In this first column I would like to offer some advice regarding time trouble and effective time management.
There are a number of things one can do to handle their clock more efficiently during a game.
1) If you wish, you can mark goalposts on your scoresheet. For example if the time control is 35 moves in 1hr15mins (Kent league time controls), that means you have approximately 2mins per move. You could right next to each 10th move on your scoresheet the time you should have taken when you reach that move. Of course, you won’t spend exactly two minutes on each move, but you will at least have an indication of the average.
2) Write down your remaining time after each move so you are more aware of how much time you are taking, allowing you to adjust your pace accordingly. (This will be discussed in more detail in a future column, when we will look at analysing your own games).
3) If a move is forced, ie there is only one legal move or you have to make a recapture, play it quickly, although not instantly. It is wise to check that you don’t have any intermezzo moves first, which may be far stronger than the instant recapture you had planned. If you don’t see such a move, then play the forced move without further thought.
4) Use your opponents time! Some players, (and I’m guilty of this too), spend too much time away from the board or daydreaming when it is their opponent’s move. My advice is to spend your own time looking for the best move to play NOW and while on your opponent’s time, develop your long term plans and objectives.
What if you play too fast?
• Try and learn some more about the game from a middlegame book or stronger player at the club. If you understand more, you have more to consider and thus will need to take longer on your moves
• Take the time to evaluate all of your options more carefully. If you have two or three good looking moves, how do you know which one is really the best? You need to evaluate which one is favourable based on your understanding.
• For each of your “Candidate moves” (more on this in a future column) did you really try and find your opponents best reply? How far ahead did you really see? Or did you just like the look of the move and play it in hope? Spend some time really looking for your opponents threats to your plan and it will pay dividends.
What if you play too slow?
• If you move slowly because you have trouble analysing positions, you need to work on this skill. There are plenty of books in the club library or ask one of the stronger players at the club for help.
• Realise that you simply cannot make the absolute best move every single time. Even top GMs don’t. Instead, resolve yourself to the idea that all you need to do is find the best move in the reasonable amount of time you have allowed on your scoresheet from point 1) above. Yes, sometimes you may make a mistake but more often than not it will be a less severe mistake than if you spent 30 minutes on a move and are still wondering if you should play it or not.