Friday, December 11, 2020

The (non-) sense of blitz part 5

In part 3 I talked about my quest for the best filters which I can apply to extract my most interesting games out of a large database to be used for studying openings. In part 4 I explained how I worked with those games and how easily I could implement the new acquired knowledge in practice. In part 5 I want to discuss the best methods of getting new interesting played online games. Which tempo, tournaments, opponents ... should we choose to spend the least time online and still get the most useful output.

However before I start, I like to advise the reader to never forget to enjoy the process. The more fun you have the more likely you have played more games in the end. If you just play to learn about chess then I don't think you will persist. Eventually only a small percentage of the online played games can be used for studying openings. How small this percentage can be, is something which I detected by coincidence after checking a theoretical position which I encountered in a standard game in the beginning of this year by the Dutch WIM/FM Rosa Ratsma. Out of 2.814.723 games in my mega-database in which at least one of both players is rated above 2300 elo, there are 457 of them which reach below position.
Next I checked the same position in the first 10.000.000 (10 million) rated games played on lichess beginning of November and I was shocked that none of them reached this basic position. Normally if you have 3,6 times more games then I would expect with the same quality of the games to see 1623 games with this position instead of 0. This immediately demonstrates the limitations of my new working-method. I have mentioned earlier that some openings are very popular online but are almost never played in a classical game at the board. The reverse seems also to be existing and that is a shame.

Yes sure fun is extremely important but I think we should be careful that it isn't only just fun. Nobody likes to lose but those lost games are the best piece of information to learn from. We will also lose more likely from stronger players so logically we try to play more often against them. Besides if I look at my online played games then I notice a clear link between the playing-strength of my opponents and how useful a game is later to learn from. 14% of my lost games against +2600 rated players I used for my study. Between 2550-2600 this dropped to 12% and between 2500-2550 only 6% remained.

I am sure below 2500 elo there are still interesting games I have played but I also see that the return quickly diminishes and even becomes very small. So it is important to play more games against +2500 rated players and that is a problem for many of us. Most +2500 players aren't interested to play much lower rated opponents. However I do have some advise to circumvent this obstacle.

1) Pump up your online rating as the higher your own rating the more chances you get to play against strong opponents.
- I understand players use engines when they are studying chess and testing your openings online is part of it but don't use them against other players. It is not allowed and you will forever be remembered as a cheater also outside chess.
- Sandbagging or using multiple accounts to sponsor one account. It seems you aren't harming anybody but again don't do it. Strong players aren't happy to waste their time playing against an uninteresting weaker player.
- Avoid tilting. Tilting happens when you lose a couple of games (sometimes not deserved) and you lose your objectivity. As a consequence you lose more games unnecessary. Take regularly breaks although I admit that is easier said than done.
- Avoid playing when you are tired, drunk alcohol, are surrounded with noise... Again that is not always easy if you can play only after a long day in the office.
- Avoid critical lines which you don't know well. That is very efficient but goes directly against the purpose of our playing. So best is that you apply this rule when you are rating is lower than usual just to catch up quickly rating points.

2) Play online tournaments in which strong players participate.
- Lichess organizes every hour Arena-tournaments and if you have a bit of luck then you can play against a big fish. Especially in the evening there are some very strong players participating. In my last article I talked about Alexsur81, the Russian grandmaster Aleksei Priodorozhni. Other strong players which I regularly meet in those tournaments are e.g. Arnelosthe strong Greek grandmaster Hristos Banikas and BIZOOthe French grandmaster Anthony Wirig.
- Join the Belgian friends which I started last week at lichess. Sunday last we played our first tournament in Sunday teambattles. Not only 1 of our players (not me) got the chance to play against the WIM/ FM Rosa Ratsma (which I have mentioned earlier here) but next Sunday we will play a division higher already. So I hope that some readers which love Belgium are willing to join us. I believe this will be beneficial to all of us.

Next I want to discuss the tempo which is best to get online the most and the quickest some interesting games from which we can study the openings. The quicker the games, the more we can play. Lichess has different categories of time-controls (correspondence over many days I ignore): Lichess time-controls. Below table calculates approximately how many games you can play of each type in a fixed time-frame (within one category there exists a lot of variety so this can't be exact).
Averagely we can play almost 162 UltraBullet-games in the time-frame of 1 classical game or about 2,68 Bullet-games in the time-frame of 1 Blitz-game. However we need again to consider also the quality of those games. This can be easily done by defining the % of Spanish games so 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 which are played in each category. For that I extracted the elite-games (+2400 lichess rating) in each category of the earlier mentioned 10 million rated standard-games played beginning of November on Lichess. As a reference I also added the master-games of the megadatabase in below table.
It is not a surprise that UltraBullet is complete nonsense. Almost no elite-player plays classical chess so that we can't use either. Only Bullet, Blitz and Rapid remains. If we give as weight 1 to Rapid then we get for Rapid 1*3,3% = 3,3%, Blitz 3,13*2,6% = 8,2% and Bullet 8,37*0,8% = 6,4%. Clearly Blitz is the most optimal time-control for our study. Bullet isn't far from it but we are here only looking at an opening of 3 moves so I expect the gap increases for more complex openings.

To conclude I also want to discuss the increment. Should we play with or without increment. I am not so quick with the mouse so playing without always leads to some defeats in positions which aren't technically lost. I have lost 160 rated online-games this year without increment against +2500 rated players. Exactly 40 of them I lost on time while I had a winning position or I was definitely not yet lost. So 25% is a lot and you could therefore wonder if it makes still sense to select openings based on the results.

On the other hand I think there are some good reasons to keep on playing without increment. First I see that many games which I lost on time are because I didn't have sufficient experience with the opening. So it makes sense to once study them properly irrespective of the result. Also each additional second of increment will lead to an extension of the duration of the game with almost a minute. The longer a game lasts, the less games you can play. However the most important I think is the fact that 85% of the +2500 players play without increment and only 15% do with increment. Again for this I have checked the 10 million rated standard-games played beginning of November on Lichess. You have almost 6 times more chances to get an interesting opponent without increment than with increment.

In other words it is perfectly possible to play online by applying a scientific approach and that way work at chess. I don't expect we will return soon to standard-chess on the board. Maybe some initiatives will survive the corona-crisis. I am sure this new method of studying chess deserves a place next to the old methods.


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