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Increments – Good or bad?

I was part of a ridiculous game on Saturday. Let me tell you the story just to amuse you.

I played really poorly against Keti Arakhamia-Grant with Black and was quickly dead lost. For some reason she spent a lot of time and when we passed move 30 she was down to maybe 20 seconds. At move 34 she was down to 6 seconds for the last six moves. When I hit the clock here, something bizarre happened. The clock reset itself. The arbiter fumbled with the clock, taking about three minutes to set it back to where we were, only to realise he had reversed the times. Another minute and the clock was set correctly.

At this moment, my phone, which I had handed over to the arbiter, started ringing! I thought I had turned it off, but chances are that I didn’t.

The whole thing was bizarre and I asked if we could have a chat. Keti, myself and the two arbiters went to an adjacent room and talk it through. Keti had calmed down and it seemed to me that basically all of my chances had evaporated with this. Unfair as it was, my chances had dropped from maybe 15% to 1.5% or so.

One of the arbiters suggested that I had just lost, because my phone went off. I disagreed. The game was not ongoing at the time and the phone was not in my possession. What if it had rang at home? Yes, everyone heard it, but what if it had rang in my car and a window had been open? I see the arguments the other way, but I did not find it as clear cut as he indicated at first.

I realised that there was no good solution to the situation. Except one. I resigned on the merits of my position.

We lost the match 5-3. If I had won on time, we would have won the championship, but as our only win was on time in an equal position against Keti’s husband, this would certainly have been rather ridiculous. The best team won.

The discussion

This evening I was chatting to a friend, an old GM like myself. He was telling me about games where he had been tied to the board for hours, living on 30 second increments for thirty, forty, fifty moves. He was contemplating ending a long career – because of the time control.

When I talked to Keti after the game, she complained about the time control (2 hours for 40 moves) and said that increments were much better.

I disagree. I think that it is her own fault that she could not organise her time consumption better. This is a sport after all. Maybe we have fewer ridiculous blunders with increments, but I do not want to protect anyone against their own inadequacy. What is next? Blunder check?

I see increments as something that has mainly been good for the arbiters. They do not risk having to make decisions in complicated circumstances.

What is your opinion? I will leave this open for discussion for a few days and then we will have a vote.

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  1. Nikos Ntirlis
    May 1st, 2015 at 09:36 | #1

    First of all, you shouldn’t lose the game due to your phone from the moment that the phone was handed over to the arbiter. Also, it is really ridiculous that an arbiter cannot set up the clock within half a minute.

    We can find black spots in all time controls but IMHO an opponent who “survives” due to the 30sec increment is much more tolerable than someone who is trying to flag his opponent in an equal or worse position. In situations where one side has let’s say 10 min and the other side 10 seconds the “flagging” doesn’t seem too unfair due to what you mentioned (bad time consumption strategy) but imagine (the much more common situation) of one side having 40 sec and the other 10. The time consumption is basically the same or at least very similar.

    Having a 30sec increment ensures that what we have is still a game of chess and not something else. I think that it is fair and much more important than anything else (also above of any convenience for the arbiters!).

  2. Tim S
    May 1st, 2015 at 09:58 | #2

    Personally I much prefer the increment. That isn’t because my time management is particularly bad but because I’ve seen (and been part of) some ridiculous situations, mostly at the final time control without any increment.

    I’ve seen someone shamelessly flag another player with K+R vs K+R and everyone will have seen players struggling to mate their opponent with seconds left, sometimes losing just before the win. One could argue that these are caused by poor time management but often both players have similar amounts of time left and it’s a lottery.

  3. Bryan
    May 1st, 2015 at 11:21 | #3

    Have to disagree – increments are essential. Possibly to do with where I live, but some players thrive on no increment slop towards the end of games, using every possible trick in a mutual time scramble to win including:
    — imprecise piece placement (not sure where it actually is meant to be – asking or adjusting takes time)
    — knocking over pieces (deliberately or accidentally, as above, or stopping clocks again wastes seconds)
    — march the king closer to clock (literally had a player play out – AND WIN on time – a K+Q queen vs. K+Q blitz endgame – by marching his king closer to the clock, and my long checks vs his short king moves and clock presses made all the difference.)

    I like that an increment ~usually~ means that a won game IS won. If I have a forced win that takes a bunch of moves (e.g. queening a pawn, then mating, or B+N mate) the increment lets me win a won game… no increment means I can still lose or draw. I don’t find this fair. Yes, the other player managed their clock better, but they are objectively bust – and simply moving faster at the expense of playing well should not be rewarded!!

  4. John Shaw
    May 1st, 2015 at 11:35 | #4

    How about no increment until move 40, then increment from move 41? It is possible to ration one’s time until move 40, but no one can know how many moves the game will last, so it is tough to ration rationally (?) after move 40. The increment also stops arbiters having to make any Rule 10.2 decisions.

    One addition to the story is that Jacob’s phone does not ring or beep. It plays “Harder, Better Faster, Stronger” by Daft Punk.

  5. Freeke
    May 1st, 2015 at 12:19 | #5

    I think it’s a good thing to have a increment with the view of forcing to write down all the moves. However, what I find horrably annoying is the time trouble which now starts earlier, usually in a game phase I am accustomed to using some extra time in order to make easy blitz around move 30-40. Annoying.

  6. Remco G
    May 1st, 2015 at 12:37 | #6

    The hard decisions for arbiters are exactly those that don’t have a satisfying resolution. If an arbiter has to make fewer decisions that’s not necessarily good for the arbiter (the job becomes more boring, the arbiter has less influence), but definitely good for players.

    The more that can be decided on the board by the players the better.

  7. Jacob Aagaard
    May 1st, 2015 at 12:55 | #7

    I cannot see why some people acting unsportsmanlike or violate the rules or poor decisions by the arbiter is an argument for anything. K+R vs. K+R or any other position where you have no way to play for a win, the opponent should just claim a draw. If he does not know how to do so or that he should do so, well, it is not really an argument for anything is it?

  8. Kassy
    May 1st, 2015 at 12:57 | #8

    Chess should be about the game played on the board between two players as much as possible.
    The clock exists merely so that the Louis Paulsen’s of the world don’t just physically wear you down. Look at some of the Morphy-Paulson games. Literally took 11-14 hrs for 50-60 move games.
    So yes the clock needs to exist so that we know roughly how long the game will last and can schedule accordingly but other than that the less of a role that the clock plays in a regular tournament game the better.
    I want the position to decide the game as much as possible. Not the clock.

  9. Bryan
    May 1st, 2015 at 14:23 | #9

    @Jacob – the K+Q vs K+Q example was in a blitz game… and rule G3 https://www.fide.com/fide/handbook.html?id=171&view=article (previously 10.2) prevents claiming draws in blitz games, even in such cases. So that’s at least one distinction to make (increment in blitz seems essential to avoid such an outcome)

    But – even in long games – in many cases it may not be as obvious as K+R vs K+R, but still would be a draw with relatively competent play if you had the time to actually make moves… so the position is not simple enough for an arbiter to award the draw based on appendix G, but would be simple enough to play out if you had an increment. Again, does not seem fair to lose on time in such a case.

  10. Andy Burnett
    May 1st, 2015 at 18:02 | #10

    One thing which I would like to see is either increments used in every event, or no increments at all.

    Having played mostly in Europe for the latter part of 2014 (about 85 games) increments were the norm. Now, back in ‘no-increment’ Scotland in 2015, I am finding myself regularly in time trouble for the first time in my chess life :/ Adjusting from one to the other is difficult.

    I have surprised myself by actually liking the increment – I didn’t think I would, as my ‘game’ was based on every practical means possible…which included time-trouble swindles against ‘zeitnot addicts’.

    Anyway, one or the other please….not both!

  11. JohnG
    May 1st, 2015 at 19:06 | #11

    I consider it ridiculous that any game of chess would be played without at least a slight delay or increment in this day and age. The fact that people still play pure 5-minute is absurd in my opinion. When you choose not to use any increment or delay you are saying, in effect, “I actively prefer for it to be possible for someone to win by shuffling rooks in a dead drawn position. I actively prefer for it to be possible for someone to draw because his opponent doesn’t have time to mate with an extra queen.” Anyone who actually prefers these things cannot really care much for the game of chess in my opinion. Suppose my opponent and I both have 1 minute remaining. I could spend 30 seconds finding a clever way to get a dead draw opp. color bishop ending. From that point forward I could make every move instantly and still draw. On the other hand, I could start playing superficially right away and try to win on time. Should we choose a time control to encourage the former or the latter approach? I think that for someone who actually likes the game of chess, the choice is pretty clear.

    Some people argue that inc/delay removes the clock from the game. No, the clock is still critically important. If I have 1 second on the clock with 1 second delay and my opponent has 30 minutes, my time will almost inevitably cause me to lose. However, this state of affairs is preferable because my loss will have to come from my making a blunder and my opponent actually finding the refutation. We are still playing chess, rather than a pure game of “clock.”

    In my opinion there are three classes of players here. The first don’t want time to be an element at all. They dismiss losing on time as “not really losing.” This attitude is bad, in my view, because soon enough we would just get rid of the clock and go back to Anderssen-Morphy style, two day long games. The second group are players like me, who want time to be an element and who want games to have a limited time, but who want the position on the board to always be a factor in the outcome. I may be forced to move quickly, but I will always be given a chance to move, and you must refute my moves to win. The final group are those who actually want the clock to take precedence over the board position. These people are simply looking for a rush, and would just as happily play bughouse, or play a video game, or go sky-diving. They are happy to have someone win by shuffling a rook, and I believe it is because they have no respect for chess.

    You might say I have strong feelings on the matter. Sorry for the rant.

  12. Erik
    May 1st, 2015 at 19:38 | #12

    Daft Punk definitely is a good choice

  13. Seth
    May 1st, 2015 at 19:53 | #13

    Sounds like potential material for GM Preparation: Off-the-Board Thinking

  14. Ed
    May 1st, 2015 at 21:06 | #14

    Nikos Ntirlis :
    First of all, you shouldn’t lose the game due to your phone from the moment that the phone was handed over to the arbiter. Also, it is really ridiculous that an arbiter cannot set up the clock within half a minute.

    I AGREE

  15. Stigma
    May 1st, 2015 at 23:14 | #15

    The increment was made possible with digital clocks of course, but I wonder if its increasing popularity also has something to do with the shortening time controls. The less time people have (both before and after move 40), the more time trouble scrambles and random results you will get. The increments surely compensate for that to some extent.

    I’ve also had Andy Burnett’s experience of getting used to increments and then finding it hard to adjust back, though in general I’m happy to play with EITHER a fairly long time control (say, 2 hours for 40 moves) OR increments (or both). I sometimes play in tournaments with a short time control but no increment (90 hours for 40 moves, then 30 minutes to finish, for example), and that’s so hectic it hardly feels like classical chess anymore, more like rapid. I also do worse with these time controls, so I should probably just boycott them, but some local organizers where I live use them all the time…

    Less subjectively, we have to be realistic and recognize that some people will always struggle more than others with distributing their time evenly. So the choice boils down to whether we want as high-quality and “logical” games as possible, or the drama of a few time scrambles each rounds for the amusement of arbiters and spectators. I prefer quality, but I may be somewhat biased by my own record in the time trouble department.

  16. Kevin S
    May 1st, 2015 at 23:31 | #16

    I remember losing a game when I had 20 min left on my clock and my opponent had mere seconds. I even had a better position at the time. I watched in horror as my opponent kept making quick move after quick move never running out of time while his moves suddenly were much better and I watched my position slowly deteriorate until I was finally checkmated. In the end it was my own fault for losing and not playing better chess. Doesn’t mean the incremental time hasn’t left a bad taste after that game.

    In all honesty though, I can see both positions on the topic and will gladly play in either tournament with or without incremental, although my preference is without of course 🙂

  17. May 2nd, 2015 at 01:21 | #17

    For me personally: ALL serious games (tournaments) should be played with increments. It is just a matter of organisers – what increment they are going to use. I think it depends if you are obliged to write down the moves or not. If yes – increment 20-30 seconds per move, if not – 3-5 seconds per move.

    I hate playing serious game and losing on time… because I had no chance to proove that I could defend my position to a draw (at least) if I would have had at least a few seconds each time for my moves to be played.

  18. Thomas
    May 2nd, 2015 at 04:59 | #18

    I have no problems with the increment, but I don’t like it very much.
    Without increment you have some guys trying to win by time in dead drawn positions – thatcould be solved by a clever 10.2 rule. But not by a rule where the arbiter starts analyzing rook endings to see if it’s really a draw – that’s not what is was meant to be.
    With increment you have some guys trying to win dead drawn positions by hoping his opponent will drop dead from his chair or being called to the army or so. And the whole tournament is waiting for the next round to start because of that guy.
    Have I really read here people complaining about losses on time in blitz games? Why do you play blitz?

  19. Stigma
    May 2nd, 2015 at 05:21 | #19

    @Thomas
    Maybe there should be some sort of 10.2 rule for people dragging out dead drawn games forever, even with increments (I’m assuming it doesn’t apply there now).

    About blitz: There is even more reason for an increment in blitz than at longer time controls. Too many blitz games degenerate into a contest where the player who can physically move the pieces faster wins, irrespective of the objective evalution. This sort of thing has little to do with chess, and a 2-second increment abolishes it. I want blitz to be about who can think fast, not so much about who can move fast.

  20. MiqG
    May 2nd, 2015 at 08:20 | #20

    I had a clear opinion when I started reading this blog in that I definately think all chess should be played without increments. You start with a set amount of time and should be able to deal with difficult decisions along the way with time in mind and accept sometimes having to compromise your own thoughts of quality…
    My view came from one the old players – think it was Alekhine – who said that blaming time for your loss was the same as saying you cant play chess very well. My experiences through the years always seemed to confirm that saying. So I always detested the increment-player/rule/principle…

    But with each experience and opinion comes a new perspective and I must admit that I myself have on several occasions been able to play a good game with the help of precisely these increments. I have discussed it with many people and while I have started to doubt my own resolve regarding no increments a clear conclusion regarding the positive effects of increments was never reached in these discussions. I doubt that it will in this discussion either. But I will add to it by saying:

    a, what if you lower the time you receive in increments in long games to 10 sec (or another number lower than 30) to allow you to make a decent move but not think too long or add too much time to your time. It is after all you yourself that spent nearly all of it…
    b, Interesting suggestion by I think John Shaw to start the increment on move 40…
    c, we use Fischer-time as increment – which allows you to add time if you dont use all of your 30 increment seconds – making it possible to have more time for the next move… But there is such a thing as Bronstein-increments where you get extra seconds for each move but those seconds cannot add to your time the way Fischer-time does. If you have 2 minutes left with Bronstein and the increment is 30 sec and you make your move after 10 sec you still have 2 minutes left, not 2 min 20 sec as with Fischer…
    d, As stated by someone above, it seems logical that increment becomes more in demand the shorter the time-control is before and after move 40…

    Thank you to those who contributed, its an interesting read. And Stigma – I think I just became a convert for using 3+2 blitz – It should be about thinking fast, not moving fast!

    One more thought:
    It seems to me it is the chess knowledge you have before the game starts and your preparations for the game as regards sleep, food, drink and destractions that determine how easy it is for you – aka how much time (and effort) you take – to find solutions to the problems you encounter on the board. The more you better that, the less time you will need during the game and the less you will worry about it. This is simplified of course but I think still valid and a way of looking inwardly instead of outwardly at the time-problem issue. Your opponent also goes through this process and it is him/her you are playing against.

  21. Phille
    May 2nd, 2015 at 09:02 | #21

    Handing the phone over to the arbiter is done against cheating, not because it is somehow less annoying if the phone rings in the arbiter’s possession. So to me that was a clear forfeit. Leave it outside the playing area and that would be a completely different thing.

    The old GM complaining about increments: Basically he just manages his time badly. If he needs a timeout after move 40, he should play faster. This complaint isn’t really a better argument against increments than time trouble upsets are an argument for increments. Increments or no increments: You are responsible for what you do with your time.

    I personally much prefer increments. “Only better for the arbiters” really means better for the game and most of the players. The less weird situations, stress, anger and shouting matches in tournament halls the better.

  22. Fat cat is fat
    May 2nd, 2015 at 09:41 | #22

    In an ideal world, there should be no increment. If you’re in time trouble and lose a winning position or if you get flagged in a good position, that’s your fault. You should save some time for situations like this instead of using all your time to get a position that can be drawn, only to realise that you don’t have time to actually draw it and end the game. However in Swiss tournaments there aren’t enough arbiters to make sure that everything is fair when there is no increment.

    Two examples come to my mind. Years ago Anish Giri was playing against a player rated around 2500, I think it was a blitz tournament. Giri dropped a piece to the ground when he had seconds left and he stopped the clock to pick it up. His opponent smiled and Giri realised what he had done, so he offered a draw and his opponent accepted but actually he should have lost because he would have lost on time if he stood up and picked up the piece from the ground since he has no right to stop the clock. But what if his opponent called the arbiter and told him about what happened, but couldn’t prove what happened?

    Another time Ivanchuk was playing a classical game against Dominguez. There was no increment. In order to reach move 40, Ivanchuk had a few seconds to make a lot of moves and naturally he knocked a lot of pieces around and adjusted them in his opponent’s time since Dominguez wasn’t in serious time trouble. Because of that, Ivanchuk reached move 40 and had a much better position. However he knew what he had done was unfair so he offered a draw and it was accepted but I don’t think that was fair either. If he adjusted the knocked pieces in his own time as he should, he would have lost on time. What if this happened in many boards in a Swiss tournament and nobody tells the truth when the arbiter comes? I think there should be increment unless there are enough arbiters to watch all the games, in which case there shouldn’t be increment since you never know how long a game can last due to the 30 second increment.

    Also let’s say that you have 1 minute left and your opponent has 10 minutes left. You have a better or equal simple position and you offer a draw, naturally your opponent declines and you lose. I don’t think there’s anything unfair with this. You both started with the same amount of time, your opponent used less time to reach that position, so naturally he has an advantage for the remaining part of the game. Someone who can make good maves in a less amount of time to reach a playable endgame is better than a person who needs more time to reach that endgame and he has the right to convert that to a win. If you think the amount of time used is irrelevant, then play correspondance chess.

  23. Jacob Aagaard
    May 2nd, 2015 at 10:43 | #23

    @Bryan
    Why does it not seem fair to lose on time if you have mismanaged it? You lost me there.
    Obviously we do not talk about blitz. To me the sporting value of blitz would not seriously decrease if you removed the pieces and just banged the clock for 10 minutes. I like the game, it is fun, but not worth talking seriously about.

  24. Jacob Aagaard
    May 2nd, 2015 at 10:47 | #24

    @JohnG
    The third group does not want the clock to take precedent. Straw man nonsense. The points, as clearly made above are:

    a) increment leads to hours of time trouble

    b) you do not have the ability to think for a long time about some moves, because the time is awarded later on. So, yes there are less blunders, but also much less greatness.

    c) why should we make chess “easier” for the people who cannot control their time consumption. Let them lose on time or change their ways. This is sports, not a social service.

    Your way of setting up the argument clearly serves your preference, but it is rather disingenuous.

  25. Jacob Aagaard
    May 2nd, 2015 at 10:49 | #25

    @Ed
    He got nervous. No criticism of anyone was implied in my piece and I strongly disagree with anyone who was not there criticising an individual.

  26. Jacob Aagaard
    May 2nd, 2015 at 10:51 | #26

    @Stigma
    Again a false choice. If my time is not allocated to me for me to distribute over the game, how can I ever play high level chess? This is especially ruining the endgame for me. There is never time to actually work something out in these increment driven endings.

    I am absolutely willing to accept some bad games in return for getting great games with deep thinking. Are you?

  27. Jacob Aagaard
    May 2nd, 2015 at 10:53 | #27

    @Tomasz Chessthinker
    Then don’t waste your time earlier on. Increments take responsibility away from the players. If you give them freedom to administrate their time, they also have the freedom to do so badly. Why is that not serious?

  28. Jacob Aagaard
    May 2nd, 2015 at 10:58 | #28

    @Phille
    Discussed this with some guys over dinner last night. Someone lost a game in the 4NCL when he had borrowed his brother’s phone and there was an alarm on it that went off. According to your logic this should not be a loss? It is not his phone after all.

    I left my phone with the arbiter. That he decided to keep it in the playing hall is natural, but certainly not my choice.

    I am not saying that I cannot see the arguments for a forfeit here, but it is just not clear cut. And to forfeit a player, you really need something clear cut. One argument here is the spurious one that if the arbiter had set the clock quickly, the phone would have rung after the game had ended (which it would have done within 30 seconds). In that case it would have been equally disturbing – and we have a team match, where I am still interested in how things will evolve – but there would be no penalty! Somehow that also does not seem correct.

    All very murky :-).

  29. Jacob Aagaard
    May 2nd, 2015 at 11:01 | #29

    @Phille
    Discussed this with some guys over dinner last night. Someone lost a game in the 4NCL when he had borrowed his brother’s phone and there was an alarm on it that went off. According to your logic this should not be a loss? It is not his phone after all.

    I left my phone with the arbiter. That he decided to keep it in the playing hall is natural, but certainly not my choice.

    I am not saying that I cannot see the arguments for a forfeit here, but it is just not clear cut. And to forfeit a player, you really need something clear cut. One argument here is the spurious one that if the arbiter had set the clock quickly, the phone would have rung after the game had ended (which it would have done within 30 seconds). In that case it would have been equally disturbing – and we have a team match, where I am still interested in how things will evolve – but there would be no penalty! Somehow that also does not seem correct.

    All very murky :-).

    @Fat cat is fat
    The FIDE rules have always seemed to be to presume that there will be an arbiter at every board. In the case of someone lying, cheating or similar, well this is something I would think it would be inappropriate to change the rules to reflect.

    Giri obviously just resigned. If you stop the clock in a blitz game… Anyway, blitz is decided by the clock often, it is part of the attraction. Base jumping should also not be checked for health and safety!

  30. jupp53
    May 2nd, 2015 at 11:35 | #30

    The mobile rules are there to prevent cheating with engines and phone calls while playing. So it’s ridiculous losing a game if the phone is handed to the referee. Bureaucracy, Bureaucracy!!

    Just playing a local tournament with 2 hours for 40 moves and 15 min for the rest of the game I think it’s the task of the players to handle their time. We all could do it when there were no electronic clocks. Demanding electronic clocks as long as there are masses of mechanic clocks working and still sold is an unfriendly attitude to men and their ressources, behaviorally and financially.

    Must we buy new stuff simply because it does exist? Must we win or lose a game because a mobile phone rings in a bag or on the referees desk? I couldn’t look into the mirror any more if I would respond with a “yes” to one of these questions.

  31. Thomas
    May 2nd, 2015 at 11:41 | #31

    I suggest we play football with 30 minutes per team. And anytime one team kicks the ball, 30 seconds are added. So there is always enough time left to level the score without having the referee stopping the game after 90 minutes.

  32. Stigma
    May 2nd, 2015 at 13:45 | #32

    Jacob Aagaard :
    c) why should we make chess “easier” for the people who cannot control their time consumption. Let them lose on time or change their ways. This is sports, not a social service.

    Yes, chess is a sport, and I wouldn’t bother with it if not for the sporting element. But chess is also perhaps the most inclusive sports ever, where young and old, men and women, healthy and handicapped compete against each other. This “social service” aspect of the game is something to celebrate, not denigrate! “Gens una sumus”, anyone?

    It seems some people would be happy to exclude those who struggle with a poor sense of time from this inclusive community. I don’t get it. If you’ve never thought of this as a serious handicap, consider that in some cases there are real health issues (like ADHD) beneath a poor sense of time.

  33. Stigma
    May 2nd, 2015 at 14:06 | #33

    Jacob Aagaard :
    @Stigma
    Again a false choice. If my time is not allocated to me for me to distribute over the game, how can I ever play high level chess? This is especially ruining the endgame for me. There is never time to actually work something out in these increment driven endings.
    I am absolutely willing to accept some bad games in return for getting great games with deep thinking. Are you?

    I’m not sure I understand this argument. If you want absolute freedom to distribute your time, isn’t that even more an argument against the time control at move 40 than against increments? Yet I don’t hear any demands to abolish the move 40 time control.

    How well I can play in any phase of the game depends mostly on how much time I have there and then, and less on how whatever time I get later will be distributed. So if you want really deep games, that’s more of an argument for longer time controls than against increments. Personally, I feel more comfortable spending time to go deeply into some complicated lines if I know I can rely on the increment to get me to move 40 (or to winning a won endgame).

    As for the everlasting increment endgames, I think we’ve all been there, and I agree it’s the best argument against them. But I could easily turn your arguments against you here: You’re responsible for distributing your time, you could just have reserved 40 minutes (of your non-increment time for the endgame phase and 20 of them for the technical endgame. I really fail to see why 30 minutes for the rest of the game (after move 40) should lead to better play than 30 minutes with a 30-second increment.

    These debates easily end up with everyone just arguing for what they personally like and perform best with, which is why I tried I tried to step back and think of what kinds of games we end up with in the various cases. The concerns of arbiters and spectators is also very relevant.

  34. JohnG
    May 2nd, 2015 at 15:00 | #34

    Jacob Aagaard :
    @JohnG
    The third group does not want the clock to take precedent. Straw man nonsense. The points, as clearly made above are:
    a) increment leads to hours of time trouble
    b) you do not have the ability to think for a long time about some moves, because the time is awarded later on. So, yes there are less blunders, but also much less greatness.
    c) why should we make chess “easier” for the people who cannot control their time consumption. Let them lose on time or change their ways. This is sports, not a social service.
    Your way of setting up the argument clearly serves your preference, but it is rather disingenuous.

    You could also have each player try to balance a dish on a long stick while playing. If he drops it then he is at fault and should forfeit. You could set up the rules in a variety of ways that would detract from the game of chess and still say that it is a player’s own fault if he loses, so I don’t see the purpose of this argument. Just because something is technically under a player’s control does not mean that either 1. it is realistic to expect him to have good control over it or 2. that it has anything to do with actual chess.

    I also fail to see why increment should lead to “hours of time trouble.” Take whatever time control you prefer without increment, and then simply add five seconds of increment. You should at least be no more likely to get into time trouble here than without increment. Maybe you mean that the game can keep going for a long time because of increment. If you are the one with little time then you can simply choose to flag, leaving you no worse off than you would have been without increment. If your opponent has little time, offer a draw. You apparently aren’t interested in playing the game out, so you might as well. He will most likely accept if he has just a few seconds left and you have a lot of time. The only exception would be if he has an easily winning position. In that case you can just resign.

  35. Bryan
    May 2nd, 2015 at 15:26 | #35

    @Jacob
    “Why does it not seem fair to lose on time if you have mismanaged it? You lost me there.”
    Actually happened (60/60):
    I get into an drawn endgame (R+bishops+3 pawns each, disconnected)
    We BOTH have less than 5 minutes left on the clock
    I ask him for a draw, he declines
    I have no grounds to “claim” a draw – position still has enough play for an arbiter to make that call
    He proceeds to mechanically move faster than me… responses are fairly obvious but I am losing time by not responding as quickly as he is. In last few seconds he even drops the exchange by moving too fast.
    I then lose on time.

    Would that classify as either me mishandling my time or a fair loss?

  36. Senchean
    May 2nd, 2015 at 18:39 | #36

    @Jacob Aagaard

    Jacob,

    There are a lot of issues you are glossing over. The best way to find a solution is to accurately define the problem, and in this case the problem has not been accurately defined. In order to determine whether or not there should be an increment, we must first figure out the nature of the game and the effect time has on it.

    The way that I approach and understand the problem is as follows:

    There is the game of chess itself i.e. the two players, the board, and the 32-34 pieces dependent on how many queens you have. This was how chess was originally, from the moment the rules of what was known as “mad queen” chess, (our modern rules for the game) were first established.

    Under these conditions we have the game: board, pieces, and players. Now chess has almost no physical skill involved. It is all mental, one player’s ideas against another. The player’s ability to use these ideas is generally based upon their natural talent for the game; how well they are able to understand, visualize, and memorize the game without any learning. Then there is their skill, how well they are able to learn and increase their understanding, visualization, and memorization. How much are they able to build and rely on their intuition. How many habits of play are they able to internalize and apply during the game.

    Even though everyone has these natural talents and skills to varying degrees they are all factors in the quality of thought a person has which they translate into moves on the board. It is these quality of moves which determines a person’s playing strength up to say, right before master.

    Now, with all the reading and playing I have done on the subject there seems to be two ways of thinking about the quality of moves. There is the scientific approach, which means there is a single best move in any given position and the chess player has the duty to find this best move. This gets into the idea that if both players having the responsibility to find the best move in accordance with the position. If both players each find the best move, the game ends in a draw. The other way to think about the game is the artistic approach which is the imposition of your will on the board over the opponent’s. This means there isn’t an absolute best move in every position, there is only the quality of moves in comparison with your opponents. Two centuries of play has shown us that chess is actually a combination of the two. There are some positions where there is a best move, and other positions where there is no single best move, but a number of equally good moves.

    There is also the issue of the first move. Chess is probably the most balanced game ever made. There is only one tempo’s difference between the two sides and this is why it is generally thought that a person should win with white, and draw with black. It is under this condition that matches developed, where instead of playing just one game the players would play several games, each with an equal number of tries at white and black, to determine who the better player was.

    It is these conditions that make up the most natural state of the game. With the introduction of the clock, the nature of the game changes.

    The clock was introduced for two reasons: 1, to prevent a person from dragging the game out indefinitely, and 2, to organize tournaments in a timely manner. And even though the clock has helped tremendously in these two areas, the introduction of the clock does drastically change the nature of the game by emphasizing the player’s natural talents over their learned skills.

    The reason it does this is because two people, looking at the same position, can each come to the same evaluation and move to be played if each are given unlimited time to find the move. But if you put a time limit on finding this move the talent and skill of each player is going to be emphasized. The person who has more talent and skill will find the move faster than the other. But if both players are equally skilled it will be talent that generally determines who finds the best move in a given position. The reason, barring external factors such as diet, sleep, age, and health, is that a person with more talent at the game will be able to learn and apply his or her skill for the game much faster than a person with less talent. And even though many talents and skills overlap, the old baseball adage comes to mind: If you have two players whom each have equal time running to a base, one has bad form the other perfect form, who do you pick? You pick the player with bad form because if you teach him the right form he will be faster. In other words he has more natural talent. The same is true for chess.

    Now there is nothing we can do against a person’s natural talents for the game in the game’s natural state. But the Chess clock introduces an element to the game that, I would say, puts too much emphasis on a person’s natural talent. It doesn’t actually reflect a person’s skill at the game. For me the difference in quality of my slow chess vs. my fast chess is a perfect example. I played to rapid (30 min.) games yesterday against 12-1300 level players. I lost both because I have very little talent for faster time controls. In over the board chess I’m about 1700. My loses had nothing to do with my skill at the game. I had objectively better positions, hands down. It was the speed at which I was forced to think. Now, with practice can I get better at this, of course. But there is a natural limit to how much better I can get. And if someone has a higher natural limit than me with their speed of thinking then they will be better at slower time controls.

    And it is reasonable to assume that slower time controls are more equalizing between two players than fast time controls because they even out the differences between skill and talent.

    Now the time increment actually changes the nature of the clock and therefore changes the nature of the game. On one hand the increment alleviates the time pressure because the person is able to add more time to their clock. On the other hand, it forces the person to play faster, because either a. they need to make their move within a certain amount of time in order to add more time to their clock, or b. they have used up most of their time and are living on the increment. Again this emphasizes talent over skill, meaning the person who is able to think and move faster will generally have the advantage thus putting speed of thought over quality of thought.

    There is also the issue of time management, vast difference in playing strength, and the writing down of moves.

    I’ve always had a problem with the player having to write down their own moves while on the clock because writing down the move does take at least half a second, and that time adds up. In a 40 move game, the player has taken 20 seconds doing nothing, but writing down their moves. And the increment does help alleviate that issue.

    Now the issues of time management and playing strength. It is true that time management is a skill. But it is highly effected by talent. If a person is able to think and move faster, then their time management will be better. And time management emphasizes memorization. If a person is able to memorize 20 move variations of their opening repertoire whereas their opponent is only able to memorize 15, the player with better memory will naturally have better time management. Now, maybe this equalizes out because the person who has less memory is able to think faster over the board so their middlegame is faster.

    Now on one hand getting into such small details as who has better memory verses speed of thought over the board is a waste of time. These qualities make up who a person is and there is no way we can make it an “even” playing field by evening these qualities out. Plus the nature of chess is there is generally a winner and a loser. That is the point of the game. So I’m not saying we should even out all of these factors.

    Plus as far as Jacob is concerned he is a grand master, and the rest of us aren’t. So Jacob’s quality of thought and speed, is much higher than the rest of us. Now I have no idea how much of this is skill vs. talent. Can a lot of it be learned yes. But I personal think we should shoot for quality over quantity, and that means reducing the effects of the clock on the game as much as possible, and playing it in its natural state as I described above.

    If it were up to me, we would get rid of the clock entirely, and rely on common sense and sportsmanship to determine whether or not someone is being a douchebag and trying to drag out the game. And I do think there are many things that need to change in tournament chess in order to bring the game back to its more natural state. The reason being, is that it is incredibly heartbreaking to be objectively beating your opponent, you are OUT THINKING them, and they win simply because they made their bad moves, faster.

  37. Vince in MN
    May 2nd, 2015 at 20:36 | #37

    Suggestion #1: Any discussion of the pros and cons of incremental time controls will ultimately become an exercise in debate similar to the old one of which political system is better, capitalism or communism; communism being characterized as representing man’s inhumanity to man, while with capitalism it is the other way around. Discuss. I personally like increments, but it is a moot point, as I think they are here to stay.

    Suggestion #2: Disconnect yourself from your digital devices for a time (say a week), with the exception of checking email (once a day, not every five minutes) and using the phone for only important incoming or outgoing calls. If you find yourself climbing the walls, you may just have an addiction problem.

  38. Jacob Aagaard
    May 2nd, 2015 at 21:08 | #38

    @Stigma
    I find it unfair when tall people dunk in basketball. Surely they are not playing fair?

  39. Jacob Aagaard
    May 2nd, 2015 at 21:14 | #39

    @Bryan
    Did you tell the arbiter that your opponent was not trying to win on the board, but only on the clock? You need to do this after which the arbiter will see if your opponent is actually trying to win on the board. If he is not, the arbiter should declare the game a draw.

    Why do you need to change the time control and the nature of the game entirely, for something we already have rules for?

  40. Stigma
    May 2nd, 2015 at 21:53 | #40

    @Jacob Aagaard
    Being within the normal height range is not normally considered a handicap, though in basketball of course it is. But the point is the increment actually makes chess even more inclusive for some groups, which is an argument in its favour. I also found your “social service” comment a bit offensive. Though it’s not your fault personally; society at large still sees people with these issues (poor sense of time, attention disorders) as fair game for criticism and even ridicule.

    I posted a reply to your actual arguments as well, but it seems to be caught up “awaiting moderation”. Maybe because I submitted two comments in a row?

  41. May 2nd, 2015 at 22:03 | #41

    Jacob Aagaard :
    Why do you need to change the time control and the nature of the game entirely, for something we already have rules for?

    The way I see it, any rule requiring the arbiter would be better if the arbiter could be eliminated (within reason). It would be nice if the rules of chess allowed for clearly drawn positions to reach their natural conclusion without having to insert a third party into the process. (For one thing, millions of games are played online every day without an arbiter.) This is what increment (or delay) during sudden-death periods does, and that’s why I like it.

    Increment/delay during non-sudden-death periods I can take or leave, but if I had to choose, I’d take it, just to keep things consistent.

  42. Seth
    May 3rd, 2015 at 01:01 | #42

    I really don’t like the 90/40, SD 30 with the 30 second increment and I truly DESPISE the 90+30 time control.

    Time trouble for 2-3 hours per game? Or longer? And in the USA, 2 games a day like this? By the time rounds 7, 8, 9 roll around, your nerves are gone.

    And as Jacob has already mentioned earlier, good luck playing a masterful endgame. All of my endgame study comes from books…certainly not by playing tournament games anymore.

  43. Jacob Aagaard
    May 3rd, 2015 at 06:16 | #43

    @Stigma
    Not targeted at vulnerable groups, no reason to be offended. Actually, I find the general attitude of taking offense of everything, especially on others behalf quite repugnant. But you said almost :-).

    I get thrown into moderation at times too.

    I have never seen anyone quit chess because they lost on time. But I know of people who have had enough of increments and are considering stopping. But this is of course not a statistical analysis.

  44. Phil Irwin
    May 3rd, 2015 at 07:51 | #44

    Seth, I’m with you; I hate those 2 particular time controls. For local events, I can understand why they want to get it over with quick, why they don’t mind inducing errors to get it over with. Now some of our big national events ( I live in the U.S. ) have been given over to the same “git ‘er done” stuff. I’m really starting to pick and choose where I spend my tournament dollars. Why would I want to fly half across the country for bad chess? I support the slowest events left. I’m only a “weakie” but have been playing since the late 1960’s as a child. I’ve been hoping for a backlash, maybe it shall start here, where the best books are published.

  45. Gollum
    May 3rd, 2015 at 08:23 | #45

    @Jacob Aagaard
    Why would someone had enough about increments and want to quit chess?

    I understand your general point: let zeitnot addicts lose on time, it is a part of the game. I do not agree and I prefer increment as the majority posting here (or so it seems to me), but I see the merit of your position. In my view, the lose you have by not allowing them to lose on time is outweighed by two things: First, as you said, the arbiter is less of a factor. I’ve been playing a long time in team matches without arbiters, or playing tournaments with 150 boards with 2 to 3 arbiters. Making it less of a factor is a good thing in my view. Secondly, I don’t like people playing for the flag. I think it is despicable and against the spirit of the sport (like simulating a fault in football). Many will think otherwise, but for me it is a plus too that increments let you survive positions where your opponent tries to flag you.

    But I cannot understand why someone would abandon chess because the increments. So what if you cannot win on time some positions? That’s no reason to quit.

    If it is because normally you play the endgames on 30 seconds increment, then it is not the increment fault. When I was young (at least, younger) we played 40m/2h and 1h/finish. Now we play 90min + 30s/move which is a lot less time. People play as if it were the old time control, hence they reach move 40 on increments, and thereby have eternal time trouble. But it is not the increment to blame, but the fixed amount of time at the start. As previously stated, you can go with 1h for the first 40 moves and then have at least 50 minutes for the rest of the game. Or you can advocate to start with 2h, or you can advocate for 90minutes + 30 seconds for 40 moves, 30 minnutes + 30 seconds for the rest of the game. You will have more time for the endgame and the 30 second increment policy will guard you against flagging or extremely long endgames (say rook + bishop against rook, with is a draw but needs accurate play).

  46. Ray
    May 3rd, 2015 at 10:11 | #46

    I hate the new time controls with increments. You are in time trouble much quicker than before, because your ‘normal’ time has decreased from 2 hours to 1,5 hours until the first time control. Besides, I agree with Jacob that chess is a sport, and proper time management is an integral part of this. That being said, I do also agree with some of the comments about opponents trying to flag you in a dead drawm position. In my humble opinion this this can rather easily be solved though, by making the time incement just small enough to avoid those situations and make an automatic move, but too small too really think – say 2 seconds (or 1 if that’s still too big 🙂 ).

  47. Ray
    May 3rd, 2015 at 10:13 | #47

    @Jacob Aagaard
    Good point, that’s what we have arbiters for. Sadly though, there are a lot of bad arbiters around, especially at the lower levels… That’s why I think a time increment of about 2 seconds could be a possible solution.

  48. Ray
    May 3rd, 2015 at 10:16 | #48

    @Stigma
    Maybe you should switch to rapid games then 🙂

  49. Jesse Gersenson
    May 3rd, 2015 at 10:24 | #49

    @Nikos Ntirlis
    “Ridiculous” is too strong. Setting the clock can be complicated when number of moves & increments are involved. Arbiter must get another clock, write down actual times, check number of moves, write those down, check score sheets to confirm move number, figure out whose move it is, set who’s to move, set the time remaining, set the time increments, etc, etc.

  50. Jesse Gersenson
    May 3rd, 2015 at 10:47 | #50

    Comments are now limited to 1500 characters, which is 22 lines of text in ‘add comment’ box.

    Longer messages are automatically deleted.

  51. jupp53
    May 3rd, 2015 at 11:10 | #51

    There is one good side with increments: Always enough time for the notation of the game.

    The bad sides: Endgames are mostly played under time pressure. The quality of the game lacks. And even if you manage your time well you get here and there in a time trouble battle for half an hour or more.

    The rest is not inherent to increments. There are people loving time trouble. They will love increments.

  52. Stigma
    May 3rd, 2015 at 14:56 | #52

    @Ray
    Oh no, I’m hopeless at rapid! 🙂 Much better at blitz actually; there thinking deeply is just never an option, and intuition is everything.

  53. Kassy
    May 3rd, 2015 at 15:11 | #53

    So is the argument that 40/2 20/1 SD/30 which was a common time control for a few years a decade or so ago is better? Because those games would often go quick 10 moves, glacial speed for 12 moves, bullet chess for 18 moves, glacial for 5 moves, bullet for 15, glacial for 3-4 moves, bullet until the end. Is that better?

    With 40/100 SD/30 Inc 30 from beginning you still get 2 hrs for the first 40 moves and also get at least 30 seconds for every move. That, or similar, was used in the states for a short period of time and I thought was fairly reasonable. There is never a bullet chess scramble so at least the position on the board has some meaning for the whole game

  54. Stigma
    May 3rd, 2015 at 15:15 | #54

    @Jacob Aagaard
    The bottom line is, I think this inclusive, “social service” side of chess is a good thing. And the increment does make for a better tournament experience for some groups. That’s one small argument for increments (among many for and against).

    I don’t know anyone who stopped playing specifically because they lost on time either, but we time trouble addicts do have to endure lots of comments and jokes on our behalf. It seems people who don’t struggle with it themselves just can’t get their heads around how anyone can have these problems year in and year out, so they chalk it up to stupidity, carelessness, attention seeking or thrill seeking or something. If you have a weakness in tactics or endgames or whatever, people “merely” use it against you at the board, but if your weakness happens to be time management, you get these “funny” comments every tournament as well. But not so much in tournaments with an increment…

    Back on topic, I think the arguments for increments are a bit stronger than those against, at least with shorter time controls (less than 2 hours for 40 moves).

  55. Phille
    May 3rd, 2015 at 15:30 | #55

    This “playing the endgame in constant time trouble with increments” is just as much a time management issue as getting into time trouble without increments is.

    And it is really absurd to claim that these endgames with 30 sec per move somehow ruined more great games than time trouble before move 40 does.

    @Aagaard: Now this “brothers phone”-business is definitely a strawman argument. I fail to see any difference whether the phone someone brought to the venue with him, was bought, borrowed, leased or stolen. And to me “your phone rings during your game” is as clear cut as it can get. The phone you stole from the arbiter and then borrowed to your opponent rings while your checkmating him after you overstepped the incorrectly set time … now that would be messy.

