Amazing Comment from my Last Blog Post

I’m reposting this comment as a blog post because I believe it’s all pretty much the truth and I don’t think I could have said it better myself. I have very little to add to it. It’s referring to blitz and rapid time controls for chess. While I definitely think there are some obvious ways to improve blitz and rapid tournaments like this one, the event still seemed like a big success. Thanks for the great thoughts “A French Chess Player”

“The actual numbers of viewers turned out to be way greater than Dailymotion’s (Vivendi group) best expectations. The same phenomenon was noticed for the world rapid and blitz championship in Berlin and in the Zürich chess tournament. In my opinion, rapid should replace classical as the main time control, for several reasons :
* It will make chess more popular, and more people will watch top events (they outnumber the advocates of classical chess), because the games will be shorter and less games will be drawn.
* The importance of the preparation will diminish. In rapid chess, obtaining an advantage in the opening does not matter as much as in classical. Pure chess skills will prevail.
* The best chess players in classical are the best chess players in rapid. Carlsen won both last rapid championships. Anand finished undefeated in Dubaï while Kramnik finished undefeated in Berlin, in 15 rounds. Other top players finished in the top places, and not the 2600s.
* It helps fighting against certain forms of cheating (going to the toilets at each move, talking with a stronger player during when the opponent is thinking, …).
* Those who point out that the quality will greatly diminish should be reminded that chess tournaments are competitive, and not about theoretical chess. You play your best chess under time constraints. By the way, top players can still play amazingly well in rapid.
* More amateurs will play in chess tournaments. I know many people who stopped chess when they started working, because they do not have much holidays as before and cannot spend 8 consecutive days playing chess. We need tournaments lasting around 3 days (they exist, but being >2200, I cannot play them …)
Fortunately, some top players are of the same opinion. Anand said this week-end that “the old wisdom of playing classical chess is dated”.”

6 thoughts on “Amazing Comment from my Last Blog Post

  1. Truth. If you want the most perfect masterpiece of chess excellence, watch Stockfish play itself.

    If you want fun, watch fast chess.


    • BTW Check Caruana’s fast chess rating before declaring “The best chess players in classical are the best chess players in rapid”. I concede rapid and blitz are different animals, but no one plays as well, objectively, in faster time controls. This all seems like a product of our “fast food” society. Please don’t ruin classical chess for me. A few more blitz tournaments are fine but don’t destroy the integrity of our game just to make it more “TV” friendly.


  2. To dispute most of the points:

    Strange how selective this (often-made) quote about best players at both is. When Amonatov wins Almaty, there’s no blogpost (neither when Petrosian won online qualifier). In fact, the correlation is rather weak, and the top 10 share only 5 at best typically. Having a blitz/rapid champ with/out Nepo would be a bit surprising, but noone would put him up there in standard chess. And he’s just one example (Caruana’s the obvious guy the other way currently, though there are others).

    Regan estimates standard is 300 Elo better than rapid, and that is again 300 better than blitz (it depends on the exact timings of course). So you are basically watching Carlsen play at a 2300 level.

    The cited watching numbers were 10.2 million viewer-minutes, which works out to 170000 viewer-hours, and they said 15000 average number of viewers (unsure about the division here? maybe stats were from first 2 days?). Not exactly setting the world on fire, especially as the first post said, lots of that was deadtime anyway.

    Blitz is really more of a game where physical blunders count too, as recent examples showed (Naka/Topalov is not exactly a low-level game, if you want to make blitz/rapid “serious” this is what is going to be evermore problematic). Again, it is not surprising that the blitz/rapid promotionalists don’t like to mention these. Even Mamedyarov at the World Cup, against Karjakin fumbled his rook when trying to make a move with 2-3 seconds left (Svidler apologized afterward, as their game ended simultaneously, with a minor commotion).

    Picking up my German chess magazine, in fact the significant majority of tournaments listed this next month are weekend rapid events. I had to turn to the second page to even find a longer event I could play in! (this time of year, there are lots of youth/senior events, which may be a reason) Is it that different in the USA (or wherever the poster is from)? Maybe the issue is that “most amateurs” DO play in these events, but that they (largely) exclude 2200+ players (as the poster), who are supposed to be more “serious” in their study/play? Perhaps what I should say, is that I’d like statistics rather than anecdotes on this point. (And also for the first point, the “best players the same in each” that’s so often said.)

    As for Anand, he’s been trying to torpedo “classical” chess for 20+ years, with a non-negligible degree of self-interest. I know not everyone would state it that way, but I think it’s near the truth. (On the other hand, Anand has produced BY FAR the biggest number of great games from elites not named Carlsen or Kasparov over his career period. Well, for those of us who like to review great games, this is a plus… (and indeed, one reason why I might emote negativity toward Anand, is that he greatly prefers NOT to play in standard events and produce nice games, but would rather play rapid events, whose main gift to posterity is a leaderboard crosstable of results — yippee!))

    With preparation, I think rapid/blitz games often go DEEPER in book, as both players want to pound out as much as they (sometimes even for a clock edge). Look at Kasparov playing all the critical lines in ST Louis, and compare to book exits in a recent Norway or Shamkir. Specifically because there is an increased chance of blunder at rapid/blitz, players try to reduce the “path length” of the game by long(er) opening lines (of course, game-theoretically probably only one player should do this, but in practice, wimpiness tends to win out). At blitz, getting into an unknown or uncomfortable situation, you won’t be able to solve it over the board.

    The “popularity” of chess is hardly worth addressing. If anything, presenting chess as a thinking person’s game has proven better over time. Despite the claims that “we just need to promote blitz/rapid and it will be winner!”, it’s BEEN promoted, at least since Kasparov-Short in 1987, then with Kirsan’s repetitive attempts at a GP rapid circuit (early 2000 onward), various FIDE offspins (Chess Lane and others), Commission on Modernization (2011), etc., etc. And there’s been no lack of “private” tournaments either, Leon, Mainz, Melody Amber, … Everytime, it just can’t pass the “seriousness” test, good for an event or two, but nothing that’s taking hold. (FIDE is currently trying to set up blitz/rapid June 2017 for Munich, we’ll see how it works.) The cited points on this, more people will watch and fewer draws, are misguided, as watching “live” chess (which fits AGON’s slogan well) is not the way most people (particularly in the populace at large) enjoy the game. Unlike soccer/football, there is no great need to watch the event “live” in the sense of camaraderie. Moreover, if chess IS logically a draw, then deliberately “forcing” (or increasing) errors seems a bit irrational. Better to have some sort of Armageddon structure for that (there’s been many proposals, my current fave is to eliminate Black’s castling rights).


    • 15000 viewers (if really that) is almost pathetic. The Candidates had a good factor more. OK, maybe that’s special as a event, and maybe w/o Carlsen the Shamkir didn’t quite reach this level (also the official site is not so important in regular chess), but Norway exceeded it. And did it so on 9 days, rather than just 4. I don’t feel too many people wanted to see more rapid-blitz from Paris (cf., next week’s numbers, though having Carlsen win boosted them a little).


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