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US champ Hikaru Nakamura might just be biding his time to see if FIDE will finally turn the world championship into a blitz event. The Internet Chess Club recently started a winner take all blitz tournament every other Saturday. The next one is Dec. 17. But despite the dozens of strong GMs and IMs who have come to play in the first three events it looks like they should just call it a "Hikaru take all" tournament. Three swiss system events of 3+0 blitz and three wins for Nakamura! The prize is a cool five hundred bucks and there is no entry fee. But the competition is stiff.

I don't know (or care to know) all the secret and not-so-secret identities of all the Grandmasters who have participated in these events, but I recognize a few and Hikaru ("smallville") is definitely not the only top-50 player in the mix. Of course now I've jinxed him for the next one, but three in a row is impressive. The last one went to a tiebreak, where he beat "zdr" 2-0. (To give equal time, he's more often at Playchess.com as "Star Wars.")

3-0 is the standard online blitz speed and has been for quite a while. My feeling has always been that this is because strong players (and probably all players) think 5-0 gives too much time for computer cheating. Weak players are just as paranoid about this as strong ones. 3-0 is largely reflex and the ever-popular 1-0 bullet chess is close to insanity. Of course they're all good fun, but novices playing these speeds makes the coach in me queasy. A lot of these "white belts" just play chess for fun as they would any other game or video game. But a majority sincerely want to improve and one two-hour game will do much more for them than 20 blitz games. There are groups who play longer time control games online, and of course we have Ninja tournaments!


Hi Mig,
www.playchess.com has every Saturday their Champions Challenge, today it was the 124th edition. 32 participants in k.o.-mode (2 win games necessary to enter the next stage) with 2000 ducats prize fond. The tourney is not open for all players, you can qualify in the daily servertourneys, the other spots for GM, IM (+FM). Hikaru won at least 20 of them. He is a good catch for every girl, isn't he?
Best, Holger

I highly doubt that most people play 3 0 because they fear computer cheating at 5 0. Im quite sure its because people just like to play faster.

I completely agree, Greg. There's no thought that went into the shift to 3-0; our attention spans are just getting shorter:)

btw Mig I think you missed the word "more" in the 2nd last sentence.

You can also play much faster online than you can with OTB, so four minutes online is five minutes offline. But I've heard from plenty of people who play faster games because they are concerned about cheating. Which is silly anyway because an accomplished cheat has no trouble with 3 0 (as Nigel Short could tell us).

It's sad. There is a significant qualitative difference between three and five minute games, especially at the amateur level. 2000-level players leave things en prise routinely at such speeds. You can put together a competent (not necessarily good) game of 5 0. Masters can do this at 3 0 and GMs and specialists can do it consistently at 1 0.

Novices and club players who think they are "working on their tactics" playing 3 0 are mistaken. It might be better than not playing at all, but if you don't have time to do any work you aren't acquiring the patterns you need. This is especially true for mature players who have plateaued for a while. Youngsters working on their game a lot improve anyway, with or without blitz. But guys who have been 1600 for years aren't going to get anywhere with 3 0 (or 5 0 for that matter).

Bellow is the WorldChessNetwork tournament schedule

I'm playing only 10 or 20 min games

"...because an accomplished cheat has no trouble with 3 0"

I can say this is true.

Mig said "...an accomplished cheat has no trouble with 3 0 (as Nigel Short could tell us)."

Is there a link to Short's experiences with onlne cheating?

5-minute is the only blitz for me now. you can't manipulate the ratings. bullet is poison.

Nigel was fooled into thinking he was playing Bobby Fischer when he was really playing against a computer cheat. Part of his original reasoning was that the time controls they were playing at were too fast for someone to use two computers.

Mig, guys who have been 1600 for years aren't going anywhere anyway. The same is true for those of us who have been 1800 for years. :(

And am I the only person alive then who plays better at fast and super-fast time controls live rather than online?

"Mig, guys who have been 1600 for years aren't going anywhere anyway. The same is true for those of us who have been 1800 for years."

I am hardly the one to say politically correct things, but this is an exaggeration. With a focused effort and especially dedicated training anyone can improve - an 1800 should be able to reach 2000 (expert-level) through effort.

I wonder what is the highest level one can reach through effort alone despite being untalented. Expert (2000)? Master (2300)? IM (2400-2500)? I'm pretty sure one needs talent to reach 2600, and likely 2500, but many years of effort might land an untalented one on 2400...

Meanwhile, I stay with my 1804 USCF (19 games!), continue playing 3 0 online and tell myself that I could easily become an expert if I wanted to (hahaha)

A significant portion of my newsletter readership contradict the idea that you cannot improve after a long plateau. This isn't to blow my own horn in particular; any new focus on more serious training would have this effect. We need new stimuli to shake us out of our ruts. This is why I spend so much time in White Belt exhorting people to play longer games and to study them.

It's also why I prefer relatively difficult training methods like the "VisualEyes" blindfold material instead of typical exercises. Those are better than nothing and are fine for improving players, but those who have been in the same place for a while (novice or club player) need more. Not only for the content but for the challenge itself and the break in routine.

