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Bullet Chess - Adrenaline & Addiction

posted January 26th, 2015

Written by guest author Jason Repa for Wholesale Chess

Of all forms of chess, this is the fastest and most nerve wracking. It is not for the weak or faint of heart. Entire games are played with only 1 or 2 minutes being allotted to each player. Blunders and mouse-slips are commonplace. Time forfeitures in won positions may be frequent as well. The depth of calculation is compromised and there is rarely an opportunity to double-check your plans. So why do we play it? The answer, as any bullet chess player can tell you, lies in the rush one gets from crushing an opponent under such draconian conditions. It also provides an opportunity to play a large number of games in a short period of time. This makes it ideal for busy people with only a few minutes to spare, but also for addicts who want to get the maximum number of games in per session.

There has been much debate as to whether or not playing bullet chess can be harmful to your slow and serious game. Chess coaches have been known to advise students to avoid it in favour of playing only active or regular tournament time control games. The argument is that the student will carry their ‘bullet-thinking’ over to their tournament games and make more mistakes. My personal opinion is that it could scarcely cause harm to play fast games of chess. After all, you are getting exercise and practice in many of the areas that are applicable in slow chess. There is no question that the faster the game, the more demanding it is of intuition and knowledge, in contrast to calculation and planning, but bullet chess also forcefully teaches you how to prioritize and manage your time in a way that slow chess cannot possibly do. There are also times when a player in a slow tournament game might get into time trouble and find themselves in a predicament where the conditions are similar to a bullet game. They might have only a few minutes to make a series of moves. In this case their bullet experience is directly beneficial and those without it are at a marked disadvantage.

Aside from the conceivable practical benefits playing bullet chess may offer, in terms of developing your ability as a chess player in general, it is just plain fun. It seems like the ideal graduation from real-time video games, where hand-eye-coordination, quick decision making, and mental agility are just as important. But in the case of chess, you are immersed into a limitless labyrinth of theory and complexity, with a global following and universal rule set. Also, with video games a bright and avid player soon achieves mastery and must move on to a new conquest. But in the world of chess, mastery is only a relative thing, and even the best players in the world are continuously learning and improving. It is highly doubtful that a human mind will even completely conquer chess.

When someone first asked me if I played it, back in 2002, I thought they were crazy. My idea of speed chess was 5 minutes per side and anything less was tantamount to a ‘mouse-race’. Now, many thousands of games later, the roles have been reversed and I find myself in the position of defending bullet chess from the criticism of others. I’ve often wagered to take 1 or 2 minutes while giving my opponent 20 or 30, just to prove my point. I have not lost such a wager yet, although, to be fair, my opponents in this type of contest, thus far, ranged from casual players to moderately above-average tournament players. Admittedly, I would not be able to make such a concession to an opponent of equal level to myself.

Jason Repa is a CFC rated national chess expert and part-time chess coach from Winnipeg, Canada. He has been a tournament chess player since 1995 and has been teaching chess since 2002.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent the views of Wholesale Chess. We welcome open discussion on all aspects of chess on the Wholesale Chess Blog. If you would like to be a guest author on our blog, please contact us at marketing@wholesalechess.com.

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Personality Traits at the Chess Board

posted December 29th, 2014

Written by guest author Greg Delaney for Wholesale Chess.

I would like to share some of my experiences and insights from an over-the-board chess tournament in which I participated recently. These tend to support my belief that our personality traits, both strong and weak, have profound impact on how we play the game of chess. In the following examples, some of my weaknesses of character showed up very distinctly in this event.

Reacting vs. Acting

I think I can safely and accurately describe myself as a person who tends to react to circumstances rather than as someone who initiates action. This showed itself several times in the games I played during the event. In each game I had at least equality out of the opening, but in two of the three failed to utilize the positive aspects of my position on the chess board by making a clear plan and acting upon it. The result in both cases was predictable: I forfeited the initiative to my opponents, who took advantage of their positional strengths to develop strong positions. Of course, once I was under pressure I responded with some appropriate defensive measures, but I lost both games nonetheless. I suppose one might argue that the need to play better defense exists, and I don’t disagree. But I think I could have initiated threats of my own rather than letting myself get into passive positions in the first place.

Anxiety in Tension

Moving Chess Pieces

I have read in many places that one of the common weaknesses of weaker players is the tendency to not handle tension in a position very well. Those of lower ratings tend to want to simplify such positions to remove the stress and to establish some clarity. This definitely occurred in my last game (a loss). I had won a pawn from my higher rated opponent and also had one of his pieces pinned to his queen. Instead of examining the position with a calm demeanor, I allowed myself to get anxious and overlooked a simple reply that would have retained my extra pawn. Instead, I tried to “simplify” matters in the position and ended up losing the pawn as a result. In hindsight, several better moves at this juncture came to mind, but during the game I couldn’t overcome the feeling of stress from the possible complications.

Finishing

My final example is one of a positive nature. I know very well that once I have established a superior position (whether in chess, an argument, or a debate) I can be very efficient in “finishing off” my opponent. My confidence grows and my thinking takes on great clarity and accuracy. An analogy in sports would be “getting into a zone,” where I can’t “miss.” This occurred in my only win of the tournament. I took advantage of a blunder by my opponent to win a piece. He continued playing, and I kept playing moves that added more and more pressure until I had an unpreventable mate in one. I played confidently and very well once I knew I was fully in charge of the game.

My thought is that most chess players can relate to at least one of these illustrative situations. I hope that sharing them will help other players examine their own games to see evidence of personality difficulties that hinder their growth as players. I could have used examples featuring well-known chess personalities (Bobby Fischer would be a prime example), but sometimes self-disclosure leads to greater understanding. In a future article I hope to share some insights about changing these traits in a positive direction.

Greg Delaney is Life Member of USCF who returned to chess in 2005 after a three decade hiatus from the game he loves. He is an educator, club player, and student of IM Yelena Dembo. For fun, he blogs about chess and his work to improve as a player.

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