Tuesday, March 10, 2015

One Minute Legends

  Last week I wrote about my enjoyment of one minute chess on the Internet Chess Club (ICC) and mentioned that there are many ‘playground legends’ of one minute chess. At any given moment some of the best players in the world are playing one minute chess on the ICC or one of their many competitors in online chess like chess.com, playchess.com, or chess24.com.

  The best one minute chess player on the planet is likely American Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura. He has even co-authored a book on one-minute chess called ‘Bullet Chess – One Minute to Mate’ in which he provides commentary on one minute chess games and dispenses helpful advice on how to stay ahead on the clock, create swindling chances in losing positions, and what type of cheap tricks work best on one-minute chess. Nakamura used to be a regular on the ICC where he goes by the handle ‘CaplianoBridge’. He has gravitated towards chess.com and goes by the simple handle of ‘Hikaru’ where is the number one ranked player. His games draw hundreds of viewers who cheer for him when he plays online.

  There are plenty of grandmasters that play on ICC but don’t disclose their identities. National Master Jerry from ‘Chess Network’ video fame is rumored to play on ICC under the name of ‘HypnoticSpecter’ but that player’s profile notes doesn’t say who it is which makes me wonder if it really is ‘Chess Network’ since he seems to be too much of a promoter for his YouTube channel to not mention it on ICC.

  I like to watch one minute games on the ICC when I get the chance. On Sunday morning super GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Mateus) was logged in and played six one-minute games, winning all of them. Mateus’ last two games were against VerdeNotte who is British GM Gawain Jones. I’ll pick out whatever grandmaster or international master is playing and follow their games and if I get interrupted I can see the end of the game in a few seconds and deal with the interruption later.

  One player I never follow when I’m on line is International Master John Bartholomew. That’s not because his games aren’t interesting – it’s because he commentates his games and publishes them to his YouTube channel which is where I watch them. I’ve gotten to meet John at the Okoboji Open and watch the videos of his one minute chess sessions each morning because his commentary is excellent and I learn a lot about chess in general and one minute chess in particular by watching them. As an added bonus John and I both play the Center Counter (or Scandinavian) Defense and I’ve picked up valuable tips just watching John’s aggressiveness in playing the defense and his specific move orders to bypass some tricks his opponents throw at him.

  John also records daily videos of his three, five, and fifteen minute battles where he provides post game in depth analysis. I prefer the one minute sessions because I can see up to a dozen games in one sitting with commentary. I’m in awe of how he bounces back from losses, keeps fighting in desperate situations, and never gets panicky even when down to a few seconds on his clock. And he’s doing all this while playing some of the best players in the world. John has so much fun in these videos that I fail to see how anyone watching them wouldn’t get the itch to play some one-minute chess themselves.

A sample of International Master John Bartholomew's one minute chess commentary and prowess.

  John is normally in the top 10 to 20 players on the ICC one minute rankings. Two weeks ago he went on a huge run and got his rating to #3 in the rankings. The top rated player is an anonymous untitled player called ‘Multicast’ whose one minute rating is astronomical. Multicast sometimes lets his (or her) opponent win in a few moves by leaving his king open for the ‘Fools Mate’ and other times gives away material in the beginning of the game but then completely outplays the opponent and wins easily. It seems obvious that Multicast is either a super strong player or a clever computer programmed to allow its opponents chances in the opening. There is rampant speculation that Multicast is none other than World Champion Magnus Carlsen which was fueled by a reddit article and comment on John’s video listing Multicast’s IP address as coming from Carlsen’s home country of Norway.

  I don’t know if multicast is Magnus Carlsen or not. It wouldn’t surprise me if the world champ wanted to play bullet chess for recreation and also remain anonymous since every loss using his own name would be plastered all over the internet. In any event it makes for a great story and fun speculation.

  If Carlsen is playing anonymously on the ICC he wouldn’t be the first world champion to do so. Former champion Garry Kasparov admitted to playing chess anonymously on the internet. An ICC insider wrote up his recollections of Kasparov’s online adventures here.

  15 years ago former world champion challenger Nigel Short claimed to have played former world chess champion and all time champion nut case Bobby Fischer in a series of three minute games on the playchess.com server. As with all things Fischer, this led to near universal speculation about Fischer’s playing strength and whether he was planning another comeback in addition to the discussion of whether it was really Fischer at all. The talk petered out when Fischer did not make an online reappearance. Since Fischer’s passing in 2008, there has been no talk of him returning from the dead to play online chess but I think chess players everywhere understand that the prospect is only one unfounded rumor away from going viral.

  Once I got to writing about one minute chess I naturally felt the insatiable need to play some one minute chess myself. I have been slowly approaching my all-time high ICC one minute rating of 1606 that I set in January 2013 (and chronicled in this post). Monday morning saw me 41 points short of my goal after this nice game against lisa1.

pgn4web chessboards courtesy of pgn4web.casaschi.net
  Lisa1 consistently runs me out of time and has a 55% score against me so when I turned the tables I knew I could be on the road to something special. I worked myself up to 1586 with this game before I had to leave for work.

  When I got home from work I went with Kathy, Daisy, and Baxter on our evening walk and resumed my quest after dinner. After a messy and undeserved win on the clock in a game where I won on time after my opponent missed a mate in two and my hanging queen I found myself nine points away from a personal best with only a player named souledge in my way.


What was my secret to my new all-time high one minute chess rating? Aside from learning from John's videos I think my new profile picture may have had a distracting effect on my opponents...

1 comment:

Bethany Carson said...

Ha! Love your profile picture--that sounds like a good strategy. Congrats on the new high rating in bullet chess! I enjoyed listening to John Bartholomew's commentary--that first game was a really close one! It takes some talent to not only play 1 minute chess but comment as well! You are right about how the most unlikely rumors can go viral!