Game Formats

The game of chess requires long term strategy and planning. However, that hasn’t stopped enthusiasts from taking up shorter formats of the game where time is even more essential than normal. Introducing – Rapid and Blitz chess.

A classical chess game is a battle fought over a long time, an average game lasts between 3 to 5 hours. Each player uses the time to think about his moves as well as to prepare for his opponent’s plans. But if you reduce the time each player has, suddenly the game becomes more crazier than normal. No player can fully analyse the consequences of his actions and has to rely more on his or her intuition. But more importantly, both formats land in a situation where the players have no time and have only the increment in the clock to play on.

In the previous article we covered the interesting evolution of chess clocks. These clocks are what allow us to enjoy all three formats by using different time controls.

FormatClassicalRapidBlitz
Time90 min + 30s15 min + 10s3 min + 2s

Rapid

This format gives each player 15 minutes as the starting time along with a 10 seconds increment for each move. As each player has some time at the start, this format has some elements of the classical format. Players make theoretical opening choices, have control over their nerves and it’s only at the last part of the game that the time influences the game to a high degree.

Many players find this format the toughest to play as it requires a switch from a classical format mindset a blitz mindset when time starts to run low and that isn’t easy at all.

Blitz

If chaos has an apt synonym, this would be it. Blitz is the shortest format of the game and the most fun to play. With 3 minutes of starting time and just a 2 second increment per move, this is nerve-racking right from the start. It is a thrilling experience for the senses akin to any adventure sport you might have gone for. All moves are mostly made on intuition supplemented by a bit of calculation.

In the earlier days the time control for blitz used to be 5 minutes each with no increment at all. Which would be even more crazy as one side could be completely winning and still lose the game. To everyone’s delight the digital chess clocks provided a relief.

Nowadays another version of blitz chess is popular online – bullet chess. This usually refers to a game with one minute each for White and Black. This is an intense battle where every half a second can be the difference between a win and a loss.

Also the Armageddon format has been introduced for resolving tie-breaks during tournaments. This involves White having 5 minutes to Black’s 4 minutes but Black having draw odds, that is, Black wins the game even if it ends in a draw.

One advantage of playing a blitz tournament whether over the board or online is that they usually end in a few hours as compared to a week or so for a classical tournament.

A comical example of nerves would be the following where the former world champion, Garry Kasparov displayed his emotions vividly. This is an old example from 1996 when there were no digital clocks, so no increment. The best moment occurs at the fifth minute when Kasparov blunders against Anand and displays true emotion which is borderline funny or frustrating for the viewer based on whom you are rooting for.

Playing out these formats will improve your reflexes, sharpen your calculation and will be a lot of fun. Head out, try a game of chess in the shorter format and enjoy the thrill!

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