Longer Time Controls Are More Instructive

Longer Time Controls Are More Instructive

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The member JerryPapada wrote: “My name is Jerry, I’m 15 years old, from Greece, and I’m trying to find a way to bump up my rating. I need to find what is missing from my games.”

Jeremy Silman: Playing 3-0 games isn’t very instructive. Bullet and three-minute, though they are really fun, lead to endless blunders and very little time to think about what’s going on. Thus, since you want to improve, I recommend you play longer games (30 minutes for a game or even one move every three days), then study each one.

Also, when you play those longer games, make sure all your pieces are protected and not attacked by the enemy army (unless it’s a fair trade) -- too many of your games are lost by you giving away your pieces. Conversely, your opponents will also hang lots of stuff, so you need to be aware of when those opportunities appear.

Here’s an example of a seriously juicy opportunity:

And here is another “unfortunate” moment:

My point isn’t to make fun of you. The first game was 3-0 (not much time) and the second was bullet (1-0), where all chess players hang their faces time and time again. What I’m trying to point out is that you showed interest in improving your game. However, you have to make a decision: have tons of fun playing blitz (without learning much), or be serious and play with longer time controls so you can actually think.

One isn’t better than another. Having fun playing bullet is great stuff, while 3-0 and 5-0 are also ways to get your pulse pounding and blood pressure leaping off the charts. But will you become a good player? Most likely not.

Of course, you can do both (long and fast games), but I don’t recommend that right now. If you want to get better, then go with the longer time controls. Once you improve, then you can go back to blitz or bullet from time to time, or devote yourself to it permanently. Just not now.

I'll add this: a lot of people want to be masters, but when I tell them that it would entail lots of hard work many get angry (or depressed!) and walk away. You either want to get as good as you can be, or not. Chess can make you happy either way. But don’t delude yourself into believing that lots of bullet will make you a great player. People that do that are lying to themselves, and they are also insulting all the players that spent years studying so they could reach the expert (2000-2199) or master (2200) level.
In fact, any endeavour demands years of hard work and dedication if you wish to excel.

Moving on, here are the kinds of things you (and most everyone) need to improve at: in the first example we see how a “little” positional error can breed bad habits and drag you down, even though you might not really understand why things went wrong! In the second game we have a picture perfect example of "hope chess."



Of course this isn’t disastrous. But it does hurt you a little bit, and if you continue in giving little things up over and over you’ll discover that your position has, “somehow,” deteriorated.

In the following game, Black makes use of a little “hope chess,” which is a common failing of lower-rated players. For those that aren’t aware of “hope chess,” it’s a move you make that can wipe the opponent off the board IF the opponent is kind enough to walk into your fantasy.


This is why you need slower time controls. You can look at 13...Bxf3 and see if the sequence works out for you, but if you look at it closely (and if you play one move in three days, you have plenty of time to look closely), you’ll realize it’s a bust and look for something else.


Of course, I don’t expect Mr. JerryPapada to find all these lines (though you might if you had lots of time). But with practice you will notice that Black’s pieces are all over White’s king, and trading those very active pieces for the lazy White pieces on d2 and c1 just doesn’t make sense. This takes us to an elementary but very important rule:

Don’t trade good pieces (active pieces) for bad pieces (lazy pieces or pieces that aren’t working with the rest of their army).

Mr. JerryPapada, you are making the same mistakes we all make (or made). It’s part of the learning process. But if you want to get beyond the “hanging pieces club,” you need to study books on tactics, find a good book on positional themes, and use your games as learning tools, which means playing with longer time controls.

Naturally, if you want to have some fun, by all means play bullet or 3-0 once in a while to decompress. But use most of your chess time to play longer time controls for those serious, “I want to get better,” moments.

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