Thursday, March 29, 2007

Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!

I just had a revelation: Blitz is about speed. Yeah, I know. "Who would've guessed that..." :-/ Sometimes I'm so incredibly stupid.

I keep ending a queen up, two minor pieces up, with a crushingly won endgame etc. only to lose on time. I either get flagged or throw the win because I have only 20 seconds to my opponent's 1 to 2 minutes, but those are both essentially lost because of time. I just play too slow, pure and simple.

I've tried to keep telling myself "Faster! Faster!" but I can only keep that up in the opening, and slow down right after that. I spot these Good Moves, nice combinations, and work them out. And surpisingly often I can also pull them off, winning that piece or the position. But I end up 2 minutes down on time, hence essentially lost. Often even that extra queen won't be enough then.

So, I need to stop using more time than my opponent. Before I can manage to do that consistently, it doesn't matter how much material I'm up. Move faster, take the practical move instead of complications, exchange a lot. - And after I can keep up with the clock, only then start worrying about playing better chess. Fast, basic, safe moves.

Here's a game I luckily won, but it's a perfect example of what happens. After a couple of moves I push the complications until all hell breaks loose. And I was supposed to be trying to keep it simple. How's that for a "quiet, passive 1.d4 game" by the way?

[White "wormwood"][Black "mhf"][TimeControl "300+0"]
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 c6 5. Nf3 d5 6. cxd5 cxd5 7. e5 Ne4 8.Qb3 Qa5 9. Bd3 b6 10. O-O Bg4 11. Nxd5 Be6 12. Bxe4 O-O 13. Nc7 Bxb3 14.Bd2 Qa4 15. axb3 Qxb3 16. Bxa8 Qxb2 17. Rfb1 Qc2 18. Rc1 Qb2 19. Rxa7 Nd7 20. Nd5 f6 21. Rxd7 fxe5 22. Nxe7+ Kh8 23. Bd5 h6 24. Nxg6+ Kh7 25. Nxf8+ Kh8 26. Ne6 Bf6 27. Be4 Qb5 28. Rc8+ Bd8 29. Rcxd8# 1-0

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

First Week Of Blitz

It turns out there's a special 5-minute variant of blitz on ICC, with automatic opponent selection (closely rated) and automatic flagging & disconnection forfeit. It also has it's own rating, which seems to be a bit harder to obtain than the regular blitz rating. At least at the lowest level where I currently am. -I was just crossing over 1200 playing far inferior blitz compared to this moment, when I discovered the 5-minute automatic player pool (It's just really handy), and I sunk like a rock to the 900's. 890 was probably the lowest point. Today I finally clawed my way back to 1000+, and it took days to accomplish. The 5-minute pool players seem to also know their openings better than players in the regular blitz pool.

Anyway, it's been a constant battle against time. In the beginning I couldn't handle it at all, scrapping openings, middlegame, endgame, and almost never beating the flag. Huge blunders left & right, and the rare game I "won" I then lost because I panicked in the haste. Now, I can mostly keep my game together up until the endgame, but often fail to end it even with a straightforward win. Missing obvious mates etc. But it's all gotten a lot better during the week, and I feel quite optimistic that I'll soon get the hang of it. I now "win" about 80% of the games, and finish about 50% of my games to an actual win. There's definite progress, but still way too many games are lost just for panicking in a won position. "Won" as in having huge material lead in the endgame, not merely positionally winning. It still doesn't matter much how well my opponents play though, the losses are almost exclusively my huge blunders.

It's a rocky road learning to survive in blitz controls. Nothing like slow chess. Nothing like CTS either.

ICC 5-minute: 1021, 83 games.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

5 0 Blitz On ICC

I've been giving a lot of thought to my inability to survive in blitz games. From slow games I already know that it's not the strategical understanding that kills me, and I also know that tactics is my strongest point. And on CTS I outclass strong blitz players both on rating and accuracy, so it's not whipping out tactical moves fast either. What the hell can it be then?

One thing that comes to mind is experience. I've played about 200 blitz games ever, and maybe 95% of those were with time controls of around 15 minutes. Which is so slow it's almost not blitz at all. Also, when I think about how my progress has gone on CTS, slowly inching my way up through tens of thousands of problems, I begin to wonder if the same would've happened playing similar amount of blitz games.

So, now that I've subscribed to ICC I decided to test that hypothesis there. And as the regular tournament play blitz control seems to be 5 0, that's what I'm going to play. Getting used to the time control will no doubt be my biggest problem starting out, but I'm sure it'll work out after a while.

Yesterday, well last night to be exact, I then plunged into the 5 0 pool. And just as I expected, I can't handle the 5 0 control to save my life, and got massacred. I lost a lot of games on time, got mated out of the blue a couple of times, dropped a lot of material, missed wins, blundered openings, the works. Ended up with a pathetic but totally deserved rating of 1060. So, now I'll try to keep 5 0 blitzing, and we'll see if I can claw my way up as I would expect. Coincidentally, that's exactly the same rating as on CTS when I started out 1½ years ago. Hopefully there will be a similar improvement after thousands of blitz games.

RHP: 1848, 218 games played, wdl: 149-12-63.
ICC 5 0: 1060, 14 games.