League Chess Time Controls

Both of the chess leagues in which our club competes allow the use of two different time control systems for league matches. One of these is a Fischer-timing option. For want of a better name, I’ll call the alternative system the “Traditional-timing” system. Remember these are just the timings we use in the leagues in which the Bury St Edmunds Chess Club competes. Other leagues and other competitions use different time control systems.

Traditional Timing (30 moves in 75 minutes, then an additional 15 minutes for the remainder of the game)

This is the system which established league players are accustomed to using. Each player starts the game with an initial stock of 75 minutes in which his first 30 moves must be played. After the player of the black pieces completes his 30th move, both players are given an additional 15 minutes (on top of any unused portion of the initial 75 minutes) in which to finish the game. If either player runs out of time either before or after 30 moves have been made, he loses the game.

This kind of finish to a game, in which players must complete all remaining moves in a finite period of time is known as a “Quickplay Finish”, and brings with it a further set of rules which are worth knowing. I’ll say more about these below. One of the benefits of moving away from Traditional-timing to Fischer-timing is that we dispense with the Quickplay Finish.

N.B. It is useful to know that we normally set the clocks to add the extra 15 minutes when one of the clocks reaches zero, regardless of the number of moves which have been played. Therefore it is up to the players to monitor whether the first time control is met

Fischer Timing (All moves in 70 minutes plus 10 seconds per move)

As the name suggests, this kind of time-control was invented by Bobby Fischer. It involves giving the player a certain amount of extra time on a per move basis rather than all at once after a number of moves. This extra time, also known as an “increment” is added whenever the player presses the chess clock. In the Bury and Suffolk leagues, in games using Fischer-timing both players begin with an initial stock of 70 minutes, to which a further 15 seconds are added each time the player presses the clock. If either player runs out of time at any stage, he loses the game.

Keeping Score

Both players are required to keep a record of the moves. However, in Fischer-timing once a player’s clock goes below 5 minutes, he can stop recording (if the increment were 30 seconds or more he would have to continue recording according to FIDE rules). This remains the case even if due to a series of quick moves the player’s clock goes back to above 5 minutes. By contrast, in non-Fischer timing, if the time goes back to above 5 minutes the player must not only begin recording again but also fill in any missing bits while his own clock is running.

Quickplay Finish

To prevent players winning by simply running down their opponents clock, FIDE introduced what is generally known as the “2 minute rule”. In our leagues, this only applies when using “Traditional Timing”. Under this rule a player having less than 2 minutes left for the remainder of the game can claim a draw on the basis that his opponent cannot win by normal means or that his opponent has been making no effort to win by normal means. A claim like this should be adjudicated by an arbiter. In practice this is generally handled by the two team captains, but if no agreement can be reached the case may be referred to the relevant league officials. Obviously this can be very awkward, and this rule has been very controversial as a result. This is one of the main reasons for preferring Fischer-timing.

The Options

In the Suffolk League all games will use Traditional-timing unless both players agree to use Fischer-timing. The same applies in the Bury League in Divisions 2 and 3. However, in Division 1 of the Bury League the situation is reversed: all games will use Fischer-timing unless both players agree to use Traditional-timing.

If you have any questions about all this, just put them in the comments box!

Steve Lovell

Steve is the Communications Officer for the Bury St Edmunds Chess Club. He is also the Internet Officer for the Bury Area Chess League and the Suffolk County Chess Association. Since 2015, Steve has been the organiser of the Bury St Edmunds Chess Congress. Outside of chess, if there is such a thing, Steve works in IT at Greene King.

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