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Almost certainly through experience, you may have played a game of chess or know of a game of chess that has taken a long time to complete. Hours perhaps, even days! Indeed years can be taken to complete a single game in some correspondence chess games of days gone by.
Quicker games of chess are termed Blitz games and Bullet is the name given to these time control games. So, what is Bullet chess?
Bullet Chess is a variant of Blitz chess with less than 3 minutes permitted for each player for the entire game. Present since the 1950s. Bullet chess gained popularity with the advent of online chess in the 90s providing pre-move options and easier time control.
Of course, the fewer minutes per game, the less time the players have to consider their positions and overall long-term strategy. It definitely holds that, in bullet games, time pressure is as big of an opponent as the player on the other side of the chess board.
Here, you’ll learn everything you need to know about bullet chess as a prospective beginner, but we’ll also try to explain its appeal. You may even become a strong player. As you can probably imagine, speed chess quite different from regular chess.
Bullet Chess Rules
For the most part, bullet chess game rules are the same as those of blitz chess, except with a more restrictive time controls setup.
Whereas blitz chess refers to any variant of classical chess that gives each player up to 10 minutes of time per match, bullet chess tops out at 3 minutes, with the most commonly played format limited to just one minute with no additional increments.
The other popular bullet chess format is a bit more lenient, featuring two minutes per player with a one-second increment per turn.
It’s this focus on rapid-fire decision-making that makes bullet chess as insanely addictive as it is.
Time Control – What are Time Increments?
You may see ‘increments’ mentioned in the time controls for these games.
So you may have a 1 minute game with no increments or, or a 2-minute game with a 1-second increment per player, or maybe even a 3 minute game with two-second increments. But what are increments in chess?
A time increment in chess is additional time added to the clock after a player has made a move and can come in any variant of the game. Example: in a 2|1 game of bullet chess, a player will 2 minutes to play with 1 second added to the clock after each move
Is Bullet Chess Real Chess?
Bullet chess is certainly a real chess game, but there are some purists that won’t accept that a game where no long-term thought can be given can be termed ‘real chess’ in a sense.
The fact that there are tournaments and international ratings awarded for blitz chess ability does confirm that bullet chess is real chess.
What Size are Bullet Chess Pieces?
Bullet chess or any Blitz variant is played on a standard chessboard with the same, normal-sized pieces, kings and queens as you would play classical chess.
That’s not to say you can not play a normal bullet game with different sized pieces – here is Wesley So playing a blitz game with Giant pieces.
What happens when pieces get knocked over?
Offline vs Online Bullet Chess?
Real adrenaline junkies will play bullet chess face to face on a board and a chess clock. If you want to experience the ultimate stress in chess, the live bullet game is for you.
Online bullet chess provides a far more serene experience by comparison, but you still have the clock looking over your shoulder the entire time.
Digital clocks being introduced certainly help in regards offline bullet games, but automated online clocks are far easier.
Let’s have a look at the difference between offline vs online.
What is the Best Thing About Offline Bullet Chess?
The best thing about playing bullet chess, face to face with your opponent is you can feel the game. You know you are in a battle, not only against your foe but the clock too, and there it is, to your left or right, screaming “get on with it”
As long as you are dextrous enough to be able to ‘push wood’ as those that don’t like the variation tend to suggest, without sending your bishop flying doorwards you might enjoy the thrill and pressure of having to think quick on your feet with fingers nimble enough to take the least amount of time to move capture and smack that clock
What is the Best Thing About Online Bullet Chess?
There is a huge advanatge to playing bullet chess online, and that is, pre-movement. That is you can make faux moves before your opponent has had a chance to make his, without them counting.
You do have to be careful though, if they suddenly tip that pawn a swift single square and you’re still making those virtual moves, it may just count!!
Also, if you have sausage fingers, there is no chance of tipping the piece in your urgency to complete a move, potentially knocking other pieces out of position.
As the game continues and things get even more frantic, the easier the game becomes with a tap of a screen or click and switch of a mouse.
Who Plays Bullet Chess?
Bullet chess is ideal for those who wish to experience a faster, more dynamic kind of chess.
With less than three minutes to go for each player, it’s incredibly difficult to keep track of all possible permutations and directions in which any given match could go. This means that players often focus primarily on dealing with the clock.
Naturally, this approach to chess allows far more room for mistakes and plays that are, at best, less than ideal. Fast thinkers and decisive players will do great in bullet chess.
Who are the Best Bullet Chess Players?
Since bullet chess is, more or less, simply an even more aggressive and time-sensitive of the already speed blitz chess ruleset, it’s a given that good blitz players will perform great in bullet chess.
Here are some of the best blitz players as of December 2020 including the latest chess.com blitz championship winner, according to International Chess Federation’s FIDE rating list:
- Hikaru Nakamura (USA) – 2900
- Magnus Carlsen (NOR) – 2886
- Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA) – 2822
- Wesley So (USA) – 2816
- Yangyi Yu (CHN) – 2808
- Vladimir Kramnik (RUS) – 2797
- Liren Ding (CHN) – 2788
- Viswanathan Anand (IND) – 2785
- Ian Nepomniachtchi (RUS) – 2785
- Vladislav Artemiev (RUS) – 2783
- Dmitry Andreikin (RUS) – 2782
- Alexander Grischuk (RUS) – 2765
- Sergey Karjakin (RUS) – 2765
These players including chess world champion have proven their worth over and over in blitz matches, with Nakamura and Carlsen leading the pack in bullet chess for quite some time now.
Who will be the next blitz chess champion?
Bullet Chess Strategy – Play The Clock, Not The Board
It is often said that playing bullet chess will not only not improve your regular chess skills, but that it might even make them worse. To an extent, this may be true, but what matters the most in bullet chess is intuition.
Players who can rely on their game instinct to pull off quality chess moves without thinking will do far better in a speed game than perfectionists that make perfect moves will. This is because a ruleset as speedy as this one doesn’t leave much time for careful and methodical analysis.
In rapid games, you need to play against the clock first and foremost. If that means forcing the opponent to think about what you just did to eat a few seconds of their precious time, then so be it.
So-called bullet tactics refer to various moves that would be completely out-of-place in regular chess, but which are a veritable godsend when you’re trying to beat the clock as well as the opponent.
On that note, make no mistake – the clock is a far greater threat than the other player in bullet chess.
What is a Good Bullet Chess Rating?
If you can reach the rating of 2000 in bullet chess, you can consider yourself to be in the uppermost echelon of bullet chess players. That’s not to say that you’ll be anywhere close to the best of the best, of course, but it’s a very respectable rating regardless.
Bullet Chess Online – Where to Play?
There’s a number of options to play bullet chess online if you’d like to find out what all the fuss is about.
- Lichess.org – Just select one of the several bullet format options and you’re good to go.
- Chess.com – Simply open up the game interface and set the timer to ‘1 min’. If you see a bullet icon next to the time limit, that means you’re in the right place.
- Play Chess – Similar to Lichess.org, open the homepage and hit ‘bullet’ to start.
Of course, there are many other online services available for bullet chess online. A simple search engine lookup will offer you more options than you could shake a stick at.
Another great advantage of playing chess online is that you can switch between bullet and a normal chess game very easily.