How can I prevent a game from dragging on, taking 60+ moves to get anywhere near finishing?

I mainly encounter this when playing people at or below my level (~1400). This never happens when playing someone better.

I recall reading somewhere that most games should ideally be finished in about 30 moves or so. That seems reasonable.

What can I do to prevent a game from dragging on without giving myself a disadvantage?

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    You say you read that "most games should ideally be finished in about 30 moves." Do you recall why that was supposedly ideal, or in what sense a game "should" be finished by then? 60 moves isn't an unreasonably long game (though as an average length for your games that would be pretty long).
    – ETD
    Aug 7, 2012 at 19:38
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    Mate your opponent before move 31 or resign. That is all you can do. Aug 7, 2012 at 20:28
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    @EdDean I can't recall where I read it, I think reading about a tournament rule or something. I was under the impression that 60 movies was bordering on unreasonably long, but if that isn't the case I guess this question is kind of moot? Aug 7, 2012 at 20:40
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    I don't buy into the idea that a 'good' game lasts for about 30 moves. It takes as long as it takes.
    – Tony Ennis
    Aug 8, 2012 at 1:00
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    I just did a quick look at mega database 2011, filtered by rating 2500 or over and the vast majority of games were over 30 moves and most of those over 60. Aug 8, 2012 at 1:06

7 Answers 7


Seriously, by checkmating your opponent. If every game is going on for 60 moves, the bad news is that you don't know how to score the win. The good news is neither does your opponent.

But by merely recognizing something is amiss, you have gained a huge advantage.

Now, you have to sharpen your game. The next step is for you to figure out why you can't win sooner. The moves are there - you know that a GM could win either side of the board pretty much up to the bitter end. The moves are there.

I don't know if it is appropriate for this site, but post a game (you DO keep notation of your games, don't you??) and we'll look at it. Post a typical game, regardless if you won it or not. And don't worry about the quality of the game. There's always a bigger fish.

Edit - I'm like a broken record on this, but another way is to run your games through a chess engine. Every move, both sides. Set the engine's strength such that it can beat you every game. See the moves it suggests instead, and when it finds a move markedly better than the one you chose, find out why it made that choice. Figuring this out is a lot of work, but getting better at chess is not often easy.

  • +1 for “if you recognize you don't know what you're doing with those first 30 moves, and start making a good use of them to attack firmly and efficiently, you're making huge progress”. I guess you meant that somewhere. Jan 10, 2013 at 21:28
  • Stockfish vs Stockfish goes over 60 moves. Tony's response " You don't know how to score a win" XD May 4, 2020 at 1:15

Get a chess clock and start using it. Amateur games usually drag on because of lack of time controls. If you set a maximum of 30 minutes per side, the game will be over in a hour. Because there is no time to waste, both players will be concentrating on the board instead of twiddling their thumbs while the other player thinks.


Try to keep the pieces on the table. Don't do exchanges if you are not forced to. This will lead to more double-edged positions and positions where you could pick from a lot of different plans (more pieces ~~ more things to do ^^). Also as other have said sharpen your game but this usually happens if you keep the pieces on the table.

P.S. Try not to fall into a position where you could exchange the pieces easily (e.g. your opponent doubles his rooks and you double in front of him).


There is nothing wrong in ending games at 60+ moves unless this happens with frequency, in that case it usually mean you aren't very efficient at the endgame.


  • Using more aggressive openings
  • Study endgame theory

Also remember that long games are not a problem if you know how to play them, so the question is, are you obtaining good results on these games?, if the answer is 'yes', I wouldn't be worried on modifying my style of play (unless these are friendly games and are turning boring).


The 30 move "rule" means that in most games, it is clear by that time, who has the advantage, or whether the game is likely headed for a draw. It doesn't necessarily mean that the game will end by that time.

So study the game as of about the 30th move. Then figure out the best way, perhaps with the help of chess engines, the quickest ay to resolve it from there.

There is one scenario where long games might be to your advantage. That is you are usually at a DISADVANTAGE after move 30, but your opponents can't beat you even after 60.

In these cases, use the methods above to find out how YOU can be beaten.


This is kind of like asking how can I get better at chess, because if you are good, then you can deliver short, sweet mates.

  • Try to find weaknesses in lower rated opponents' games and exploit them. (do tactics puzzles)
  • Learn all kinds of mating patterns (thus, you never miss that mate on move 28)

I basically agree with the other answers, saying that 60 moves is not too long and that you can do various things to improve your play. As for 30 moves being the optimum, for some of the best players that's where the game starts, after they finished playing memorized moves.

Still one additional thought based on your statement:

I mainly encounter this when playing people at or below my level (~1400).

Lower level players tend to play on in completely lost positions, which could be part of the problem. A better player would typically resign a piece down (in otherwise equal position), while beginners would play on and on.

There are many positions in chess that are obviously won and not hard to win, but still require many moves to mate.

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