Is it better to play rapid or blitz chess? (Argued!)

Rapid is better than blitz. The highest rapid rating is 2899. The highest blitz rating is 3184.

This just proves that rapid is a much challenging time control that converts better players. It takes dedication to be 2500+ in blitz, but it takes talent to be 2500+ in rapid.

Blitz has been the most popular time control of all, everyone plays it and there are mountains of discussion talking about why it is so popular. However there is another time format that is slowly building up its reputation, the rapid time control.

I want to talk about a slightly different angle though, I want to answer the question of is it actually better to play rapid over blitz? Like which is the better time control for specific situations?

Rapid is probably the second most popular time control out there (debatable) and I think this question is warranted. I will be expressing my opinion in this article, this will probably be helpful to you.

Without further ado, let’s get started. 

It is better to play rapid over blitz if you are a beginner

If you are a beginner I heavily recommend playing rapid over blitz, this is so you can develop your playing style without having the pressure of time.

When we are just learning about the basic concepts of chess, there are so many things that we need to understand which can make us confused. If you choose blitz at this time, it is detrimental.

You are likely going to deal with the time pressure of more than the actual game, you will not try to find the best moves therefore not developing your actual chess skill.

Rapid is a time format that is long but is not too long that it will probably make you bored, you will have time to think of the actual best moves in the position. This is why rapid is so good.

If you choose to master blitz as a beginner, you are likely to develop the habit of only finding the good-enough moves in the position. This can transfer in longer time formats as well which is definitely not good.

This is a hypothetical comparison chart between rapid and blitz, as you can see rapid is more balanced when it comes to learning. This is why I recommend it.
This is a hypothetical comparison chart between rapid and blitz, as you can see rapid is more balanced when it comes to learning. This is why I recommend it.

Rapid is better than blitz if you are trying to improve in the opening

If you are trying to improve your theoretical opening then rapid is for you since your opponents are more likely to play optimal moves that will challenge your knowledge.

Rapid is better than blitz if you are trying to improve on calculation, opening, endgame, or you are still a beginner.

Blitz is better than rapid if you are trying to improve on speed, dealing with time scrambles, and you want to minimize cases of cheating. Not one is “truly” better than the other.

Some people think that it is better to play blitz when you are trying to improve your opening since you are forced to play faster and it will challenge your familiarity with the lines.

That is actually true, if you are already familiar with the opening that is. In my opinion, it is better to play rapid over blitz when you are just starting to learn openings.

This is because your opponent will play the best moves in the position and it will test your knowledge to come up with the best reply, basically testing if you actually know the lines.

If you’ve just barely known the opening at all and want to challenge yourself, then rapid is my pick over blitz.

Rapid is better than blitz when improving on calculation

If you are trying to improve your ability to calculate and analyze positions in a deeper manner then rapid will help you more than playing blitz.

Blitz is much more on a surface-level calculation, you are only potentially looking for the most decent moves that you can find in the shortest amount of time.

This is not very good if you’re trying to improve on your calculation, you want something longer that will give you the ability to think more and deeply about your moves.

This is why rapid is the better choice for the calculation training (classical is actually the best in this aspect) since you actually need to perform deep calculations. Blitz is played more on intuition than calculation.

Rapid is better than blitz when it comes to self-analysis

If you enjoy learning by analyzing your own games, then rapid will provide you with more insightful ideas than blitz would. 

This is because blitz chess caters to having good-enough moves and not necessarily the best moves which are shallow when it comes to analysis.

It probably won’t give you much insight since you are not really playing the best possible moves, what is considered a mistake in post-analysis can actually be a good move if you don’t have a lot of time.

There are even professional chess players saying that “he who analyzes blitz is a fool”, this is because blitz just doesn’t give as much opportunity for self-reflection.

If you want to analyze your games and actually learn from them, you should play more rapid than blitz games.

Rapid is better than blitz when improving in the endgame

If you are trying to get good at the endgame (or when most of your games are won in the endgame) then you are likely to find more success in the rapid time format. 

This is because you are unlikely to face time scrambles that would mess up your game. 

