Dirty bullet: practical tips I learned playing Lefongs

"Bullet is no chess", they say. While it is true, bullet is also a rich game on its own. I am not an expert yet but here are a few lessons I can already share with you!

Introduction: how I got into Lefongs

It all started for me when a few friends kept sharing Lefong games. I am not a fast player (my focus is on classical OTB games) but I soon understood that leaving a piece en prise only to catch a premove and end up winning a piece myself is a lot of fun. And it works! I recently raised my rating from about 2000 to a record 2166 using Lefongs. See the position below:
Basic lefong positionWhat is the best scoring move in this position? That's right, Bh6!

In this position which we can call the basic Lefong position (named after Lefong Hua, a Canadian player), Bh6 is the strongest bullet move according to the Lichess database. It violates all rules of chess (don't leave your pieces hanging!!!) but it works well in bullet because many players will premove Bg7, leaving their own bishop and rook hanging. It has a success rate of 66% overall and 58% among 2000+ rated-players on lichess. Way better than average!

Think about it: would you rather play perfect chess or maximize your results? In my opinion, perfect chess is playing moves that maximize your results - even it it means hanging pieces!

My goal is not to share pure Lefong theory in this post so I'll let you check out this study by @GRXBullet and @gmbmw and check out your own Rosen Score - highly recommended! Keep reading for practical tips.

1st rule of a failed Lefong: you play for compensation

The first thing you need to learn if you start playing bullet and especially Lefongs is: do not resign. This has several reasons:

  1. If you keep resigning as soon as you fail a Lefong (your opponent takes your Bishop instead of dropping theirs), Lichess will restrict your account for sandbagging. Yes you are allowed to play dirty chess but you have to deal with the consequences! Keep playing until the game is actually over.
  2. It's bullet! Time has a big impact on the game and you can still outplay or flag your opponent. By the way: flagging your opponent is outplaying them in bullet! You both chose to play a very short time control and time is a very important dimension of that game.

In other words: the game isn't over until it's over.

Timing is everything! Improve your success rate

Going for Lefongs is great but it can be demoralizing if you keep losing material for free. I have noticed that my success rate started improving once I learned to time my Lefongs right!

For instance I don't think you should premove a Lefong: you will deprive your opponent from the opportunity to play their own premove. If they see your move before they play their intended move... you will end up a piece down.

A Lefong is always a bluff but if you notice your opponent is premoving their opening system there is a much higher chance you will be successful! Here is an example where my opponent resigned with their full minute left on the clock:

And another one where I noticed they played very fast:

In the following game I waited until my opponent was ready to castle to attack the queen. And my opponent had premoved O-O indeed! I noticed that castling moves often get premoved.

Unfortunately I still lost the game - which brings me to my next point...

Stay focused! Especially after a successful Lefong

Do you know what is more painful than a failed Lefong? A successful Lefong followed by a defeat. If you take a second to celebrate a successful Lefong you might get flagged later on or lose focus and subsequently the game. Believe me - it's painful! Avoid it at all cost by staying. Stay focused and celebrate after the victory!

The opposite goes true for failed Lefongs: if you keep your sharp focus you might as well demonstrate you had compensation for the missing bishop all along! Sorry for repeating myself but... do not resign! And focus.

Low-cost Lefongs

What I call a low-cost Lefong (or a safe Lefong) is when you attack a piece (I suggest going for the queen!) with a bishop which is protected. Ideally you want the move to be unexpected but at least your opponent won't win your piece if they catch your safe Lefong!

Here is an example of a successful low-cost Lefong: my Bg5 was unexpected (the logical move would have been O-O) but chess-wise sound because I didn't leave the bishop en prise:

The best Lefong is the Lefong you catch

As Lefongs are gaining in popularity, do not forget that other people might try it on you too! So be careful, consider they also read this article and are eager to put it in practice:

Catching your opponent's Lefong is very rewarding indeed! Free piece!

Mouse skills - choose your device

Even if you are a piece up, you still have to win the game! I am an old and slow player but I have noticed something: I play faster on my phone than with a mouse. Logically I almost stopped playing bullet on my computer and focused on playing with my two thumbs! I don't have stats to back up my claim but that's how I handle my lack of mouse skills for now.

This blog post is still a work in progress so I'll be happy if someone could give me good advice on mouse skills in the comments!

Conclusion: sometimes you have to play chess!

I just showed you how to take advantage of some of the differences between bullet and chess but it is not always possible to Lefong. If you notice that your opponent is not premoving, do not force things! You will have to rely on your chess skills (and flagging skills of course!).

If you need help to improve your chess, please get in touch with me via DM! I give private lessons to players rated up to about 1700 (lichess) and 1400 (FIDE) for €25/h. I enjoy thoroughly analyzing my students' games with them and giving practical advice to improve their results.

In the meantime, please share your bullet tricks in the comments - I am eager to learn and improve my own rating!