Recommended time settings for improving time management (a.k.a. blitz / correspondence considered harmful)

Short Version

I am used to taking a long time to think about each move, so my time management is poor when I have to play under time pressure. Can anyone suggest time settings for games (or other activities to train myself to read faster) that will allow enough time to read properly but will force me to read a bit faster so as to train myself in time management.

Full Version

First I describe my problem - maybe some people will relate to this - and then I have some specific questions at the end.

Problem

In the 3.5 years I’ve been playing Go, the vast majority of my games have been online correspondence games with a relatively small proportion of online live, online blitz, or real-life live games. Early on, I used “analysis mode” or similar to try out different variations while my reading skills were still very poor. Then my reading improved to the point where it was time to force myself to do reading in my head as that is the proper way. This worked out fine and I can do reading in my head well enough for my level (8 kyu).

Now, here’s the problem. In correspondence games, one effectively has unlimited time for each move. Since most of my games are online correspondence games, I often spend many minutes (sometimes 5 or even 10 minutes) thinking about each move. This is problematic for many reasons such as: [a] taking a long time for each move means that I play fewer games overall; [b] taking a long time for each move means that all of my correspondence games end up taking longer to complete so my strength and my opponents’ strengths may change over the course of a game, tournaments are slowed down, etc.; [c] real-life live games with my friends at our local Go club end up having to be photographed and finished off the following club night, which is not ideal; and so on.

The main problem is that taking a long time per move is effectively training me to read slowly which is not good for playing under live timing. I am so used to taking as long as I want to read out as many variations as I want in search of the best move I can find, that when I play with any sort of live timing I make lots of mistakes because of the time pressure. Hence why I say “Correspondence considered harmful” (in terms of time management; though in terms of learning the basics and developing my reading skills, I have found it extremely useful!).

Questions

Now, clearly, time management is an important aspect of the game for anyone playing Go in tournament or club settings with time limits (and, arguably, for playing Go in general for reasons such as [a] - [c] above). I feel that I am at the point now where my reading without time pressure is accurate enough that I want to put a bit more focus on reading quicker while still being (at least nearly) as accurate. So, I have some questions below on how to train for time management.

Incidentally, I have recently played a few 19x19 blitz games. The extreme time pressure makes them very exciting and I love the buzz, but such time pressure does not lead to good play. They are so fast, there is essentially no time for reading at all. As far as I can see it, blitz is more about instinctive play than reading. But, as Kageyama said in his book Lessons in the Fundamentals of Go: “Reading is the essence of Go.” Therefore, it seems to me that time settings (such as blitz) that do not allow for proper reading may be useful in developing instincts (or very fast reading once you are already quite fast) but are not really much use in developing proper time management (or reading skills) if you are not used to playing under time pressure. Hence why I say “Blitz considered harmful”, as it just encourages sloppy play without proper reading.

So, I have some questions about time settings, time management, training to read faster, etc. Hopefully some of you lovely people can suggest some answers that might help me (and others) to play better in games with live timing. Thanks:

  1. I know that professional tournaments typically have quite long time settings, say 2-4 hours per player, maybe even more like 8 hours per player in some tournaments. (I think Japanese tournaments typically have very long time settings.) And I have heard of professionals taking 1, 2 even 5 hours thinking about just one move. Clearly, this would be absurd for amateur players! Can anyone suggest an approximate average and upper and lower bounds for time settings used in amateur tournaments? Just because I guess this is a good target to work towards.

  2. Similarly, can anyone suggest suitable time settings for casual club games? Presumably, tournament games will typically be longer than club games as people will take the tournament games more seriously. But again, even in a club setting, one wants enough time to play a good game but short enough time limits that games don’t take too long. Of course, in reality, the time limit of club games may be dictated by other factors such as how long you have the room for but let’s ignore that for now.

