Back in the 1980s there was a big push to promote rapid chess events all over the world and Yasser Seirawan’s “Inside Chess” publication even took it upon itself to administer rapid ratings in the United States. This was in addition to the World Blitz Chess Association (WBCA) of GM Walter Shawn Browne. What is the difference between “Rapid” and “Blitz”? Surprisingly a lot of people do not know the demarcation point at which a game becomes either rapid or blitz. For example, what is the classification of a 15-minute game? Take note that the rules for over-the-board games are not the same as in online chess. We will confine our discussion today to over-the-board.
According to FIDE, Rapid chess is when the total time per player for a 60-move game must be more than 10 minutes but less than 60 minutes. For the FIDE World Rapid Championship, each player will have 15 minutes, plus 10 seconds additional time per move starting from move 1.
Blitz chess is when the total time per player for a 60-move game must be 10 minutes or less. For the FIDE World Blitz Championship, each player has three minutes, plus two seconds additional time per move starting from move 1.
Let’s go through some examples. A five-minute game is of course blitz while a five minute + five second increment is still blitz. Going through the numbers, five-second increment over a 60-move game comes up to 300 seconds or exactly five minutes. Five minutes + total five-minute increment over 60 moves equals exactly 10 minutes, which is the upper limit of a blitz game.
More than that, for example five minutes + six seconds, already falls under the realm of Rapid Chess.
After an initial surge of popularity the momentum did not quite carry and both “Inside Chess” and WBCA experienced financial difficulties and folded in the 1990s.
That was then, this is now. Rapid and Blitz chess are currently experiencing a resurgence and even have their own ratings now.
Some people think that the biggest reason for the new interest is that FIDE has started rating games in these new time controls but I do not agree. I think that the biggest reason is the QUALITY of the games.
Back in the early days the greatest compliment that could be paid to a rapid game was that its quality was almost like that of a regular tournament game. Well, it is true that when the time remaining falls to the last minutes a lot of slamming (of pieces) and banging (of clocks) occurs and it becomes a matter of whose flag falls first and not whose moves are better. However with the introduction of Fischer clocks in the 1990s with their time increment added after every move the result of the game becomes less random — the players now have time to think a bit before executing their moves.
Of course, this is to say nothing about the rise of computers and chess databases and that nowadays players can zip through the first 20-25 moves in under a minute.
The Tata Steel Group of India has lately organized the first super-tournament in many years in India and it is a five-day speed chess event — three days for the rapid portion (3 games per day for a total of nine games) and two days for the blitz (total of 18 games). Here are the results.
Tata Steel Rapid
November 9-11, 2018
1. Hikaru Nakamura USA 2844, 6.0/9
2-3. Pentala Harikrishna IND 2743, Levon Aronian ARM 2802, 5.5/9
4-5. Wesley So USA 2808, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov AZE 2794, 5.0/9
6. Sergey Karjakin RUS 2792, 4.5/9
7-8. Viswanathan Anand IND 2737, Vidit Santosh Gujrathi IND 2660, 4.0/9
9. Nihal Sarin IND 2127, 3.0/9
10. Surya Shekhar Ganguly IND 2608, 2.5/9
Time Control: 25 minutes for the entire game with 10 seconds added to your clock after every move starting move 1.
The Rapid portion was scheduled for three games a day. Hikaru Nakamura drew all his games in the first day, won all three of them in the second, and then drew all of his games in the third to capture first.
Wesley So came in fourth with a steady two-win one-loss six draws. Here is his best game.
So, Wesley (2808) — Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi (2660) [B33]
Tata Steel Chess India 2018 — Rapid Kolkata (5.3), 10.11.2018
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Bg5 a6 8.Na3 b5 9.Nd5 Be7 10.Bxf6 Bxf6 11.c4 b4 12.Nc2 0 — 0
Black used to defend the b4 — pawn with either 12…a5 or 12…Rb8, but why defend the pawn at all? After 12…0-0 13.Ncxb4 Nxb4 14.Nxb4 Qb6 Black wins back the pawn with no problems.
13.h4 a5 14.g3 a4 15.Ndxb4 Nxb4 16.Nxb4 Qa5
A good candidate move is 16…Qb6 17.a3 Bd8! 18.Bd3 Qb7 19.0 — 0 Bb6 Black has good compensation with outposts for his bishops at d4 and h3. Sikula,V (2520) — Konnyu, J (2375)/Hungary 2010.
