Blitzing Opponents

A frequent situation that arises in tournament play is where your opponent is down to only minutes left and you are up on time significantly. Many players believe that it is a good idea in this sort of situation to try to ‘blitz’ the opponent, i.e. playing quite fast and hoping that your opponent’s flag will fall.

I believe that, in general, this is the wrong way to go about exploiting a time advantage. If you try to blitz your opponent, you are behaving as if you had the same amount of time as your opponent and your extra time on the clock would be meaningless.

I know it is so easy to allow oneself to be carried away by the excitement of the moment, but it is imperative that you do not try to ‘blitz’ your opponent if he finds himself in time trouble. – Grandmaster Anthony “Tony” Kosten (101 Tips to Improve Your Chess, Batsford 1997)

Many players are actually ‘time-trouble addicts’ – that is, they commonly become low on time and are actually quite good at using the adrenaline from time pressure to play reasonably well. (Although personally, I believe that if you frequently become low on time, it is just a roll of the dice whether you frequently make inaccurate moves or play a strong intuition-based game.) If you are to blitz your opponents, then you are playing into their hands because they are likely to be much more experienced at speed chess and will probably outplay you.

Instead of blitzing your opponents, it would be better to play ‘normally’. Take advantage of your time advantage by playing higher quality moves. GM Kosten recommends playing “unusual” moves that throw your opponent off-guard. When players are in time trouble, they will often rely on intuition and play natural-looking moves, a typical example is moving a rook to an open file or doubling rooks on an open file. You may be able to confuse an opponent and make them use up more time on the clock if you can find a way to prevent their natural plans.

The main thing to avoid is to allow your opponent to play according to a very logical and strong-looking plan. For example, if they are generating a kingside pawn storm, their moves will be obvious, e.g. castle queenside, march the kingside pawns up the board, bring some pieces to the kingside, try to sacrifice material to create an opening to the opponent’s kingside, etc. In this case, you should find a way to disturb the flow of their attack either by creating a counterattack or simply defending tenaciously.

I am going to show an example where my opponent was in time trouble and I allowed my opponent the opportunity to play easy and logical moves, proceeding to lose miserably. I should note that the time control included a 30-second increment per move, so when I say that my opponent is “down to the last 10 minutes”, he could still build up his time if he played a couple of quick moves in a row. It is still quite possible to lose on time despite a 30-second increment – I have done it myself before and have seen it happen to 2000+ players a number of times.

Example:

Webmaster vs J Ikeda, Canberra 2007

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