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How to better manage your time

Photo by Lennart Ootes.

by IM Eric Rosen


Let’s face it. A lot of players struggle with time management. Moving too quickly or too slowly can be an easily overlooked problem for many. Regardless of the time control, it is important to move quickly enough to avoid time trouble, but also slowly enough to play good moves. In my opinion, time management is not talked about enough. It can be the difference between winning and losing games. It can also be a major difference between masters and amateurs.


In this piece, I would like to give readers some tips on how to more effectively manage their time and stay out of time trouble.


Think during your opponent’s turn

We are are guilty of it… You make a move. You sit back. You relax. You stop thinking about the position in front of you. You start daydreaming. STOP IT!

When your opponent’s time is ticking, make it habit to stay focused on the position. Try and predict what they will do next. If you’re not sure what to think about, ask yourself questions. What are the potential tactical possibilities? What are the major weaknesses? What is the long-term plan for both sides? What is the worst placed piece, and how can it be improved?

If you stay mentally involved with the position when it’s not your turn, you will see more and use less time on your own turn.


Learn to identify critical moments

Identifying critical moments is hugely important as it relates very much to time management. There are certain clues in a position which might tell me whether or not a position is critical. While these have can become second nature for stronger players, improving players may have to consciously look for certain clues.

Clue that a position is critical:

• Forcing move(s) exist which might lead to a decisive advantage

• Deciding whether or not to release pawn tension

• Deciding whether or not to allow trades of certain pieces

• When the opponent has a clear threat that needs to be dealt with in some way

• When a move in question is very committal and transforms the position in some way that can't be undone

Learn your openings

It might seem weird to associate openings with time management. However, I’ve seen so many instances where a player will waste so much time early on because they don’t know the opening. In blitz or rapid time controls especially, it is important to stick with openings and structure you know, so you save more time and energy for the rest of the game.

Use common sense

Here are some final tips that are hopefully common sense.

  • If you have one legal move, then there is no reason to think about it!

  • Avoid walking around during the game as this can waste precious time.

  • There is almost never a reason to spend more than 10 minutes on one move

  • If you get below 5 minutes, stop notating, stay focused and stay calm.

  • A superior position is better than a time advantage.

  • If you’re opponent is playing quickly, don’t let that affect how quickly you play. Take your time on the moves that require thought and decision making

  • If your opponent is in time trouble, don’t play quickly with the intention of trying to flag them, and this can cause you to make mistakes.

  • If your next move isn’t forced, don’t play automatically. Consider at least a couple options.