Saturday, August 13, 2011

Blitz is for Punks!

GM Yasser Seirawan has written a wonderful essay on blitz chess in two parts on the new WhyChess website. Part one is titled 'Why Blitz?' Both parts can be found at:
It is very worthwhile reading. This is my favorite paragraph:
"The image that the volunteers and sponsors of our chess world try to cultivate is one of a fine orchestra in a concert hall playing soaring music which lifts the audience into glorious rapture. By comparison Blitz is a raucous free-for-all more akin to a punk-rock band in a shady tavern. The “powers that be” have therefore frowned upon Blitz. Blitz is for punks! Real chess requires thoughtful contemplation."
It is obvious Yasser believes in blitz chess. He laments the fact that there are so few blitz tournaments, and no ratings. I recall GM Walter Browne had a blitz asociation, with ratings, at one time. It could be that it will take a world class player to become the driving force behind a world wide blitz organization.
I remember a blitz tournament at the very first Land of the Sky tournament, promoted by Wilder Wadford for the past two plus decades in Asheville, North Carolina. I recall it because I remember Jeff 'Captain' Kidd coming up from Atlanta to play only in the blitz tournament. The Captain had also brought along a very lovely young lady for the weekend because the tournament was held in the Grove Park Inn, a place IM Karl Burger said was, "The most opulent place I have ever played." It was a great place to impress a pretty lady, too!
I have never been good at blitz chess and I believe it is because I came to the game as an adult. I say that after spending years working at the House of Pain, watching players of all ages play speed chess. The younger players would improve by leaps and bounds, but the older players rarely improved. They made the same mistakes over and over again. They played as if addicted. I asked a few of them why they did not spend some time trying to improve their game. "You can't improve at speed," said one. "You gotta go with what you got!" Another one said he had thought about it, but, after working all day, he preferred coming to the House to play and to hang out with his buddies, rather than going home alone. Mumtaz Yusef, the father of FM Kazim Gulamali, loved playing speed chess. He would bring his son to the House on Saturday night and order pizza, or Oriental food for the House and they would play all night. (And I must mention here the poem by Dennis Fritzinger titled, pizza and blitz, in the new edition of the Mechanic's Institute Newsletter #546- Kazim has continued to improve to the point that he beat GM Becerra in one of the faster time limit games during this year's US Open and drew with GM Hikaru Nakamura in the first real, classical game the 'speed demons' played in round seven! Kazim, who was called the 'Little Grandmaster' at the House back in those days, finished with 6 1/2 points in the US Open, to finish tied for 14th place, along with another member of the House, NM Damir Studen. Every strong player needs a foundation and I cannot help but believe they became such strong players because they had a House. Both of them 'cut their teeth' on blitz at the House of Pain!
Unless one is a Bobby Fischer, able to recall a speed game after two decades, blitz games are really 'throw-away' games. After all these years I can only recall two speed games. The first was against the Spanish Mackeral, Antonio Angel. He came into Atlanta with his 'space odyssey' rating of 2001. At that time there were only a few players rated expert and maybe one non-playing master, so a rating of 2000+ seemed strong to us. Antonio was taking on all comers at the Decatur (the city in which I was born) chess club, and beating them all. It came my turn and he played a Pirc. I mated him on g7 as I recall. The Spanish Mackeral was not happy about it, let me tell you! It subsequently caused some real bad blood between us later on...
Then there was the speed game with GM Raymond Keene at the FIDE congress in Atlanta in 1980. Raymond was nice enough to sit down and play anyone who wanted to play, and he sat there for hours drubbin' us patzers. I sat down and played 1 e4, and Raymond played d6, so I fired out 2 d4, and he brought his Knight out to f6. I played mine to c3 and he played 3...g6. We were in book. I planned on playing like Karpov, so I played 4 g3, which was met immediately with 4...Bg4! Ouch! "So that's why you must play Nge2 before playing g3", I thought. "That's the kinda thing you oughta know before sitting down versus a Grandmaster, chumpy-lumpy," I thought. After such a weak move, it did not take the GM long to polish me off...

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