Time Control for Classical Chess (All You Need to Know)

Time is an essential part of competitive chess. Different types of chess games are typically divided by the time the rules allow a player to make a move.

That said, learning the different restrictions involving time controls can be challenging to a newbie player—what with all the terminologies like base time, bonus time, or sudden death.

In this post, I’ll discuss all you need to know about time control for classical chess. I’ll also throw in some interesting facts about the importance and history of these chess mechanics.

Explaining Time Control in Classical Chess

Time control in chess refers to the time constraints players must abide by while playing. This rule ensures that each player spends a reasonable amount of time per move to finish the game.

The classical is the slower version of chess that could take several hours to complete. As such, it uses slower time control rules than other chess games, like Rapid or Blitz.

However, the specifics of the time control method may vary depending on some factors. The organizer, the tournament type, and the match location can affect the time allocation.

World Chess Federation

For instance, the International Chess Federation (FIDE) permits 90 minutes for the initial 40 moves and 30 minutes for the rest of the game, applicable to most of their events.

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They also employ a 30-second additional time per move beginning at the players’ first move. For world championship matches, FIDE’s time rules for classical chess depend on the year.

In 2018, they employed 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, 50 minutes for the next 20 moves, a 15-minute finishing time, and a 30-second time bonus per move from the match’s first move.

Currently, the federation allows 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20 moves, and 15 minutes for the rest of the game, with 30 seconds increment starting at move 61.

US Chess Federation

FIDE-rated chess tournaments organized by the US Chess Federation typically follow the FIDE regulation—40 moves in two hours and 30 minutes allocation for the rest of the moves.

Other traditional US chess tournaments also use the 40/2 SD/1 setup for time controls; it means 40 moves in two hours with one-hour sudden death for the remainder of the game.

Another classical time control used in the US, primarily by local chess clubs, is the G/60 d5. This setup translates to 1 hour (60 minutes) per player with a 5-second clock delay.

A Brief Overview of Time Control in Classical Chess

As I mentioned above, classical chess can take several hours to finish. The ample time allocation allows deeper analysis for players, which can prevent mistakes and errors.

Here’s a quick fact, the longest classical chess match lasted for 20 hours, 15 minutes, and 269 moves. The historic game was between Ivan Nicolic and Goran Arsovic in Belgrade in 1989.

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Before the concept of time control, classical chess players are given unlimited time to make their moves. This case applies to competitive and non-competitive chess games.

However, this method can also lead to different issues regarding time and fairness. How much time should be allocated for each player’s move?

Several prominent chess players from the 80s have suggested ways to prevent unreasonably long chess matches. Staunton, for instance, recommended limiting the allotted time per move.

During these times, chess players also thought about sudden death. However, it didn’t receive much traction then, and most players abandoned the concept.

Finally, Tassilo von Heydebrand und der Lasa suggested that time rules should be flexible with a “time bank.” This idea became one of the most popular time control systems for classical chess.

Modern chess tournaments typically use combinations of sudden death, time bank, and move time limits.

Time Control Terms You Should Know

Time regulations in chess use several terms relating to the mechanics of the rule. So, here are some important words to remember when learning about classical chess time controls:

Base Time

Base time refers to the maximum amount of time provided for each player in a chess match. The value of this period depends on the type of chess you’re playing.

For example, a classical chess competition can have a G/60 time control regulation. The G/60 means each player gets one hour of base time to make all their moves and finish the game.

Bonus Time

Bonus time is the few seconds added to your base time every time you make a move. The number of seconds can vary depending on the chess game, but it’s typically 5 to 30 seconds.

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In the FIDE world championships, for example, they provide an increment of 30 seconds. They typically allow this time bonus after the 60th move.

Time Delay

Time delay in chess, as the name suggests, is the period before a player’s base time starts depleting. Most chess games usually allow five to ten seconds of delay.

This feature helps players complete the match without facing unavoidable time forfeits. Chess organizers represent time delays in “d” as in G/30 d5 (5-second delay).

Sudden Death

Sudden death is a straightforward time control system in chess tournaments. In this method, the organizer assigns a specific time for each player, regardless of the number of moves.

For instance, if your match has a time control of SD/1, you have to make all the moves within one hour. Players who run out of time (flag falls) lose unless the opposing side has inadequate pieces to force a checkmate, in which case the match is considered a draw.

Final Thoughts

Time control is a practical rule in modern chess tournaments. It aims to regulate the speed of chess games and keep them from extending for longer than necessary.

Different types of chess games apply various time control mechanics. In classical chess, organizers usually allow 90 to 120 minutes of gameplay with a 30 to 60 minutes finishing limit.

However, other elements, like clock delay, bonus time, and sudden death, may also affect the total time spent in a single classical match.

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