Bobby Fischer’s legacy includes the concept of incremental time-controls, where a little time is added back after every move. Even in extreme time pressure, the fear of flagging out is low. The absurd sudden-death situation where one side lacks the time to deliver mate doesn’t arise. Increments can however, lead to “extended” blitz play, where both players survive on the increment for long periods. Increments change thinking dynamics. If you know that you can never run out of time, (even if you come very close), you are more likely to seek the best move rather than merely good moves.
One of the standard blitz incremental controls is 3 minutes plus 2 seconds increment per move while rapids is often played at 15 minutes plus 10 seconds/ move. Of course, games can last longer in theory but in practice, they tend to take around the same time.
Coupled to easy delivery to audiences by streaming, the new controls have led to a boom in popularity for short control tournaments. Fide is trying to push this segment by allowing short games to be rated. That’s an experiment that has been tried before but the circumstances seem more propitious now since the technology is much more developed. The usual rationale about being more sponsor-friendly has been trotted out.
Blitz has always been popular. Rapid play caught on in the late 1980s and the early 1990s, when Garry Kasparov’s Professional Chessplayers Association managed to find sponsorship with Intel supporting a Grand Prix. The Melody Amber provided many years of high-profile support.
In the past couple of years, there have been quite a few high-profile rapids and blitz events. Most recently the World Blitz and Rapids tournaments were played out in Astana, with generous prizes (total funding of close to $500,000) and excellent coverage.
The rapids involved a 16-player round robin. Sergey Karjakin came through with 11.5 points (+10, -2,=3) and a 2917 TPR ahead of Magnus Carlsen (10.5) and Topalov, Memadaryov sharing 3-4 on 9.5 points each. The blitz was a double round robin. Alexander Grischuk won with 20 points from 30 rounds. He was followed by Carlsen (19.5) and Karjakin (18.5).
One key factor with increments is that there’s some time to calculate nuances. An example of endgame tactics from the rapid. WHITE TO PLAY (Carlsen Vs Karjakin, World Rapid Astana 2012). 49.Bg7 Rc6. The obvious 49...Rxh5+ 50.Ke6 wins due to the deadly threat of 51.Ra8+ Bd8 52.Bf6.
Now 50.h6 Kf7 51.Ke4 Ke8 52.Ra8+ Kf7 53.Rh8 Rc4+? The cold-blooded 53.-- Bf6 54. Bxf6 Kxf6 55. Rxh7 Kg6 is a drawn ending. Also 53.-- Kg6 54. f5+ Kh5 seems to hold. Once black cedes g6, he's dead. The game ended 54.Kf5 Rc5+ 55.Be5 Bf8 56.Rxh7+ Kg8 57.Rh8+ Kf7 58.Rxf8+! 1–0
Devangshu Datta is an internationally rated chess and correspondence chess player