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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Time Management in Chess

So, something has confused me since, well, since I began playing chess, I guess. Why is it that some folks, especially online, play long or “standard” games as if they are 3/0 or less? If I had a quarter for every time I checkmated someone who had ten minutes more on their clock than I did, I would be able to buy a golden chess set. Let’s discuss some of the drawbacks of moving fast in slow games.

No time to plan. Well, I guess it’s no secret that chess involves planning and strategy. In fact, that’s the entire point of the game. So, if we have (for example) twenty-minutes on the clock to begin with, and have only used two of them when we resign or get checkmated, while our opponent has used twelve minutes, we simply must recognize that something is wrong. The average player simply cannot create sound plans, attacks, and defenses when they bang out thirty moves in under three minutes. Not going to happen. In those instances, the player who uses more time almost always wins.

Reduced benefits. Can you imagine if our parents only grounded us for three minutes every time we were caught doing something horrible? Would your lessons be learned, or would the lesson be that it’s really okay to be bad? If you sign up for a longer game, be prepared to use most or all of your time. Losing game after game because we moved too fast isn’t going to teach us anything, and so there is no way to improve. If you get into a bad position, *play* that position. Make it hurt a little. Chances are, you’ll remember it the next time you see it and be more careful. Likewise, if you have the winning position, *look* for the fastest win. Just because you have three pieces and your opponent only has a king doesn’t mean you start giving mindless checks, waiting for the mate. If there is time on your clock, work it out – heck, that’s half the fun, isn’t it?

Rating never changes. Take the average fast-moving 1450 rated standard player on the Internet. He is obviously inferior to a 1900 player, but will he beat that player occasionally, even though he’s moving fast? Sure. It happens. So he’ll gain maybe 40 points for that scalp. But then, he loses the next five because he keeps playing lightning fast, and his 40 points are gone. Then he’ll take out a couple unwitting 1600s and gain them back, only to lose them again in the next four games or so. The *only* way that rating is ever going to climb (or even fall) dramatically is if we take our time and commit ourselves to the game. It’s quite the roller-coaster ride, trust me.

It just doesn’t make sense. If you want to use two minutes to make thirty moves, why aren’t you playing three-minute chess? Although it’s kinda funny and seems to be obvious, I’m being quite serious. If instant-moving and “game after game” is your goal, why aren’t you playing bullet or very fast blitz games? Honestly, you have a better chance of rating increases at those time limits if instant-moving is your preference. Because a good standard player is going to scalp you 9 of 10 games. That’s just the way it is. Nobody who has reached expert-level ratings (2000 or above) ever got there by moving instantly in any portion of the game. They may also be good blitz or bullet players, but a real Expert will take his or her time in a long game. Take my word on that.

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