Game of the Week: Hoping Something Sticks... (with Bonus Content: Is Bullet Real Chess?)

Game of the Week: Hoping Something Sticks... (with Bonus Content: Is Bullet Real Chess?)

Dec 27, 2016, 8:54 PM |

Bullet chess, though a fun diversion and pastime, is very different then classical chess. Due to its very nature, there is almost no time for thinking and planning--the very cornerstones of normal chess. With time being such an enormous factor, bullet chess is reactionary chess. The more familiar you are with chess principles, the better you will be.

Now, a good bullet player can get away with moves that might (on later analysis) be considered unsound. A better player can quickly punish unsound play. And then there's me. I just blunder my way through each game in a race against the clock, throwing mud against the wall and hoping something will stick. Bullet is not my strong suit; when I play, it's not really to challenge myself but more to relax and turn my brain off. Perhaps using mainly the reflex center of my brain has an underlying appeal, similar to that of video games.

This week, I decided to pull a game from my bullet archives. Taken as a regular game, both I and my opponent played very badly--though I played much worse--with blunders galore, especially near the end. But as a bullet game, this could probably be considered a good (or at least decent) game. I blundered my queen, started losing majorly, but then found a classic mating pattern and secured a win. It was painful to play and painful to analyze, but at least there was an epic comeback. Here's the game:

Before we end this week's post, I would like to talk a bit more about bullet chess. Many high-level chess players condemn bullet as being "not real chess." Many players at all levels have first-hand stories of how bullet caused their skills in normal chess to diminish. And yet, some of the best players in the world (namely Hikaru Nakamura) play bullet not only competitively, but also for fun. So obviously, the topic may at times be a bit dividing.

If Super-GMs play bullet as a pastime, it obviously cannot be all bad. As I mentioned earlier, bullet chess seems to me to boil chess down into its most basic components, requiring you to easily and rapidly see tactical maneuvers and follow basic strategies. When put this way, bullet actually sounds like a useful exercise (akin to's Tactics Trainer). But an added element changes everything: the clock.

With such short time controls, one may at times play completely horrid chess and still be pronounced the winner, if your opponent times out. Simply playing fast enough and not getting mated is all it really takes to win a game, which is why many players dislike bullet. In the hands of some players, chess really is mangled, so I understand the frustration. But I don't believe that the problem is with bullet. Better players play better bullet--that is, at higher levels of classical chess, bullet chess relies less on the clock and more on sound play.

However, from my own experience and the testimony of others, I have come to this perspective on bullet: In addition to your normal 16 pieces, you have one extra piece which exists as the Clock. It can not only be considered a piece, but your most valuable piece. You must use it wisely, at times spending the Clock to strategize, and at others moving wildly and rapidly. You can "checkmate" the enemy with your Clock if you are fast and he is not. With this added piece, bullet quickly becomes a different animal than classical chess--closely related yes, but different just the same. Because of this, in my mind, Bullet Chess may be considered a chess variant.

Once again, I hope you enjoyed this week's article. If you have any feedback on my game or my remarks about bullet chess, please feel free to comment below!