Time Trouble: Tick Tock Goes the Chess Clock

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Grabbing a coffee at Biddle’s Escape

Today’s article is a case study on time management. Admittedly, this article won’t prove to be fairest comparison, but my goal is to show how consciously managing your time can make a difference in your games.

Since my last post, I’ve played two games at the Wild Card Open. In my second round, I wound up losing a close encounter with FM Gabriel Petesch, though as we will see in this post, had I managed my time better, I might have found myself getting my revenge from our previous match. In the next round, I managed to crack open the resilient defense of a lower rated player, thanks in large part to my active time management.

How can you actively manage your time? Learning how to do this takes lots of experience, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  1. What are the critical positions? Knowing when to stop and think is a good first step. If there are five or six good options in a position, it would be a mistake to spend more than five minutes on that move! Of course, some positions require more attention, and knowing when those moments occur is also critical.
  2. How much time are you spending in the opening? Unless you’ve been surprised out of the opening, it’s not advisable to spend more than ten minutes in the opening, especially if there is no second time control.  Learning your opening repertoire well isn’t just supposed to give you a good position, but it has the secondary intention of not wasting time in the opening. Critical positions happen later, save it for then!
  3. Endgames require proper analysis. Endgames are delicate creatures, as poor technique can spoil an entire game’s work. Your goal should be to have at least thirty minutes on the clock once you reach move 30. If you can do this, you should have enough time to complete the game!
  4. Make smart decisions! If you have the static advantage, don’t waste time calculating risky ideas, look for ways to improve your position.
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Thinking…

For those of you who have trouble managing your time, following these tips can already improve your results. After all, it’s better to make a small inaccuracy with lots of time left than make a blunder with just a few seconds left.

When I was growing up, there weren’t many exercises focused on time management. In fact, the only tip I can remember before I broke 1700 was to continuously work on tactics. To an extent, this is true. Working on tactics does help you calculate faster and recognize patterns, but as I’m sure you already know, during a practical game there is not a tactic on every move.

Do You Crack Under Pressure?

So how can you work on time management off the board? Well, today you’re in luck! In today’s article, I’m going to share six positions from my loss to Gabe Petesch.

Your goal is to find the best move in all seven in under 50 minutes.  All of these positions occurred before move 30, and during the game, I spent about 70 minutes across all of these positions. On move 30, I had ten minutes left and proceeded to blow my nice edge I had worked so hard for – how nice would it be to have an extra 20 minutes?!

Just like a tournament game, it is your job to decide how much time to allocate for each move. Remember, in the spirit of the exercise, you should be doing these in sequential order – do you spend more time now for and hope for an easier game later? If you’ve got the time, I would recommend setting up a board and using a clock. If you’re pressed for time, I’ve got a link to the entire game below this exercise, but you would be missing out!

In each of the positions, it is White’s move!

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position after 10…c6
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position after 12…Qb6
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position after 14…Qc7
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position after 18…Nd7
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position after 19…b6
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position after 20…a5
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position after 23…Ne4

Tough test? Just remember that every minute you spent beyond the limit, you have even less time for what proved to still be a complex game after move thirty. On top of that, we haven’t even begun to discuss what the various psychological effects that come with playing someone nearly 2400 strength can do to your clock are – but let’s stay focused on the over-the-board positions for now. If you’re ready, let’s see how you did, and where you possibly lost time.

Processing Results

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Studying at Carnegie Mellon’s Collaborative Commons. Who knew having an extra monitor could be so nice?

Around this time last year, I learned that my opening repertoire was strategically unsound, and now I’m learning that my time management could be better. Of course time management isn’t an over night fix, but I do have the chess knowledge to apply the points from above. I guess what I’m trying to say is that time management is not the worst problem to have, and it is no reason to be discouraged.

In my next game, I played a much weaker player, but just like my first round opponent, found a lot of defensive resources to hold on. I could have tried to calculate a lot of subtleties out of the opening, but instead I just focused on making natural moves and had 46 minutes left on move 30! What a turnaround! This proved to be the advantage that tipped the scales – even though I was better for much of the game, my opponent collapsed on move 45 with less than a minute left, where I still had 20 to spare.

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Watching the Sinquefield Cup with some homemade ramen.

This wasn’t my best game ever, nor was my opponent of a similar strength, but what this did show me was how familiarity with a pawn structure can go a long ways towards ensuring active time management. My opponent opted for a tame London System, and once we reached the Carlsbad pawn structure, where I simply knew more than my opponent. By move 14, I had the better position, and then proceeded to manuever until White fell apart.

As I began the article, to compare these two games as equals would be unfair. My loss to Gabe was clearly more complicated, and had a lot more pitfalls when it comes to active time management. Sure. However, what my win does show is how time management can be used as a way to win games! Actively managing your clock takes practice, but constantly finding places to improve in your own games means getting better results.

Upcoming Chess Adventures

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The last time I was in Cleveland, I earned the Candidate Master Title, and got recognized by US Chess for my second round win!

I have got a fun end to the summer planned out, and its all about chess! Beyond the last two rounds of the Wild Card Open, the Cleveland Open starts next weekend with my second trip to Ohio this summer! I seem to have a pretty good record in the Buckeye State, so I’m hoping for a strong performance to finish the summer.

Just days after returning to Pittsburgh, I’ll be off to St. Louis to catch the conclusion of the Rapid and Blitz, in which Garry Kasparov will make his return to competitive chess. Even if it’s just a one time thing, I’m going to be pretty content knowing I was there for it! Do I think Kasparov can win? No. But then again, these are the tournaments that legends are made of, and Kasparov is certainly a legend needing no introduction.

Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 09.14.30As the fall semester here at Pitt begins, I’ll be continuing my work towards the National Master title, but also preparing the Pittsburgh Pawngrabbers for what should be an exciting 2018 PRO Chess League Season. In case you’ve missed it, we’ve already started selling shirts to get ready for the next campaign!

If you enjoy watching the Pawngrabbers and want to see an even stronger team next year, I highly encourage you to get some gear or make a donation on the site!

This summer is coming to an end pretty quickly, and its hard to believe I’m going to have to take classes again for the first time in nine months! That’s going to be rough… but until then: chess, chess, chess!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One thought on “Time Trouble: Tick Tock Goes the Chess Clock

  1. Pingback: Through My Eyes: Opening Night at the Sorenson Memorial – chess^summit

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