Chess - Play & Learn


FREE - In Google Play

FREE - in Win Phone Store


How to practice for long time controls?

  • #1

    In an OTB tournament this weekend, I had one draw, three losses and one "win" by forfeit. I didn't expect to win any prizes, since I was rated 1519 in an U1800 group, and all my opponents were over 100 points higher, but I'm still disappointed.

    The time control was forty moves in two hours and then sudden death in one hour, with a give-second delay. I played in a tournament with the same time control last summer and didn't have any time problems, but I had to rush in all but one of my games this time. One of my losses resulted from a blunder on my fortieth move, when I had only a few seconds left on my clock.

    Of course, managing time isn't my only problem. I'll keep working on tactics, but does anyone have suggestions about how to practice for standard tournament time controls? (With a job and a family, I can't devote five or my hours playing chess too often.)

  • #2

    One of my opponents made her fortieth move with about thirty seconds on her clock, but she had a decisive advantage by that point. Another opponent played very quickly. The two other opponents were about even with me on their clocks, if my memory is correct. I think my main problem is calculating slowly when more than one candidate move seems plausible. Several times I looked at my clock after moving and was surprised at how much time I spent.

    I think I need to improve at setting priorities in positions that seem complex. In one case, I deliberated between a candidate move that would double my opponent's pawns by trading active pieces for less active pieces and another candidate that would make my rook more active. Even after I identified some of the advantages and disadvantages of each move, but I spent a while going back and forth before making a decision. (I ended up making the wrong choice, which explains why I remember that position.)

  • #3

    You need to go thru the Yusupov series by Quality Chess.  It's 9 books.  Once you finish those, and get your rating up, you'll be ready for "Grandmaster Preparation:  Calculation", which I'm reading right now, in the 4th chapter.  This will help you in learning what types of patterns to look for, what candidate moves can be eliminated quickly, finding candidates that may not be so obvious, etc.

    Case in point, this past weekend, I had the following game, and move 16, a move that in the past would take me 30 minutes to play, took me 11 minutes to execute.  I ran it thru an engine when I got home Sunday night, and the move I played is the best move!

  • #4

    Thanks for the advice, Andrew_Bates and ThrillerFan, and congratulations on the nice win, Thriller Fan. Unfortunately, I don't have enough free time to work through nine books! I'm looking for a quicker way to address the problem, even if it's less effective than a more time-intensive one. I will try to play with shorter time controls.

  • #5

    LJM_III, keep in mind, I'm not saying you should be doing a rapid-fire approach.  I work a full time job and have a wife and daughter myself.  I would say you'd be talking a 5-year project.

    You'll increase fast as long as you are underrated, but after that, it's a slow process.  I hit 2000 for the first time in 2001, and for the most part sustained 2000+ from 2004 onward.  I'll hit 2100 for the first time in 2013!

  • #6

    The key is to pace yourself.  For instance, 40/2 comes to three minutes a move on average.  Now, you can't just say you will take three minutes on every move, of course: some will take longer and some less.  So check yourself every 10 moves, you should be using a little less than 30 minutes for each set.

    If there is no increment or delay in a sudden death time limit, cut it back a bit more, to say 25 minutes average to save a little time for the end.  But if you need to use more, use it - it's a guideline and a benchmark for pace, not some rule set it stone.


    There are some players who are what we used to call "time pressure freaks."  They would get into time trouble in most of their games, sometimes having to make ten moves or more in a minute or two at the control.  Even some strong players fall into that, Benko used to get in it all the time, and Karpov in his later years.

  • #7

    One other thing to keep in mind is opening selection really does affect time trouble issues.

    For example, if you are slow at calculating, openings like the Modern Benoni, King's Indian Defense, Sicilian Najdorf, and Modern Defense are ill-advised.  Much "simpler" openings (not that they are simple by any stretch, just speaking comparitively) such as the Orthodox QGD, French Classical, etc will rarely get you in time trouble.

    I don't play a simple repertoire, and so nartually I get into time trouble.

  • #8

    ThrillerFan, it's encouraging to hear about your improvement. I'm interested in long-term improvement (I started playing more seriously about a year ago), but I want to improve my time management now since that was the most glaring problem in my most recent tournament. It's also been a problem in one-day tournaments with shorter time controls. I have a lot to learn about openings, but I was able to play the first few moves fairly quickly.

    Estragon, I tried unsuccessfully to pace myself. Do you keep an eye on the clock during your move or wait until your opponent's clock is running to see whether you need to increase your pace?

  • #9

    What I do is make a slash mark beside every ten moves - moves 10, 20, 30, 40, etc.  Then after I complete each ten, I write down my time consumed.  So if after 20 moves @ 40/2, I used 1:15, I'm moving too slow and need to pick up the pace. 

    For 40/90, the benchmarks would be 22, 45, 1:08, 1:30. 

    Again, it's a guideline, something you want to be conscious of, but in the back of your mind.  Don't obsess about it or start watching the clock tick, it will drive you nuts.

    Practice, practice, practice, over time you will be better disciplined. 


    One other tip about analysis.  Many players get hung up on calculating some wild tactical lines, and sacrifices that just don't work out.  But they are so intrigued they keep coming back to the lines, hoping to find a way to make them work.  That's a big waster of your time.  You should analyze each candidate move only once, make your evaluation of it, and go on to the next.  You can recheck the move you select before playing it on the board, but don't go back over other moves, too.

    That's another mental discipline that takes practice, but it saved me most of my time trouble games when I finally got it.


Online Now