Tuesday, November 20, 2012


In reference to don't DIY I hired a chess coach to analyse my games and to give advice. While I was analysing my games as preparation  I realized that most of my games spill points due to time trouble. I thought that I had already passed that station. The reason I was wrong about this can only be explained if you know where I come from. When my opening repertoire consisted of gambits solely, my average game length was 21 moves. A game length of  >30 was extremely rare. As gambit player you have to "make" the game and decide the games by tactics, preferably. I was always in extreme++ time trouble. I often had to accept a draw  in better position against lower rated opponents due to time trouble or I simply blundered the game away. When I replaced my gambit repertoire by positional openings, my average game length increased to 30. Since I no longer was forced to make the game, I had much less time trouble and a lot of the spilling of points stopped. My rating increased to about 1850 and it felt as if I had solved my time trouble. But in the years after this I started to use more and more time without noticing it. Possibly because I continued to train tactics I developed the habit to think untill I got the solution. But in a chess game, there isn't a final solution for every position. Yet I developed the habit to continue thinking. So I came in time trouble again without noticing it. I started to drop points while I thought that my time trouble was still under control. My rating plummeted to 1700.

But the objective analysis of my games has shown the real state of matters. I talked to my coach about it and he adviced to stop playing against two opponents: my opponent and the clock. Since I cannot win from the clock.
I already had seen that I spilled a lot of time for no reason so I simply decided to stop with that. Since then I played 4 games against players with 1985, 1781, 1880 and 1885 and I scored 2+ 2= 0- (3 out 4). Being no longer in time trouble I didn't spill at least 1 whole point, conservatively estimated. In general I still had 20 - 40 minutes on the clock when the game ended. Even two of my opponents came into time trouble themselves, something that has never happened before. I had two games >45 moves. Which is extraordinary, since usually I'm so in time trouble at move 35 that I give the game or win away.

With every move I ask myself "can I decide between the different moves by calculation?". If not, I simply choose the most logical move and let my opponent be the judge. It proofs that I can simply skip my usual thoughts without having a bad effect on my game. It are irrelevant thoughts for the position.

Further analysis of my games has revealed the following three areas of improvement:
  • Time trouble.
  • Positions where I don't know how to continue.
  • Position where I see two ways to continue but can't judge which one is better.
Area one: can be fixed easy as you can see above.
Area two: I hope that my coach can put me on track here. Usually I offer a draw here since I don't have time to play it out anyway.
Area three: just play and get feedback.


  1. A "good" coach is not easy to find.
    The difficulty is, that the coach needs to have this:

    a) he needs to know s.th. you dont know.
    b) he needs to be able to identify what you dont know.
    c) he needs to be able to teach you that.

    In all 3 points it is of course helpful if the student (=you) knows approximately what he does not know. And the student needs to be able to "learn" what he is told.

    Maybe you do make some notes, so you can go over it again some days later?

    I would have some questions for a coach, but the trouble is to find a coach that can answer me what I want to know.

    Example: in the catalan opening: when do I develop my bishop to f4?
    And if he gets taken by the oponent - when is my resulting double pawn (gxBf4) good? I have seen GM games, where white was not worried in receiving the double pawn, but in others white avoided the exchange. So when is that?

    Some examples like this. They are of positional kind. I would like to train my evaluation of positions. We all know that in general a double pawn is bad, but there are exceptions.
    A good Coach is hopefully somebody, who knows typical positional blunders by his weaker opponents. Ideally this coach can explain how to play your openings and the middle games that emerge from your opening. For this he probably needs to play your opening, too (like I play the catalan for instance).
    Or: you adapt to his openings. Thats also possible. (Since we cant find the "ideal" coach).

  2. It's an IM who listens very well. I commented a series of my own games and sent it to him. He analyses my games too and distills the errors I make time and again out of it.

  3. An excellent, concise description of how to avoid time trouble by limiting unnecessary calculation. It's something that I always have to remind myself of, if I've been away from playing tournament chess for too long. One has to be ruthless about limiting calculation for time management purposes, as well as dedicated to calculating what is necessary.