Keeping Eyes on the Clock as Well as the Board
Published: June 1, 2013
Time controls, which require players to make a minimum number of moves in a prescribed amount of time (40 moves in two hours is common), keep games from becoming unreasonably long. But they can cause a player to forfeit if the time limit is exceeded.
Competitors can fall into that trap if they are not well prepared in openings. That often tripped upSamuel Reshevsky, an eight-time United States champion, though he once offered this defense: “By playing slowly during the early phases of a game, I am able to grasp the basic requirements of each position.”
“Then, despite being in time pressure, I have no difficulty in finding the best continuation,” he added. “Incidentally, it is an odd fact that more often than not, it is my opponent who gets the jitters when I am compelled to make these hurried moves.”
In an effort to prevent time-related forfeitures, special clocks have been designed to add up to 30 seconds of time to a player’s total after each move. Other clocks provide a grace period, typically 5 or 10 seconds, before they resume counting down. Some tournaments do not use the clocks, and even when they are part of the competition, players can still squander time advantages.
Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine has run into that problem twice in recent months. In theCandidates Matches tournament in London in March, Ivanchuk, who is ranked No. 12 in the world, lost four games by running out of time.
He did it again on May 24 at the Fourth Grand Prix tournament in Thessaloniki, Greece,losing in Round 3 to Leinier Domínguez Perez of Cuba, No. 25. Ivanchuk had built up a slight advantage until Domínguez made a huge blunder in Move 22, after which Ivanchuk’s advantage seemed to be overwhelming. But he lost it as his time ebbed away.
Domínguez’s big mistake was 22 ... Kh8 — the move 22 ... Qa2 would have been better — and Ivanchuk immediately took advantage with 23 Bc7. It would have been a mistake for Domínguez to play 23 ... Rc7 because after 24 Re8 Kh7 25 Qd6, threatening 26 Nf6, White would have been close to checkmate.
But Ivanchuk was in trouble with his time by Move 26, which might have been why he missed playing 26 Be5, when the threats of 27 Qh6 and 27 Qf7 were overwhelming.
Ivanchuk overlooked another beneficial move when he played 31 Bc7. Instead, 31 Ng7 would have led to a winning edge after 31 ... Rd6 32 Qe8 Kh7 33 Nh5 Qe1 34 Qe1. (Black could not take the knight without being mated.)
Ivanchuk’s final blunder was 37 f4. Domínguez could then take Ivanchuk’s knight, and he would have had no compensation for his material deficit.
Ivanchuk forfeited after Move 39 because he ran out of time.