  56. Torgovanov
    May 3rd, 2015 at 19:21 | #56

    @Fat cat is fat
    The FIDE rules have always seemed to be to presume that there will be an arbiter at every board. In the case of someone lying, cheating or similar, well this is something I would think it would be inappropriate to change the rules to reflect.
    Giri obviously just resigned. If you stop the clock in a blitz game… Anyway, blitz is decided by the clock often, it is part of the attraction. Base jumping should also not be checked for health and safety!

    From The FIDE Law Of Chess:

    “7.4 If a player displaces one or more pieces, he shall re-establish the correct position in his own time. If necessary, either the player or his opponent shall stop the chessclock and ask for the arbiter’s assistance. The arbiter may penalise the player who displaced the pieces.”

    And:

    “6.12 
    d.  If  a  player  stops  the  chess  clock  in  order  to  seek  the  arbiter’s  assistance,  the 
    arbiter shall determine whether the player had any valid reason for doing so. If it 
    is obvious that the player had no valid reason for stopping the chess clock, the 
    player shall be penalised according to Article 12.9. ”

    With 7.4 and 6.12.d, it is “not” obviously that Giri resigned, i.m.h.o.

  57. Raul
    May 4th, 2015 at 08:31 | #57

    Time controls with increments are in my opinion a good pragmatic choice. It avoids a set of potential problems, mainly in situations where there are few or no arbiters present.

    While I fully agree that players are responsible for their own time management, and losing on time in a winning position is completely your own fault; I don’t see how this is an argument against increments. With increments you are still equally responsible for your own time management, just the circumstances are a bit different.

  58. Ray
    May 4th, 2015 at 09:16 | #58

    @Raul
    For me the main argument against increments is that is goes at the cost of you ‘normal’ time (normally decreased from 2 hours for 40 moves to 1,5 hours for 40 moves). Apart from the simple fact that this give you 10 minutes less until the first time control, it also means you’re sooner in time trouble and ‘living’ on increments. Personally I don’t like this, but it’s a matter of taste.

  59. Kostas Oreopoulos
    May 4th, 2015 at 11:36 | #59

    1) First my opinion is that rules want
    a) your phone not to ring
    b) not use your phone to cheat

    So giving your mobile “tries” to enforce (b) but you should also enforce (a) yourself.
    You cannot make an arbiter in a big event to check every single phone if its open or not

    Besides if the phone is still open, one can argue that (b) is still possible.

    2) I am pro increment 100%. Either the new type of increment (per move), or the old style giving time every N moves. Modern clocks make both variations possible

    With increments you can defend easily defandable possitions (not just obvious draws)
    You can win won positions and generally you can manage your time.

    You cannot manage your time, when you do not know the length of the game

    So if i had to choose i would go for 2 hours for 40 moves fixed and then increments.

  60. Jonas
    May 5th, 2015 at 07:12 | #60

    I would prefer a time classical time control for one or two periods (e.g. 2 hours / 40 moves + 1 hour / 20 moves) and a final period with increment (e.g. 15 minutes + 30 sec / move).

  61. Mike Twyble
    May 5th, 2015 at 10:35 | #61

    I have some sympathy with the compromise suggested by Jonas. For the first 40 moves you manage your time but then are not required to play an unlimited number of moves in a quick play finish. With regard to the mobile phone I must agree with the view that if the arbiter has accepted possession then the phone is their responsibility.

  62. Jacob Aagaard
    May 5th, 2015 at 11:44 | #62

    @Stigma
    What?? Seriously??

  63. Jacob Aagaard
    May 5th, 2015 at 11:55 | #63

    @JohnG
    Why do people set up fictional parallel worlds in defence of their position? Go to the circus if you want spinning plates, I am talking about chess.

    The hours of time trouble is a regular occurrence under increment, so it happens. Real.

  64. Jacob Aagaard
    May 5th, 2015 at 11:59 | #64

    @Phille
    Disagree. You cannot have it both ways. Either my phone is the phone I have on me, or it is not. To forfeit someone you have to have a very strong clear cut case. Giving your phone to the arbiter is in my opinion a clear cut unclear case :-).

  65. Jacob Aagaard
    May 5th, 2015 at 12:02 | #65

    Someone said that he could not understand why increments make you play worse endings. It is easy to explain. To think deeply you need time. But with increment, your time is rationed and only handed out when you make a move. Chess is changed to being blunder checking instead of an art form. Truly a sport, but wow it has lost a lot of its glow for me. I would rather have ambitious failures than this reduction in hung pieces when people lose control. But then I actually like chess for chess.

  66. Ray
    May 5th, 2015 at 12:14 | #66

    I’m struggling anyway to see which problem is supposed to be solved by introducing incements. Indeed it seems to have been introduced mainly to suit arbiters.

    As an aside, I’m in favour of allowing computer assistance, to make chess even more social inclusive.

  67. Thomas
    May 5th, 2015 at 12:41 | #67

    Ray :
    Indeed it seems to have been introduced mainly to suit arbiters.

    The problem is all the rules are made by the arbiters, not by the players.

  68. Kassy
    May 5th, 2015 at 14:50 | #68

    90 30 from move 1 is horrible not because of the increment but because it greatly shortens the total amount of time for the game. A 60 move game under 40/2 SD/1 is 6 hrs for 60 moves. Under 90 30inc it is 3h30min. The increment is not the reason the endgame stinks. It is the loss of 2h30min.
    If you compare 40/100 20/50 SD/15 with 30 sec increment from move 1 to 40/2 20/1 SD/15 than you have the exact same amount of time with both for a 60 move game but still have a chance for playing something resembling chess if the game goes longer than 70 moves or so.
    But at the same time the game is not going to go on for ever and ever or have adjournments.
    Even a 150 move game in that setting only lasts 8 hours.

  69. Ray
    May 5th, 2015 at 15:51 | #69

    @Kassy
    Good point. I like the idea of a mixed system!

  70. Jacob Aagaard
    May 5th, 2015 at 16:07 | #70

    @Kassy
    You seem to be missing the point. When your time is rationed, you can only use it once it has been given to you. It does alter the game, though obviously you are right in your point as well.

  71. Stigma
    May 5th, 2015 at 16:44 | #71

    Jacob Aagaard :
    @Stigma
    What?? Seriously??

    Seriously what? Did I say something shocking?
    I’m not saying the rules should be specifically designed to make life easier for time trouble addicts of course, merely that it’s one small benefit of increments. There are stronger arguments both for and against.

    I’m not

    Phille :
    This “playing the endgame in constant time trouble with increments” is just as much a time management issue as getting into time trouble without increments is.
    And it is really absurd to claim that these endgames with 30 sec per move somehow ruined more great games than time trouble before move 40 does.

    I thought these were good points from Phille, though “absurd” may be too strong. To my mind seeing a brilliant, deep Ivanchuk or Grischuk game ruined by one blunder around move 39 is just as sad as two GMs playing a mediocre endgame living on the increment.

    And if an endgame lasts long enough with neither adjournments nor increments, players are likely to end up in the dreaded final time trouble. Perhaps GMs can expect to have reached technical positions they know by heart (or something similar enough) by that point. But when I see all the “tragicomedies”…

  72. JohnG
    May 5th, 2015 at 17:11 | #72

    Jacob Aagaard :
    @JohnG
    Why do people set up fictional parallel worlds in defence of their position? Go to the circus if you want spinning plates, I am talking about chess.
    The hours of time trouble is a regular occurrence under increment, so it happens. Real.

    Reduction ad absurdum is a legitimate form of argument, and according to at least one person, it is the only form of argument I know how to use. So forgive me for the extreme example. But I was making a substantive point. An element of the game can be fair (applied equally to both players), non-random (the players can control it), but still not conducive to the enjoyment of good chess.

    As far as increments/delay increasing time trouble, I think we are miscommunicating here. Take your preferred time control, whatever that may be. Now add one second delay. Surely, time trouble is not any more likely now than it was before the delay. Surely, you have no less time. Well, this time control satisfies me just fine. It may be that you are only thinking of increment here, whereas I am talking about both increment and delay. It may also be that you are assuming that the addition of an increment will inevitably be coupled with other changes to the time control (so 40/2 S.D. 1 becomes G/90 with 5 second inc.), whereas I am making no such assumption.

  73. JohnG
    May 5th, 2015 at 17:13 | #73

    @JohnG
    argg, that’s reductio ad absurdum obviously.

  74. Patrick
    May 5th, 2015 at 18:02 | #74

    I think increment is the best way to go for many reasons:

    1) The board should decide the game, not the clock. Winning on time is lame. The only reason a clock was brought into chess was to make it so that organizers could schedule multiple games in a single day. Back in Morphy’s days, a clock was never used. His games would go 15 hours, himself spending 3 hours, his opponent spending 12 hours. Checkmate, using your brain and fingers, wins the game, not a ticking battery-operated machine. If you play like a moron, and have a lost position, you deserve to lose!

