Talpa's “First Steps” essay and Talpa and Bozky's “Etiquette” Essay

First Steps, by talpa, 1999

Why Lightning ?

1 0 Lightning (or Bullet) is the single most exciting form of  playing chess known to mankind. Each player has no more than one minute to play all his moves in. Hence, an entire game of Lightning will never last longer than two minutes. (This means pure playing time. Due to so-called 'lag' the game often lasts longer. I will come to this later.) Although it is certainly possible to play Lightning in an Over The Board game, the extreme swiftness and physical strain to both move the pieces correctly to their squares, and press the clock, make these efforts look more like tragic slapsticks from the early 20s than actual games of chess. Therefore, Lightning is most suited to play on a computer, and in particular on an Internet chess server. There are dozens of chess servers on telnet, in particular Free Internet Chess Site (FICS) and Internet Chess Club (ICC).

Some Physical Observations

We will look at various aspects of  Lightning methods of play. A large part of this theory was developed and is still used with success on FICS by the players 'woof' and 'theblob'. (We will, of course, not reveal their real names to the reader.) They have founded the infamous 'theblob/woof School of Lightning' which every 1 0 player should attend. (For those interested: they teach every day in channel 10 on FICS.) Both players have now played over 15000 rated games of Lightning. More about these and other guru's can be found in the chapter 'Records and Data'.

Probably the most surprising, yet very logical, aspect of playing chess on the Net is that you don't see your opponent's move until it is actually played. This is quite different from a 'real' game of chess, where you can see your opponent's hand hovering through the air in search of the piece he is going to move. On a monitor, this is of course out of the question. And it is precisely this seemingly unimportant detail that lifts computer-played 1 0 Lightning from the dull swamp of old-fashioned, 19th Century-slow chess into a stratosphere where can dwell only the fast, the skillful, the sharp.

But before going on explaining why this feature is so important, let's first establish how to physically move as quickly as possible on a computer chessboard (also known as 'Interface'.) While in real chess only the player to move can touch the pieces, on most Internet interfaces it is possible to move the piece to the aimed-for square at all times, even when it is not your move. (Some interfaces don't have this possibility. But in most cases one can at least indicate the two squares by which a piece is going to travel.)

Of course, this 'moving without moving' cannot be seen by the opponent. He only sees whatever crummy things he is doing on his own interface. All this makes it possible to save virtually all the time which is normally consumed with dragging a piece from one square to another.

While your opponent is thinking, you can carry out the physical part of your reply, and when your opponent finally moves (usually this is also indicated by a clicking sound), you will only have to release the piece on the square where you had it hanging already. Thus, you can move almost instantaneously, thereby saving vital seconds on the clock.

So far, so good. We now know which is the fastest way to make a move. There is only one slight problem: the move you just made so quickly, may very well have been a good one in the situation previous to your opponent's move, but it may now be simply a blunder or, worse, illegal. Let's have a nice little example to illustrate this:

1.e2-e4 d7-d5
2.e4-e5 Ng8-f6

This is quite a regular occurence in Lightning games. What happened? Starting with White's second move, why did he play the slightly unusual 2.e5 instead of the normal move 2.exd5? Maybe he wanted to play some kind of French after 2...e6 3.d4, who knows. Or perhaps -and this is most sneaky- he just guessed what black's next move would be...

Now consider Black's second move. Obviously, this was not the best. Still, it can be explained perfectly if we consider what was said above about making your move a tempo, without waiting to see what your opponent is going to do. Black simply assumed that White would play the standard move 2.exd5, after which he wanted to reply 2...Nf6. Alas, White played a different move. The reason why this move worked, was for one reason only: Black couldn't see him play it. When Black realised his planned move was not so good, he had released his piece already, and it was too late.

Here are some more examples.

Even the Greatest are not invulnerable to this kind of trap. Look what happened to the best 1 0 Player in the world.

Sentman (2115) vs. Stealthfighter (2701) --- Wed Sep  3,  1:41 1997
Rated Lightning match (FICS)

Move  Sentman            Stealthfighter
----  ----------------   ----------------
  1.  d4        (0:02)     d6      (0:00)
  2.  c4        (0:00)     Nf6     (0:00)
  3.  Nc3       (0:00)     Nbd7    (0:00)
  4.  e4        (0:00)     g6      (0:00)
  5.  f4        (0:00)     Bg7     (0:00)
  6.  Nf3       (0:00)     O-O     (0:00)
  7.  Bd3       (0:00)     e5      (0:01)
  8.  fxe5      (0:01)     dxe5    (0:00)
  9.  d5        (0:00)     c6      (0:00)
 10.  O-O       (0:00)     cxd5    (0:01)
 11.  cxd5      (0:00)     Ne8     (0:00)
 12.  Bg5       (0:00)     a6      (0:00)
 13.  Bxd8      (0:01)

