plateaued. He has tried ever since (= the next 9 years!) every form of study to break thru his sealing. Without succes.

It has costed me a long time to find out what has happened, but now I think I can formulate it.
The old guy had a lot of tactical patterns in his LTM. If he hadn't had these two flaws in his character (impatience and impressing opponents by fast moving), he would have had a rating of 2000+. Due to the flaws he had only 1650.
The thousands of blitz games made that the young lad got a "copy" of the database with tactical patterns in his own LTM. Since he hadn't these flaws in his character, he became a 2000+ player with it.

One of the lessons that can be learnt from this is that it's ok to play blitz, as long as your opponent is stronger than you.

You can see that he plateaued almost instantenously. He was 19 years old by then.
I think there are two factors at play: first he ran out of new patterns, second he reached an age where improvement doesn't come by itself anymore.


  1. Interesting ideas. After playing a blitz game my memory clears and on to a new blitz game. there is very little blitz I played. He certainly saw far more positions than I ever have. One fellow at our club plays chessmaster at gm level every day and has become very good.

  2. I've been shying away from blitz altogether. For one thing it makes me far too nervous and the other problem is that I am having to respond to threatening moves which I would never see in an OTB or CC game. I say blah to blitz.

  3. hey tempo. i'd love to hear what you actually have to say about the main content of my recent entry rather than just about the one comment i made about the ratings. i'm looking forward to what else you have to say in your upcoming posts!

  4. It's common among blitz players to play aggressive, unsound moves that are hard to counter without exhausting your already-limited firguring them out.

  5. "already-limited time figuring them out".

  6. I have encountered two kind of blitz players. The ones that play very aggressive, unsound attacks. And those who play very positionally, just waiting for a blunder. Most of the latter were stronger players in slow games. At our club we have a lot of blitz freaks. They spend hours and hours of blitz play but this does not help them getting better in slow games.

  7. about what mousetrapper said, I've seen a lot of similar aggressive type of blitz-players at RHP. they're 1800+ playing blitz, but their CC games look just plain bad even to a beginner like me. still, because they don't hang pieces much, they get to around 1500-1600, but usually not much higher. many of them have played for years and years, even decades, and at least claim they're studying too, but still play bad positional chess. to me, it seems like the only possible explanation is too much blitz.

    inversely, many of the 1800-1900 RHP players score only around 1400's on CTS, which feels somewhat strange. but I guess it just shows the advantage they get for the better positional understanding.

    about what tempo wrote of the old and young blitzers, it seems a bit incredible that the young one could learn patterns from the older guy. because even if the geezer had some kind of an 'inner ability of a 2000' which could be absorbed by the youngster, he still puts out the 1650-moves. - another possibility is that maybe they talk about chess, and the geezer is just much better teacher than a player. or, the youngster studies a lot, but claims otherwise. a thing I've seen a lot already in my first year of chess. many even claim they've played only a couple of years, but then it turns out they started at the age of 7, have played for 15 years, but count only the last two years for some reason or another.

    or maybe the youngster just is that good, but plateaus at 2000 because he's working on the wrong things. I wonder what stronger players have said about his shortcomings, and how he has tried to work on them?

  8. Maybe I didn't made it clear, the old blitzplayer easily beated 2000 rated players and became champion of blitztournaments. In the Netherlands we don't have a separate blitz rating. But at blitz I rate him 2000+

  9. so, he played 2000'ish blitz but 1650 standard? I guess I misread that a bit. -but the young guy still went up to 2000 standard?

  10. I think I'll just add this to the long list of 'things I don't understand about chess.' an old guy playing a lot better blitz than slow. -I always thought the fast play and tactical ability were the first to go with age, but it seems I was wrong as usual...

    it's comforting though, as I've started chess so old myself. :)