Digital Clocks and 3 Hour Games

April 2018

I would like to propose the AGM looks again at the use of digital clocks and three hour games.

These days rapid and blitz are commonplace at all levels and it seems antiquated to have unfinished games after three hours of play. However in the past it has seemed the first division are the most content with the status quo so, with this in mind, I propose the following changes.

The result would be the 2nd, 3rd and 4th divisions play three hour games using digital clocks, only reverting to QPF when digitals are unavailable (or bring your own to the match?). The rules would be simplified and the need for post-match and computer analysis and adjudication of unfinished games would be a thing of the past.

The following rule changes are proposed:

7.2 Time controls: division 1

In Division 1 matches, including play-offs between Division 1 teams, at least 3 hours must be allowed for play. , and unless 7.5 or 7.6 applies The time control shall be 42 moves in 1 hr 30 min and 7 moves per 15 minutes thereafter.

Abolish current Rules 7.3, 7.4 and 7.5.

The text of 7.3 to be replaced by:

7.3 Time controls: other divisions

If suitable digital clocks are available, all moves in 80 minutes with a 10 second increment from move 1.

7.6 7.4 Quickplay finish

If suitable digital clocks are not available and before white makes his second move both players may agree to play under the following time control : 30 moves in 60 minutes with all (remaining) moves in 30 minutes. Upon this agreement the clocks shall be adjusted accordingly by adding 30 minutes to each player’s clock. After completion of black’s 30th move the clocks should be turned back by 30 minutes.

Susan Chadwick


Comments by Brian Denman

10 second shootout at a late hour

For those who are considering the proposal of Sue Chadwick please consider that you might be playing a 10 second shootout at a late hour. An away team captain might have to do a full day’s work, then drive several miles before the game has even started. If he has to play about three hours’ chess and then start a quickplay shootout, he will be very tired.

Ten seconds lightning chess has traditionally been played with a buzzer. The players know when they have to make a move as the buzzer goes off. Under Sue’s system there will be no guidelines to tell a player when he is about to lose on time and it is likely that a number of players will not make the time limit. The others will probably be continually glancing at the clock and not studying the board properly and it is very likely that the standard of the game will rapidly deteriorate. If someone misplaces a piece on the board or knocks one on to the floor, chaos could follow. Young players will probably revel in this shootout as their brains enable them to think more quickly. However, this is not a junior tournament and senior competitors might even need treatment for stress and high blood pressure.

The usual international norm for increments involves a 30 seconds conclusion to a game. It is clear that, if the game is to be decided under a 10 seconds rule, it will be impossible for either player to keep a score of the game. Without documentary evidence a player will be unable to claim a draw on the grounds that his opponent is not trying to win a game by normal means and is just trying to stress him out.

It is clear that a 10 second shootout will turn the game into a lottery and this is no way to finish a game. It might also be queried that such a game should be graded under ‘standardplay’.

Brian Denman


Views of Keith Homeyard

On balance I tend to agree with Brian Denman’s view. Although I tend to be a fast player, at 74 years of age I have high blood pressure and my last game (a good scrap!) at Hastings after a long journey from Worthing left me feeling the stress. That was only in the 7 moves/15min so I can imagine the errors if playing with 10 second increment only.

Keith Homeyard


Clarification by Susan Chadwick

Just to clarify my proposal in view of Brian’s comments:

the all moves in 80 minutes with a 10 second increment from move 1 time control is already in the rules under Rule 7.5 - it was approved by the AGM in 2015. It’s only in red in my proposal because I’ve cut it and moved it to suit the heading of 7.3. The point is to make it the regular accepted time control for the ‘other divisions’ (apart from the first). As for the speed, the idea is still to try and avoid a mad splutter at the end, as you would whatever the time control.

Hope this helps.

Thank you


Contribution from Matthew Britnell

I welcome thoroughly Sue’s discussion starter on the issue, once again, of time controls (It doesn’t seem fundamentally about ‘digital clocks and three-hour games’; this is really about whether we wish to play games to a finish.) I must say, however, I don’t think the proposal goes far enough. There are two problems:

1. ‘Exemption’ for Division 1

There is no rational basis for exempting Division 1. Indeed, as arguably the League’s most prestigious and serious division, Division 1 should be leading the way, not tail-ending desirable change introduced lower down. A greater number of Division 1-strength players will, it is assumed, play on the national and even international tournament circuit where digital clocks, and more often than not, incremental timings, are the norm. At any rate, such players are unlikely to be playing elsewhere on any other basis than completing a game in a single session. Secondly, we should wherever possible simplify and unify rules, not introduce ever more options and exceptions.

