In honor of memorial day I figured we should talk about bullets; no not those kind of bullets; bullet chess! Bullet chess is where each side is given 1 minute to move. I became a bit tired of playing 3 minute and felt it was hurting my chess (because I was playing too much of it). So in lieu of playing 3-minute I decided to just play 15 and 1 minute games (we’ll see how long that lasts). 1 minute chess is often denigrated by many in the chess community for being “Not real chess” or “mindless entertainment”. I’m here to argue that it does have some practical value (how much? I really can’t say). I can say that it is possible to play bullet chess with accuracy and produce beautiful/brilliant games.
Case in Point: Roland Schmaltz Vs Ronen Har-Zvi
I myself have played some fairly “pretty” bullet games. Winning on time in bullet is easy, checkmating your opponent, now that is tricky business. Just today for example I produced this gem:
The value of bullet chess comes from the fact that you have to make critical decisions (which you’d normally have a few minutes for) in tenths of a second (otherwise you lose on time). I’ve played 1-minute over-the-board (OTB) and online. Both present a unique set of challenges for example online (via ICC) you have the ability to pre-move. The pre-move is where you can move a piece while it’s your opponents turn and as soon as they make their move your move automatically gets sent to the server. So something I often do when I’m playing bullet online is I pre-move my first few moves (many others do this as well…) which can be quite dangerous. Especially if I notice you are doing it:
Now obviously this game has little value as far as “pure” chess is concerned (I mean who in their right mind plays 4.Bxb7?) but it does help to dramatically illuminate a problem that most players are faced with: They fail to acknowledge their opponents plan or idea. 4.Bxb7 is just a comical example of a player ignoring your opponents plan/moves. Not to be outdone I was paired with the same opponent 12 seconds after this game:
Ouch. Poor guy couldn’t even get my trick to work against me (Granted I have fallen into similar tricks on plenty of other occasions).
I much prefer to play bullet chess online than OTB because of the aforementioned “Pre-move” and OTB becomes incredibly sloppy quite quickly (ie. knocking over pieces, bouncing the pieces across the board, not placing the pieces centered on their square). It turns out we humans are quite clumsy when we do things quickly. Watch the last 10 seconds of the video I posted and you’ll see what I mean, they are knocking pieces over and just waiting to try to flag one another by shuffling their knights “to-and-fro”. The guys in the video are fairly good bullet players (as far as I could tell). They were hardly knocking the pieces over until the very end (which is to be expected).
Bullet chess is a bit of a pariah of the chess world although there are many strong Grandmasters who play. I’m always amazed when I see an accurate bullet game (such as the first game I showed). If you are more interested in bullet chess there are books on the subject. You can also check out Hikaru Nakamura who is arguably one of the best bullet players in the world. Although the benefits of bullet chess are somewhat limited it is definitely worth trying out, you’ll soon be hooked like the rest of us.
I’ll leave you with some bullet games I played against Ulf Andersson (BERTA on ICC) where I get spanked 3-0: