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How to Win at Speed Chess by Crad Kilodney

How to Win at Speed Chess by Crad Kilodney

June 2000

Go to wherever the chess players congregate, and you’ll find a few of those monomaniacs who practise a peculiar version of the game: they will take on all comers with the clocks set at one minute for the expert and ten minutes for the challenger. The wager is a dollar a game. The loser is the one who gets checkmated or runs out of time first. Almost always, the challenger runs out of time or gets rattled and blunders into a mate.

I watched the resident expert on Gould St. in Toronto whip a naïve challenger one summer afternoon. The expert made his moves instantly, slamming the timer after only one second per move, while the challenger, trying to play normally, used up too much time, then tried to compensate by speeding up. Hounded into a trap by the aggressive expert, he saw his time elapse. He stood up, shaking his head in bewilderment, and pushed his dollar coin toward the expert, who snapped it up. “I don’t know how you did that,” said the poor challenger.

“Have another?” asked the expert grimly.

“No, thanks. You’ve got this game figured out too well.”

The expert noticed me standing close by. “How about you?”

“Okay,” I said, smiling innocently as I sat down.

“Do you know the rules? I get one minute for all my moves, you get ten minutes. Whoever runs out of time or gets checkmated loses. A dollar a game.”

“Okay.” I put a loonie on the table. “You do this all day?”


“Ever lose?”

“Not too often.”

“And you live off this?”

“I get by,” said the expert, looking confident and superior.

He set up the pieces, hit the timer, pushed a white pawn, and hit the timer again. One second.

I took a leisurely breath, pushed a black pawn, and hit the timer. Twenty seconds.

He moved again. One second.

I took out my cell phone, dialed a number, and made another move. He replied at once. I let the clock run.

“Hi, it’s Mr. Kilodney, account number 147703….” I took out a pad and pen. The expert regarded me with puzzlement. I made a move of no consequence. He replied at once. “Can we do an option trade?” I continued. “Good. On my U.S. margin account, I’d like to do something with Seitel Seismic. The symbol is SEI….” My clock was running. I made a benign move. The expert replied, slamming the timer. He could already feel my dollar in his hands. “Where’s the stock at now?…Seven and three-quarters? That’s good. I’d like to sell the 7½ Put about five or six months out, whatever’s available on the chain….Yeah, December would be just right. What’s the bid/ask on the December 7½ Put?…” I made a note on my pad. “One and three-eighths to one and a quarter….Real good.” The expert was watching my time elapse. I made an irrelevant little move, to which he replied at once. He already had a commanding position. “Let’s open by selling five contracts at 1 and 3/8….Yes, uncovered…Yes….” Long pause. “Right….Excellent…No, that’s all for today. I thank you kindly….Goodbye.”

“It’s your move,” said the expert, rubbing his hands.

“Yeah, just a minute.” I did some figuring on my pad. “Five contracts at 1 and 3/8….That’s six hundred and eighty-seven, fifty…less commission…um…forty-two, fifty….That gives me a net of…six forty-five…U.S.” I looked up, smiling. My time was almost gone.

“What was all that about?” asked the expert.

“That was my brokerage. So, you’re a real smart guy, are you? You play speed chess all day for a dollar a game, do you?” He glared at me icily. “Do you know what puts and calls are?”


“Have you ever heard of the Chicago Board Options Exchange?”


At that moment my clock hit zero. “Well, I just made $645….That’s U.S. dollars,” I added emphatically. “So here’s your little dollar. Thanks for the game.”

by Crad Kilodney

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