One of the biggest problems among amateurs (800-1200) is playing too quickly. I used to play in G30 tournaments and take on average 5 seconds per move. I missed Checkmate In Ones, hanging pieces (both mine and my opponents), and sometimes even made touch-move mistakes! Over the years, I've taken more and more time in my games. Since September, I have taken on average 5 minutes per move. This big change happened when I went over my games and saw all the mistakes I made. I figured out the problem was that I was too impatient. That might be the problem for most of the amateurs. I recently played in a tournament with time controls being 55 minutes with 5 second delay, and I had 18 minutes left on my clock, and I won the game against a 1500, and I was 1170. My rating rose 130 points in the tournament! The thing was though, that before I went to that tournament, I was below 1200 for a whole 2 months! As you can see, taking your time REALLY makes a difference.
The only hard part in changing your game is changing the habit of not taking your time. You may be playing a game and for the first couple moves, you don't take your time because they're the opening moves. But wait! Have you ever watched professional games and see that they even take their time in the first couple of moves? Do you know why? It's because they're practicing to take their time. If you practice this, your rating will go up because you take your time! (You should probably only do this if you are playing games longer than 30 minutes).
This next paragraph is about how to manage your time. You should always do these simple steps:
- Look at the time control
- Divide the amount of time you have by 30-40.(If it is G30 for example assume the game will be 30-40 moves so divide 30 minutes by 30 moves and you get 1 minute. So on average, you should take one minute per move)
- Take the amount of time you scheduled to.
- If you see really obvious good moves, of course play them, but think about it like this: For all the time that you use less than one minute, you get that time in your "bank". Every time you use more than one minute, you take time out of the bank. The goal in games is to not "owe" your bank any time, but still take your time.
This paragraph is about Calculation: What you should do in games to find the best possible moves to play is to find the 3 best moves in the position. Your "Candidate" moves should all be calculated, and you should find the best of the three. (Sometimes there'll be more or less depending on the position). You should calculate ahead until you find a winning or even continuation. (The best way to practice this is to get a puzzle in which you find the best continuation. Set it up on a board and pretend you're in a tournament. You should not move the pieces unless you get stuck). In order for your continuations to be perfect is for you to find the best possible move for both players in the position. Even if your opponent is (according to you) weak you should still find the best possible move. (Never underestimate your opponents).
Time is among the most important thing in chess because of how much difference it can make in a game. Even though you might be a slow player and are very good, it's still good to play in a blitz tournament once in a while to practice time management in a stressful situation with low amounts of time.
Overall, time can be your friend or your enemy. Correctly, it can help you a whole lot, but incorrectly, it can make you lose a game! It all depends on how you choose to use it.
I do not own the picture. Picture used from chessbaron.co.uk