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The Addictive Habit That Kills the Spirit of Chess

An addiction to “bullet chess” will kill the spirit of the game.

Bullet chess can be a lot of fun.

But beware.

Your real chess skills can suffer!

Let me explain

Your chess skill depends heavily on developing good thinking habits.

Bullet time controls will destroy good thinking habits. I have seen with my own eyes how bullet chess can negatively affect your chess skills. And with “bullet” time-controls I mean less than 60 seconds/side or the popular 10sec+1sec/move.

(Blitz chess, on the other hand, is a bit different and can be a useful tool if used right.)

The damage is very real – a personal story

A good friend of mine discovered the joys of chess a few years ago. She started to play chess online. Friendly people helped her develop chess understanding and shared some of the hidden secrets of the game. She improved rapidly!

Many of the online players were playing bullet chess. Finding someone to play a quick game was easy. It seemed to be a great way to practice – having fun and improving at the same time. Or not?

A few months later she realised with a shock that much of what she had previously learned about the game has been destroyed. The habit of bullet chess harmed her chess development in a very sad way.

She lost the ability to think deeper about a position! Can this be reversed? Yes it can. Developing good thinking habits is hard work. But nothing worthwhile is easy. No pain, no gain!

Don’t fall into the trap of playing too much bullet chess

If you are serious about improving real chess skills – play chess, not bullet.

It is a scientific fact that repetition is one of the mind’s most powerful learning methods.

Now think about this:

When you play chess at bullet time controls you are rapidly repeating a very shallow thinking process! That means you are teaching your brain to develop a bad habit and if you think it is easy to switch between fast thinking vs. deep thinking – think again! It isn’t easy.

How to spot a bullet chess player

If you have ever spoken to a regular bullet player who will share some of their bullet strategies with you, you will typically hear them talking about obscure advice:

  • Make unsound sacrifices to confuse the opponent and cause him to use up too much time
  • Continually check the opponent’s king with purposeless checks
  • Make random moves as quickly as possible to confuse your opponent
  • Get into an endgame where you can focus on making “pre-moves”.

All this advice is aimed at getting ahead on the clock and winning bullet games on time. Which brings us to the following conclusion:

Bullet chess isn’t chess. It is fundamentally different to classic chess.

In classic chess, the object of the game is to plan your strategy, provoke weaknesses and try to exploit them. That is real chess!

The object of bullet chess is radically different – try make your opponent run out of time before they can exploit your weaknesses.

But bullet chess is so much fun. Am I saying you shouldn’t play bullet?

Yes and no.

Slower time controls can be just as much fun

Playing 15 minute games (or slower) is also fun and gives you the opportunity to develop a better thinking process too. Developing a systematic thinking process is one of the most important skills a strong chess player should have.

The joys from developing lasting chess skills will far outweigh the short-lived adrenaline rush which bullet time controls give you.

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