An unexamined life is not worth living.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Improving time management in a chess game

You can’t improve what you can’t measure. I recommend keeping track of the time you spent during the game. Once you get into the habit of adding clock information to every move, it won’t be any more of a distraction than recording the move itself. Once you get home – you can enter it later into your personal collection/database of games and later use it while analysing the game. I went over a quick example in my previous post on the same subject. To improve your time management, here are 10 questions to think about:

  1. did you spent enough time during the critical moments?
  2. were there simple moves on which you spent more time than necessary?
  3. was your opening preparation sufficient to quickly play the opening moves?
  4. did you take advantage of your opponent’s long thinking sessions by preparing a quick response against his most likely moves?
  5. was your overall playing speed appropriate for the time controls in the tournament?
  6. were you spending enough time on your moves even if your opponent was in time trouble?
  7. is your thinking generally efficient? Are you careful about first identifying all candidate moves, or do you ever spend time calculating crazy complications to later discover that they are not necessary?
  8. do you handle time trouble reasonably trouble well – stress wise? There are good blitz players, who collapse at the end of a long slow game due to time trouble…
  9. can you play basic and/or simple endgames with little increment only? games are often decided in those long endgames when speed matters.
  10. do you play in enough slow tournaments for any of this to even matter?

I suspect by answering these questions you will learn a lot more about your chess strengths and weaknesses in general. I personally suspect that my opening preparation is often falling behind so I sometimes have spend too much time early in the game. I also generally don’t get too stressed out by time trouble (not more than I usually am, that is), but even though I like the endgame, I know there plenty of endgames I misplayed that I might have saved if I had an extra half an hour on the clock! I am also really bad about thinking during my opponent’s time, I am usually so stressed out during my games that I can’t stay in front of the board while my opponent is thinking.

All in all, if your time management is poor, or if there is something you want to improve about it (I know I do) – the popular advice is to play training games or an entire tournament with focus on better time management. Even if it has a detrimental impact on your result just in that tournament – that would make you a better player in the long term.



  1. "You can’t improve what you can’t measure."

    This quote is true. This is one of the reasons why I'm using a software that keeps track of my work time.

  2. I agree with you and once you get into the habit of adding clock information to every move, it won’t be any more of a distraction than recording the move itself. Great post.


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