Instant chess – how to cope with the pressure of (in)time?

Chandler Lee
Instant chess – how to cope with the pressure of (in)time?
It takes approx. 4 minutes to read this article

Instant chess – at least at the amateur level – very often ends not with a spectacular math on the part of any of the rivals, but… finished time. How to skillfully dispose of your resources? 

What is instant chess?

As the name suggests, instant chess is characterized by an extremely high, sometimes even deadly pace of the games played. This is the name given to chess games in which each player has no more than 10 minutes to play. When players are given such a limited amount of time from the very beginning, shortcomings and mistakes can occur – even those that avid chess players would never suspect. In the case of instant chess, therefore, it is futile to count on 100 percent accuracy. Instead, it is worthwhile to learn skillful time management. Especially since in this way you can win even a seemingly losing game. 

Under-timing – the bane of beginners and not only

We speak of under-timing in the situation when one of the players loses a game on time despite a better position. The extremely bitter taste of this type of defeat is certainly known to anyone who has ever had to deal with instant chess. Making more thoughtful moves, having a long-term plan leading to victory, and even having an advantage in the material when you only have 10 minutes to play can prove to be insufficient. Building an advantage and a foundation for victory usually take time, and before we know it, there may be only a few tens of seconds left on the clock. And under time pressure, it is extremely easy to be inaccurate and even make seemingly trivial omissions.

Let’s assume that we are in the following position: from the beginning of the game we have tried to gain an advantage in terms of material and position, and to our satisfaction everything goes according to plan. At the same time, our opponent has decided to take a slightly different tactic – his moves are inaccurate and ill-considered, but at the same time executed with dizzying speed. At a certain point we realize that we have 20 seconds of time left, while the rival’s clock shows a whole two minutes. Then we no longer have a choice and must definitely speed up the game, very often at the expense of good moves. The situation on the chessboard can change in the blink of an eye, and usually to our disadvantage. Either we lose the advantage we have gained, or we run out of time and valuable ranking points go to the opponent’s account.

Untimely as an ally

However, there is also the other side of the coin – if we skillfully manage the time at our disposal, potential under-timing can turn out to be… an ally. Provided, of course, that we suffer from it not us, but our rival. With proper management of time resources, it is possible to win even against a person who is simply better than us. It is worth focusing first of all on making our movements as dynamic as possible – fast play encourages the opponent to do the same, which promotes mistakes. A great way to play instant chess effectively may also turn out to be the so-called “waiting moves”, i.e. moves that, although they won’t improve, but also won’t worsen our position. The most important thing is that they do not waste precious seconds. By playing the game in this way, we can safely count on the fact that a rival, playing a little more imaginatively and accurately, will encounter an obstacle in the form of insufficient time – and then it may be too late for any reaction on his part.

main photo: Thirumurugan

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