Chess as a game host different time formats that present their own set of challenges a player must overcome.
A longer setup played for hours would have a different playing environment compared to a five-minute game such as blitz (3-5 minute games).
A different approach therefore must be taken into consideration since the experience is so much distinct. A lot of people wonder if you can even get better by playing blitz chess.
As someone who has been playing blitz for years, here is what I’ve learned:
To be better in blitz chess you should solve 10-20 chess puzzles a day. Blitz games are usually decide by tactics since there isn’t much time to think deeply. Apart from this, play bad openings over and over again and try to hold it. This will make you insensitive to messy positions and become better in blitz.
So being good at blitz is definitely possible as long as you are disciplined enough to avoid certain disadvantages. In this article I will be sharing how you can improve in blitz.
Here are the tips you can implement in your own blitz games that would give the best winning chances:
1.) Apply the “consecutive move” strategy
This is actually a nifty move that I’ve formulated after playing so many blitz games; which involves creating a plan on the opponent’s own turn.
Think about it, most of us will make the majority of the decision-making in our own turn since we are pressured to do so (by the time).
But this is super speed chess! we need every opportunity to shorten the time it takes to think about the moves. This is my advice for people willing to incorporate this principle:
- During the opponent’s turn, look for the motives of the position (which takes some experience) and quickly identify your options.
- After knowing the possible moves to be played, decide whether to opt for something generic or unpredictable (depends on your objectives).
- Now after we have our move, don’t just stop there! Find other plans that are not decisive, but are solid enough to not give concessions.
- After the opponent used their turn, swiftly apply the consecutive set of moves you have planned beforehand instead of analyzing the position again and tackling another decision.
- Only stop and think about the conditions over the board when something really significant occurs (sacrifice, threats, attacks, etc.) and continue to follow your scheme until the said anomalies.
This is the reason why so many strong players can make a lot of moves in such a short period of time, because they already have a plan in their heads.
This feature is simply something that cannot be accomplished by having to study the positional framework over and over again.
The player only reacts when the events over the board warrant any reactions. This has dramatically increased my speed once I’ve got a hang of it, and I’m sure you will too!
2.) Repeat moves
This is something completely unique in this time format that I wouldn’t have given as a piece of advice (most of the time) on the others, that repeating moves can be a great tool!
You see, in longer time schedules where the element of time is much more tolerant, repeating moves don’t really make much sense.
This is because the opponent has all the time in the world to think of a reply that would either revoke that move or just improve their position. That is not the case in blitz.
Even history repeats itself.
When under severe time pressure, just getting the move out might just be more important than what’s over the board.
And which move guarantees a position with less risk? repeating it! This is primarily used for flagging (attempting to have the opponent run out of time), or some annoying psychological purposes, which either way is useful.
3.) Limit Pre-moves
This is a big one if we’re talking about bullet chess (1-2 minute games), but not as conclusive in blitz. Pre-moving is a coordinate function in online chess where the pre moved piece or pawn will be in place instantaneously after the opponent’s turn ended.
People think that this is a useful way to make their games fast, well they are correct, but not in the way that you think.
There’s another term for too fast, hmmm I think rushing? doesn’t that lead to bad quality?
The player who likes to pre-move the most will almost always have the highest likelihood of blundering their pieces or pawns.
This is not a problem in bullet since both players don’t really have a lot of time to makes sense of what’s happening.
But this is blitz you’ve got some time, and that means some time for your opponent to make a sound reply when something suspicious comes up.
If you really want to pre-move that much then limit it when doing pawn promotions where nothing crazy should happen.
4.) Don’t play when in a losing streak
You could argue that this applies to every type of chess, not just blitz and you will be right.
However it’s especially important in blitz since it is a format where the time frame is just fast, people will have a losing streak more often.
And what do they do? they play again and again, even when they are still strained emotionally from the previously lost games.
What’s ended up happening is they bring those failed mindsets in the current games, which is a recipe for disaster.
