Why are Some Players Good at Blitz but Bad at Classical?

Chess hosts many time controls that would limit the player’s thinking time.

It used to be that people would just play chess without any time limit, this unfair for one main reason.

One could spend seconds thinking about a move and lose to a player that thinks for an eternity.

The time control makes it so that both players can only use a limited amount of time.

This time control is good, but it indirectly punishes those who think slow. Fast forward today, classical chess is not as popular in non-competitive games. It is always about speed chess, which brought me to this article.

Have you ever wondered why some chess players that are good in blitz suck in classical?

I’ve got the answer for you.

They are like completely different games, I will explain it in this article. Without further ado, let’s get started.

What is the difference between blitz and classical?

There is a major difference between blitz and classical. It used to be that people are more versed with slow games requiring deep calculation, now blitz proposes something new.

Blitz and bullet (speed chess) rewards those that play fast than those that play good.

If you make enough “decent-looking moves”, you can win without actually trying to win.

You can just “outspeed” your opponent, you don’t even need to improve your position.

Consequently, intuition and tactics play a deeper role in blitz. Some players that are good in blitz play tactics like there is no tomorrow.

The tactics don’t even have to be sound, it just have to be confusing enough that the opponent wouldn’t notice the right move.

This makes modern players that are good in blitz favor tactics and speed over anything.

There is a big difference between the two games, it is almost like they are completely different from each other.

Why do chess players that are good at blitz suddenly become bad at classical?

The reason is simple, since blitz and classical reward different approaches, they punish those that do not adopt when switching time controls.

A good blitz player that is used to playing fast with little concern to the position will get toasted in classical. In classical chess, players have enough time to think of the best moves.

This means that opportunities won’t easily come by in classical, therefore you have to wait for them.

Think about it this way, blitz favors quantity over quality, classical on the other hand favors quality over quantity.

In blitz you don’t want to spend too much time on a single move that doesn’t impact the game all that much.

You have to play fast, if you would choose to spend time then it should be in positions that are critical to the game.

If you are playing classical, you don’t have to play quickly.

Instead of focusing on playing as many moves as possible (quantity), it would make sense to focus on every individual move (quality).

Blitz players usually carry the mindset of “I need to play quickly” in slow timed games, still hoping they can flag their opponent.

This will fail since their opponent has all the time in the world to think of every move and outplay them.

This is why blitz players struggle, they just can’t adapt to the difference regarding the nature of the games.

If you are one of the players that struggles with classical, reading books might help. Reading chess books is proven to help you improve as a player. This is a conclusion from another article that I have written.

Is it possible to be good at both blitz and classical time format?

It is of course possible to be good at both time formats, but you have to be patient.

The number one reason why blitz have trouble adapting in classical comes with impatience.

In classical there will rarely be any opportunities since the moves have higher quality.

Blitz players tend to force something if their classical opponent doesn’t build an initiative quickly, consequently outplaying themselves.

Players that are used in classical on the other hand tend to wait it out until they can find a better position.

If you are going to be good at both formats then you should understand patience.

In situations where you can play fast (in classical), you should wait a bit and think about the position first.

See how you can improve your blitz in this other article I wrote.

Are most chess players good at blitz but bad at classical time format?

Unfortunately, it is a truth that most chess players are better at one time format than both.

A chess player can be strong overall and perform well in both formats, but most people have a specialty.

Hikaru Nakmaura for example, one of the best chess players in the world, specializes in blitz.

He is of course also strong in classical since he is just good at chess overall.

However the achievements that he had in blitz cannot even be compared with his achievements in classical.

Most people know him as “one of the best blitz players of all time, but only a top 10 classical player”.

Being a top 10 player in the world is an amazing achievement, but not as extraordinary as being the best blitz player of all time.

I think it is just a problem on a psychological level.

If you are used to playing faster you will subconsciously play fast even though you have more time to think.

So, although a player can be equally good at both time formats (classical and blitz), usually people will specialize one over the other.


Some chess players that are good in blitz suck in classical because they cannot be patient, they cannot wait for opportunities in slow timed games.

On a psychological level, chess competitors who are used to playing blitz will play faster no matter the time control.

In classical time control where people can think more deeply about the moves, this is a bad plan.

The quality of the moves are better in classical, you cannot win just by trying to flag the opponent.

Some can of course become good at both blitz and classical (as long as they understand the difference between the two formats).

But most of the time, chess players will specialize one over the other since they favor some time controls better than the others.

That is all for this article, thank you for reading.