I play online chess on under 5+0 and 10+0(predominantly) time controls. I end up in time problems way too often (especially in 5 minutes TC). I contemplated a lot on certain positions, and somehow lose track of time due to it. I have played 10+0 time control for 95% of my chess playtime, and have gotten accustomed to it. I am rated 1800+ in rapid (10+0) but only at 1500+ in blitz (5+0). Mostly I lose blitz as I end up losing time in the beginning, and then speed up my play in the end (just to prevent flagging) leading to a blunder.

So is playing slow a bad thing in chess?

I saw Magnus Carlsen (in a livestream) say that he doesn't play 5+0 as it is way too long for him! So I wonder will the pace of my moves increase, as I get stronger. Or is it something that needs to be dealt separately. And are there any ways to improve it right now?

P.S.:- Most of my matched in 10+0 result in a win/loss (doesn't usually get flagged). And that win/loss seems a lot more appreciable as it is more justified.

  • 3
    Most of not all chess coaches/authors recommend playing slow games for improvement, and fast games for fun and/or evaluation. I have no explicit citations available right now, though.
    – Annatar
    Jan 18, 2021 at 10:11
  • 8
    I think the most important point here is that you are not Carlsen. For us mere mortals, there's nothing wrong with playing slow games and getting the most out of it. Once you are Carlsen level that's maybe not as efficient training anymore but for us non GMs, if you like 10+0 sure, go for it. The one thing that's important is: analyze the game afterwards, e.g. with the computer so you can learn from your mistakes.
    – koedem
    Jan 18, 2021 at 11:11
  • 9
    "as it is way too long for him" There's your answer.
    – Mast
    Jan 18, 2021 at 16:52
  • 3
    Carlsen is not playing those games to improve, his main goal is to entertain others and himself, and since he often plays opponents who are much weaker than him, it might be uninteresting to watch an opponent think in a clearly hopeless position.
    – Akavall
    Jan 18, 2021 at 20:56
  • 9
    Carlsen regularly plays serious multi-hour long tournament games, so I presume that when he's playing for fun online, he's looking for shorter, "casual" games that require less in-depth calculation. Jan 18, 2021 at 23:43

6 Answers 6


Playing slowly depends on the time format of the game, If you are playing a bullet time format and you play slow, then you will make very few moves and time will run out before you checkmate your opponent. If you are playing a 90mins game and you play fast, then you will probably get checkmated and spent the next 75 mins waiting for the next tournament round to start...

There are both merits and demerits of analyzing a position too much.

Consider below position

[Event "Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade Candidates (1959)"]
[Site "Bled, Zagreb & Belgrade YUG"]
[Date "1959.26.10"]
[Round "27"]
[White "Robert James Fischer"]
[Black "Mikhail Tal"]
[Result "0 - 1"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "1q2kbr1/p3rp1p/8/1p6/8/5Q2/PPP3PP/R4R1K w - - 0 1"]

1. Qc6+ (1. Rae1) *

In the above position Fischer analyzed the position for a while, and had a move that could draw the game, he even wrote the move down (This may not be the practice today) but ended up playing a different move. Rae1 would have secured him a draw but the move he played Qc6+ cost him the game. So if he had not analyzed the game too much he would have drawn this game

I believe it is Magnus Carisen who said that sometimes he knows the move he will make but still analyzes the position even more on long games. For short games like blitz, if you know the move, make the move

Consider this position

[Event "?"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "????.??.??"]
[Round "?"]
[White "?"]
[Black "?"]
[Result "*"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "r5k1/5ppp/5b2/2R5/8/6P1/5PBP/6K1 b - - 0 1"]

1... Ra1+ 2. Bf1
(2. Rc1) *

Is there need to think about the next move? There are only two moves, one is just giving out a rook. If you are playing a blitz game for example and there is only one move possible, play that move

Some positions may require more analysis, consider the below position

[FEN "1r2k2r/p4ppp/2b3n1/1pRBB3/8/8/PP3PPP/5RK1 b - - 0 1"]

1... Nxe5 *

How does white continue? Depending on how complicated the position is, there may be need to spent more time.

