Confessions of a Blitz Player: From Blitz to Long Chess
First blog post.
I started playing chess a a little over four years ago as an alternative to the Real-Time-Strategy games that I loved and enjoyed. While I loved the strategy aspect of these games (Starcraft to be exact), I was engrossed in the amount of speed and multitasking that was required of me to keep up with the competition. I routinely exercised my fast reflexes, and I was proud of the relatively high actions-per-minute that I could acheive with the years of gaming under my belt and my weapon of choice: my trusty high-end logitech gaming mouse. So when I began to play chess I was drawn to what was familiar: Strategic concepts were interesting, but Bullet chess appealed to me most because, at the measly 900 rating that I had, I could beat every opponent simply by mindlessly moving my mouse faster than them.
Four years later as one who is now around 1750, it was on this unhealthy foundation that my chess career began. As a result of incessant blitzing, I have found that I have no talent for longer games and I have dreadfully plateued in my blitz games. I really want to get out of this blitz rut and I think that long games are the way to do it, but I find that it is difficult for my mind to truly play a thorough and well thought-through game.
So a few weeks ago, I decided that it is high time that I start. My first 15/5 game shocked me: my opponent somehow had drained his time down to TWO MINUTES and I still had 14 minutes on my clock. My subsequent games were just as surprising: no matter how hard I tried I could not effectively use all of my 15-20 minutes of time. I took notes on my thought-processes and I noticed that I really did not do the most basic things as I played chess. My most serious points that I am beginning to work on are outlined below:
-- My current habits are the worst: I have developed the viciously unhealthy habit in a dull position to impulsively move the first piece I see when I don't see a "great" move - for the sake of preserving time. While I have learned to point out imbalances, I impulsively jump on the first move that presents itself as an answer and, often, I afterwards find that I haven't thought the move through further than 3 moves. I've noticed that when I start to think harder, my level of play rises dramatically. On chess.com I have "peaked" at 1900 and I can get into the high-1800's when I try hard, but it is a routine that I am not used to which creates the most curious rating swings as far as 1850-1500 in a few days.
-- I developed a playing style that would create highly-complex positions where it was nearly impossible for either side to calculate the best line in a short 5-minute game. These positions were tailored to my strengths: I would set-up a tactical minefield and make quick moves that easily avoided blunders, and I would wait for an explosive blunder from my opponent under time pressure. I found that this, however, does not work in long games and often I would bite myself in the butt - positions where I prided myself by my quick "okay" play were no match for a well-thought out reply from my opponent.
-- I could not comfortably think for a long period of time and, when I did, I found that after a full minute or two of thinking I went with the move that my gut suggested 5 seconds in, as I had biased myself towards that move for the entire turn. How do I begin to think for a longer period of time?
-- I hardly ever considered my opponent's plan, rather I always only saw my own plan. It was unnatural for me to try to see what my opponent was trying to do strategically. I think this is crucial for my development.
In conclusion I have questions for you, chess.com. Have you ever had trouble switching from bullet/blitz games to long games? Have you had a similar problem as me, where you played blitz for so long that you were unable to think or use your time in long games? How did you overcome it?