Time Control for Rapid Chess

Rapid chess relies heavily on a set time for each player to make a move. As the name suggests, the period for each move is faster than the fixed minutes for classical chess matches.

So, what options do players have regarding time control for rapid chess? According to the International Chess Federation’s handbook, rapid chess time controls are set between 10 and 60 minutes per game.

There aren’t strict guidelines for the minute or second increments for each move. Since the allowable time controls are pretty broad, let’s explore some possible options.

Rapid Chess Time Controls

Most time controls are written in an X | Y format. In this form, X represents each player’s starting time or base time, and Y represents the time increment or bonus time after making a single move.

It’s also possible to have no time increments for every move. This usually results in a shorter match.

Below are some of the most common time controls for rapid chess games:

  • 15 | 10
  • 30 | 0
  • 60 | 0

While time controls for classical chess matches are complex, those used in rapid chess are considerably simpler. For example, a classical time control based on FIDE’s guidelines has a fixed time per number of moves.

For World Championship games, the first 40 moves have a 120-minute time limit, followed by a 60-minute one for the next 20 moves. Any remaining moves for the rest of the game have 15 minutes.

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On top of that, there’s an increment of 30 seconds per move at the beginning of move 61.

Fortunately, the time controls are much simpler in rapid chess since the games are usually fast-paced and generally won’t last as long.

Custom Time Control

The rules are a bit looser when playing a game outside of official tournaments. You can generally come up with your own custom rapid time controls.

Most time controls are valid as long as it follows the International Chess Federation (FIDE)’s general rule of rapid time controls being more than 10 minutes but less than 60 minutes. This total already accounts for the base time and the bonus time from any increments per move.

Any shorter is a Blitz match, and any longer could already be well into the classical chess match territory.

So, how do you create a balanced time control for a rapid chess match?

The first step is to assume FIDE’s arbitrary 40 moves per game. The federation uses this number to compute the total available time and ensure that it still fits the requirements of the rapid chess category.

To calculate, add your base time to your bonus time per move multiplied by 40 moves. For example, let’s look at the 15 | 10 time control and know why it’s a common time control.

The base time is 15 minutes. For every move, a bonus time of 10 seconds is added.

Assume a player will make 40 moves, so multiply 40 by 10. Four hundred seconds is roughly 7 minutes.

Adding the 15-minute base time plus the 7-minute bonus time gives us 22 minutes of total available time. This is still compliant with FIDE’s guidelines for rapid chess.

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Calculating the total available time is a good way to gauge if your game still classifies as a rapid chess match. It can also help you decide on the time control you want to use if you’re holding your own tournament or if you simply want to explore and challenge yourself.

Official Time Control for Chess Leagues and Championships

When it comes to official and professional chess leagues and championships, the rules regarding time control are generally stricter.

While custom time control isn’t out of the question, most official rapid chess matches stick to a single time control that’s used throughout the entire tournament.

FIDE World Rapid Championship

According to FIDE’s official regulations for Open World Rapid & Blitz Championships, the matches follow a 15 | 10 time control. The increments begin with move 1.

All games are played using FIDE-approved timers or clocks.

In case of a tie for 1st place, two tie-breaker games are played following a 3 | 2 time control. The winner of the match will be declared the Champion.

As of 2022, the title holder for the World Rapid Chess Championship is grandmaster Magnus Carlsen. This is his fourth overall FIDE championship win.

On the other hand, the reigning women’s World Rapid Champion for 2022 is grandmaster Tan Zhongyi. She was also the Women’s World Champion in 2017.

2003 FIDE World Rapid Chess Championship

Prior to the creation of FIDE’s current world tournament for the rapid chess championship in 2012, the federation organized a World Rapid Chess Championship in 2003.

The time controls of which followed that of their rival organization, Garry Kasparov’s Professional Chess Association. Each player was allowed 25 minutes, plus a 10-second increment per move, starting with move 1.

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The same time controls for rapid chess were also used in the tiebreaker matches for the World Championship of 2013.

NSSCA Rapid Chess Tournaments

There are smaller tournaments that are non-FIDE recognized. Even then, most of these smaller tournaments, such as the Nova Scotia Scholastic Chess Association (NSSCA) tournaments, still play and follow the rapid chess laws stated in FIDE’s handbook.

However, the time controls are slightly more varied with these smaller tournaments. For NSSCA, time controls are either 20 or 25 minutes, with a 5-second delay and no increments per move.

Final Thoughts

To sum up, there’s a lot of freedom in deciding on time control for rapid chess, as long as it’s compliant with FIDE’s more than 10, less than 60 guidelines for total time.

The official and one of the most common time control used in FIDE’s World Rapid Championship is the 15 | 10. Tiebreaker games then follow a 3 | 2 one.

Previous championships and other smaller tournaments play different time controls, which goes to show that it’s possible to create custom ones that cater to your own set of competition rules.