Matt Angeli Print E-mail
By Joel Benjamin   
July 6, 2007

I have a chronic problem of running out of time when I play 5 minute blitz chess. On the positive side, I almost always get a winning position but run out of time to win. I think it is better to lose with a winning position than to have time left and lose with a losing position. What are your thoughts?

-Matt Angeli

It depends on what you are trying to achieve. In any case, I would rephrase the question: Is it better to lose on time with a winning position, or have time left and win with a losing (or worse, equal, better) position?

I think it is important to try to play good moves in your practice games. If moves are played more out of reflex than thought, the games won't help you improve very much.

That being said, the time control must be respected. You probably get winning positions more often because you consistently lose on time. Your opponents know they don't need to play perfectly and happily accept the point when your flag falls.

I wonder what you hope to accomplish by playing five-minute chess. If you are working on your game and won't make concessions to the time limit, than you should be playing slower games (even just adding a small increment, if possible, could help a lot). Your opponents will have to play harder to maintain their positions, giving you a truer test of your playing form. Plus you will get to win more often!

If you want your blitz games to help you deal with time pressure in tournament games, then you have to speed up. From time to time I encounter players who take exorbitant chunks of time, ensuring the clock will take them down. At this point it is a psychological problem; the player is incapable of making decisions or afraid to make a mistake and the clock may be used as an excuse for losing.

If you play five-minute games because they are the options most available to you, I would recommend some degree of compromise (especially if you are talking about blitz tournaments). Bottom line, chess is a game played to win. If you speed up a bit to avoid a loss on time you might find, after some practice, that you can make good moves more quickly than you thought.

Joel Benjamin