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Is Bullet-Chess Worthwhile?

  • #1

       I remember reading somewhere that Pal Benko invented his Benko Gambit because he was such a notoriously slow player that even in easily won positions he lost virtually all his games on time-trouble . . . so by creating the Gambit, he was in effect sacrificing a pawn for 18-26 well-analyzed moves and allowing himself to do what he does best:  "play the endgame" instead of getting out-sprinted in (for him) unchartered middlegame positions. I have always thought that blitz chess was a very enjoyable but far lesser expression of chess.  The notion of bullet-chess being played at 60 sec./game makes me want to vomit.  Well, not literally, but seeing virtually every game decided by time vs. say 20% in blitz:  bullet seems like a very poor imitation of the Royal Game.  Do I exaggerate?  I once saw some guys, who all three looked like homeless dudes, playing bullet-chess in NYC for about an hour.  While the positions they generated were at times deucedly interesting, except for early checkmates or queen-droppings every game was played out to flag-fall.  It may have been fun, but even their grim trash-talk belied that.  The only value I could see was that if they were pros or very serious students, and got all their games video-taped then they might be able to learn from home analysis or being helped by a chess coach.  However, the sheer memorization of moves whether by Benko using his system or by someone playing bullet chess to win . . . all that seems like something very DEAD about chess.  I'd love to hear your comments!


  • #2

    Never tried it, probably never will, but your points certainly seem valid to me.  I read somwhere on one of these threads that Nakamura stated that "bullet is not chess";  this, despite the fact that he is one of the world's best at it and has even written a book on it.  Probably the main reason I refuse to play bullet though is that I have enough addictions already.......

  • #3

                 Hah!  You were brave enough to say what I wouldn't.  Addictions, indeed!  Chess for me is kind of like the kids with all their gadgets always tweeting and texting and video-gaming . . . . perhaps the "bums" I was watching in the park had become so deeply addicted to chess that they'd become "mainliners" and lethally hooked.

  • #4

    I don't know about brave, just honest.  I do think bullet is probably a harmless enough pasttime for titled players, but for most of us it is actively counterproductive.  How many threads a week do we get here from players desperate to "improve their game" and it turns out that all they've been playing is bullet and blitz?  In any event, once the bullet players discover this thread, I expect we'll both be subject to scathing, if not reasoned, criticism.

  • #5

    First of all, you are not 10 years old.  You are a fraud.  I can diagnose a phoney.  However, to answer your question, bullet chess is for young people who have the reflexes of a cat.  Certainly not for an old man.

  • #6

    Bullet is a game of reflexes, as ChazR points out.  It only takes the form of a chess game, but no one can really "think" at that speed.  It certainly cannot help your game.

    But the truth about Benko isn't that he was a "slow" player.  He was perfectly capable of playing blitz well, for instance.  He was just prone to time pressure in complex positions throughout his career, but was always able to play through it until he reached the highest levels.  He did lose most or all of his games in his only Candidates' Tournament on time, but he was clearly out of his class there despite earning his spot.

    His work on the Benko Gambit had nothing to do with saving him time on the clock in tournaments.  He felt he had found a significant improvement in the old Volga Gambit and championed his belief that Black gets sufficient compensation for the pawn in his move order for decades before most of the chess world took him seriously. 

    It was for him, I believe, a serious scholarly argument which he approached much in the same way he approaches endgame analysis.

  • #7

    Surely the word "fun" is allowed in this discussion?

    I agree that bullet chess doesn't hold a card to the longest thought out and researched games of correspondence or OTB/live games with large timers, but what's wrong with the "fun" benefit? I like playing bullet games sometimes as I might have 10 minutes to spare and they are just that. Fast thinking and often frustrating yet fun games. If chess is all research and analysis, but no fun, why play at all? BTW I'm not implying that correspondence isn't fun, just merely making a point that doing something for no benefit other than enjoyment is still a benefit.

  • #8

    I didn't think much to bullet but I play a little when I'm too tired to play longer games. I think it could help with increasing tactical vision. Not sure. You certainly have to think quickly.

  • #9

    Why Play Bullet?

    Most of the time that I'm playing bullet chess, I'm unhappy.* I lose completely winning positions because my opponent shuffles pieces almost randomly with enough speed that I cannot execute the win before my clock expires. Other times, I revel in the absurdity that giving away one's queen with five seconds left on the clock is a more effective route to victory than making good moves. I've been on both sides of that farce. The key seems to be making unpredictable moves.

    Playing bullet against a lagging opponent is even worse. The rhythm of the game feels like the opponent is using more time, but the reverse is true. That's when I become bellicose. My dogs usually head outside when I curse at the computer screen.

    Despite the misery, I play thousands of bullet games every year. Usually, I go on a two or three week binge where I play hundreds of games per day. Then many months transpire between bullet games.
    Read the rest at http://chessskill.blogspot.com/2015/08/why-play-bullet.html
  • #10

    I know a player on here in real life & bullet is an addiction for him, I imagine it is for many others also. He literally has to have his "fix". For anyone wanting to improve it does exactly zero to help you improve. If anything, it's detrimental because it solidifies very bad playing habits. It entrenches very bad thinking patterns because you're making the same mistakes over & over, many thousands of times. The repeated mistakes, poor planning, lazy thinking, etc., become fixed, entrenched, ingrained. Quite simply, they become a habit. Also, the threads on here complaining the most about starting to hate chess & hating their opponents behavior, just not getting better despite trying really hard, etc., are ALL from speed chess players. I know these things about speed chess not only from experience of knowing improving players that stagnate & plateau early but also have friends in the 2400-2600 range that pointed this out long ago. I may have only reached class A level (just didn't have the dedication/ambition to improve further, life's short) but I have known good trainers that have pointed out that too much speed chess is bad. A little is ok, for entertainment, but if you really are serious about improving put it on the back burner on simmer while you study & train.


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