2. The option to continue using analogue clocks

Sue was instrumental a couple of years ago, rightly, in bringing about change whereby if digital clocks were ‘available’ matches (or individual pairings) formerly played under the 30 moves in an hour, and 30 minutes each to finish, were henceforth to be played at 80 minutes each for the game, plus a 10 second increment per move, from move one. One undesirable consequence of that, however, is that we now have three time controls under which games may be played and over the last year or so I’ve played games at all three. While, as I’ve argued, such rule-sanctioned complexity is ideally to be avoided, the real issue here is less about that than about permissible technology. In my view the time has come to, in effect, require MSCL-entering clubs to use digital clocks for League matches.

Like it or not we have to accept that technological change is part of life, even chess. There’s no doubt that digital clocks are on virtually all levels superior to analogue clocks. One might argue the latter are easier to set, easier to view, and easier to notice when one’s or one’s opponent’s flag has fallen, but these are negligible compared to the greater accuracy and flexibility of digital. And the capacity of digital, for the first time, to permit increments per move is a great advance. And it’s not as if clubs have not had a recent opportunity to purchase top quality digital clocks at a ultra-competitive price. Gary Willson of the ECF (and, of course, Hastings CC) in the autumn of 2017 extended an offer to all English clubs to purchase DGT 3000 clocks via the ECF at approximately 30% of their retail price. Such an offer was unmissable and Lewes Chess Club didn’t miss it: we purchased enough to run two matches simultaneously using the latest digital technology. I have set some of the blank modes with the three permissible timings using digital clocks in the MSCL (to include the Rapid League) so all the captain needs to do when setting up is switch on, and scroll through to the relevant mode. In short, the time has come for clubs that have not already done so to move into the C21st and purchase digital clocks. There is no longer an excuse to persist with analogue in matches and hence the ‘if digital clocks are available’ rider should be abolished. It’s worth noting that digital clocks are already mandatory in the Rapid League.

Finishing games on the night

On the matter of the specific time control proposed, ‘80+10’, I concur with Sue. Indeed, there doesn’t seem to be need for further debate on this as the League has already sanctioned games played at 80+10 where both players agree and digital clocks are ‘available’. A 60-move game played to the wire by both players would last three hours.

Brian Denman has raised what seem to be me a host of wholly irrelevant considerations. He writes as if an entire phase of the game would need to be completed by both players in under 10 seconds! This, of course, is nonsense. And in stating that a player would hardly be able to keep recording in such circumstances, he shows himself out of touch with FIDE laws. Under present laws involving games with increments a player need not continue recording once their time first drops below 5 minutes. And further, to suggest that games played under such controls are little more than a lottery flies in the face of reality when most tournament games, most of the time, are completed in a civilized manner and are won (if they are won) by the best player on the day and where post-tournament cross-tables closely resemble pre-tournament seedings. Contrast this with the present default timing in the MSCL where adjudicated games frequently go against the player with an apparent plus as Fritz or some other engine finds for the defending player a cunning defence (which, in all probability, the player on the night wouldn’t have found), thereby clinching a draw from a miserable position. And Brian (presumably) believes it’s right that engine-adjudicated games are graded but questions whether competitor-only games played at 80+10 should be graded! The reverse is the case and in my view it’s regrettable the ECF Director of Home Chess was unable a couple of years ago to make headway with his absolutely principled proposal to exclude from grading games not played to finish exclusively by the players locked in battle. Finally, but by no means an afterthought, it’s logical and progressive that the League be structured such that juniors competing in the Rapid Division at 40+10 graduate to 80+10 in the standard-play divisions.

So, to sum up, it should be mandatory 80+10 all games, all (standard-play) divisions.

Matthew Britnell

Note: these comments are given in a personal capacity; they do not necessary reflect the views of all Lewes Chess Club members, or other members of the MSCL committee.

Martin Faulkner

I am firmly in support of the change proposed by Sue Chadwick, but believe, like Matthew that it should extend across all divisions. However, the chess playing community is not large, so believe that compromise may be the way to go to avoid alienating any players and driving them away.

I have four comments / observations.

At the end of this, I propose we vote on this issue across MSCL, with an equal vote for all.