Murali, Mig, I didn't say people couldn't improve after long plateau's, I said they don't. There are a few of us who will put in the effort to improve after a long period of time at one level, but the vast majority of us don't. Kind of sad, but true. And those of us who are adults often just don't have the time we would like to study.

Given time to either study and improve, or play blitz online, I'm choosing blitz every time. Plus, since I'd rather play slow games live rather than online, I just have few opportunities to play serious chess anymore. I finally let my USCF membership lapse again because Central Florida's live chess scene sucks. So there's just no incentive to study.

BTW, the preference for live play isn't because of concerns about cheating, I just play better live than online. I grew up playing in three dimensional space, and I just haven't adapted to two-dimensional representations even after a decade of playing online. Depending on the time control, I'm a good 200 to 800 points stronger live than online. Am I the only person this happens to?

I disagree with Mig that online chess allows one to play faster than OTB. It depends. I, for one thing, play much faster (and better) in OTB blitz. When a live opponent makes a move I can see it coming before he completes his moving the piece and punching the clock. Online the moves pop out of nowhere and I find it disorienting.

True, hand-watching anticipation is a big part of OTB blitz! That probably has something to do with the improvement in quality many people perceive in OTB blitz. But you aren't going to get four or five moves per second the way (some) people do online. With pre-move and semi-pre-move (hovering) the basic mechanics are much in favor of online. At least if you're a fast mouser.


Regarding "no incentive to study," due to my disability I've taken up correspondence chess (played online, but with 30 days for 10 moves). It's a great incentive for study, because you have the excitement of competition and still lots of time and the use of references.

I have occasional phone lessons and my teacher says my game has really improved since I began correspondence chess. So if your local live scene isn't challenging enough, you might consider correspondence.

I know some people who don't play correspondence worry that "engines have spoiled everything." I accept that some of my opponents may be using engines, but I still enjoy the games and i have still learned a great deal both during and post mortem.

By the way, USCF rules forbid consulting engines (but not databases) during correspondence play, but IECG and ICCF rules don't.

Dr. Monasterio has an interesting article on engines in his postal column at Jeremy Silman's site. His feeling is that great correspondence play requires elements computers have not yet mastered, and he gives some examples:


J. Franklin Campbell also has an interesting article on the differences between organizations in this regard:


So it's something to consider if you enjoy studying, but only when there's a specific competitive goal to associate it with.


I had to give up playing blitz on Playchess.com, however much I enjoy it, because there is simply too large a lag time from Beijing. I am not sure if it is just the distance to the servers or a lag purposely introduced by the Chinese ISPs.

Talking of 3 min games: the Batsford book of chess records list an interesting record. Anand used 2 and a half mins (no increments) to beat V Salov in a PCA rapid game. It seems 3 mins are quite enough for some people.

I'm far too slow for online blitz. Mouse error has caused me to lose too many times. 5-0, or 3-5 is the fastest I play. What's this VisualEyes thing you speak of Mig?

Stuff like this and this. I came up with it on my own but when I posted some samples at ChessBase a few people wrote in to say they'd created similar systems, though not exactly the same. The idea is to give you a diagram that is a few moves before the position you have to work on. An extra twist I like to use is to find a blunder instead of a good move, which cuts down on the guessing and makes you calculate the entire line.



A more straightforward one here and there are others linked at the top of the ChessBase link above, though not all those are VisualEyes.


Very good stuff Mig.
One problem with computer training I have noticed is that the current position is always on the screen in front of your eyes, and every time a move is made it instantly changes bringing you a step closer to the end of the calculated line.
On the face of it it's helpful, but in the long run your ability to visualize remote positions will be impaired.
Putting a diagram two or three moves before the key position is an excellent idea.

Thanks, good to hear. After some comments in the message boards back in 2003 (I don't remember the person who suggested it; I think he had actually played this way OTB with friends using scoresheets) I suggested to ChessBase that they create an online and Fritz variant of this for training games. The board would always show the position a user-determined number of moves behind the actual position. You could even play this way against someone else playing normally as a handicap.

I imagine it would be trivial to implement and I think it would be a tremendous visualization tool for players of any level. Playing all your games having to picture three or four moves all the time would be like jogging with weights on your ankles, not that I would know anything about jogging, god forbid. It would let players work their way up to full blindfold games and analysis.

I totally agree reviewing games with databases causes mental decay compared to having to visualize the moves between diagrams in books. I know it has with me, but zipping through lines is too convenient to resist.

In my view none of this stuff beats the old method of taking out a board and calculating some complex position as best you can while writing down the lines and then taking going over them and seeing what a jackass you are.
Of course the other thing which usually leads to mental decay is Fritz. But sometimes he can show you some ideas which are just expand your understanding of what's possible in chess and that must be a good thing. Maybe that could eventually be a worthwhile discussion about how amateurs can use mulitmedia to their benefit as opposed to encouraging stagnation?

I include such material in the newsletters on occasion, and did a few articles on it in my ChessCafe column. Analyzing things on your own before getting near Fritz is crucial. Otherwise you just can't keep your eyes off it.

Thanks for the reply. I like the exercises you posted too.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on December 10, 2005 7:32 PM.

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