Incremental timings

The use of incremental (Fischer) timings is increasing.   If you play in the 4NCL, then you will be familiar with the 30 second increment that is added from the first move.   It makes for a better standard of chess, because even if you run out of your initial stock of time, you know you still have 30 seconds to make your next move.

The other local league, the Bury Area Chess League, first provided the opportunity in the 2007/08 season to use Fischer timings, provided both players agreed.   A few players did try it out, and in 2014/15 it became the default option in the League’s Division 1.   ‘Traditional’ timings would only be used if both players agreed.   This was immediately successful and in the current season (2016/17) Fischer timing was extended to Division 2.   At the League’s next AGM it is likely that all three divisions will have Fischer timing as the default.

But in the Suffolk League, where traditional timings are still the default option, Fischer timing is rarely used.   Most clubs now have the DGT clocks which make the setting of Fischer timing straightforward.

My suggestion, which will be taken to the next Committee Meeting of the League, is to follow the BACL route and make incremental timing the default option in Division 1.   If this is accepted, we can extend this to Divisions 2 and 3 in due course, subject to AGM approval of course.

There are a number of objections to incremental timings,, foremost of which is the worry that games may continue long after the three-hour limit set by many venues.   However, to the best of my knowledge there has not been a single instance in the Bury League of a game continuing longer than three hours.   The BACL uses 70 minutes plus 15 seconds per move.   This means that a game of 60 moves would take 2 hours 50 minutes.   A game would have to extend beyond 80 moves if it is to take longer than three hours, which is very rare in league chess.   Some other leagues around the country use different timings – 75 + 10 seconds is popular.   However there is some objection to such a small increment.   The extra five seconds in the Bury League system permits a better standard of chess.

Watching a game where a player has exhausted his initial stock of time can be very exciting.   We all know players who regularly get into ‘time trouble’.   But they are well-adapted to handling this situation, often pressing the clock with only a second or two remaining, and seeing the clock reverting to 16 or 17 seconds!

There’s another important benefit of using incremental timings.   The old ‘10.2’ rule, whereby a player may claim a draw in the last two minutes, does not apply.   This avoids the situation where captains (if available) have to make an often difficult decision.

I would like to hear your opinion on the introduction of increments in the Suffolk League.   Please comment using the link below.

8 thoughts on “Incremental timings
  1. Removing the issue of whether a player is "trying to win on time" is a major plus. I play both leagues and I don't notice a big difference in the pace of the game. Another advantage is there is less chance of taking a draw from fear of the clock – which to me is an unsatisfactory way to end a game. I would vote for increments. TL

  2. Hi All,
    Bob Knows my opposition to the fischer system well and I will be voting to maintain the old time limits.
    I have several reasons.
    1) Bob says it himself, with most clubs having digital clocks available then why is the optional use of Fischer timing so low? Surely leaving the choice to the two players involved allows the option of Fischer timing if both agree. Clearly there is a significant number who do not agree or many more games would be played at Fischer timing controls by agreement.
    2) The length of game time is significant. I ,and I am no time trouble junkie, clocked up a very long game on Sunday, admittedly it was rare but what happens when the venue has to close and a game is playing on increments?
    3)There is a problem with player knowledge of the digital clocks when playing the first time control which came up again on Sunday. A player did not know he was about to forfeit on time and his opponent had to run off and check that despite the opponents clock saying 14 minurtes odd to go he had lost on time because they had not reached move 36 before his clock reached zero and added 15 minutes. 3 other players, all well on in years, remarked that they had to ask someone during the game just what their clocks were showing.

    I think we should discount what the BACL do as our rule book is significantly different from the BACL's rule book. Mike McNaughton, a previous comp sec, remarked at his farewell AGM that the two leagues' rules should be brought together but at rules revision back in 2014 we actually took our rules further away from those of the Bury League so why slavishly follow the BACL in this case?

    If the Div 1 teams feel they want this sort of timing then let it go ahead as a trial but the idea that a change to Fischer timing will affect the "standard of play" on the bottom boards of Division 2 or in Division 3 is just ridiculous.

    Needless to say I will be voting against this enforced change.

    Mid Suffolk Dinosaurs.

  3. Ted Matthewson

    Another dinosaur here!

    It's bad enough with present timings and digital clocks. It amazes me how many people can't set the things, never mind understand the increments. If another level of complexity is introduced, then I don't think I'll bother playing any more. It's bad enough with County matches having switched to the new timings. I have to play faster than I probably should as I don't know what time I've got left / when the increments are added.

  4. So there are (at least) a couple of dinosaurs in Suffolk chess… It amazes me, Ted, that as a good chess player and intelligent person, that you have trouble understanding digital clocks. The time you have left is what it says on the clock (except in the County matches, when you get an extra 10 minutes after 36 moves). The 70 minutes + 15 seconds option is simplicity itself. It's much more reliable than the 15-minute add-on after 30 moves, which people sometimes forget about. I've seen players rushing to make their moves, well past their 40th move, because they have forgotten that they're going to get an extra 15 minutes when one clock reaches zero. You may say that this is an argument for retaining the old analogue clocks, but stopping proceedings in mid-game to retard the clocks by 15 minutes is at best distracting, and often a reason for losing concentration and the whole game.

  5. As someone who would tend to count themselves as a traditionalist (rather than a dinosaur) I have to date found Fischer timing somewhat disorientating. Ironically – when comparing it to a timing structure where theoretically you have infinite time – I feel like I am in better control of my time management using the 75min/30move plus 15min format, but this likely results from decades of experience with it. I do see the potential benefits of Fischer timing, and personally I'm willing to give it a fair try.

    The biggest fear I have towards Fischer timing is not one regarding my own results or preferences, but a wider concern. Chess (along with all other pastimes trying to retain and/or grow their participation) must be inclusive. If implementing changes of this nature risks alienating committed players currently playing competitive chess in Suffolk, do the benefits justify the cost?

  6. Ted Matthewson

    Bob, I'm afraid that there are people out here with differomg views than your own. If digital clocks are so easy, why did it take me almost 15 minutes of discussion with an experienced opponenet recently, to determine that he'd lost on time? Why also did I witness an experienced County player not realise that the 10 minute increment had been added on and play far too quickly in the citcumstances? At least with analogue clocks, you know when time has been added on as you have to stop then to do it.

  7. I'm pleased that the article has provoked some comment. I'm only too aware that there are others out there with differing views – and I have no problem with that. However, Ted, I have to take issue with your post. Ignorance of the methods for setting the clocks and how they work is hardly a valid reason for not wanting to use them. We chess players spend hours learning openings and studying endgames (or at least some do), so what's the problem with spending a few minutes coming to grips with digital clocks? Presumably you had the same approach to computers when they first arrived on the scene. But now you are happy to use email, Google your interests and follow the Suffolk Chess website!

  8. Ted Matthewson


    There is no need to lecture me on computers. I started my career as a computer programmer in 1975 and was using the web before Netscape (remember that?) was invented. I also set up the first ever County Association website for Berkshire back in the early eighties. I am all in favour of promoting technology when it's good, but I have a low opinion of digital clocks as they are user unfriendly. Too many people find them difficult to set and follow. It is not ignorance, and it certainly takes longer then a few minutes to master them – it took hours in my case and I still haven't yet got the hang of the Saitek ones yet. When you only get to set one once a week, by next week some people can forget what they learnt the previous week – just like openings and endgames can be forgotten. Digital clocks need to be more intuitive to set, and their operational indicators need to be clearer. Given the present state of the technology, the introduction of incremental timings is the straw that breaks the camel's back.

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