I don’t know about you, but personally, I’ve already lost on time. Seeing the flagfall is quite frustrating, because you know you could (should?) certainly have avoided this situation.
The tendency in tournaments is generally to reduce time controls and to apprehend these changes, it is better to get prepared.
So, here are 7 helpful strategies to optimize time management over the board.
1) Prepare your openings
You spend more than an hour getting out of the opening phase with a pleasant position. Suddenly, you take a look at the clock and realize you only have 30 minutes left for the last 20 moves. Stress rises and you end up giving away any advantage you managed to build, even sometimes badly blundering before the time control. Sounds familiar?
One of the most common causes of time pressure is generally a lack of opening preparation, which was also the case for me.
If having a full and reliable opening repertoire is obviously a must, most chess players don’t have that much time to study the theory.
The best option in this case is to prepare your openings to play against the opponent you will face. Analyze his games and try to drive him in unknown territory. Yes, you will spend time searching the right moves but your opponent will be forced to do it too.
To give you the edge, you can naturally check some games from this opening you want to enter in and manage to comprehend its main opening ideas.
2) Max 20 minutes per move
Beyond 20 minutes of reflexion, chances are it’s chaos in your head because you’ll mix up all the variations you tried to calculate.
If you face this overwhelming situation, it is generally better to decide and act. Waiting more will probably do more harm than good.
The best thing is often to trust your first intuition. Except of course if you managed to prove this one wrong, in which case you obviously opt for the second choice.
3) Forget the perfect move
Every chess player is in quest of the ultimate move. But guess what? Top players most of the time aren’t. When you see their games, you will realize 90% of their moves seem slow, with no aggressive spirit. These moves need to be good without necessarily being the best, and that’s ok. The purpose is to keep the precious time for thinking about the remaining 10% called the critical moments.
A critical position occurs when you need to pick the only correct move, at the risk of losing your advantage or suffering the rest of the game. You will definitely want to find the best solution during these instants, as they will quite often be decisive.
So to make it short, instead of always looking for perfection, ideally play moves that require the least amount of calculation and keep your position stable and well-defended, while improving the activity of your pieces.
4) Take breaks during the game
Taking breaks is necessary to handle your time correctly. Why? Simply because it will allow you to recharge your batteries and find your focus in the period you need it the most.
You can take a look at my article on the subject to find your own breaking rhythm.
5) Don’t calculate a variation 2 times
Easier said than done, but force yourself not to go over the same variation again and again. It will only leave your more confused in the end, and of course you will lose your time.
If you really need to analyze longer variations or double check, do it on your opponent’s time.
6) Set limits for tasks in everyday life
In order to get rid of time trouble, you can also make efforts in daily life. To do so, try setting some limits on every task you intend to accomplish. You will progressively see how adrenaline can boost you and help you process faster. As a bonus, you will train and learn to deal with time pressure every day.
Since we’re on the subject, here is one productivity trick. Give an estimation of time you think you will need to carry out a task, and cut this time by 2. It won’t work every time, but for most of the tasks it should. We humans are generally bad at estimations.
7) Use your clock for your training sessions
Last but not least, use your clock as a training tool to get used to it. Similarly, never forget to set a time limit for every chess practice session. And use your clock to see how much time is left.
It is probably more psychological than any other thing, but why not do it after all?
The clock is your friend
Some of you have probably identified the reasons why you face problems with the clock. I suggest you start by practicing the method which you think could serve you the most. Apply it for the next game and if you don’t see any improvement, then only should you consider another one of these 7 techniques.
Never despair, every problem always has a solution. The clock will become your friend and ally someday!