We've all seen it before.
We're sitting at the board, and have just made a move that seems reasonable.
Satisfied it should be alright, we begin to await our opponents reply with a bit of anxiousness, wondering which path they will try to push the game toward.
Then it happens...
5 minutes pass and we look up into the face of our opponent, who has carefully covered his head with his hands so we cannot see what is going on. Perhaps there is some dangerous variation we missed. Looking back down at the board we rexamine our last move with new severity.
Now 15 minutes has elapsed. Our opponent has still not replied. Strange. We kind-of rexamine our last move and evaluations of the position, which still seem to be ok.
30 minutes pass. We've just returned from a lengthy stroll to examine all the top boards and sit down to face our opponent. Is the guy dead? Nope, we can still hear faint breathing coming from under the hands which hide his face.
Finally it happens. Just past a half hour for a single move. His hand reaches down and confidently plays it, just as you expected.
The third move for White.
Time pressure addicts are strange creatures, almost purposefully seeking the adrenaline rush they get with bashing out moves to avoid the time control. They claim to be in search of perfection and don't want to miss a variation. They want to be able to examine variations like a computer, a process for which our brain is not properly wired.
They make the blatant mistake of not playing obvious moves that the position demands immediately, but for some odd reason holding back forever before playing them. And they do play these obvious moves, after far too much time.
Perhaps they want to test their calculation skills by imagining a huge sequence of moves before they are played. Again this makes no practical sense as they could get the obvious moves out of the way first and then calculate with a much clearer standpoint.
Time pressure addicts are strange in that they will sometimes spend forever on simple positions. Then suddenly - when the game becomes insanely complex - begin to bash out moves! After all, they are almost out of time.
THIS IS THE TRAP for which we must not fall, having spent our time wisely. These guys want to play a blitz game! They don't want to be in time pressure by themselves, they want to be there with you. They want you scared, hurried, and not playing your best. They figure the sheer momentum of their blitzed moves will make you do the same.
DONT DO IT! These guys have set themselves up for numerous defeats by playing far too slowly. It doesn't mean they are bad players. Anything but. In fact they may well be excellent blitz players with an eye for cheap traps that could bury you quickly if you're not careful.
So how do you play them?
1. Never rush a response!
They are in time trouble. Not you. You have all the time in the world so use it! Look for the cheapos that a blitz game would offer and figure out what your opponent has in mind.
2. Calculate on his time.
A time pressure addict is inadvertently giving you all the time in the world to play chess.. ON HIS TIME. Use it! Don't be lazy and wait for you turn to start your brain working. If you could play an entire game on someone else's clock, why wouldn't you?
The following is a game I recently played against one such type of player. My opponent is definitely clever and as you will see he does come up with some intelligent attacking ideas. However, his use of 30 minutes on some moves (move 3, and the first move after time control) was a big mistake. It ends up the position I am in could have been far more testing for me if he had played into it more quickly.
As it was I had all the time in the world and picked some good practical responses. I did not rush my moves and ended up winning with a half hour left. My opponent did not resign, but his clock ran out. This doesn't matter as he is dead lost in the final position.
Check out the game Plaxton - Whissell in the next blog to see an example of how to fend off time pressure addicts.