If you play blitz, it is likely that when the endgame phase is on, the game will be decided by a time scramble rather than an endgame struggle. 

You really wouldn’t be able to implement the endgame techniques that you have learned, this is pretty bad. So if you want to practice your endgame abilities then rapid is a better choice than blitz.

It is better to play blitz over rapid when improving in time scrambles

If you are trying to get better at dealing with time scrambles then blitz is heavily preferred over rapid, this is because you are more likely to face a time-pressured situation while playing blitz.

There are people out there who struggle in dealing with situations where they are low on the clock, playing blitz may have solved that problem. In rapid, there will be time scrambles, but not as often.

Games that are played in the rapid time format are likely to be decided before any time scramble ensues (when time scramble occurs, one player is usually overwhelmingly winning anyway).

Rapid won’t really help you practice getting better at time scrambles since it rarely presents situations where the time-pressured moment is critical to winning. Blitz is better in this case.

I have a lot of good tips on how to improve in blitz chess. This will makes blitz more helpful to you overall.

Blitz is better than rapid in minimizing cheating

If you are trying to minimize the chances of cheating then blitz chess will be the one for you and not rapid chess. It is significantly harder to consult an engine if the time format is too short.

Cheating in chess can come in many forms as discussed in my other article. Blitz makes it tricky to consult a chess engine for example.

In the rapid time format, there is enough time for a player to consult an engine and get away with it without being punished, it is quite different in blitz.

In blitz there is a win condition against computer players, and that is to just to play faster than the rate to which the engine can recommend moves. 

This is of course not a guarantee but at least you are not helpless unlike in a rapid time control where there is no way to pressure an opponent who is using a computer. 

Blitz is better than rapid in limiting cheating since you can outplay an opponent by just moving faster.

Blitz is better than rapid in developing opening speed

If you are trying to develop the speed of your openings and not necessarily your knowledge, then blitz is preferred over rapid. This is because most openings are played lightning-fast in the blitz time format.

I have talked about this on the point above. If you are already familiar with the opening and just want to develop your confidence with them, blitz is better for you than rapid.

This is obviously because blitz gives a shorter amount of time for both players, therefore, demanding speed in the opening. In rapid you can take all the time in the world in the opening and can still put up a good fight in the middlegame.

Blitz will force you to play the opening faster, therefore you can test how well you actually know the opening that you are trying to challenge yourself with.

Blitz is better than rapid when training in attacking and defending

If you are looking to develop your attacking and defending capabilities, then blitz is more beneficial for you compared to rapid since there are more attacking opportunities. 

People who play blitz games are much more likely to be aggressive than those who play rapid games, this is because there is not as much time to think of the best replies. 

In blitz, you can get away even with some of the most ridiculous openings just because your opponent will not have enough time to figure out how to deal with it. 

This also means that you can get away with some aggressive lines that you may not do as well in rapid games. You can train your attacking and defending ability at the same time.

In rapid, it is likely that you are going to play a stale positional game that doesn’t involve a lot of attacking and defending. This is why blitz is better than rapid in this aspect.

Blitz is better than rapid when improving on general speed

If you are trying to develop your ability to play fast (yet somewhat accurately) without too much thinking then blitz will definitely help you more than rapid.

It can also help with other time formats in the sense that you are more capable of dealing with positions even with little time on the clock, a situation where a lot of players can make mistakes.

Being faster, in general, has its perks because of the presence of the clock, you will never have to worry about playing under time pressure since you know that you can perform well.

It is of course better to practice in blitz than in rapid when you are trying to accomplish this since there is a shorter amount of time in blitz.

Final thoughts

Blitz vs rapid is probably a discussion that will last for a long time just because it is two of the most popular time controls out there. The only discussion that I can imagine that can come close is blitz vs bullet.

I can hardly convince myself that classical would ever be in the discussion since it is not really that popular, but for this question to be specific, I have my answer. 

Not one is truly better than the other unless we’re talking about what you are trying to accomplish (I lean slightly with rapid though). If you are trying to accomplish something that blitz naturally does better than rapid then you should choose that.

I believe that this question is not black and white and the answer can change based on the situation. That is my opinion about this, sleep well and play chess.