How I Got To 1400 Blitz
Improving my chess has always been a goal of mine. I think that's true of all chess players, at least the serious ones. I was told that playing slow chess was the best for improvement, and that blitz chess should be avoided because it ruins your chess. But since finding slower games proved to be a difficult obstacle, I thought it would be wise to get whatever practise I could even if other people said it was bad practise and unproductive. I believe blitz is an important improving tool, and it should be taken advantage of as much as possible, especially if you live a busy life. Blitz is important in improving your opening, tactics, fast calculation, attack, defence and intuition. Over the past couple of months after a long break from chess, I came back and started playing everyday or every other day. I improved more and more as I played and I got better and better at dealing with positions and time pressure. Here I want to share some of the things that can help players who are below 1400 cross over into the 1400's.
Here are a few of my tips which I will discuss here:
1) Limit your openings
2) Stick to the same time controls
3) Practise tactics
1) Limit your openings
I used to play 1.d4 many times when I had started playing chess. I would also play 1.e4 and 1.c4 and 1.Nf3. Basically nearly everything. I was always better at 1.d4 though because I have a positional style. But since I didn't have enough time on my hands due to school I didn't have enough time to study all of these openings. So a few months ago I said to myself I will religiously play 1 opening and that happened to be 1.c4.
If you are a under 1400 player I would recommend when playing blitz to stick to 1 opening move instead of changing from 1.d4 to 1.e4 or 1.c4. And the same would apply if you have black, only play one type of defence in response to 1.d4 and 1.e4. That is because playing 1 type of opening will limit the work you need to do to get better in that opening, such as studying books on the Ruy Lopez or something to that effect. It is a good idea to play lots of games with that opening. I have played over 100 games in the past couples of months as white playing 1.c4 religiously and I have significant improvement in the opening, often outplaying opponents in the early stage of the game. Playing 1 specific opening will also help you to familiarise yourself with patterns. This improves your intuition as you often have that feel what to play in familiar positions. You also get accustomed to the plans and motifs in the position, and this helps you play the first 10 moves or so very quickly, which is important in blitz as it saves time.
My own recommendations as white is to play 1.c4. That is because when playing 1.e4 and 1.d4 I feel you give black the cards, telling them what kind of game they want. Playing 1.e4 for instance lets black play the Sicilian, Caro-
Khan, Alekhine, and classically with 1...e5. This will only lead to more work as you will need to study more openings. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Instead you should be telling black what kind of game you want. Hence, I think 1.c4 leads to limited choice for black and leaves white in control of what type of game they want.
As black, I play the Dutch Defence in response to 1.d4, 1.c4 and 1.Nf3 which cuts my studying a lot. It’s a lazy defence. However, I will not make a recommendation here for under 1400’s to play the Dutch because I think it is important to play to your style. 1...d5 or 1...Nf6 might be more to your style.
In response to 1.e4, as black I play 1...e5. Even though this leads to many possible openings such as the Ruy Lopez, the Italian Game, the Kings Gambit and so on. I think for me personally, I need that variety every now and again because it can get boring constantly to play the same. So, when creating a repertoire for blitz leave some room for adventure!
The only downfall with this is that if you ever wanted to make a transition in your opening in the future, say from going to playing 1.d4 to 1.e4 it may be difficult and you may often find yourself lost because you don’t know the patterns and the plans. Not to worry. Just do what you did when you played your old openings; play loads of games in that opening and study that opening.
If you do this you should at least improve by 50-100 rating points.
2) Stick to the same time controls
When I played blitz online in the past I was of the attitude “I don’t really care about the time, let’s just play chess”. This is completely wrong if you actually want to improve your blitz rating. I remember one time Nigel Short commentating online at a chess tournament, I can’t exactly remember which but it might be the London Chess Classic, said that playing different time controls is like running different distances. If you’re a sprinter, then running 10k is going to be difficult to transition to. And if you’re used to running marathons, running with speed in a 100 metre dash will be challenging. Likewise, chess players playing at different time controls is a challenge. Going from playing 5/0 to 3/0 to 2/5 or 1/10 is challenging to adjust to. You will find that it is hard to manage the clock when playing because your brain is used to a certain time control. I recommend playing 1 time control strictly for those under 1400 if you want to see a rating boost. I also recommend an increment time control such as 5/2 or 3/2. That is because 5/0 and 3/0 blitz games encourage players to win by time and this is not useful for improvement. Increments allow you to play the game out and really show some skill. And it’s good for those under 1400’s who find no increment too fast.
If you apply this to your blitz this little change should help you gain 20-30 rating points as I’ve experience.
3) Practise tactics
As I’m not yet a paying member of chess.com I take advantage of the free 5 a day tactics puzzles I get on Tactics Trainer. There are also other sites out there to help you improve tactics if you can’t afford a membership such as chess.emrald.net. My chess tactics rating used to be in the mid 1500’s but now I’ve been near to reaching 1700. It’s not so impressive, but this article is about the small improvements that you can make to give your rating a little boost.
Why practise tactics? Doing a few puzzles a day helps you to recognise tactical themes so that in real blitz games you can notice them. As you practise more, tactical ideas such as forks and pins become easier to spot. And going over puzzles that you got wrong helps to stick patterns in your brain . Not just a quick flick through, but spending 1-2 minutes on going over why you went wrong. I think practising tactics is also valuable for those who are scared to go into tactical positions. I used to be quite fearful of the King's Gambit because I never knew how to play tactical positions. But practicing my forks and pins allowed me to alleviate that fear and boosted my confidence in tense and difficult positions. I’m still not perfect at tactics but playing daily blitz gives you many opportunities to show off what you’ve learned. Players under 1400 miss tactical ideas often and it is this one weakness that I have exploited the most to achieve a rating over 1400 blitz.
If you practise tactics often you will definitely see improvement in your blitz rating of at least 50-80 rating points.
So really to improve to an over 1400 blitz player all you need to do is reduce your workload and get patterns stuck in your head, and be regular with how you play and practise. Easy(!)
I hope this has proved helpful and thanks for reading!