Blitz chess

Blitz chess is played with a time-control of 5 minutes per player. It is an entertaining format because it provides quick games with just enough time to create combinations. Often, stronger players can lose to weaker players, so the chance element creates a sporting twist for all players. Indeed, you would be forgiven for thinking that blitz chess is more unpredictable than standard chess, and contains an element of randomness that renders it virtually impossible to sustain a winning streak over many games.

The World Blitz Championships 2007, held from November 21st to the 22nd, demonstrates that among evenly-matched players, it is virtually impossible to sustain a long winning streak. But it also shows that stronger players still do emerge at the top.

Vassily Ivanchuk (second-highest rated player in the world) beat Vishy Anand (the reigning world champion over standard games and the highest rated player in the world) in the final game to clinch a one-point victory on 25.5 points from 38. It included 19 wins, but also 6 losses. Still, it is a world-beating performance. The results table is here.

However, as always, Bobby Fischer demonstrates a counter-argument. In 1970, the best players in the world took part in an unofficial world speed chess tournament, at Herceg Novi. The end result showed Bobby on top with an astonishing score of 17 wins, 4 draws, and only one loss (to Korchnoi). He was 4 ½ point ahead of the second-placed Tal.

Bobby’s result defies logic.

He was playing against formidable opponents. The cream of the Soviet chess elite were there, with former world champions Tal, Petrosian, and Smyslov. There were other luminaries such as Korchnoi, Reshevsky (of the US), Bronstein, and Hort. He beat the Soviet contingent 8.5-1.5. The only major players missing, arguably, were Larsen and Spassky. Also, as an anecdote, it was widely reported that Fischer rarely used more than half his time on the clock (meaning, about 2 ½ minutes per game). You can scan through his games from that tournament here.

Hence, I am forced to conclude, that any appearance of randomness or arbitrariness while playing blitz chess is just that: an appearance. If you are good enough – as Bobby was – then it still should not matter: you will win in the end.

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1 Comment

  1. January 18, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    […] 6-0 wins over Taimanov and Larsen in 1971 on his way to the world championships and his mind-bending blitz win in 1970 in Herceg Novi. And then there’s the demolition of Boris Spassky in 1972 to clinch the world title, his […]


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