Now what if you have too many options at your disposal?

[FEN "5r1k/ppbq1np1/2n1rp1p/8/2PP3N/2NBP3/2Q2BPP/R3R1K1 w - - 0 1"]

In a blitz game I take the 1st good option and make it but if I have time, I can think about the position

  • 3
    There's more behind that Fischer-Tal game! See here for Tal's story.
    – TonyK
    Jan 18, 2021 at 17:33
  • "the move he played Qc6+ cost him the game" - How so?
    – Clockwork
    Jan 19, 2021 at 14:34
  • 1
    @Clockwork - there is just no attack; defend with the rook, then defend with the bishop, and white cannot better than trade Jan 20, 2021 at 16:22

Playing slow is not a bad thing, the longer the games you play the more you will learn. I am 2200+ for blitz (and bullet) but I don't learn much in these games. I know I should play at slower time controls if I want to improve my chess but I find blitz chess quite addictive!

If you are happy playing 10 + 0 then stick with it (or even longer time controls if you have the time), you will find that as you improve at slower time controls, you will automatically get better at blitz anyway!


What is slow?

That depends on the person and how much they have learned so far. Also with their abilities as well as their education/training.

You can play too slow for sure. You can also play too fast.

Most people will need a mix of moderate time to solve a tactical problem. Along with game practice at exactly 10 seconds a move. Today's speed chess does not improve your abilities nearly as well as playing to an exact time delay to move.

Playing slow will not help if you do not have the skills to use that time well.

You need a combination of modest time to solve a problem, versus actual practice that builds your ability to play fast. If you pace yourself in 10 minute games instead of trying to make every move as fast as possible or taking a lot of time to figure out your move then you will improve faster.


Playing slowly is absolutely fine. If you lose a game and there's time left on your clock, there's something more you could have done which may have changed the outcome.

Playing too slowly is where the problem lies. Time management is just an important part of chess as chess itself is, and when you go into a 5+0 game instead of a 10+0 game, you must be prepared to spend less time somehow. Whether that's averaging half the amount of time for every move, or thinking less about the simpler moves, or playing more familiar openings is all up to you.


Playing slow actually makes you play better! In a large-scale study of how neuroenhancers affect chess performance, it was found that players played better chess if they took neuroenhancers, but only because they spend more time thinking.

The results contained one surprise: The amount of time that the players took in their games when they were on the stimulants increased, so much so that more games were lost on time when players were taking the drugs than when they had taken a placebo. That skewed the results. When those losses were factored out, leaving 2,876 games (or data points) the benefits of the drugs became clearer.

The study’s conclusion addressed the additional thinking time as a critical component of the effect of the stimulants. The authors wrote, “This suggests that neuroenhancers do not enhance the quality of thinking and decision-making per time unit but improve the players’ ability or willingness to spend more time on a decision and hence to perform more thorough calculations.”



And the correct answer :-) as always is "Depends".

I'm a lightning fast player, even at 60 I'm faster than most kiddies. Yes, also in blitz. I can exactly tell where the + and - of this are.

  • I never ever get into time trouble. The only "long" game I recall losing on flag was one that was a bit shorter, horrendously complex and the opponent costed me additional time by an illegal move, and I didn't insist on compensation. This also means I never blunder away a game just for lack of time when it is needed. It comes especially handy in blitz, especially as I'm a natural born swindler.
  • I blunder many games by playing "by ear", seeing in the next second the killer tactics.
  • As one of the other answers said, there are positions needing calculating and those which don't. (I'd certainly play Bxc6+ followed by Bxb8 after one second in a blitz in Nr.3, so that one's a don't...) Things that cost you time:
  • You are hesitant. Thinking about the chaos on the board a fifth time probably won't change the best move.
  • You ponder about minimal differences. If you are no Carlsen, +0.1 felt difference is nothing to waste time on.
  • You lack an idea. Then improve your worst piece or whatever heuristic exists.

Especially the last three points will cost you dearly in blitz, but as everything, you can train on them. Yes, I dimly remember a chess book elaborating on time use (sorry, not its name), find and read it!

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