Tuesday, September 11, 2012

An Alternative To Time Increment

Tse Pin brought up some pros and cons of time increment in chess tournaments. One of the cons that was brought up was this:
As for the Organiser, each round have to start late if experienced players go into Bishop opposite colour endgame where the game may exceed 120 or even 150 moves with no end in sight and refuse to draw. For your information, a typical chess schedule with increment time is built based on 60 moves per game. In this case, 70 minutes per round. A 120-move game in every round will set back the schedule by 20 minutes for every round. This will add another 2 hours to the schedule for a 6-round competition. As for Arbiter, he shouldered a huge responsibility to make sure the event is able to finish as per schedule, else the Organiser reputation is at stake. Do you still remember one event that was played from 9am until midnight several years ago?
Yes, the problem with time increment is that it doesn't set a maximum to the time that can be added on to both players. When I was in the US, I saw a very interesting time control which I have yet to see in this part of the world. They called it "Time Delay". Basically, time delay means that after your opponent presses the clock, there will be a delay, typically five seconds, before your time starts moving. This works like an increment except that the time does not get added on to your clock. This still has the benefit of avoiding the "draw claim" scenario because in an obviously drawn position, players should be able to make moves in under five seconds, which doesn't start their time and in such a case, the arbiter can easily declare a draw.

I think it is a great benchmark for a draw claim. If players want to claim a drawn game, they should be able to play a move in under five seconds to demonstrate a clear draw.

And how in the world do we set such a time control? I don't know about the clocks that are being used by the organizers here in Malaysia, but here is such a clock that allows you to set such a time control:

It is called the Excalibur II and it costs about USD40. I don't get any money from this. You can buy the clock and try it out for yourself. Personally, I bought one such clock and I really like it. It is easy to use, the numbers are big, which is great for the elderly. Of course, the delay does not have to be set at five seconds. You can even set it higher. Perhaps, this is the future of time control in chess?


  1. I don't quite understand how this delay can significantly shorten 100+ move games when compared with the Fischer increment. Even if the players' times can't be increased, can't the players continue to play indefinitely anyway? And isn't there the possibility that it might take even longer, since there is no incentive to make your move faster than the given delay? For example, from the long endgames I've seen, the game ends when it's clearly a dead draw, or 50-move rule is claimed, and then both sides have a large amount of time remaining (but unused since the game has ended), amassed from the increments, which indicates that they probably played rather quickly. Under a time delay, wouldn't the players understand that they can't keep their increments and would play more slowly instead? By the way, if I'm not mistaken, an identical mode of increment, the Bronstein, is also available on DGT clocks.

    On a side note, the event Tse Pin was referring to is the 2007 MBS 'largest tournament in Malaysia', and owes its late finish to poor management on the organizer's part, not time increments. The tournament started off as a 25-minute rapidplay and ended in 10-minute rounds; there never was any increment.

  2. I was assuming the implausibility of making a move in under 5 seconds. In the Fischer increment, added time can be accumulated. In this case, it cannot.

    Let's say you have 10 seconds left on your clock. So, even if you were to play 10 moves in quick succession, you would not have more time. But in the Fischer time control, you would have gained 100 seconds, giving you more than 1 minute. But in the time delay scenario, you would still have 10 seconds remaining. And if you were to think longer than 5 seconds at any move, the 10 seconds would actually reduce.

    I am not sure why players would play slowly if they know they can't keep their increments. I'd think they would play faster because they know that their time will go down if they take more than 5 seconds for each move. In the Fischer increment, players who have accumulated time can take more than 5 seconds per move. Of course, if both players continue to make moves in under 5 seconds, then their times won't go down. But as I said, it is highly improbable unless the game is a dead draw and all moves are obvious. The other benefit is that the players won't start throwing pieces around even if they have 5 seconds on their clock left. Or at least, they have no excuse to do so.

    Also, I am not suggesting to do away with draw claims completely. But this will ensure that draw claims that are legitimate can be verified easily. Imagine having 10 seconds with no increment/delay and claiming a draw. The arbiter could come over and say, play on. And in that 10 seconds, perhaps you blundered and lost in a drawn K v K+P ending. Of course I can't imagine a player of your level to blunder in that scenario but it is a possibility. It would be easier to demonstrate a draw with time delay.

    As for the Bronstein delay, I suppose you are right. It is similar to the simple delay. Perhaps, even the Bronstein method is preferred. Forgive my ignorance as I did not fiddle with a DGT clock before. But you can read more here:


    And thanks for the info. I was not a participant in the 2007 tournament.