Amateur blitz on a Friday night

by Davide Nastasio
10/8/2018 – Blitz is often bad-mouthed and thought as damaging a player's development. The historical evidence shows the contrary. Most legendary names like Fischer, Bronstein, Tal, were all avid blitz players. The benefit of blitz is easy to understand: within the short span of time of a blitz game, one can see the defects in thought-process, opening repertoire and of course, missing endgame knowledge. Especially at the amateur level, blitz can be a fundamental tool to improve one's own chess. A blitz tournament at the chess club is also a chance for that human interaction, which unfortunately was taken away being modern chess played mainly online. Chess is definitely more pleasant, and exciting when played face to face over the board, and of course more painful!

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Educational fun

Having a chess club in the state where I live has given every chess player young and old more chances to play chess. One can experiment with different time controls and different formats. On Friday the chess club organizes a six-round blitz tournament. The time control is five minutes for the entire game — particularly brutal, because one could have a huge material advantage, as we will see in one of the games I recorded, and still lose for time.

In the past, some of the greatest names in chess: Fischer, Tal, Bronstein, were all avid blitz players, who played thousands of blitz games. This gave them the chance to create important connections and develop intuition about what is right or wrong, thanks to losing many games in a short amount of time.

Many empirical chess principles, which one assumes to have internalized, are often violated without good reason, revealing areas for further review. When playing with stronger players in blitz, one can see in action many of the ideas we see in top GM games. Piece activity, exchange sacrifices, hidden ways to draw in a losing position etc.

I'm not advocating one should play blitz 24 hours a day and do nothing else — far from it — I'm saying blitz can be a tool, like a tactic trainer, a chess book, or a ChessBase DVD, in order to improve our chess. Then, of course, there is the social aspect of chess to consider.

In the modern world we are hidden behind our screens, be they the one of the phones or the one of the TV... we have virtual identities, we often say things we wouldn't say to another person's face. With chess over the board (OTB) we can discover our real selves, especially when the adrenaline kicks in, because we have few seconds left on the clock, and we are not computers, and often cannot find the way to checkmate.

Another common feature of the social aspect of chess is the hierarchical structure created by the rating. Chess players don't really care to exchange each other's names, the first question which pops between two chess players who just met is: "What's your rating?"

As we will see in this blitz tournament, the rating doesn't tell the whole story. In fact who would think a 1400-rated player could win when playing against seasoned master level players with a blitz rating of over 2000?

Before the tournament took place I had the chance to record some of the friendly blitz games, played as a warm up, here a sample:

 

Next, I'm going to comment on the tournament games. This is the real deal, there are no pre-moves like online, and one is losing time also just from hitting the clock too slowly after each move.

A thank you to all the players who let me record their games. I also had the impression they were happy someone was recording the game, because in case of an argument, there was an objective record available.

Some might argue that analysing blitz is useless. Instead, I believe if it is done proactively (and not letting the engine do all the work) one can learn about tactical and checkmate patterns missed, and of course how to exploit minimal advantages, like in long time control games. Analyzing with an engine can help the player see if he's able to win with some of the evaluations given by the program. Sometimes I click on "play against Fritz" from some positions and see if I can hold the defence, like the engine would do.  

Fritz 16 - He just wants to play!

Fritz 16 is looking forward to playing with you, and you're certain to have a great deal of fun with him too. Tense games and even well-fought victories await you with "Easy play" and "Assisted analysis" modes.

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I left the last game separated by the others, because I'd like to share the pathos of the last round — the money round, where winners are made, and the one who loses falls back into nothingness.

We see Potula Kapish with 4½ points, and one would guess the winner of the tournament. Vishal Balyan is second, in order to win the tournament he needs Potula to lose. Balyan can become a co-winner in case Potula draws, and he wins. If Potula wins, Balyan's best result is not enough. And then we see Andre Duncan which is the outlier within the group of first five players, because they are all rated 2000+ and he is 1400. Would someone bet on him being the winner of the tournament? As we can see all comes down to this last game.

Here is how it went down!

Potula as Black, playing versus Dunca as White

 

Black was checkmated a couple of times! Another instance which cannot happen in online blitz!

And now we have the final standings. Meruga was able to beat Balyan making 4½ out of 6.

Meruga White winning Balyan Black

FM Ghatti (white) also won against Dickerson getting the same score as Meruga

Final standings

At the end of the tournament, GM Finegold, after completing all his duties as Tournament Director (TD), rating the tournament immediately, and Organiser (someone must pay the prizes!), on my request, graciously agreed to play a couple of blitz games himself.

Here they are:

 

Finegold paying (the prizes) before playing

As all beautiful things tend to end, and thus does this article! The chess club is definitely a positive place to spend time and learn chess thanks to the vibrant living community of players who give us free "lessons", sometimes in form of a blitz game, sometimes in form of advice. The biggest benefits can come from attending small tournaments like this one, because they keep the fire of our love for chess and the interest to improve, burning strong.

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Davide is a novel chess aficionado who has made chess his spiritual tool of improvement and self-discovery. One of his favorite quotes is from the great Paul Keres: "Nobody is born a master. The way to mastery leads to the desired goal only after long years of learning, of struggle, of rejoicing, and of disappointment..."
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SeniorPatzer SeniorPatzer 10/8/2018 09:51
Is Speed Chess touch move in this tournament or touch clock?
Shurlock_V Shurlock_V 10/8/2018 08:11
The new Atlanta Chess Center is more than just a club, its a chess oasis.

Nice piece. Good to see club level chess, and blitz, getting some spotlight.
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