Fast chess (also known as Speed chess) is a type of chess game in which each side is given less time to make their moves than under the normal tournament time controls of 60 to 180 minutes per player.
Various names indicate more specifically the maximum duration of a fast chess game:
- Rapid, Rapid play or Quick: from 10 to 60 minutes per player, sometimes with a small time increment per move (e.g. 10 seconds).
- Blitz: 10 minutes or less per side. Usually sudden death (no increment), but may also be played with a small increment. More recently due to the influx of digital clocks, 3 minutes with a 2-second add is also preferred.
- Bullet: 1 to 3 minutes per side. The time control for this setting is 2 minutes with a 1-second add or 1 minute with a 2-second add. The term "Lightning" can also be applied to this variant.
- Lightning: a general term for extremely fast chess. It can also refer to games with a fixed time (e.g. ten seconds) for each move. This also can be used for 1-minute games.
- Armageddon: a game guaranteed to produce a result, because Black has draw odds (that is, for Black, a draw is equal to a victory). To compensate, White has more time on the clock. Common times are 6 minutes for White and 5 for Black, or 5 minutes for White and 4 for Black. This can also be played with a small increment. This is also known as "time odds" and it is used in various tie breaks for quick tournaments.
Before the advent of digital clocks, 5 minutes per side was the standard for Blitz or Speed chess. Before the introduction of chess clocks in the mid 1950s chess club "rapid transit" tournaments had a referee who every ten seconds called out.
In some chess tournaments and matches, the final standings of the contestants may be resolved by a series of games with ever shortening control times as tie breaks. In this case, two games may be played with each time control, as playing with black or white pieces is not equally liked among players. The short time controls in fast chess reduce the amount of time available to consider each move, and may result in a frantic game, especially as time runs out. A player whose time runs out automatically loses, unless the opposing player has insufficient material to checkmate, in which case the game is a draw. "Losing on time" is possible at even the longer, traditional time controls, but is more common in blitz and rapid versions.
The play will be governed by the FIDE Laws of Chess, except when they are overridden by the specific tournament. A common rule used in fast chess tournaments is that if a player makes an illegal move, the player's opponent may point it out and claim a win. For example, if a player leaves his or her king in check, the other player may claim the win. This rule can be left out for a friendly game or left in for what some consider to be a more exciting and fun game. However, in case of a dispute during a tournament, either player may stop the clock and call the arbiter to make a final and binding judgment.
Chess boxing uses a fast version for the chess component of this sport.
Bullet chess is even faster than blitz. Under USCF rules bullet games are not rateable, referring to any time control below 5 minutes.
USCF ruleset for quick and bullet chess
As in all forms of chess with time controls, one can either win on the board or win on time. A game is considered to affect the quick rating between a 10-minute-per-side and 60-minutes-per-side time control. As 30-minute-per-side time control to 60-minute-per-side time controls are also under the normal rating system, a 30-minute game to 60-minute game affects both the quick and normal ratings. As normal, any time control over 60-minutes counts under the normal rating only.
As of March 2013, the USCF has also added a separate blitz rating class, for any time control between 5 and 10 minutes. 5 minutes can also mean game 3+2, or 3 minutes with a 2 second delay.
By 1971 the Russian and Moscow 5-minute championships had been going several years with Tal, Bronstein and Petrosian all having success. That year Fischer played in a blitz tournament organised by the Manhattan Chess Club scoring 21½/22. The first unofficial "Speed Chess Championship of the World" (or World Blitz Championship) was held in Herceg Novi on 8 April 1970. This was shortly after the first USSR versus the rest of the world match (in Belgrade), in which ten of these players also competed. Eleven Grandmasters and one International Master played a double round-robin tournament. Bobby Fischer won first place, with a score of 19 points out of a possible 22. Fischer scored seventeen wins, four draws, and one loss (to Korchnoi). Mikhail Tal was a distant second, 4½ points behind. Fischer won both games against each of Tal, Tigran Petrosian, and Vassily Smyslov; all of whom are past World Champions.
- Participants and scores
- Fischer 19
- Tal 14½
- Korchnoi 14
- Petrosian 13½
- Bronstein 13
- Hort 12
- Matulović 10½
- Smyslov 9½
- Reshevsky 8½
- Uhlmann 8
- Ivkov 7½
- Ostojić 2
World Blitz chess champions
Planned to be held every year alongside the World Rapid Championship.
Women's World Blitz chess champions
World Rapid chess champions
Now held yearly alongside the Blitz World Championship.
Women's world rapid chess champions
Many top professional chess players do not take rapid, blitz and bullet chess as seriously as they do chess with standard time controls. Some dismissive quotes from top chess players on the topic of it are the following:
- "Playing rapid chess, one can lose the habit of concentrating for several hours in serious chess. That is why, if a player has big aims, he should limit his rapidplay in favour of serious chess." – Vladimir Kramnik
- "Like dogs who sniff each other when meeting, chess players have a ritual at first acquaintance: they sit down to play speed chess." – Anatoly Karpov
- "Yes, I have played a blitz game once. It was on a train, in 1929." – Mikhail Botvinnik
- "He who analyses blitz is stupid." – Rashid Nezhmetdinov
- "Blitz chess kills your ideas." – Bobby Fischer
- "To be honest, I consider [bullet chess] a bit moronic, and therefore I never play it." – Vladimir Kramnik
- "[B]litz – it's just a pleasure." – Vladimir Kramnik
- "I play way too much blitz chess. It rots the brain just as surely as alcohol." – Nigel Short
- "FIDE Handbook – E.I. Laws of Chess - For competitions starting on or after 1 July 2014 - Appendices". World Chess Federation. Retrieved 2014-07-27. "A.1 A ‘Rapidplay’ game is one where either all the moves must be completed in a fixed time of more than 10 minutes but less than 60 minutes for each player; or the time allotted plus 60 times any increment is of more than 10 minutes but less than 60 minutes for each player. [...] B.1 A ‘blitz’ game’ is one where all the moves must be completed in a fixed time of 10 minutes or less for each player; or the allotted time plus 60 times any increment is 10 minutes or less."
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