Comments as follows:

1) There should be a fundamental law of chess as follows: "The time controls of a Game of Chess should be set to fit the time available, to allow completion of the game". In MSCL, we have roughly 3 hours available, therefore the game should be completed in that time. Anything else is simply not a full game of chess. Regarding digital clocks - I would follow Sue’s suggestion to use 80 mins +10s per move where possible. If analogue clocks really are the only thing available, then 90 minutes Quickplay Finish (I personally don’t like analogue, so think it’s the last resort)

Playing 42 moves to get a slight advantage (maybe a pawn up), then standing up (with half an hour still to play), having a little stretch, saying (with a straight face) "that’s my lot for today", and letting Fritz 14 decide on the theoretical win isn’t just wrong - in my opinion it’s embarrassing. How ECF still lets these games get graded is beyond me. I recently tried to explain this is the normal practice to a non-chess player - and they just looked at me in bewilderment.

In the interests of progression and chess learning - surely we should be prepared to play the game out in a quick-play finish and lose - as we are more likely to learn something (i.e. how not to play the endgame) ????

Let’s stand back a bit - 3 hours is quite a long time anyway! And it’s all we’ve got!

2) Tiredness and stress whilst playing chess late in the evening is simply part of the game and affects all players (old and young, retired, 9-5 workers etc) one way or the other, and for different reasons. Anyone who suffers from this (including myself) should simply work on this part of their game (eg play the opening quicker, avoid complications if you have to, bring chocolate/caffeine tablets, have an early night (the night before that is - not afterwards cos you’ve lost ;o) ........etc).

Abusing the first law as a solution to address tiredness and stress is simply a cop out, in my opinion.

3) The chess playing community is not large, so MSCL should set its rules to accommodate the maximum number of people possible. Is a compromise solution possible?

eg - could we adopt the Surrey League 3 option model (Quickplay/Adjudication/Adjournment). The first player offers the opponent 2 of the 3 options, and the other player chooses one of the 2 offered. This means that no player is forced to choose Quickplay or adjudication if they don’t like the other one.

I suspect some people (including myself) may not like the adjournment option - but if you think about it - many adjudications take longer in man hours to sort out than the 3 hour game itself !!!!!!! This puts a burden on team managers and the adjudication committee who have to administer the claims and reach a decision. What a complete and utter waste of time to sort out a theoretical win, in favour of two players meeting up and finishing the game themselves.

In the absence of a compromise - I propose that we uphold Law 1 above and enforce 90 minute game except where both players agree otherwise.

4) All chess players are equal......but are some more equal than others? Wouldn’t this issue be best sorted out by vote across all divisions. Has MSCL ever had a vote on this? - or has this issue been decided in the past by a minority of players in Division One? Even an informal vote would be useful to gauge feeling.


I would favour a vote on this across all players in all divisions.

I would suggest three options:

A) Keep things as they are

B) Set the default option to complete within 80 mins + 10s increment (with adjudication available only where both players agree). Adopt a Quickplay finish only where digital clocks aren’t available.

C) Adopt the 3 option model (Quickplay/Adjudication/Adjournment) as operated in the Surrey League as explained in point 3 above

In case anyone is wondering - I would vote for option B every time. I don’t like adjournments for practical reasons and the whole concept of adjudication does my head in. However I would reluctantly accept option C as a compromise option to move away from Option A.

Comments welcome.



Haywards Heath

Bernard Cafferty

The perennial problem of unfinished games is being discussed again. The latest solution suggested is G80/10 (in the modern shorthand).

I write as someone who, many moons ago, played regularly in the British Lightning Championship, regulated by moving ‘on the buzzer’ every ten seconds in turn.

The drawbacks of such a system were quite clear - it was too rigid by far. As experienced players know, the nature of chess is that some moves can be decided upon very quickly, but in critical situations it pays to reflect on the choice of move for five, ten, fifteen minutes.... One might sum this up pithily by stating that chess is not ping-pong!

Aesthetic satisfaction from playing a game of chess comes from playing your moves in accordance with the ever-changing nature of the position in front of you. At ten seconds a move it would hardly be possible to have a full and accurate score sheet. In the event of a dispute the absence of a score sheet probably rules out a fair resolution of the dispute. Moreover, I do not see in the proposal any provision for the situation that could arise when three hours have elapsed but play is still in progress in one of those tricky endgames, such as R and B versus R, a queen ending with many chances of checking the enemy king around the board, or, perish the thought, trying to mate with N and B versus lone king, a process that could well take 30 moves or more.

Where is the chance to apply the rules such as the 50-move rule, or a claim that the opponent is not trying to win on the board but is just playing random moves to tire you out? In that regard I have much sympathy with Keith Homeyard’s point about high blood pressure, a malady which I share.

