R U thr??????? and the pleasure of disabling somebody

Jul 9, 2010, 8:11 PM |

The question from the title appeared in the chat box next to the chessboard on my monitor recently during a game in which I was leading by a minor piece (knight) but felt my position was slightly unsafe and so took some time to find the best move. Having the previous experience that explaining is no good since a) it distracts your attention and then you lose even more time; and b) given the number of question marks the player on the other end was obviously very impatient and not ready to absorb any explanation and I would be quite likely to receive some nasty remarks from him (like "i bet you're going to burn out your brains you loser" etc.) I decided to disable the chat immediately and went on thinking. The other player abandoned the game almost immediately. There was 14 minutes left on his clock and 10 minutes on my clock. I could imagine he was furious but that did not bother me since his fury was unsubstantiated. 

The right to lose on time and the benediction of time increment

I understand it is a very annoying habit when somebody is losing and so leaves the game running without moving hoping the other player will lose patience and abandon the game. This is simply unfair and unsportsmanlike - if you know you are going to lose the game you should just click on the resign button. For such situations I advice using the time increment - that is the second number that is behind the slash. So 20/20 means that the player has 20 minutes plus 20 seconds for every move they make. So each time you move 20 seconds is added to your time but if you don't move nothing is added to your time and you will lose on time sooner. I noticed that not all the players are aware of this possibility.

The thing to bear in mind when accepting a challenge with a 20/20 time offer is that the game will be slightly longer. Given the fact that a usual game takes about 30 moves and more the players under a 20/20 countdown will have at their disposal about 30 minutes  each or more (since when you move 30 times you get 30 x 20 secs extra time which is 10 minutes added to your original time). So be careful: if you have only 40 minutes free it may cause you trouble when you accept a 20/20 challenge. The game can last much longer.    

Well, so letting the game run when you know you cannot win it is unfair. Nonetheless the situation is quite different when you are willing to play on and just use your time for thinking. It is your right to decide how you use your time and it is no business of the opponent to tell you to play faster. Well, obviously he or she can do so but I think that's exactly the moment to "disable chat". I personally prefer rather losing on time than making a harsh move that will lose the game for me immediately - this is because I want to see how the situation is bound to develop as far as possible. I am not afraid to lose but losing due to a silly mistake will not tell me anything about the position. On the other hand, you may lose on time but see that the original idea was sound and you can relate to it when you use the same opening some other time (or at least it will boost your confidence).

It is perfectly common at all levels that players get into a time trouble - well, it is their right to lose on time - if you find it so annoying that you cannot stand it just remember the player and don't play him/her again or you can simply abandon the game - you may lose maybe 10 points from your rating but just think of the good it will do to your impatient mind!!!!!!!

I have noticed there are two sorts of players - the ones who like to play fast and think short. Such players will probably prefer blitz or even bullet. But I believe that if you want to learn chess better blitz will not help you much - yes, sometimes it is good to be able to make a decision fast but there's much more to chess. Some people like to start thinking when a position gets "interesting" but would not understand what you're thinking about after, say, 7th move or even sooner. I used to think in a similar way but afterI started studying some chess theory and became aware of all those slight advantages (such as having the pieces well placed in a view of my plan which is again related to the opening I'm using) that I or my opponent could achieve in the very beginning of the game my perspective has changed. This is something that players who just play for fun without deeper knowledge of chess theory will be unlikely to see and therefore they will not understand why anybody spends so much time thinking about a move "before the situaiton on the board has even become interesting". Another thing they will not see is that we also play chess for pleasure - it's just that we receive pleasure from different experiences than them, perhaps.

To demonstrate my case on a real game I add a game that took place between Nigel Short and Jan Smeet (both GMs of rating above 2600) during a Corus tournament in 2010. I don't know exactly what was the time limit there but I have an idea it was at least 90 minutes for each player for first 40 moves or more. At the end of the game the players got into time trouble and decided on a draw - so the game lasted about 3 hours - just imagine what was going through their minds all that time. Were they sleeping? Or are they simply slow on the uptake? Certainly not - you can't be if you are a GM.