Playing Speed Chess, AKA Bullet Chess

Chess clock moments away from running out of time
William Andrew / Getty Images

Speed is likely the last thing people think of when talking about chess. But there's a form of the game that has begun to seep into the public's consciousness: speed chess. In countless television shows and movies, audiences have seen park hustlers play chess at lightning speed, finishing games in a matter of minutes.

Speed chess is a popular version of the game among all levels of players, from beginners to grandmasters. Speed chess allows players to quickly play casual games, which usually feature a large number of mistakes -- something that can make the games much more entertaining to watch.

Blitz Chess

The most traditional form of the speed game is blitz chess. In blitz, players have three to five minutes to make all of their moves. Online, the game moves even faster -- with each player allowed only three minutes to complete his moves. In online chess, the time stops the second you've made your move, while over the board, you may lose a fraction of a second as you press the time clock. In normally paced games, this hardly makes a difference, but it's noticeable in the world of blitz where a three-minute game online feels similar to a five-minute game in live play.

Grandmasters have been known to play blitz chess, both informally -- you can always find grandmasters playing blitz games at online chess servers -- and at events such as the World Blitz Championship. Famed American chess player Bobby Fischer won the first world blitz championship in April 1970 in Herceg Novi, Montenegro, besting a field that included Mikhail Tal, Vasily Smyslov, and Tigran Petrosia -- all former World Chess Champions -- and other notables who had taken part in the USSR vs. The Rest of the World match a few days before. Blitz continues to enthrall top players. After winning the 2015 World Blitz Championship in Berlin, Alexander Grischuk of Russia told that he is better at playing blitz games than slower-paced contests.

Bullet Chess

If the blitz isn't fast enough for you, bullet chess may be more your speed. This form of chess -- which typically gives players just one to two minutes per game -- has been played for decades, but gained popularity when online chess took off in the 1990s. Today, millions of people play bullet games, which often barely resemble "real" chess.

Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura and Bruce Harper even released a book on the topic: "Bullet Chess: One Minute to Mate." The first lines of the book are telling: "Experienced bullet players will likely spend less than a minute on this chapter," they write, with seeming half-smiles on their faces, "but that's the whole idea of bullet chess, isn't it?"