Those who know me have probably caught me staring into space sometime in the past - yes, I was one of those kids occasionally sitting in the back of the room, staring into space, and thinking to myself. Not surprisingly, I was having one of those days today. Don't get me wrong, I got a lot accomplished throughout the day, but every now and then a random idea would pop into my head, the first being the fact that 'timing of things is so important'. If you think about it, timing dictates a lot in our life. Simply the time and related circumstance of an event can cause it to succeed or fail. Likewise, in chess, when to play moves and how to manage the time on your clock can be crucial factors.
I decided to make a list of ten tips to help you manage time in chess. There are many more things that could be said, but we'll leave those for another day (or feel free to comment).
1. Calculate forced, realistic, and pattern-oriented moves first. This should be common sense, but it's so easy for the human mind to get distracted. There's really no point spending a bunch of your valuable time calculating inefficient or unrealistic options.
2. Arrive on time and remember to press your clock!
3. Really get to know the position and its underlying strategy on your opponent's time, so that you can focus on actual moves/tactics on your own time.
4. If you are constantly low on time, find out where the problem is occurring. Is it in the opening, middlegame, or endgame? Is it in your attack or defense? Does it involve certain trouble pieces? Once you know where the problem is, you can work to improve the situation.
5. Come to the game with fresh energy. Eat & sleep well + don't pressure yourself too much. A friend of mine advised me to relax an hour before each exam - something similar could apply to chess. Basically, if you feel drained and tired during your game, you will have to use extra time to organize your thoughts, not to mention your motivation.
6. Be flexible - don't get stuck on certain 'rules' like you must take 'x' amount of minutes per move. You have to adjust the way you manage your time in each situation. If it's a straightforward game and you are 99.99% sure a certain move is the best move, you don't need to spend all day looking for a better one. On the other hand, if it's a complicated game, and a crucial move, you may want to spend a larger chunk of time thinking - just don't go overboard because you still have the rest of the game to complete.
7. Practice, practice, practice! Try to include a variety of positions, opponents, tactics, strategy, and so forth into your studies/tournaments. The more patterns you're exposed to, the easier moves will come to your mind.
8. Stay calm, but never too calm! Almost everything in life is about finding a balance. If you panic, you won't be able to sort your thoughts efficiently. If you go into vacation mode, you may not be thinking at all! So try to find that balance and use it to your advantage.
9. Develop consistent habits - when I was younger, I used to bring juice, a teddy bear, and a certain set of pens & scorepads to each game of a tournament. I would write out my moves in a certain way, and sometimes even look at the board a certain way. While it may seem over the top, these habits helped me focus efficiently, because when you get used to your surroundings in a consistent way, you don't think about as many distractions. Of course, I would change things up occasionally (between tournaments) to keep myself from going insane (haha) but overall, my habits were quite regular.
Note: While there are many acceptable habits you can develop, make sure the habits themselves are not overly distracting to you or others.
10. Even though timing is important, don't let it overrule your thinking process. It's similar to a test - it's better to get 50 questions correct in a longer amount of time than 100 questions wrong in a shorter amount of time. Your first priority is to find reasonable moves. Your second priority is to find them efficiently.
or search 'time management chess', 'timing moves in chess', etc... as you can see, there are many articles about this important issue :)