  3. As above, blitz is too fast for proper reading but 5-10 minutes per move is too slow for developing time management. Can anyone suggest time settings for a live game that will allow enough time for proper reading without having to worry too much about the time pressure, but with at least some sort of sensible time restriction so that games don’t take all day? I’m thinking something fairly relaxed to start off with that can then be gradually reduced towards tournament / club level settings as I get used to the time aspect.

  4. Can anyone suggest any other activities that might help with time management? I’ve tried the time trials on goproblems.com, which seemed useful. You have 1 minute per problem. I read as much as I can in the minute. If I solve it, all well and good. If I haven’t solved it and I’m nearly out of time, then I do my best guess and hope for the best. I suppose this is quite similar to what one has to do in a game with a time limit. Has anyone else tried this? Have they found it useful? Or are there any other suggestions of other time training methods?

I guess 1 and 2 are target endpoints for tournament / club games respectively and 3 is a starting point in training towards those targets.

Of course, any other relevant comments, questions, etc. are welcome.

Thanks to all :slight_smile:

Something like a standard 20 minutes + 5x30 byoyomi might be in the right range. You will have to deal with the byoyomi ticking down at some point in the match, but it’s definitely not blitz.

I remember reading that in the past a common club/tournament setting was 45 minutes with a 10 second Fischer increment per move. That puts a clear cap on the length of the game, makes time management required so you don’t end up with only increment, and lets you read deeply if you need to.

My advice for managing time: Blitz the opening and save your main-time for the mid-game. It’s more important to have time to read during fights or life & death than it is to ponder about a vague direction of play question in the opening. Save that for the review.

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Can you summarise your problem in 20-30 words?

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I got my first exposure to time management by playing chess with time controls, long before I started go. I loved the rush of blitz chess, so I bought a chess clock and eagerly started introducing casual chess players to speed and blitz. Chess players who had never played with a clock before invariably said that they felt the clock put them under pressure, and it made them nervous, regardless of the time settings.

I mention this story just to say that you’ve already made progress! Playing chess or go with any kind of time controls takes practice, compared to unmoderated casual games. I would have suggested to start with the speed at which you can comfortably play and finish a game without making too many extra blunders, and you’ll learn more about the pace and rhythm, like when to spend more or less time to think.

Don’t expect to play as well with live time controls as you would in slow correspondence, nor blitz as well as you would at a slow live pace. They’re really different games, and managing time is a different skill that you’ll get better at with practice.

@MooToYouToo and @Aumpa - good tips. Thanks. I will try those out.

@Atorrante - here is a 20-30 word summary of the problem: “I play too slow. I want to play faster. What relaxed time setting should I try first? What time settings should I aim for longer term?”

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If you have a clock, or there’s apps with byo-Yomi/Fischer time controls you could use to try and keep the game to a particular time frame.

I feel the same about blitz, I make lots of mistakes (which is fine) but also I time out a lot with the default OGS blitz settings. I stop to think if there’s a good sequence or if I can tenuki and I timeout.

I think playing with like 1hr plus 3x30s or 5x30s byo-yomi is something I’ve seen in tournaments and competitive (ish) online tournaments.

For club settings it depends on how long you have and how many games you want to play :slight_smile: you could play like 10/20 minutes absolute time for example to guarantee a game to finish in 20-40 mins. Or you could just do 30s byo-yomi only but that could possibly take 1.5-2 hours even.

The baduk pop app also does time trial puzzles for life and death, endgame and tesuji problems.

I’d also like an answer to this question :slight_smile: I play too slow and don’t manage my time well in even long live time settings but especially in blitz :slight_smile:

(I think it’s probably good to practice 30s byo-yomi, as I’ve seen it as a setting frequently in over the board and online tournaments. At some point in the game you might end up in byo-yomi anyway and it’s useful to have practice reading in that time frame. With some looking on he EGF website there’s tournaments with Canadian byo-yomi for 5 mins for 15 stones~20s per move with flexibility )

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When you say “too fast for proper reading” keep in mind that any time settings less than infinite will give you suboptimal results. I think some psychological changes may be helpful “I can’t read this 100% but that is okay”.

