Have you ever lost a winning position in time-pressure? I am sure the answer is a resounding yes!
Every chess player has lost winning or equal positions in their games due to time trouble.
Imagine a situation –
Does this story sound familiar to you?
If this happens once in a while, maybe it’s not that big an issue but if it happens game after game then it is high time to do something about it. Unless, of course, you enjoy playing under time pressure and find reasonably good moves without too many errors even in the most complicated of the positions.
If this is the case, then, congratulations! You are the next Grischuk!
On a quick note, the above-mentioned situations are not fictional, it happened with me when I was a young upcoming player. Well not just once, many times!
In the book secrets of practical chess, John Nunn writes:-
Getting into time trouble in every game is a serious sin and I committed this sin many times in my childhood. Back then I was not self-reliant enough to resolve this problem in detail.
But in my journey towards excellence as a player and a coach, I read a lot of books and that helped me to understand many things on how to avoid time trouble. To be honest even today I still find myself in this situation in a few games but the percentage has gone down drastically.
So why do players get into time pressure regularly after all?
Don’t they know getting into time pressure is bad for practical results?
We all know that into time-trouble regularly is bad for our tournament results, but it unknowingly becomes a habit . A habit which is difficult to break but is not impossible. If I can do it so can you.
Let us see a short video clip (start from 3:47:30 to 3:50:00) of one of the fastest chess players in the world right now Ian Nepo who shares his story of how he improved his time trouble problem which he faced in his childhood.
Ian Nepomniachtchi on how he solved the time pressure issue
Let us now examine the reasons of time-pressure:-
To Summarize –
So once we have understood the reasons of time pressure let’s dive into the solutions to overcome this:-
World-famous chess author and coach Jacob Aagard has written an insightful chapter on decision making in his amazing book ‘Thinking inside the box’. You can refer to this book to know more about critical moments in the game.
My last two suggestions are specifically for ambitious players. I have personally used these in my playing career too and also recommend my students who are facing issues related to time-trouble.
The truth:- You will still find yourself in time-pressure every now and then.
What to do when you are in time pressure-
The journey to playing faster:-
It could be one reason or a combination of two or more reasons that results in a habit of time pressure. The journey to turn it around into a good habit starts with first acknowledging that time pressure is bad for our practical results and second to take firm steps to resolve this problem once and for all.
It would be very naive to expect that after reading this article or after taking steps you would never come into time-pressure again. Habits good or bad once formed takes time to be changed. It is important to be patient and trust your abilities to come over it.
You may try to play faster but make bad decisions in a game or two, get into a worse position and lose the game in the end. But that is OK. When you try to change something that has become your second nature (in this case playing slowly in every game) results never come as quickly as we expect them to.
When you lose games by playing faster, remember that this is a just a step-back in your journey towards your goal. Remind yourself how many games you have lost by blundering or missing moves in time-pressure. A better way to look at your mistakes when you play faster is to investigate why you played that bad move, how can you improve your understanding of that position so that you can make better moves in similar positions rather than trying to go back to your old ways of playing very slowly.
I hope this article has helped you to understand the issue of time-trouble and gave you insights as to what are the steps you can take to improve this bad habit of time-pressure.