    2) Many tournament directors have a rating of 1200 or so. What good is he to decide whether a grandmaster would beat a 1400 player in a given position when trying to claim “Insufficient Losing Chances”.

    3) There is too much contraversy between FIDE, USCF, and other organizations as to when you should be able to stop taking notation. With 30 seconds increment, all moves must be notated, no ifs, ands, or buts. Valid vs Invalid 50 move claims are clear. While 3-fold repetition claims require you to continue to take notation to claim, 50 move rule claims don’t require such a thing.

    4) How can you claim a player has poor time management? Jacob, if you were White against me, and the time control is 40 moves in 2 hours followed by sudden death in an hour, you can’t even remotely try to tell me that you know that our game, after 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6, is going to take 25…

  75. Patrick
    May 5th, 2015 at 18:05 | #75

    (Continued) … moves or 225 moves.

    5) On the flip side, it avoids bogus cases of just wasting time. I had an opponent that was dead lost in a Levenfish Attack – transposed from the Pirc (1.e4 d6 2.d4 Nf6 3.Nc3 g6 4.f4 c5 5.Nf3 cxd4 6.Nxd4 Bg7 7.e5 dxe5 8.fxe5 Nfd7?) and was lost by move 13, and yet he took 118 minutes to make 13 moves as it was 40/2, SD/30. Had it been 40/90, SD/30, 30 Second Increment, I could have saved about 23 minutes. It allows for extra time in long games that legitimately need it, and avoids wasting time in miniatures!

    Increment gets my vote all day, every day.

  76. Thomas
    May 5th, 2015 at 19:50 | #76

    Patrick :
    …was lost by move 13, and yet he took 118 minutes to make 13 moves as it was 40/2, SD/30. Had it been 40/90, SD/30, 30 Second Increment, I could have saved about 23 minutes.

    Had it been a bullet game, you could have saved 117 minutes!

  77. Nikos Ntirlis
    May 5th, 2015 at 21:51 | #77

    @Jesse

    Yes, “ridiculous” is a strong word indeed. But i still find it hard to believe that a “serious” arbiter cannot set up the clock in less than a minute. You only have to set the time and the move counter, this is not much provided that this is something you “train” every now and then. I have been an arbiter for the Greek Team Championships for 3 years in a row (a quite huge event with more than 30 teams of 10 players participating) and everytime before (and many times during the event) i practice many times to set up the clock just to be “in form”.

  78. Jacob Aagaard
    May 6th, 2015 at 09:14 | #78

    @Nikos Ntirlis
    Different clocks all the time.

  79. Jacob Aagaard
    May 6th, 2015 at 09:20 | #79

    @Patrick
    1) I agree. But I think the players have a responsibility. Chess is about solving problems in the allotted time. If you need more time to solve the immediate problems, but believe you can solve later ones in seconds, you should be allowed to do so. Sure, you get less blunders, but you also get less brilliance. To believe that rationing time does not affect the quality of play is silly.

    2) Any reasonable arbiter (and there are many) is able to handle this situation. If your arbiter is truly appalling, so are your players most likely. Sorry, I do not think low level games (no offense to anyone, I include myself in this group often!) should decide how an optimal game is played. Elitist? Yes. I watch the best players with more interest when I follow a tournament. Don’t you?

    3) I do not see why you should stop writing down your moves before move 40. Never did. You were given time for it, do it.

    4) Yes, you only know afterwards if it was poor time management. But with increment, your time is rationed and you are not allowed to control your time. As said before, sometimes getting into time trouble is good time management. In your example, increment means that time I need is not available to me. Bad example!

    5) Absurd cases are irrelevant.

  80. Remco G
    May 6th, 2015 at 09:59 | #80

    I think most people arguing against increments here argue against large increments that really change the way the player has to manage his time. On the other hand, most of the arguments for increments also work with small increments.

    Something like 1hr55m for the first forty moves, 1 hour for the rest of the game and 5 secs/move increment from the start might be acceptable for both sides.

  81. An Ordinary Chessplayer
    May 6th, 2015 at 13:18 | #81

    Ugh. Arguing about rules is so pointless. Spend some time in the arbiter’s room at a large tournament and you will hear endless back-and-forth on tedious issues. Really, I could choose to argue with almost every single comment made here. (For example, Bryan said: “simply moving faster at the expense of playing well should not be rewarded”. But isn’t this the essence of time management? Good enough move made faster *should* be rewarded, later, via time pressure. Truly awful move very fast is only a difference of degree.) If I expressed a substantive opinion myself, I could easily turn around and argue the opposite view.

    It’s annoying to lose a game on time, but I have only myself to blame, whatever the time control. If the rules allow me to make some claim, I need to know the rules. If the rules do not allow me to make a claim, well, chess is a hard game.

    With 30-sec increment, the first time control has to be chopped because of the potential total time of the game. E.g. one tourney years ago, before digital clocks, had a time control of 40/1-hr + sd/10-min. The reason was that it took place on an island, the last ferry left at 5pm so the last round had to finish well before that. Similar considerations apply to increment time controls, with more than one round per day, or facility closing, etc.

  82. Phille
    May 7th, 2015 at 11:55 | #82

    @Jacob Aagaard
    Even with 30sec increments only 20 minutes of your time is bound up in the increments. After the opening it’ll be 10 minutes. I really, really doubt the availability of a few more minutes after move 20 often makes a difference in the “brilliance” of a game.
    On the other hand time trouble ruins brilliant games basically on a daily basis. More brilliant games is really an argument for increments (and against shortening the time control).

  83. Jacob Aagaard
    May 8th, 2015 at 12:33 | #83

    @Remco G
    Yeah, but what would the point of this be?

  84. Jacob Aagaard
    May 8th, 2015 at 12:34 | #84

    @Phille
    You need to think beyond move 40/60 and you will see that your argument is false.

  85. Phille
    May 8th, 2015 at 13:03 | #85

    @Jacob Aagaard
    After move 40 you ideally have time controls every 20 moves. So the situation is really completely the same, whether you just finished the opening (move 20) or made a time control. Only ten minutes of an hour are bound up in the increment. That’s just not much …

    I think you are thinking of the shortening of time controls, i.e. blitzing out the endgame, that accompanied the introduction of increments. But that is a separate issue.

  86. Lars Ekholm
    May 8th, 2015 at 15:28 | #86

    An alternative chess clock:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rldaF4w0o4

  87. Ray
    May 8th, 2015 at 15:53 | #87

    I’m missing adjournments – especially in team matches those were great; travelling half the country on a monday evening to make 10 or 20 moves for your team and then lose anyway 🙂

  88. Indra Polak
    May 8th, 2015 at 16:49 | #88

    At our club opponents must first agree on the used form: increment or no increment. If they disagree, there is a default which used to be non-increment but if I remember correctly has now be replaced by increment to follow the modern times.

    What I did not hear in this discussion is the possibility to change your style during the game: say you want to start without increment, but then after some time decide you want the increment after all. Push a special button and the clock calculates the remaining number of moves to the next time control and gives you an increment version, keeping the total time constant.

    Or the option that both players may choose their own style at the beginning of the game, again keeping the total time constant. Obviously, when there is no time control left, this is not possible.

    Another variant I like is that the clock automatically enters increment mode when you have less than 5 minutes for the remainder of the game. This is of course not totally fair, since the player first to enter increment mode effectively gets more time, but if the increment is very small (say 10 seconds or less) the advantages would maybe outweight the disadvantages.

    And the way to still play nice endgames is just to enter them earlier 🙂 but naturally this is not always possible.

  89. Jacob Aagaard
    May 9th, 2015 at 11:25 | #89

    @Phille
    Of course it relates tobthe real world and not the rare cases where you have decent playing conditions. I would guess that more games are ruined from nerves due to increment and lack of time to think than by time trouble blunders. If you consider it with an open mind you can see how.

  90. JohnG
    May 10th, 2015 at 14:34 | #90

    Jacob Aagaard :
    @Remco G
    Yeah, but what would the point of this be?

    A small increment or delay still makes it impossible for someone to win by shuffling pieces in a drawn position, for example.

  91. An Ordinary Chessplayer
    May 10th, 2015 at 22:24 | #91

    “If you consider it with an open mind you can see how.” – To me, this does not come across so well on a blog.

    Let me see if I can rephrase your argument. (1) In the real world with short time controls (e.g. my ferry example in the extreme case), increment does NOT come with an additional block of time. (2) So, in practice the available choices are (2a) a pseudo-classical (perhaps shorter than classical) no-increment control, or (2b) a shorter primary control with increment, followed by pure increment. With (2a), time-trouble is somewhat avoidable, but with (2b) the endgame increment torture is inevitable.