    {Black resigned} 1-0

Here is an entire game which features another nice trick.

woof (2096) vs. Kingroche (2256) --- Sat Jun 28, 23:52 1997
Rated Lightning match 1 0 (FICS)

Move woof             Kingroche
---- ---------------- ----------------
1.   d4        (0:01) Nf6       (0:01)
2.   e3        (0:00) e6        (0:01)
3.   Bd3       (0:00) b6        (0:01)
4.   Qf3       (0:01) Bb7       (0:01)
5.   Qxb7      (0:02) Nc6       (0:02)
6.   Nf3       (0:03) a6        (0:03)
7.   c4        (0:04) Ra7       (0:01)
8.   Qxc6      (0:02) dxc6      (0:01)
9.   O-O       (0:01) Bd6       (0:01)
10.  Nc3       (0:00) O-O       (0:01)
11.  e4        (0:01) Be7       (0:02)
12.  e5        (0:01) Nd7       (0:01)
13.  Be3       (0:02) c5        (0:01)
14.  Rad1      (0:03) cxd4      (0:01)
15.  Nxd4      (0:02) c5        (0:01)
16.  Nc6       (0:01) Qc7       (0:02)
17.  Nxe7+     (0:01) Kh8       (0:01)
18.  Be4       (0:05) Nxe5      (0:02)
19.  Nc6       (0:02) Nxc6      (0:02)
20.  Bxc6      (0:01) Qxc6      (0:01)
21.  Ne2       (0:05) Rd7       (0:01)
22.  Nf4       (0:01) Rxd1      (0:02)
23.  Rxd1      (0:00) h6        (0:01)
24.  Nh5       (0:01) Qe4       (0:01)
25.  Rd7       (0:02) Kh7       (0:01)
26.  h3        (0:02) Qb1+      (0:02)
27.  Kh2       (0:01) Qxb2      (0:01)
28.  Nf4       (0:01) Qxa2      (0:01)
29.  Rb7       (0:01) Qxc4      (0:01)
30.  g4        (0:01) e5        (0:01)
31.  Nh5       (0:01) Qd5       (0:02)
32.  Rxb6      (0:02) c4        (0:01)
33.  Rxa6      (0:01) c3        (0:01)
34.  Ra1       (0:00) c2        (0:01)
35.  Rc1       (0:00) Qd1       (0:01)
36.  Ng3       (0:01) Rd8       (0:01)
37.  Rxd1      (0:01) cxd1=Q    (0:02)
38.  Kg2       (0:00) Rc8       (0:01)
39.  Nf5       (0:00) Rc2       (0:02)
40.  Kg3       (0:01) Qe2       (0:01)
41.  Kh4       (0:00) Qf3       (0:01)
42.  Ng3       (0:00) g6        (0:01)
43.  g5        (0:00) hxg5+     (0:01)
44.  Kxg5      (0:01) Rc4       (0:00)
45.  Bf4       (0:01) Kg7       (0:01)
46.  h4        (0:01) f6+       (0:01)

   {White checkmated} 0-1

It is this sort of small drama that Lightning, like life, is all about.

The substantive contents of “First Steps” were last modified on Mar 24, 1999 by talpa.

Etiquette, by talpa and bozky, 1998

In lightning, everything is based on tricks and dirty tactics. To win, everything is allowed. So people who can't stand being flagged in a completely won position, simply should not play this kind of chess.

Refusing to resign is not bad sportsmanship in lightning. On the other hand, resigning is regarded as a somewhat strange act, testifying of a lack of faith in one's own lightning abilities.

Asking for a takeback, or, worse even, moretime, because you accidentaly put your queen en prise, is out of the question. If you can't handle your mouse, you should not play 1 0.

A very important rule is that it is common for 1 0 players to play not one game, but several, preferrably more than 10. So, if you win one game and then quit, you run the risk of being called a 'winquitter'. You should always give your opponent a fair chance to gain back some of his losses, and this is ESPECIALLY valid when the opponents are of equal strength. An example my clarify this.Suppose you play against someone with roughly the same rating. You win 3 games in a row. It is then very rude to stop playing, and instead start challenging other players. It's this kind of “wham bam thank you ma'm” that infuriates diehard 1 0 players, and they may +noplay or even +censor you for it.

Closely related to this is what Karlitos calls “playing non-stop”. It is very annoying if you wait between two games, because it destroys the rhythm and flow which are so typical for good lightning sessions. Therefore, it is also common to abort games if there's too much delay due to lag. If someone asks for abort or adjourn because something is wrong, you should always give it. Refusing may, again, lead to +noplay and +censor.  (See also pdeck's essay “The Hate”.)

For the issue of thanking we are referring to theblob's instructive essay which you can read here.

The substantive contents of “Etiquette” were last modified on May 10, 1998 by talpa and bozky.