Finally, I do not think it is appropriate to accuse the Sussex CA Archivist, Brian Denman, of being ‘out of touch’...

Bernard Cafferty

Hastings CC

Mark Attree

Fundamentally I am of the opinion that chess in the MSCL should be played between people and not computers and as such we should endeavour to complete games on the night as even adjournment allows computer interference.

Several points;

we see time scrambles as players try to reach 42 moves in the 90 minutes now, so I’m afraid arguing that this will only happen with a new time rule does not hold water, some players manage their time better of course and this will still be the case.

Bernard’s point about long games is well taken, what do we do if there’s a 100 move game going on and the caretaker is putting away the chairs- should we retain an ultimate recourse to adjudication? His comment about tricky end games however is not relevant because these end games are never played out under the current system anyway. The computer simply rules and that is that.

The root of our problem is that we are only playing 42 moves each in the 3 hour session and if we want games to finish on the night then we need to make sure that more moves are completed. G80/10 does this whilst allowing an optional sedate rate of play for, say, the first 42 moves (which must be completed in under 87 minutes, 60 moves in 90 minutes and a 100 move game would take 97 minutes). It may be possible to choose an initial time and increment that ensure more moves are played whilst not giving the impression of an enormous scramble at the end. e.g, G70/20 (60 moves in 90, first 42 in 84, 100 in 103), G60/30 (60 moves in 90 mins, first 42 in 81, 100 in 110) but these do not have the absolute guillotine effect of the 10 second increment, speed up play during the remainder of the game slightly and would potentially require a longer playing session. At 10s per move, someone messes up sooner or later, or the players agree a draw through mutual fear of messing up, without extending the playing session too much in extremely long games and I would support this over no change at all, though I think G70/20 with adjournment after 60 moves or 3 hours, whichever is later, might be considered as an option (not an ideal option admittedly) if the G80/10 is unacceptable... it’s not just one or the other.

I have no problem with a quick play finish if digital clocks are not available. I can also see that two players might be allowed to agree to use the old style time control in a transition period, but really, this should be the absolute exception and not the default.

With regards to the lack of up to date score sheets and disputes arising, I would propose that the captains of the teams (or whoever has finished early) act as defacto arbiters during this phase if required.

Mark Attree

Uckfield CC

Mike Nicholas

The rate of play in the MSL of 42 moves in 90 minutes is fast. It was not that long ago that the rate was much lower, leading to many unfinished games and very large numbers of submissions to the Sussex Chess Association’s adjudication panel for decision. The increase in the rate successfully reduced the large number of previously undecided games. Today, of those unfinished games, very few reach the panel due to widespread use of chess computer programmes to analyse the position.

Undoubtedly, use of computers has helped chess players develop skills - including endgame skills that otherwise I think might rarely be used or absorbed in rapid play chess.

The rules of chess provide for the adjournment and resumption of games. In the interlude before play resumes it is highly likely that the participants (and their colleagues) will analyse the adjourned position and identify best play and the probable outcome. Surely, this is no different to adjourning games in the MSL?

Changing the rate of play as proposed will inevitably create many more rapid play finishes. Why is this a good desirable idea? Have we not all had to work hard during games to nurture or achieve a winning or drawing position and have carefully managed time deliberately either to avoid or to enter the crazy period of rapid play where we know the outcome will often be decided by a moment of stupidity? I wonder whether rapid play will work in favour of the strongest players, who perhaps ‘know’ and ‘see’ more? Perhaps we should be careful of what we wish for.

Currently, few games enter rapid play finishes, with play in them ‘monitored’ by players from the other games. This monitoring is important, but it seems to me that adoption of the proposed rate of play will lead to many more rapid play finishes, with several games simultaneously entering this period resulting in reduced monitoring of those games. How can this be desirable or acceptable?

Mike Nicholas


Roland Rattray

I don’t understand the need for a ten second increment. Why can’t we just play all moves in 90 minutes.

Roland Rattray

Haywards Heath

Barry Maufe

Roland asks a pertinent question. Some of the contributors seem not to understand the purpose of increments. Although others, especially Mark have discussed this, I’d like to try to clarify it a bit more. It’s all about "time management".

Time Controls in general are designed to aid a player’s time management. For example, you could just play the entire game in 3 hours (90 mins per player.) The problem is that you can only guess the number of moves you might play before the conclusion, so you can’t estimate the available time per move with any degree of assurance. You may reasonably allow for a 50 move game, then arrive at an endgame with no end in sight and only 5 minutes left. On the other hand you might move too quickly in a complex middle-game and get a losing position.