That said, to increase reading speed, perhaps more tsumego?

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I also have some difficulty with time management, although not at the same scale (I don’t play correspondence and have not had any opportunity to play over the board) I’m less experienced than you so take it with a grain of salt…

But I find Fischer time to be a good compromise for relaxed live games but still have some time pressure. I played around with various Fischer settings to ease myself into byoyomi. Between the three parameters (initial, increment, maximum) I think there’s enough flexibility you could gradually increase the pressure in the direction you want. These days when I use it I will play 2min+30s max 2min which is pretty relaxed compared to 10min+3x30s byoyomi which is my personal goal to get comfortable with.

With Fischer settings like this the whole game is going to have the same pace, which can make it slower. But there is a limit to how much you can “bank” and therefore still have to solve (or fail to solve) life and death in a short window.

Hope it’s helpful

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This is nearly always a good idea, no matter what the problem is :rofl:

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A game of go consists of three parts: beginning, middle game and endgame.
Assuming that you know approximately when beginning ends and middle game begins (and middle game ends and endgame starts), you could make a time scheme before you start a game.

For instance: divide a game of 60 minutes into three periods of 20 minutes.
You will have 20 minutes for beginning, 20 minutes for middle game and 20 minutes for endgame. Check after 20 minutes if you already are close to/have moved into the middel game. Idem dito for endgame after 40 minutes.

After the game you can ask yourself if this periodical division of 20-20-20 works for you.
Maybe 15-30-15 (or another combination) is better for you. That is up to you to decide.
In time you will find a periodisation that suits you best.

This way you develop an intuitive feeling of time management for a game of go.
When you have reached this (and this may take some time) you can adjust the length of a game. Instead of 60 minutes you can decide to do a 40 minutes game. Speeding up the game, but your intuitive feel for time management is still the same. Trust your intuition.

I do realise that this answers only a part of your question. Hope it helps you. Good luck.

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Local tournaments here use swiss round robin up to 4 or 5 rounds, and have to finish in a day (or even just one morning or afternoon). So the time settings have to be pretty tight - 20 to 30 mins main time, and 2 or 3 20 seconds byoyomi, down to 10 even 5 mins main time, and 3 to 5 10 seconds byoyomi. And a game will typically be finished within an hour.

For more casual games, it’s up to anyone, normally just don’t occupy a whole morning or afternoon, so maybe 30 min to 1-hour main time at most, and several 30 seconds byoyomi.

As for practicing time control, I follow the idea that if I cannot solving a problem like in 10 seconds or 20, I’ll just skip it and go to the next, and practice a certain amount each day, but not too much. Come back later for those I couldn’t solve. And put all the problems back in, even the one you solved (but might not get all the variations). Although for some very complicated problems, where multiple variations could be possible, just don’t spend too much time, and stop at some points, write down the variations and add them back to practice groups. Sometimes it also helps to group gather solved problems into like taking eye space, vital points, tesuji or particular types, etc., and later come back to visit them again, add or remove some stones in them to see which are vital.

Just a lot of small but continuous practices, no shortcuts.

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I completely sympathise and recognise most of what you say in my play. However, I played only live games and tourneys for a quite a while before playing on line.

My suggestion would be to avoid games where you have short main time and lots of byo yomi or av fairly long fisher increment. I think @Atorrante suggestion about breaking up the game is a good one but hard to do if most of the game is on byo yomi or the clock doesn’t run down at a “normal” pace. It’s hard to manage you time of you can’t really estimate how much you have left

The EGF tourneys are A, B and C class depending on time settings. And I think it’s good to mix it up within that range, no faster.

The other thing for me was the realisation that time management is not about playing each move in 30s the whole game but rather knowing when you need to spend longer and then you can play a sequence quickly.

And playing the opening fast and saving some time for “tricky” positions need to be factored in. In a one hour game I think aiming to have a 10 minute buffer is reasonable and then you have 5 mins to open, 15 for the middle game, 15 for the endgame and 15 to use as needed when the position is complex.

