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Bullet Chess: Can it Actually Help Your Game?

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I am a firm believer in slow chess. I advocate it, I recommend it, and I play it. However, sometimes a few good one-minute chess battles can be really fun. It can relieve stress, it can help wake you up if you are tired, and the games can go by very fast. But do they have any value in the grand scheme of chess? Maybe.

Most bullet chess is played on the Internet, and therefore it can end up being quite a mouse race. One-minute chess games are very easy to find and are extremely popular, especially at the master to grandmaster levels. They use it to work out openings and to test their prowess at endgames, as well. They play fast, they play strong, and they play a lot.

If you play enough one-minute chess games, you’ll begin to notice patterns that happen often, depending on your opening choice and style of play. Practicing different lines at this speed, recognizing checkmating themes and noting what the endgame most often looks like can all be applied to your slow chess.

It might also teach you to play simpler chess altogether. In a slow game we look for tricks and sacrifices that may win immediately, or try to see sequences many moves deep. We may also do that in bullet chess, but on a much more surface level. Simply playing solid moves that don’t risk too much can win bullet games, as well as slow chess games.

That isn’t to say don’t look for tricks, of course. But why spend half an hour calculating a knight sacrifice that doesn’t work when you could simply develop a piece or push a pawn, gaining control of an important square?

One of my personal problems in slow games is that sometimes my mind actually slows down. In a bullet chess game, we are forced to work out the effects of our moves immediately, or risk an embarrassing loss. I believe that bullet chess can help apply some speedy calculations to our regular games, as well.

Bullet Chess Tips

• When playing the opening, pick moves that don’t immediately cause conflict, so that your army can develop quickly and efficiently. Don’t pause or stall if you drop a pawn or two or even a piece, because speed is king in bullet chess. Keep playing, play aggressively, and get castled. In the middle game, aggressive play coupled with a concrete plan is what wins.

• Most Internet chess servers allow for a phenomenon known as “premove”. This allows us to actually commit to our next move before our opponent has even made theirs. Of course, the inherent risk is that of making an egregious, game-losing blunder, but it can also be a wonderful tool when used correctly. Many of the opening moves can be completed using premove, as well as endgames or checkmates, if you know the patterns.

• Also, if both players are down to 1 or 2 seconds on the clock, it’s time to start sacrificing! Your opponent may have a certain series of forcing moves planned for you, but if you crash your queen into a pawn in front of his king, thus putting him in check, his mouse may be far enough away from the area to cause him to flag (run out of time). Or they may think you see a mate they missed, and stop to think about it for just a second, which all too often is all it takes to win a bullet chess game.