The 42 moves in 90 mins Time Control solves this problem - but at the expense of:

a) not playing much of an end-game, thereby omitting an important part of the game of chess

b) an external agency "playing" the ending for you, skewing the result and effectively contributing a third (say) of your grading

...unless we instigate adjournment, requiring another journey, but I don’t believe there’s any great enthusiasm for that in this league.

The 30 moves in 1hr plus 30 mins to finish is a reasonable compromise, as it defines how much time there is for the opening and (mainly) middle-game. However, you may have difficulty predicting how long the game will last after 30 moves. If it’s a nearly equal ending it could take either a further 30 or 60 moves for example, so do you allow 1 minute or do you allow half a minute a move for the rest of the game?

"Increments" alleviates this problem by allowing more time for longer games. The exact choice is debatable - see Mark Attree’s contribution, but G80/10 seems reasonable. Having played all three time-controls currently in use, I found the G80/10 quite pleasant for the end-game. The effect is to see your clock running down more slowly, whereas I could imagine blundering in time trouble in a 30/1hr+30.

Blitz Finish

There’s a lot of nonsense talked about this. Playing a whole game is not the same as playing a game with a blitz finish. Again, it’s all about time management. As Mark intimated, you sometimes use a lot of time in a 42 move game with a complex middle-game and still have to blitz the last few moves to reach the time-control. On the other hand you could play a long game with increments and still retain a comfortable move time for the end-game. The idea that you would have to play 10 seconds per move is not correct. The game of "10 second chess" (which I have played) and the use of increments in long games have nothing at all in common. 10 second chess affords precisely zero time management.

In summary, increments provide an aid to time management.

Overall Match Time

We currently employ a 3 hour session for division 1 and 2 hrs 40 min for the others, but note that these are actually minimum times. There is no maximum specified. Many believe the session ends after 3 hours, but theoretically a 42 moves in 90 mins game could carry on indefinitely, with 15 minutes per 7 moves being added until a conclusion is reached. I’m not sure who is actually supposed to determine the end time - it seems to be a hole in the rules? Only a 30/1hr+30 game officially terminates at 3 hours.

It has been suggested that 3 hours is a fast session. However, whilst many of the high level tournaments allow more time, the ECF (through FIDE) defines a standard-play game as being over an hour. In the light of this, 3 hours for a complete graded game would seem ample.

How to Proceed

I have been successful with all 3 time-controls to varying degrees, but I would say that 42 in 90 is not a complete game of chess. I also think that there is an unfortunate disincentive to agreeing a "finish on the night" time-control with the current rules as the default is 42 moves, and if your opponent offers you a finish option, you should refuse, as it implies he/she is good at endgames!

Why is there a difference between div 1 and the others? Let’s make them the same.

I agree with Martin Faulkner that there should be a poll of all members who currently play in the league on this issue. Whilst most representatives vote in accordance with their members’ wishes at the AGM, it’s such a big, emotive issue that one member one vote should be the way to go. It’s not in the rules, but I urge the committee to consider how to achieve it prior to the AGM.

Barry Maufe

Lewes CC

Richard Welford

First of all thank you Sue for posting this, I had been meaning to write something similar myself. I would greatly like to see the MSCL enter the current century and to play full games of chess rather than have Stockfish, which is roughly double my Elo, finish them off for me.

I find much of the discussion here quite baffling. The time control of G80/10 has already been approved by the league, yet it is being discussed again as if it is a new suggestion. There is talk of lightning chess when that has not been proposed anywhere. There is discussion of being too tired to play with increments after almost 3 hours but not of being too tired to play a fiendish position in a time scramble after almost 3 hours (which is effectively the same thing - except it is easier to do with increment!).

I sincerely hope we can join the modern age and play to a finish. I would much rather beat (or more likely lose to) my opponent than a machine.

Richard Welford

Lewes CC

Keith Homeyard

Barry Maufe’s mention of adjournment seems a complete no no to me. In addition to the extra journey which can be lengthy, the adjourned position would be highly likely to have been subjected to engine analysis + also other members of the players’ clubs! I think this would be similar in effect to adjudication.

Personally I am happy with either 80/10 as the best of the bunch or 42/90 +7/15. Perhaps the simplest answer is to make 80/10 the new default and 42/90 by agreement only.

Keith Homeyard