How to get better at rapid chess? My secret formula!

Rapid chess is probably the second most popular time format in the game right now (I personally believe that blitz is the most popular) and everyone is talking about it. There is something that perplexes me though about this topic.

It seems that not a lot of people have made an article about this time control, which is weird to me. However this is also an opportunity for me to come in and make an article about it! This is the topic that I have chosen.

So, how do you get better at rapid chess? As a chess player here is what I recommend:

  1. Focus on the middlegame.
  2. Speed up your opening.
  3. Manage your time.
  4. Avoid playing too fast.
  5. Analyze the psychology of your games.
  6. Learn to wait for the right opprtunity.
  7. Solve chess puzzles centered around the middlegame.
  8. Study the endgame.
  9. Avoid playing passively.
  10. Play more rapid games.

I think this topic is incredibly underserved when it comes to online content, and I hope to fill that gap. I will share the things that I have discovered which have helped me get better at rapid chess.

Without further ado, let’s get started. 

Be good at the middlegame if you want to be good at rapid chess

The majority of rapid games that I have seen online are usually decided in the middlegame, if you want to be better at rapid then you might need to consider getting good at the middlegame.

The opening phase in a rapid game is more or less equal since both players have enough time to think of the appropriate moves, this is unlike blitz where there is not much time to calculate.

The opening is usually uneventful and traps/attacks rarely unfold unless it is a lower-rated game, otherwise, both players can play this phase decently right out of the gate.

And you might be thinking, what about the endgame? It is still important in the rapid time format obviously, it is just that the middlegame far exceeds the endgame when it comes to priority.

In most rapid games below 2000 elo (which is the level where the majority of chess players are at) the games are decided in the middlegame and not the endgame.

Therefore it makes sense to be better in the middlegame in order to be better at rapid chess, by learning how to attack and defend properly for example.

Be good in the opening in order to be good at rapid chess

As I have said above, most games on the rapid time format are decided in the middlegame so you don’t want to spend too much time on the opening. If you want to get better at rapid, be better at the opening.

Most people think that they don’t need to play the opening as fast since there is enough time, and this logic has its reasoning. 

However, we need to understand that the more time you spend in the opening the less time you can spend in the middlegame, which is the most important phase in this time format.

So by learning the main lines of popular openings (you don’t even need to study it extensively) you can significantly be better at rapid chess.

Learn time management in order to be good at rapid chess

In order to get better at rapid chess it is good practice to learn how to manage your time. A lot of people that prefer this time format underestimate the time that they have and lose because of time pressure.

I’m pretty guilty of this when I am still a beginner since I underestimate how fast some 10 minutes could expire, this is during the time where I don’t have enough experience yet.

You don’t want to play too fast but still need to understand that you are not playing a classical game, there are still opportunities for you to be in time trouble.

So if you want to be better at rapid chess, you need to improve your sense of time management and understand that you still need to play the time game efficiently.

Avoid playing too fast if you want to be better at rapid chess

Don’t play too fast in a rapid game, you don’t want to play too slow but you don’t want to go the other way. You would be significantly better if you spend some 30 seconds on each move (not counting the opening).

There is a saying that it is better to play too slow than to play too fast, and I personally think that this also applies in improving your rapid games.

You need a sense of time management, yes, but you don’t want to play too fast that you lose early in the game before you even have the opportunity to use your conserved time.

Analyze your own games if you want to improve at rapid chess

Sometimes it is good to analyze your own games not only to check them out with the computer but also to understand why you have made that move at that particular moment. 

If you want to get good at rapid chess you need to analyze your games in order to know yourself more.

Maybe you have made a blunder at move 29, the right question is “why did I make the blunder?” and less about “what is the best move in the position”. In rapid, the mindset matters just as much as the actual moves.

In improvement at least, you will understand some aspects of your rapid game that you need to work on in order to get better, you can only accomplish this if you analyze your rapid games in the first place.

