Aug 012011
I’m guessing that the clocks at the British Chess
Championships might be slghtly more up to date than these

My British Chess Championships starts today! I’m very excited about it and have been looking forward to it very much. As I prepared for it last week I found this article by Dan Heisman on the Chess Café website to be particularly thought provoking. He talks about what your goals should be for any given game that you play. Obviously, the primary goal is to win the game but he then gives this interesting secondary one that I hadn’t really considered before.

“Your second most important goal in a chess game is to use almost all the time on your clock.”

He reinforces this point by saying that if you aren’t utilising the time you’ve been given to its maximum potential then you are giving your opponent an unnecessary advantage. He makes a good analogy with taking an exam. Most students wouldn’t dream of not using all the time allocated in a test to try and gain the best possible mark that they can. In the same way, Heisman argues that chess players should use as much of their time as they can to give themselves the best chance of getting the right result.

I won’t steal his thunder by repeating all of the details in the article (you can go read it yourself) but he suggests 6 tools that a chess player can make use of to make the most of the time they have for a game. These are:

  1. Never start a game without the intention of using almost all your time.
  2. Calculate the average time per move before the game starts.
  3. When recording each move, also record how many minutes are remaining on your clock.
  4. Botvinnik’s Rule — “use 20% of your time for the first 15 moves.”
  5. Look at your clock periodically when your opponent is thinking and ask “Am I playing too fast or too slow?” and adjust the upcoming moves accordingly.
  6. If you are a player who plays too fast, then your two primary guidelines should be:
  • When you see a good move, don’t play it — look for a better one.
  • Before you move, make sure your opponent does not have a check, capture, or threat in reply that you can’t safely meet.

The reason I found this thought provoking is because at the Championships I’ll have much longer time limits available than I’m used to and I need to make sure that I’m making good use of them. In league chess I’m used to playing 36 moves in 75 minutes and then the rest of the game in a further 15 minutes. That’s a maximum game length of 3 hours. In the under 160 Championship the game time is up to 4 hours and in the Open that I’m playing in the afternoons the game time is up to 7 hours!!
Generally, I’d say that I manage my clock pretty well in league games. I normally use up a high percentage of my time but I don’t get into time trouble all that often. In the past when I’ve played longer time limits (in county and weekend competitions) my performance level has gone up because I’ve had more time available and used it effectively. I need to make sure that I do that in the coming week as well. I’ll need every advantage I can get and I certainly don’t want to be giving my opponents an advantage by not putting my time to good use! I’m planning to use Heisman’s tools and some of the other advice in his article to make sure that I do use my time well and I’d heartily recommend his guidelines to other players who find themselves playing too quickly or getting into time trouble regularly. His article links to a bunch of other essays that discuss time management in chess and they are well worth consideration.

  One Response to “Use the fullness of time”

  1. Interesting. One problem with the longer games is not having the stamina (physical, almost as much as mental) to concentrate for that length of time.

    I was talking with Peter Rawlings on these lines, yesterday evening. I used to play for Cumbria; I think the time limit was 36 moves in 2 hours. Playing against the "big" counties – Lancashire, Merseyside, Yorkshire – I could wander round after an hour or two and see lots of promising positions for our, less experienced, players. Do the same again after three hours, and many of those good positions had become draws while many of the even positions had become losses. Largely, I think, down to insufficient practice in concentration.
    Good luck at the Championships! I hope you enjoy it, and do well, but in that order.

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