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Top quality advice :sunglasses:

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So a common online setting is 20mins + 5x30s byo, but this is actually rather fast for AGA tournaments, as I believe AGA tourneys mandate that a rated game must have at least 30 mins main time (although I think 45 mins main is more common where I live). For a maximum, at the US Open (at the US Go Congress) we use a 90 min main time (and either 5x30s or 3x60s byo I don’t recall)

but of course, I think the main thing that you should do is play games either without the analysis feature, or just not using it. A live-reading process rather than guess-and-check by playing it out on the board is rather important for playing fast, and you should practice this in fairly slow games but bring yourself up to speed with it.

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More info about egf timings
https://senseis.xmp.net/?EGFTournamentClass

I found that a class A 45m+15s Fischer time was harder to manage than 65m+5s because in the former you always seem to have much less time on the clock than in reality so I found I felt rushed even when there was no need to fret!

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Yes, I do this now. It was only when I was an absolute beginner that I use analysis

Nice one @teapoweredrobot - that’s some really good info about EGF timings.

And thank you to all others. Some great tips so far. Keep em coming!

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Your first post really resonated with me, and I wanted to offer a different perspective. Rather than focusing on time management itself, I think it might be useful for you to re-examine the psychological role that reading serves in your play-style, and try to make some adjustments there.

Speaking only for myself, when I was playing correspondence games between 20kyu and ~13kyu, I felt it was very important for me to read out every possible variation in analyze mode. Largely, this was motivated by my anxiety of not knowing where my opponent would play next. Often, after reading out 10-15 different variations (each between 8-15 moves) I would still be surprised by my opponent’s response, raising my anxiety even further.

Eventually, somewhere around 12-10kyu, I had gathered enough experience to no longer be surprised quite so often. Not only could I predict my opponent’s responses more frequently, but I could narrow that range to 2-3 possible responses, so even if they didn’t pick the exact one, it still fell into the expected range. As such, I stopped feeling the need to play out every single possible variation I could think of, and narrowed it down to the 2-4 possibilities I thought were most likely.

I think this gets to the heart of the dichotomy you mentioned above - with the need to explore every possibility on one side and making the first move your “gut” tells you on the other. Rather than seeing those as two mutually exclusive strategies, I try to see it as a spectrum/gradient, and pick my battles accordingly.

If we’re in the opening, and both of us are playing moves I’m fairly familiar with, I’ll quickly pick between several options without reading out too much, because my gut has a bigger chance of being right, or being somewhere in the zone.

If we’re in a really complex midgame position with lots of overlapping issues (can all these groups live? what’s the best direction of play for this stage? etc), then I will take the time to read out more variations, and get more information before making a decision, because that’s a situation where my gut may lead me astray.

For me, doing too much reading at a stage where my gut reaction was “mostly good enough” would sometimes backfire, and cause analysis paralysis - too many options causing me to feel overwhelmed rather than trusting that a given choice at that point in the game wasn’t a make-or-break situation.

As such, I had to learn to pick my battles, and select the level of reading that was appropriate to the situation. A big part of that was getting comfortable with the idea that - for parts of the game - doing quick or minimal reading was good enough, and trusting my experience.

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Thanks @tonybe - an interesting perspective. Lots to think about. Although I don’t think my problem is so much one of anxiety, more just laziness - without a clock, why rush?

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Sure - I totally understand. Still - even if it’s not anxiety - there has to be some subjective measure inside you giving you some indication of whether the amount of reading you’ve done is “good enough” for that particular situation - i.e. if it’s not “good enough” then you feel motivated to keep doing more reading.

I’m just suggesting that this “good enough” meter could be re-calibrated to account for times when you can parse the situation without any reading, or with minimal reading, and to save those efforts for when they can really pay off (i.e. more complicated situations which require more time to analyze). Cheers!

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