Sometimes taking a break is the most productive thing you can do.
I experienced it before and trust me, I lost a lot of games! Being able to recognize when it’s time to unwind and settle down your fatigued brain is important in erasing those traces of losses.
Plus it will help to preserve your rating too!
5.) Don’t hesitate to sac a pawn
Let’s talk about something interesting, saccing (sacrificing) pawns! Sacrifices in general that occur in blitz always lead to dramatic effects more than other time formats, since there is lesser time.
But you don’t want to sacrifice a piece obviously, you’ll just get crushed. A pawn will do happily for us since one pawn sacrifice still carries some perks of even a piece sacrifice, but is not valuable enough that you would lose altogether.
Pawns are the soul of chess.Francois Andre Danican Philidor
Giving up a pawn for some kind of positional or tactical initiative is the right call in blitz!
It’s just a pawn, unlike if you’re playing classical (longest time control) for example where the sac matters, the positional advantage that comes with it is just more priceless than a single pawn.
Being down a pawn does not move the needle as much in blitz, so don’t hesitate if it’s reasonable.
6.) Puzzle Rush
Play tactical puzzles! There possibly aren’t any greater application of such activity than to improve in blitz chess.
Tactics after all are one of the prime domains of this format, where it is short enough to not allow too much time to think, but not too short the opponent just pre-moves (bullet).
Quote: Puzzle Rush is a challenge available in online chess platforms where a player has to solve as many tactical positions within the given timeframe.
So go over some puzzle rush action, it will definitely help in getting you equipped with the right tactical processes.
Because believe me, most games end after a tactical shot instead of a long grueling positional struggle when in blitz.
So it’s really helpful if you can keep up with the competition in terms of the tactical strength, you don’t want to miss them after all.
7.) Play positional chess
Positional chess involves slow maneuvering moves that seek to improve advantages long term (strategy) instead of short-term (tactics).
This might confuse you since I’ve just talked about the importance of tactics in blitz, and yeah it does produce decisive results.
But depending on the opponent the approach will always be different, and against weaker players, being defensive is actually the best.
Less advanced players always have the same style, aggressiveness while playing bad moves.
If you play a tactical game against a weaker opponent then you’re just giving them a chance, since it’s likely to commit more mistakes in complicated positions.
Play regular moves, don’t go for nonsensical ones but is something simple enough that you could play fast without wasting initiative.
Wait for the weaker player to attack and make a mistake, then you could take advantage of that as the stronger player.
8.) Implement complicated chess
So the turtle-like approach of developing defenses overlooking opportunities for defense works for weaker players, but what about stronger ones?
They will definitely outplay you in this style of battle, instead the opposite might actually be more helpful.
Online chess games are transactional in nature, therefore, faster, while over-the-board games usually are more committed and last for hours.
A stronger player is more likely to be exposed to an over-the-board environment the has longer time controls and is used in such.
We could use this to our advantage! You see, when playing classical chess that lasts for hours, a deep and analytical determination is important, and some players would still apply this in faster time formats burning time.
Complicated positions increase the difficulty of finding moves, therefore more chances for the stronger player to think longer.
9.) Don’t play too sharp of an opening
Sharpness refers to the move and the complication associated with the said decision, a move is sharper if it brings more complication.
Complications are yes, good when facing stronger players, but can also be double-edged when handling too much of.
There are sharp lines where the ideas are so fudgy that it’s really a question of which side is better, one mess up and it’s done.
I suggest you stay away from these lines since a stronger player will probably have more opening knowledge, while if it’s a weaker one you’re just giving chances.
You see, sharp lines are like gambling, and while there are situations where it works, it’s really not sustainable over the long run.
An efficient way to win more games is to play chess, not gamble.
10.) Learn your openings!
This is one way to shorten the span a player has to think of moves and actually apply them, when you know the opening and its continuations!
It’s just easier when you’ve already identified your objectives at the start of the game, which is better accomplished when you understand the opening.