17.Qd2 Rb8 18.a3 Be6 19.0 — 0 — 0 Rfc8 20.Kb1 Qa8 21.f3 Be7 22.Bh3 Rxc4 23.Bxe6 fxe6 24.Rc1 Rbc8 25.Rxc4 Rxc4 26.Rc1 Qc8 27.Rxc4 Qxc4 28.Qd3 Qc5
[28…Qxd3+ 29.Nxd3 plays into White’s hands as the a4 — pawn is now a glaring weakness].
29.Ka2 Kf7 30.Qa6 d5? <D>
POSITION AFTER 30…D5
[30…Qe3 keeps the balance]
Apparently overlooked by Black who probably expected only 31.Qxa4 dxe4 32.fxe4 Qc4+ and Black holds the balance.
White gets to keep his extra pawn.
32…Kg6 33.Na5 Kh6 34.Nb3 Qf2 35.g4 Qxh4 36.Qc6 Qf2 37.Qxe6 dxe4 38.Qf5 Bg5
39.Qxe4 g6 40.Qa8 Bf4 41.Qf8+ Kg5 42.Qd8+ Kh6 43.Qd5 Kg5 44.a4 h5 45.Qd8+ Kh6 46.g5+ Kh7
47.Qe7+ Kg8 48.Qe6+ Kg7 49.Qf6+ Kh7 50.Qf7+ Kh8 51.Qxg6 Qxf3 52.Qe8+ Kg7 53.Qe7+ Kg8 54.g6 Qd5 55.Qh7+ 1 — 0
Tata Steel Blitz
November 13-14, 2018
1-2. Viswanathan Anand IND 2786, Hikaru Nakamura USA 2893, 12.5/18
3. Levon Aronian ARM 2854, 12.0/18
4. Wesley So USA 2771, 10.0/18
5-7. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov AZE 2808, Pentala Harikrishna IND 2706, Vidit Santosh Gujrathi IND 2727, 8.0/18
8. Sergey Karjakin RUS 2836, 7.5/18
9. Surya Shekhar Ganguly IND 2547, 6.0/18
10. R Praggnanandthaa IND 2366, 5.5/18
Time Control: five minutes for the entire game with three seconds added to your clock after every move starting move 1.
There was a play-off to break the tie at 1st place. Anand won 1 and drew 1 to clinch the gold medal.
Vishy Anand, the undisputed speed chess for two decades starting the 90s, brought back some of his magic by tying for 1st and prevailing in the tie-breaks to win the blitz portion of Tata Steel Indoa.
It was still very much Nakamura’s show here too as his tactical skills were just devastating.
Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar (2817) — Nakamura, Hikaru (2746) [D24]
Tata Steel India Blitz Kolkata IND (5.1), 13.11.2018
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Bg5 dxc4 5.Nc3 a6 6.a4 c6 7.e3 b5!?
Offering the exchange for a raging attack on the uncastled King. Watch.
8.axb5 cxb5 9.Bxf6
White can of course take the b5 pawn right away but Shakh prefers to take out the knight first.
Not 9…Qxf6? 10.Nxb5 axb5 11.Rxa8 is an inferior form of this line as Black’s queen needs to be on d8 so that he can play Bb7.
10.Nxb5 axb5 11.Rxa8 Bb7 12.Ra1 Bb4+ 13.Ke2
No choice. 13.Nd2 e5 opens up the position in the center where White’s king is.
13…0 — 0 14.Qc2?
You will see why this is a bad move soon.
With the idea of Be4.
15.Nd2 Nc6 16.Rd1 Qxd4!
[17.exd4 Nxd4+ 18.Ke1 Nxc2+ 19.Ke2 Nd4+ 20.Ke3 e5 Black is clearly winning]
17…Qf6 18.b3 Bc3 19.Rc1 Bb2 20.bxc4 Nb4 21.Qb3 Bxc1 22.Qxb4 Ra8 23.Nd4 f4 24.Qxb5 fxe3 25.Qxb7 Ra2+ 26.Kd3 Rd2+ 0 — 1
Even here in the Philippines many tournaments are now held in rapid format. I should caution the National Chess Federation of the Philippines, though. The world championship cycle is still based on standard chess — the difference between standard and speed chess is not only in the time control. Standard chess you take less risks, your openings are different, there is more room for planning and strategy, and endgame play is much more important. Please do not think that a steady diet of speed chess is sufficient for our players — standard chess is still the norm.
Bobby Ang is a founding member of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and its first Executive Director. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA), he taught accounting in the University of Santo Tomas for 25 years and is currently Chief Audit Executive of the Equicom Group of Companies.