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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Why Bother Thinking?

When playing Blitz on the Internet it amazes me how many players make their moves instantly. Maybe GM’s can play 40 decent moves in one minute, but the rest of us can’t. This seems to be a problem involving mostly players rated under 1200. I’m sure many of them would be a few hundred points higher if they would only think before moving.

If the average game is, say, 35 moves then in a 5-minute game you have about 8 seconds per move. Add a 3 second increment and it’s 11 seconds. With my personal favorite, 8 minutes with a 5 second per move bonus, it becomes 13 seconds per move. Considering that you can sometimes gain time on the clock by playing the first few moves instantly then when it gets complicated, you sometimes can easily spend a whole minute or two on a move.

I guess I don’t understand playing hundreds of games mindlessly without thinking just for something to do. It’s probably a bad idea to play those guys because the temptation is very strong to play bad moves and unsound sacrifices knowing that it’s highly unlikely they will find the refutation unless it’s by blind luck. And playing like that will develop bad habits which is probably why a lot of great players in the past avoided it. Almost no one does today though because we have a generation of players brought up playing chess exactly that way. OK for GM’s; bad for the rest of us.

Fischer and others thrived on Blitz. Botvinnik avoided it. Mark Buckley in Practical Chess Analysis said that blitz helps develop pattern recognition. I’m going to guess that Buckley did not play junk openings as so many Blitz players do. My guess is he played his standard openings to get a feel for them.

So is it is beneficial, bad or neither? Personally I go along with the crowd who think it develops bad habits no matter how much fun it might be. Sort of like one master who refused to play patzers because he said it caused him to develop bad habits and it wouldn’t be long before he would start playing like them. I still do it though because like Mark Twain, good advice never did me any good, so I’m always willing to pass it along. That's probably why when I recently gave out some free advice, somebody told me I was full of it. I think they meant good advice.

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