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PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2014 9:32 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2012 5:31 pm
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Yesterday evening the Bristol Chess League AGM rejected a proposal to introduce incremental time controls in division 1 where digital clocks are available to facilitate this. This is a pity. Incremental time controls are definitely the direction in which chess in general is heading and are the next logical step in the evolution of time controls.

Chess clocks were introduced to prevent games being interminable and initially moved the game along by controlling the rate of play rather than the overall time available. International chess was at one time played at the rate of 40 moves in 2 hours 30 minutes, adjourn and continue at 16 moves per hour for as many 4 hour sessions as were necessary. This evolved into 40 moves in 2 hours, then 20 moves in 1 hour followed by an extra 30 minutes to complete. This amounted to a maximum 7 hour playing session and the game was completed on one day. These changes filtered down to the lower echelons of chess and are generally referred to as having a quickplay finish.

Along with the practical advantages came a drawback, if play continued long enough it was inevitable that one player or the other would run out of time. The situation could then arise where a player, short of time but with a winning position on the board, could either try and deliver the win and risk losing on time or offer a draw. The opponent was under no obligation to accept the draw and was able to play on with the sole intention of winning on time (as recently as the 70’s this was possible with a bare king!) This was deemed to be unfair as the ideal is for the game to be decided by over the board play rather than by use of the clock. This is exemplified by the rule that if checkmate is delivered on the board the game is complete even if the player’s flag falls before he can stop his clock.

To remedy this, the law 10.2 (arbiter present) and appendix D (arbiter not present) were introduced. This meant a player, having less than 2 minutes remaining, could claim a draw if he could demonstrate that his opponent was trying to win on time rather than over the board. This decision is made by the arbiter, at the time under 10.2 and on referral under appendix D. Generally this is effective but is susceptible to dispute as both players and the arbiter may all view the situation differently.

During the 90’s, with the advent of digital clocks and the innovation of Fischer timing, incremental time controls became possible. Where increments are used a small amount of time is added to a player’s clock with each move made and thus it is no longer inevitable that either player should run out of time, although the game is now theoretically everlasting this is not a problem in practice. As time is added continually this is not a quickplay finish and there is no need to resort to law 10.2 or appendix D. The game will be decided by play over the board.

The proposal rejected at the AGM last evening was particularly suitable as it gave an initial period of 85 minutes with an increment of 5 seconds per move. This means the game must last at least 60 moves to use up the 3 hour playing session and even if it lasts 90 moves the maximum time needed is still only 3 hours and 5 minutes.

As I commented earlier, maybe next year!

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