The average player thinks three minutes for a standard move, but moving fast or slow can be a psychological blow to the opponent.

Have you ever been victorious when playing chess, but time is short, leading to many hasty and sloppy moves and a reverse loss? This happened not only to the players of the movement, but also to world players. But, just because a player is running low doesn’t always mean they don’t manage their time well. And that doesn’t always mean they’re sloppy.

The Nepomniachtchi (left) was often faster than the opponent.  Photo: FIDE

The Nepomniachtchi (left) was often faster than the opponent. Image: FIDE

The time for each move, firstly depends on the type of competition: standard chess (90-100 minutes), fast chess (10-30 minutes), lightning flag (3-5 minutes) or super lightning (less than 2 minute). Even in the standard chess, the time slots are different in many tournaments. For example, in youth tournaments, the time budget is usually less than the top prizes. Junior tournament usually has 90 minutes for each player, an additional 30 seconds after each move. On the other hand, top leagues are usually 100 minutes per player, and after 40 or 60 moves get more time.

Take for example in round 10 of the Candidates chess tournament taking place in Ekaterinburg, Russia, to find out who competed for the throne with Magnus Carlsen. In the four pairs of matches, the average time for the eight players to make a move was 2 minutes 42 seconds. The longest thinking is Kirill Alekseenko, averaging 3 minutes and 42 seconds per country. The fastest thinking is Ian Nepomniachtchi, with 1 minute and 36 seconds each. It was these two players who met in round 10, with the victory for the faster player. And that was also the only split win and defeat game of the round.

Going fast or slow doesn’t have much to do with the outcome of winning or losing. The most important thing is how to use time in calculating and strategizing your game. Also in the 10th round, Alexander Grischuk set a record since 2000, taking 72 minutes for his 11th move, while still in the opening game in the match Wang Hao.

After the 20th water, Grischuk had only one minute left. According to the rules of the tournament, after the first 40 moves, each player gets an additional 50 minutes. That means Grischuk has only one minute to think and take the next 20 moves. You still get a bonus of 30 seconds after each move, but some of that time is spent on the record of the move. It seems that since country 20, he played lightning, not the standard chess.

This was not the first time Grischuk took so long to kick off, then risk running out of time in the middle and end. Also in the first stage of Candidates, Grischuk took the seat several times to start the game a few minutes late. There are times when he takes advantage of the time to take a nap in the middle of a match. Difficult to say while closing his eyes, whether or not Grischuk geared up in his head.

Grischuk is a rare case in the top chess scene. In the past, General Samuel Reshevsky – an eight-time American champion – also had such a habit. “By playing slowly in the early stages, I have time to grasp the basics of each position,” he explained. Best judgment. Coincidentally, my opponents are often confused seeing me go so fast at the time. “

It is not clear if Grischuk feels like Reshevsky, but there is another explanation for this case. Reshevsky and Grischuk both find better countries in the face of time pressure. This seems like when students, students put their assignments closer to the deadline to start work, or employees put their work closer to the “deadline”. When time pressures them, they often feel more productive and productive.

However, there are rare scientific studies that suggest this. “It is a myth that people work better under pressure,” psychologist Tim Pychyl said Life Hacker March 2016. “There are no studies to show that yet. Even researchers have proven the opposite.”

Grischuk was the opposite of Nepomniachtchi, where he usually walked slowly in the early stages, and went fast later.  It's hard to say Grischuk doesn't manage his time well, as he may have his own reasons.  Photo: FIDE

Grischuk was the opposite of Nepomniachtchi, where he usually walked slowly in the early stages, and went fast later. It is difficult to say that Grischuk did not manage his time well, as he may have his own reasons. Image: FIDE

But, the research of scientists is difficult to fully apply to Grischuk, Reshevsky or other chess players.. Before every move, the top players always come up with choices, intuitively. The choices kept appearing, and it was their job to go through each one, to see which was the best move. With complicated moves, even the players are difficult to guarantee all possibilities. Sometimes, to save time, they rely on intuition. That is, they will only analyze the first option that comes to mind, or the one that intuition tells us. Chess players often do this on fast-paced chess, where they average only a few seconds per move.

In Reshevsky’s time, the lightning flag had not appeared. And Grischuk has won three world championships, only behind Carlsen. Having to go like playing lightning after 20 countries when meeting Wang Hao is not a disaster for Grischuk. He still overwhelmed his opponent, then drew in a black position.

Grischuk or anyone who can play better when the pressure is on, but of course having more time is better. Also in the game against Vuong, Grischuk made a mistake in the 30th country according to the computer’s rating. From great advantage for him, the position turned back to balance. If there were a few dozen more minutes, maybe Grischuk would find out.

According to conventional logic, complex moves take more computation time. But, the more complicated the move after each move, the player will not have enough time to think. Their problem is to know how to manage their time properly, to know when to go fast or slow.

The chess village has an anonymous saying, “go slowly while you are winning and when you are losing”. Move slowly to make sure moves, to turn advantage into victory. Even when you are losing, you need to go slowly to find a defense or to turn the tables. Dinh Lap Nhan or Anish Giri are considered good time management greats. But, this advice is not necessarily true for the players.

Go fast or slow, have more time.  Giri is an underrated gamer in terms of computation.  In return, he memorizes a lot of opening and variations to save time.  Photo: FIDE

Go fast or slow, you have more time. Giri is an underrated gamer in terms of computation. In return, he memorizes a lot of openings and variations to save time. Image: FIDE

Nepomniachtchi – who was leading the Candidates with one point more than the following group – often moved quickly. In the past 10 games, there were eight games he finished with more time than his opponent. In it, there are four Nepomniachtchi games that still last nearly an hour. Going fast can lead to water loss and mistakes, but it is an effective psychological blow to confuse opponents, as Reshevsky once said.. The only difference is that Nepomniachtchi moves fast whether in the beginning, in the middle or in the end. Going slowly will also make the opponent think that the pose is complicated and takes a lot of computation.

In ancient times, Reshevsky used to spend time in the beginning studying variations. Nowadays, players often memorize starting variations, even reaching the 20th or 25th move. When defeating Vachier-Lagrave in game eight, Fabiano Caruana memorizes the first 25 moves, at the opening of the Najdorf Defense. . He only takes an average of 16 seconds per move, in the first 25 moves, including the time of recording the minutes.

Caruana or Giri both stand out for their ability to prepare and remember the opening. From there, they save computational time in the early stages of the game. They will have more time than their opponents in the middle or end. More time is always an advantage.

With the help of super machines, now players want to remember the opening more deeply, even find new variations to surprise their opponents. Oxford Companion has named the opening 1,327 and its variants. But since then, variations also sprouted countless new branches. The ability of players to memorize is becoming more and more beneficial. As the player who once ranked the top 10 in the world – Loek van Wely – told VnExpress March 2019: “Chess is now a game of memory”.

Xuan Binh


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