I'm sure the issue of clock management has been written about countless times. An incident happened yesterday, that has caused me to want to rant on this issue as my first real blog post. Here goes
So yesterday I played in a chess.com 5 minute blitz tournament with 7 rounds. In round 6, I played a guy higher rated than me. As a lot of blitz games can be, It was a back and forth game, but in the end, he had an advantage - a rook and a pawn vs. my sole rook. Now the position was set up in such a way where I could take black's pawn with my rook, he could take my rook with his rook, and then I take his rook with my king- which would be a draw. This position is illustrated in the diagram to the left (not the actual position, but pretty close with the same principle.)
However, right before taking his pawn, I looked at black's time and he only had about 15 seconds left, and I had about 50 seconds left (no delay on the clock). I instantly recognized that if I just move around, he will run out of time and lose. Had he had more time than me, or if there was a delay on the clock, I would have taken the pawn and accepted a draw. Instead, I used the clock, to my advantage and won the game.
Instantaneously after winning the game, my opponent and some random other tournament entrant jumped all over me and said I didn't deserve to win, that it was unfair, and that I was "not a moral" chess player. They argued that I should have accepted a draw because of my material disadvantage, which with best play by both contestants, would indeed be a draw.
We have all been there, myself included (quite often) when we lose a chess game on time. It is a blow to the gut. We fight hard in ever chess game to make as few mistakes as possible, and in a closely contested game, the slightest slipup eradicates all our efforts in a blink of an eye and we are left with defeat. There have been times when I have been up multiple pieces and lost on time. There have been times when I lost on time, when the position should have been a draw. They are tough defeats to swallow, but I lost those games just as if I were outplayed, and I deserved to lose those games. What these two sore losers were failing to recognize or accept is that the clock is a dimension of the game that is a factor that must be managed skillfully by the chess player. Really, you can call the clock your 17th piece.
While chess is one of life's activities that comes as close to a purely intellectual based meritorious system as possible, it still has several influences external to the board and pieces that affect outcomes. You may be tired from the night before from staying up late, you may have an upset stomach from eating spicy food, you may lack concentration from focusing on future pairings in a tournament. , etc.... all of these things affect the outcome of chess and you as the player are responsible for controlling them. Surely you wouldn't counter your opponents rejection of a draw offer with "but I was up to 3 am playing xbox. its not fair you are winning".
Further, I am not familiar with any incident in history when someone was forced to play a game of chess with a gun to his/her head. My opponent in this game voluntarily joined the tournament and knew what the time controls were. He knew and consented to playing with a 5 minute clock under the conditions that you will lose if your time runs out before your opponents if there is winning material on the board. If this type of chess is immoral to him, then don't participate. Play longer time controls or only games with a time delay so this situation cannot occur. But don't consent to the rules then complain about them. This isn't like a controversial subjective referee call in the Super Bowl. This is a clear and understood condition of the game.
Also, my opponent conveniently overlooks the simple fact that if I had used more time to consider my moves, or if he had used less time, the position may have been different. I may have made better moves (or him worse) and I could have been in the winning position. But I had made the strategic decision to make faster moves because of the vitality of clock management. This is blitz chess. no one makes their best moves in blitz. The whole idea of the game is a tradeoff between time and moves. Indeed, because I am able to process positions faster than my opponent and make better moves in a shorter period of time, I may deserve to win or draw as the case may be.
Anyway, that's enough rating for now. I thought this issue was well settled before this incident and it was common chess etiquette to accepts such losses with dignity. Certainly I have never been aware of any ettiquette based obligation to accept a draw where the position is a draw, but the clock is so one sided.
It surprised me when I was attacked for winning, especially by the 2nd guy who had no interest in the game I am aware of. Maybe this issue isn't settled. Maybe others feel like they did. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.