There isn’t a chess player on earth that doesn’t fall hard at some point for the seductive call of bullet chess. It’s fast, it’s fun and it’s exciting and the lobbies of online chess sites all over the world are packed with players that love to play bullet chess. The question is will bullet chess help you become a better chess player or should you be using your time to practice in another way?
Does bullet chess make you better? Bullet chess can make you better but only when played with regular, slow chess too. If you only play bullet chess, you will get better at bullet only. You could lose the ability to put deep thought into the ordinary chess game and if you encounter a pattern on the board that you don’t recognize, you will be floundering. Bullet chess can be great for practicing time-poor end games.
Here’s what you need to know about bullet chess and your game.
What Is Bullet Chess Exactly?
Bullet chess is a form of fast paced chess. The rules of chess are retained in their entirety, however, there is a time control of a single minute with no increments for moves. This requires the players to play their fastest possible game and to instantly react to their opponent’s moves.
There is no doubt about it that bullet chess is one of the most addictive chess variants. You will find the lobbies on sites like lichess.org and chess.com are packed with players 24 hours a day playing non-stop bullet chess.
Because of the pace of the game, when you play bullet chess you may play, quite literally, hundreds of games in a single session. This allows you to experience a wide-range of play and enjoy meeting plenty of new friends on your favorite site.
However, though bullet chess is undeniably popular, there is a big question among the serious chess community about its value and whether or not it even counts as “real chess”?
Is Bullet Chess Real Chess?
Yes, though you are not playing chess in the same way that you play a full formal match. In “real chess”, your efforts are all in tactics and strategy – you want to take control of the board and shape the state of play to give you an advantage and then you want to capitalize on that advantage by pushing your opponent into checkmate.
At the same time, you are focused on defending your own king from checkmate. You’re building pawn structures, castling to get your rooks out and you’re doing this at the same time as you push forward. It all requires some fairly intense thought.
Bullet chess, on the other hand, doesn’t allow for intense thought. It’s pretty much all about how fast you react to your opponent’s moves and the patterns that emerge on the board that you recognize. Sure, you might still be able to use some of the very basic theory that underpins your ordinary play but there’s no doubt at all that you can’t take time to think.
So, though they are the same game, bullet chess and “real chess” are a little different and it’s important to recognize that fact before we look at the question of whether bullet chess can make you better at chess.
What Are The Advantages Of Playing Bullet Chess?
We’d say that there are some specific advantages to playing bullet chess:
- It helps you to get a feel of how you are progressing in the game. Sure, your chess won’t be at as high a standard when you play bullet chess but then again, neither will your opponent’s. But you will have a great idea of which tactics you instinctively recognize and how strong your ability to evaluate your overall position on the board is. You should be able to identify some common weaknesses in your positional play that you can work on for your “real” game too.
- It helps you try new ideas out. You don’t want to spend a couple of years practicing the double fianchetto opening to decide it’s not for you, but you could spend a whole evening trying it out in bullet chess before deciding whether it’s worth pursuing at all (hint: it’s probably not). Bullet chess is mainly for casual play (unless you enter a bullet chess tournament) so you ought to have fun and experiment more with it.
- It helps you learn to deal with time pressure. In “real chess” when you play competitively you are on the clock and sooner or later, even the greatest players find themselves facing a race against time with their play. This is the time when you are most prone to making a game losing mistake. If you only ever play “real chess”, then you won’t be used to speeding up your thought patterns and making lightning fast calculations. Bullet chess, on the other hand, demands that you make this skill second nature.
These are all very valuable benefits that you can take from bullet chess into “real chess” but you really should keep things in balance and not just commit all your time to playing bullet chess because there are some genuine disadvantages to playing bullet chess too.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Playing Bullet Chess?
There are three major disadvantages to playing bullet chess:
- It can lead to major frustration. If you’re not naturally inclined towards bullet chess, then it can feel like a waking nightmare. There’s nothing more discouraging in life than losing 100 games of chess in a couple of hours. This can never happen in “real chess” but in bullet chess it can happen, and it even happens to highly ranked players. Some chess players just aren’t suited to bullet chess and that’s OK – you do not need to make yourself miserable in the name of practicing chess.
- It can lead to a false sense of security. You can beat much better players by developing a portfolio of unusual openings that you play only in bullet chess. They haven’t seen them before, they have no pattern recognition and it leads to them making mistakes. They haven’t suddenly become worse chess players and you haven’t suddenly improved, you’re just taking advantage of how bullet chess works to carve out an advantage. That’s not a bad thing to do, but be warned – it won’t carry over to your main game.
- It doesn’t lead to drastic improvements in your game. Pretty much all chess players agree, bullet chess is a huge amount of fun and every player should give it a go at some point but overall, it’s never going to make you a truly great player. Occasional bouts are worth having but you shouldn’t play bullet chess all day every day unless all you want is to be great at bullet chess – in which case, go right ahead.
Does bullet chess make you better? All forms of chess practice can have a positive impact on your game and this includes playing bullet chess. If you think about the skills required to play bullet chess, you will quickly realize that they are mainly pattern-recognition. You see a pattern and then you react to that pattern – this isn’t really what chess as a more formal sport is about. However, it can come in useful.
That’s because we often reach the endgame without much time left on the clock, particularly if we have found ourselves bogged down in a complex and busy midgame. When you’re running on little time, you have essentially created a game of speed chess late in the game and then your practice is going to be very valuable. We’d never recommend that you devote your time just to playing bullet chess but some practice can be very worthwhile.