It’s like you’re pre-moving on top of your head, with less risk of falling for traps since you’ve analyzed the line to an extent already.
When you’ve got the opening nailed down, you’re less likely to burn unnecessary time since there is no need to do so.
11.) Match the opening with the theme
This is additional advice to build upon the previous point, the opening has to compliment the set of strategies you’ve prepared for a particular match.
If you’re desiring a more complicated approach, then choose a more complicated-based opening!
Especially when playing white where you’ll dictate most of the positional structure and therefore this matters the most, but also black on some occasions.
Maybe keeping 1 to 3 lines of openings within the quiet, semi-aggressive, and aggressive category can sometimes be all you need to do well (although studying a lot of openings has benefits obviously).
12.) Learn Basic Opening Traps
Tactics are in frenzy mode especially in blitz, and we don’t want to be a victim at the start of the game!
Falling for traps is a common experience for beginners but also for some more advanced players, which is a shame since it can be prevented by having a decent trap knowledge.
The goal is not even to use the traps, but to avoid falling for them.
This alone would dramatically increase the win rate or at least the amount of time you last during games, which brings more opportunities down the line.
13.) Use your “pet line”
A pet line refers to a branch in the opening that serves as a “go-to” approach against stronger opponents.
A pet line is a position that the player is usually comfortable with, has a great understanding of, and where they can play reasonably well.
Against more random opponents, a deep and rigorous opening repertoire may not be as important, but not against stronger players!
Taking the time to think of something new or delving into uncharted territory should be up for experiments, not serious matches.
Either way, spending significant time thinking due to the unfamiliarity of the line or even worse, falling for tactics and traps which could be simply avoided by just playing a pet line, is simply too risky.
14.) Harness your Intuition
Intuition refers to the cognitive understanding of the position before analysis, in other words, the initial moves that first come on the top of your head.
A player usually cannot find other moves than the first five they had, all the time thinking is spent deciding upon those options.
Some even call this chess vision, or the ability to visualize opportunities in the board that leads to the identification of moves.
This is even more important in blitz! since speed is such a factor, most moves will be played from the first options the player sees rather than the latter.
Intuition can be polished by experience, the more you practice the more you’re able to spot weaknesses that lead to quick decisions.
15.) Practice, a lot
Practice can give a lot of things, whether it’s insight gathered from committed mistakes, or just doing things again and again until becoming better.
Take note that the term practice encompasses a lot of activities besides just playing on a regular computer, or some puzzle rushes (although that helps too).
Playing blitz games will dramatically improve a player’s tactical vision and time management. A player can improve their general abilities in chess by playing blitz games as long as it is practiced in moderation.
Anything that is not serious is considered practice! this includes experiences from playing both stronger and weaker players not part of a tournament.
Don’t expect to be good at anything without putting in notable time, getting yourself out there is the best way to learn.
16.) Learn from your past games
This I think is one of the most important aspects of improving that a lot of players casually skip upon.
Learn from your mistakes! How do you expect to do something differently if you haven’t identified the thing you’ve been doing wrong.
A bad approach repeated over and over again is still a bad approach no matter the experience, a change has to come at some point.
And that change can be acquired by just looking back on the things that you do (history), where improvements naturally come to patch things up.
17.) Master Rook endgames
There’s always a stigma in chess saying “endgames are the most important phase of the match” which is actually true.
That’s why it’s really interesting that most endings are composed of rooks more than any other piece, meaning improving in rook endings is essentially improving in endgames!
By having a proper understanding of this situation in particular (which happens frequently), you can dramatically increase your performance since we can actually apply the learnings.
And in blitz, the guy who can navigate the endgame accurately and as quickly as possible will always have the edge (which helps if you’re familiar with the ending).
Blitz in general is unlike any other time format where it serves as a middle ground for being too long and too short.
Strategies that are dominant in other setups can occasionally not apply to this time control, a special plan needs to be considered.
These are things that have worked for me over the years, and what I’m sure would enhance your playing experience as well. Sleep well and play chess.