    I took a look at advertised time controls in New York State. The vast majority were rapid with e.g. sd/60 (or sd/25, etc.) + d5 (delay, not increment). There were a handful with 40/90 (or 40/110) + sd/30 + inc30. And finally there were a very few with sd/90 + inc30. (One organiser has 40/80 + d0 but additional time controls not specified.) Not a pretty picture.

  92. Phille
    May 11th, 2015 at 09:46 | #92

    Yeah, “in the real world increment doesn’t come with additional blocks of time, therefore increments are bad” is not a valid argument as far as I’m concerned. And where I play it is not even true. My league time control combines increment and additional blocks of time.

    The reason for constant endgame time trouble is not getting additional blocks of time. But to me, not getting additional blocks of time is bad no matter whether there is an increment or not. And arguably it is even worse if there is no increment.

  93. Jacob Aagaard
    May 11th, 2015 at 12:47 | #93

    @Phille
    I play in some unimportant tournaments like the Olympiad, where we get another 15-30 minutes after move 40 and increment. I would rather have an hour, thank you very much.
    So, maybe it is irrelevant that what the real World looks like to some guys, but to me it matters.

  94. John Cox
    May 12th, 2015 at 10:53 | #94

    It always seems to me that the answer with increments is completely obvious: there should be none in sessions with so many moves in so many minutes, but there should be in sessions with so many minutes to finish the game. I remember Grischuk saying the same thing. It astonishes me that we’re still having debate about this, let alone using increments in the first sessions as the 4NCL does. It’s simply arbiter convenience, of course.

  95. Phille
    May 12th, 2015 at 11:18 | #95

    In my league we play with 80min/40moves + 50min after move 40 and 30sec increment from move 1. To my mind this is the perfect time control: Increment AND an additional block of time.

  96. John Shaw
    May 12th, 2015 at 13:09 | #96

    @John Cox

    I was saying roughly the same thing in comment number 4.

  97. Gollum
    May 18th, 2015 at 12:05 | #97

    The poll has a flaw, there is no negative option (the one Jacob defends), it is either it has been a good thing or it hasn’t (I understand it as neutral, not as a negative effect).

    I voted as positive. I think the reduction in time for the game is negative, but that does not have anything to do with the increment.

    Asuming the same thinking time for the game, one with increments of 30s and one without them and with the extra time given to you at the beginning, I think the increment is positive because

    a) Arbiters are less of a factor.
    b) You can actually play very long endings knowing you will always have time (otherwise you can’t allocate your time correctly, because you don’t know if the ending will be finished in 10 more moves or in 50).
    c) It hinders people trying to flag you.

    And that outweights in my view

    i) You can’t allocate your time as much as you want.
    ii) You help people who does not know how to allocate their time.

  98. Seth
    May 18th, 2015 at 19:52 | #98

    b) You can actually play very long endings knowing you will always have time (otherwise you can’t allocate your time correctly, because you don’t know if the ending will be finished in 10 more moves or in 50).

    Long endgames does not mean quality endgames.

    I had a tournament where I blew three wins (they became three draws) because I was living on increment alone (time control was 90+30). I got to play long endgames – so what? I would rather have had the time on a couple of key, critical moments to convert the win.

  99. Gollum
    May 19th, 2015 at 07:42 | #99

    I have only played two time controls in my life: 2h / 40 moves and 1h finish and 1.5h + 30s.

    In the first time control you have some good time starting from move 40 and you can make quality decisions (I remember spending 40 minutes in move 41 to calculate a transition to a pawn endgame which was won). Nevertheless, if the ending lasts too long (imagine you have to defend a rook + bishop against a rook, or win a queen against rook, which a certain GM couldn’t win over the board) you will be in tremendous time pressure.

    On the other hand, with the second time control, I’m under 10 minutes on the clock from move 30-35, so the quality of the endgame is obviously poor. But that is not the increment’s fault, but the effective reduction of time for the game.

    If the time control would be 1h40min/40 moves, 50min finish with an increment of 30s each move, the time control would be identical for 60 move games, but you will have always some time to play. I rather have this time control than 2h/40moves and 1h finish.

  100. Fer
    May 19th, 2015 at 10:51 | #100

    @Gollum

    I think that this option you talk about would be the best one: 1h40min/40 moves, 50min finish with an increment of 30s each move.
    If you only have 30s. increment, then, once you are in time trouble, you are on it for the rest of the game.

  101. Philip Adams
    May 20th, 2015 at 00:16 | #101

    I’m very sympathetic to the logic of the Cox-Shaw view regarding increments that “there should be none in sessions with so many moves in so many minutes, but there should be in sessions with so many minutes to finish the game”.
    Our local evening league is intending to introduce an (optional) time control with increments. Traditionally we have an initial session (30 moves in 1h15) followed by a final session of 20 minutes to finish. I’d prefer to keep the first session without increments and start them at move 31 (15 secs, to fit into the evening session), but do standard digital clocks (e.g. DGTs) actually allow this type of arrangement, or does the increment have to start at move 1? As is obvious, I’m no digital clock expert and opinions and advice would be appreciated.

  102. John Shaw
    May 20th, 2015 at 15:56 | #102

    @Philip Adams

    I saw Stewart Reuben on the ECF Forum refer to it as “the Cox-Shaw-Kasparov view”, which I like even more as a name.

    I am also no expert on digital clocks, but it is my understanding that most modern clocks allow this time control. But I couldn’t tell you how to set the clock – we need to ask an arbiter.

    Such time controls are not a new or radical idea, as the official World Championship time control for the last ten years (back to at least San Luis 2005) has been “120 minutes for the first 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting after move 61”.

  103. Jesse Gersenson
    May 20th, 2015 at 19:44 | #103

    Anyone know who invented increment play?

    “A good illustration of why none of the top programs test with repeating time controls, only with increment. There are better ways to spend one’s time (or your computer’s time) than playing out drawn endings forever at a repeating time control. Repeating time controls are pretty much obsolete even for humans, more so for engines. You can get a noticeably higher quality game in the same average time with increments. But I’m not complaining, Komodo seems to top the rating lists either way. I admit to a certain bias, as I invented increment play (for the Micromate digital chess clock around 1980), not (as widely believed) Bobby Fischer.”

    Larry Kaufman
    http://talkchess.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=56411

  104. Larry Musa
    May 21st, 2015 at 01:30 | #104

    I agree with GM Aagaard, if the increment adversely affects the quality of the games.
    You need the ability to have a long think, and if I understand his argument, increments, in effect, diminish that ability. It depends on the time control and the increment as to whether quality will be impacted, of course. But the stated example of 15-30 minutes and increment after move 40, as opposed to an hour, certainly lowers quality.

    It may be relevant to quote Kotov from ‘Play Like a Grandmaster’:

    ‘It is particularly useful to read Botvinnik’s comments, “I tried as far as possible to rid myself of time trouble. Generally speaking you cannot be wholly rid of it, and this would be unwise. During a game there are moments when you have to examine the position scrupulously, you have to spend 20-30 minutes thinking it out and then make the remaining moves to the control at a quicker rate. This is “normal” time trouble and I do not intend to avoid it.’

    Well, that is pretty clear. Botvinnik style thinks seem to be ruled out in some increment time control scenarios.

  105. Thomas
    May 21st, 2015 at 06:50 | #105

    Larry Kaufman invented many things, including the wheel and the steam engine.

  106. Larry Musa
    May 23rd, 2015 at 16:56 | #106

    I agree with comments that increments ruin the endgame.

    In the ‘The Life and Games of Akiva Rubinstein (vol2)’, IM John Donaldson notes that Akiva Rubenstein was a master of strategic planning in the endgame, and then he provides us with this:

    “Computers may have brought have brought many benefits to society but the improvement of endgame play is not one of them. Playing games to a finish is obligatory in a time of Rybka and Fritz but the lack of adjournments has definitely had an impact on present-day players in the final phase of the game. The introduction of accelerated time controls also has had a negative effect. Often on reaches the endgame with only a few minutes on the clock with the thirty-second increment providing time to do little more than react.”

    His point is that Rubenstein’s masterpieces would not exist if he was required to play with an increment.

    In more recent times, Shirov’s famous 47…Bh3!! was played in 40 2 1/2 time control. No increment.

  107. Gollum
    May 23rd, 2015 at 20:33 | #107

    @Larry Musa
    One must thing how much time is kept from you with increments. For 40 moves, 30s each move is 20 minutes. Assuming the important decision has to be taken in move 20, only 10 minutes are kept from you.

    I do not think you can tell me with a straight face that this 10 minutes will have a really meaningful impact in the quality of your play. If you really expect to think over the 20th move and have less than 10 minutes afterwards, I would argue the quality of your play will be affected more with your poor time management than with anything else.

    The problem is that Jacobs faults the increment for the reduction of time control and it is not the increment’s fault!

    So the only valid point from Jacob is that you are helping people not to lose on time in exchange for helping the arbiters. I rather help the arbiters not have a meaningful impact on the game for this small sacrifice.

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