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Review Your Chess Games

Playing blitz chess is not really bad for your game, as commonly reported, but can be a useful tool in improving your "board sight" and tactical prowess, plus enabling one to get comfortable learning a new chess opening. Can you learn from blitz chess? Maybe a different approach to studying your blitz chess games (meaning 5 minutes or so per game) can help you improve your chess game, both in blitz and longer time controls. It is best to play blitz games on a server that automatically records your games. I play on USChessLive which will email games to you and append your games automatically to a local file on your hard drive; other sites offer this service too, such as the Internet Chess Club. If this feature is combined with a chess program like ChessBase, (ChessBase Light is available free), Fritz or other chess software you instantly have cataloged and sorted access to all your chess games. Using the above approach, do the following:

1) Play a series of blitz games on the server, or against your chess playing software, concentrating on a single chess opening for the White pieces and another for the Black chess pieces.

2) After playing your chess games, open ChessBase, import and sort them, then inspect the opening play for each game against a large chess opening database to see where you or your opponent deviated from the main lines, especially if either side got into difficulty in the opening.

3) Once you have assessed the opening play and "corrected" your errors (i.e., look over a few variations and get a better understanding of them - this may include reference to chess opening books that give you more than just variations and explain the strategy behind the moves), you will then briefly look at the game to see what tactical shots you or your opponent might have missed. This exercise is very important because chess middlegame plans tend to repeat if you play the same opening lines, hence certain tactical resources may repeat as well.

For Class C and B chess players, getting better at tactics will get you over the hump faster than anything else, as most games lost at that level are the result of tactical blunders, and not opening inaccuracies or chess strategy mistakes. The key here is to learn the chess opening you are playing and not repeat your mistakes. You'll play the better move next time because your understanding of that position has greatly improved - so take the time to examine these chess games in a controlled environment. You'll become instantly aware of certain chess strategies and plans otherwise undiscovered had you blindly accepted the result of the previous play.

Work on this routine in a series of, say, G/15 or G/30 chess games, inspecting your opening play and correcting any mistakes, understanding the tactical motifs that appeared, and you'll find that your chess openings will improve and your positions in the middlegame are better too! Of course, if you play 1.c4/1.d4/1.e4 on a rotating basis as White, or respond in several different ways to those moves as Black, you will need to learn and understand many chess variations - something a player less than Master strength should probably not do. A deep understanding of a few openings is much better than a weak understanding of many chess openings.

The other benefit of cataloging your chess games is tracking which openings give you greater success. This is important! Even if you "think" you like a chess opening, but the record shows otherwise, then you might consider a different path; or, if you are stubborn, this information will motivate you to take a deeper look at your losses and make a better assessment of your strategic chess thinking, hopefully for the better.

As you play your blitz chess games and collect them together in ChessBase, understand how to use the Chessbase Repertoire feature. This feature allows you to take your games and combine them into a repertoire of similar opening lines. Reviewing this repertoire and going over the problematic lines will improve your chess opening play tremendously.

Now some may ask: Why not just memorize the lines from NCO or Encyclopedia of Chess Openings?

I always felt that actually playing out the moves on a chess board made a much deeper impression on chess players than merely reading from a book. That is why playing blitz - when no other option may be available - is a viable and useful study tool for the C and B player who is trying to improve his chess tactics and his opening experience.

Try it. You will see an improvement in your chess opening play because you will begin to see, under game conditions, similar strategic and tactical patterns from the same openings. These mind impressions you gain from your own chess games are worth way more than going over some obscure Master chess game with copious strategic notes which you have no clue to what they refer.

Another suggestion is to play email chess at www.letsplaychess.com (or any other similar service). These are chess games you can play making a move 1 per day, up to 1 move per 20 days. This environment is where your opening laboratory can really flourish and improve, and your chess analysis skills can greatly improve. Without going into the gruesome details, write down what you are thinking at the time of each chess move! You will gain much later on from these notes.

Remember: tactics decide 99.9% of all chess games. If you are a borderline B chess player or lower, studying chess tactics and playing blitz with an eye on reviewing your chess openings afterwards will make you a better player and get you very prepared for real chess tournament time trouble should it occur.

Mark Goodwin

Blitz and Speed Chess DVDs
All the top chess players are also excellent at speed or blitz chess, and it's safe to assume they also use blitz chess as a learning tool. ChessCentral offers two chess DVDs that cover this subject. The first is Roman's Blitz as a Tool to Better Chess, which shows how blitz is played on the highest level and recommends ideas and openings to improve your blitz chess game. Click here for more information. The second is Speed Chess with Maurice Ashley, with great video of the Superblitz Knockout Championship along with Ashley's commentary. Click here for details.