You need to be patient in order to be better at rapid chess

If you want to improve your rapid game you need to develop a certain level of patience, rapid is a time format that gives your opponent time to think. Do not play moves based on intuition, calculate.

A lot of beginners usually try to be aggressive since they want to see something happening on the board and cannot wait. You don’t want to be this guy, you will struggle in rapid chess.

You can make some questionable moves on a surface level here and there, but with the caveat that you have calculated if they are actually good moves. You do not want to play on intuition.

Rapid does not cater to intuitional play, blitz will be the better time format for you if this is the case. 

You don’t want to calculate so extensively that it makes you too slow, but you also don’t want to calculate too fast that the moves don’t lead to anything.

Playing puzzles will improve your rapid chess game

One of the things that significantly increased my rating in rapid time format is playing with some chess puzzles, this can work well for you too. 

This is because most games play in the middlegame which is the primary theme for most chess puzzles. Most of these puzzles are about attacks and defense which is the main concept of the middlegame.

This is quite unexpected for me though since I don’t usually solve chess puzzles, but I eventually did since my lichess app generates them automatically and they are quite entertaining.

It turns out that puzzles have surprising benefits in my rapid games, they make me better in finding combinations in the middlegame that have improved by rapid lichess rating. 

If you want to see improvement, you should solve a certain number of puzzles a day. You don’t want to do too much, but you also don’t want to only solve a puzzle or two a day.

You should try solving some chess puzzles since it might get you better in rapid chess, it is not much of a commitment since it will be fun, trust me.

Study the endgame to reach the peak of your rapid game

Becoming good at the endgame is not as important as studying the middlegame and the opening when it comes to the rapid time format, however, it is essential for top play. If you want to get better at rapid you might want to take a look at this.

I just want to include this as some of you may have an idea that this is not important in rapid excellence, which is absolutely wrong.

Middlegame is the most important phase in this time control especially under 2000 elo rating. However, once you get past that, endgames become just as important. 

This is because good rapid players are usually good enough to last until the endgame, so you need to study the endgame after you have mastered the opening and the middlegame if you want to get better at rapid.

To be better at rapid, avoid playing passively

If you want to get better at rapid you need to avoid playing passively, you need to be patient and minimize the nonsense attacks, but you also have to identify opportunities.

There are some out there that have the strategy of waiting until their opponent makes a mistake, and it can work well depending on the rating of the opponent.

However if we are talking about some 1500 elo they are not likely to make many mistakes, and there are some out there that can punish you when you decide to play passively.

You do not want to play like this even against lower-rated opponents since it will eventually become a habit that is hard to remove. Develop a habit of playing both passively and actively depending on the position.

This advice is critical in overcoming a plateau (basically a moment where there is no foreseeable improvement). If you want to get better at rapid chess, avoid playing too passively.

Practice rapid chess in order to be good in rapid chess

The best way to get better at rapid chess is to simply play the said time format exclusively. There will be things that you can figure out which will work for you, but you have to accumulate some experience first.

All the advice that I have given here is pretty much on point, however how you actually implement them is a different story. Sure, I can tell you to be good in the middlegame, but how do you actually implement that specifically during your rapid games?

My best answer to you is of course you need to study, but you also need to experience more rapid games to identify what will work for you. 

The thing that has worked for me is playing some chess puzzles, but if you continue your exposure to rapid games you may discover something else.

Plus it is just generally better for you to play more rapid games if you want to improve in rapid games since we will get used to the said time format. 

What you focus on are usually the ones that yield the results. So just play more rapid games and you will become good eventually!

Final thoughts

Improving in a specific time format is something that is not talked about a lot, I think we need to discuss this more especially online. There are a lot more beginners online after all.

This is because improving in blitz is going to be different than improving in rapid or classical since they are intrinsically different in nature, they will warrant diverse approaches. 

I wanted to contribute to this discussion using my articles, this is the reason why I published on this topic in the first place. Rapid is my second favorite time format after all behind blitz.

And I have definitely enjoyed researching and writing this article! What about you? Have you enjoyed reading it? I hope so, sleep well and play chess.