Timing a Chess Game – Using a Chess Clock to Time a Game

Chess timing is an important part of the professional game of chess. Chess game timing depends on the type of game that is being played. Long games can be played for seven hours, while shorter rapid chess may last between 30 minutes and one hour. Blitz chess may be limited to three to fifteen minutes per player, while bullet chess may only allow less than three minutes per player.

There are a number of types of chess timing devices that exist. These are referred to as game clocks and they are typically two clocks side by side that never run simultaneously, such that when one clock stops the other starts. Game clocks were first used in a chess tournament in London in 1883.

Analogue clocks use mechanical buttons. A flag is designed to fall to indicate when a player's time has finished and therefore the end of that player's turn. Pressing the button on one clock will physically stop the clock and release you opponent's clock. These chess clocks can be somewhat inaccurate.

The first digital chess timing device was created in 1973 as a solution to the problems of analogue clocks. These digital game clocks have developed tremendously since that time and chess timing has become very accurate. Former world chess champion, Bobby Fischer created a new type of digital chess timing clock in 1988. The Fischer chess timing device provides players with a certain amount of time at the beginning of a game. As each player completes a move, a small amount of time is added to his clock. The aim of this innovation was to prevent players becoming desperately short of time during the game and to encourage the game to be finished more quickly as it would prevent adjournments. This type of chess clock is also known as a delay clock (as time is added to each move). In addition to the Fischer delay, the Bronstein delay also exists. The delay clock method for chess game timing is the most widely used method today.

One form of timing a chess game is to use "sudden death." This means that players have a certain amount of time to make a certain total number of moves. The advantage of this chess timing method is that players can spend more or less time on each individual move. This allows them to play the opening moves (which are familiar) quickly and the later moves in the game more slowly and with more deliberation. Online chess timing tends to be simpler as it is all done automatically by the computer. Timing a chess game must be decided on before the game begins as different rules can exist, for example 40/2 refers to the need for 40 moves to be completed in 2 hours, while game/30 indicates that a game must be complete in 30 minutes.

The rules of chess timing state that if a player does not complete his moves within the time limit, he automatically loses the game. If a chess game needs to be stopped for any reason, both clocks can be stopped and resumed at a later time. This is usually done by an arbiter in chess tournaments.