Blitz Go: To Play or Not to Play?

Weekly Go Wednesday, Issue #2

For many players, one of the major obstacles to playing go is time. After all, an average game can take anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes depending on the level of thinking that goes into each game. So in order to accommodate the faster players and those without much time, the format known as blitz go was born.

For new players who’ve never played blitz go, the general idea is that you have less than a minute to make each move. If you fail to make your move within the allotted time, you lose by default on time.

While there are different perspectives on blitz go, you should seriously consider the following points as to whether or you should be playing blitz go:

Why You Should Play Blitz Go…

  1. You can play an entire 19x19 game if you’re under a time constraint.
  2. It is an excellent way to see how good your instincts are. In other words, the strength of your fundamentals in the game and reading speed will be severely tested in this format.
    I really tried to come up with three reasons; but even when I included the obvious benefit that the games are much shorter, I don’t honestly believe there are any other strengths to this format. And you’ll see why with the following list.

Why You Shouldn’t Play Blitz Go…

#1. Players are often rewarded for bad or desperate moves.

While this may seem like a reason to play go, in my opinion, this is ultimately a double edged sword that will often be more agonizing than anything else. Case and point, check out my game record below for two groups that are supposed to be utterly alive, but who get killed off in the end. And in the end, if one of your desperate plays happens to be successful, there is a pretty good chance you’ll think you figured out a clever play when in actuality it was just your opponent’s stupidity. So you’re ultimately just reinforcing an inflated ego that would be smashed to bits if your opponent just avoids stupid mistakes. Is that really the way you want to get stronger?

#2. If players become accustomed to this format, it will often condition them to have the “play and hope it works” mentality.

Just like #1, this is a TERRIBLE habit for players to acquire. This will not only negatively impact your abilities, but it will make the game far less enjoyable because you’ll look back at your games only to regret the hopeful move you made that cost you the game.

#3. In addition, players who become accustomed to blitz go will also be practically unable to return to regular go since their deep reading abilities will have ultimately become crippled.

Unless you happen to study your deep reading constantly on the side and have not been plagued with the impatience many blitz players acquire, your deep reading is going to go down the drain. On the other hand, a player who typically plays longer games of go will always have the ability to play blitz go.

#4. Tournaments are rarely blitz go.

Let’s face it. The big tournaments around the world are primarily non-blitz. So when you go off to compete for prizes and such, you will be at a severe disadvantage compared to your opponents who are more accustomed to managing their time at different points in the game. Unless you are hoping to pressure your opponent into playing a faster game, I have a feeling you won’t be doing as well as you think.

#5. It’s difficult to tell when you’re actually progressing.

If you were to chart your results and progress over time, there’s a good chance it looks like a roller coaster. There are times where you utterly crush your opponent… times you get crushed by your opponent…. and once every blue moon you’ll have a close game. Since a player’s rank is perhaps the most desirable aspect for most players, this would admittedly be frustrating to see no?

The kifu record today is an excellent demonstration of the points I mentioned above regarding blitz go: careless errors, weird moves, desperate attempts that succeed despite the fact they are supposed to be terribly doomed for failure, and so forth.

In your experience thus far, what are some of your thoughts on blitz go?