time to think

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The thinking time is the time available to a player to make his moves, especially in strategy games like chess or go . In tournaments in particular, it is important to regulate the cooling off period so that the following rounds can be planned in time. The control of the reflection time is usually carried out with special clocks (for example chess clocks ).

Length of time to think about chess

In normal tournament games, a player usually has significantly more than an hour available for the entire game. Often both players get a time credit after a certain number of moves. In the German Chess League , for example, each player receives 100 minutes for the first 40 moves and a further 50 minutes afterwards, plus 30 seconds per move. A game of 60 trains in length can therefore last a maximum of 360 minutes. This or a comparable cooling off period is called “classic chess” or “long game”.

If the thinking time is between 10 and 60 minutes per player, one speaks of “ rapid chess ”, if the time is between 3 and 10 minutes per player it is “ blitz chess ” and if less than 3 minutes it is “ bullet chess ”. (The demarcation is not uniform and sharp. Often, games with 10 minutes per player are still referred to as rapid chess. In this context, other rules are more important for classification: in rapid chess, an illegal move must be withdrawn, in blitz chess it loses the game .)

Thinking time modes

Absolute time (sudden death)

This is the simplest rule: each player is assigned a time quota that is available to him for the entire game. If a player has used up his quota, he has lost, provided the opponent still has at least one pawn or enough material to checkmate. This means that it is clear at the beginning that the game cannot last longer than the sum of the players' time contingents.



  • easy to understand
  • The maximum duration of a game is fixed before the game begins.
  • often dramatic end phases when both players run out of time (especially with short thinking times)


  • During the game, the players have to estimate how long the game will last in order to be able to divide their thinking time accordingly.
  • The longer a game lasts, the shorter the average time per move.
  • A player who has run out of time remains so until the end of the game. The time constraint worsens with every move. His opponent can then - if this is not prevented by additional rules - play for time, ie make waiting moves until he wins by exceeding the time, even if his position is objectively much worse.

Guillotine mode

The guillotine mode is mostly used in chess games with a long time to think about it. The game is divided into several phases. In the first phases, a fixed number of moves must be made within a given time. In the final phase, a fixed quota of cooling off periods is available for the rest of the game. The fall of the falling flag after one of the first phases means here, like the fall of the blade of a guillotine, the premature end for a player. Common time limits are 1 h 45 min / 40 moves and 15 min / rest, 2 h / 40 moves and 1 h for the rest - the normal tournament mode - and 2 h / 40 moves, 1 h / 20 moves and 1 h for the rest The maximum total playing time results from the sum of the individual reflection times. The average train time can be very different in the individual sections.


  • The maximum duration of the game is fixed before the start.
  • Playable with analog chess clocks.
  • The total time available for reflection is longer in games with a larger number of moves.


  • A player can be short of time shortly before the time control and shortly afterwards have a very extensive time account. This may result in a somewhat continuous course of the game.

Normal byo-yomi

Each player has a basic thinking time and a certain number of stoppage periods of equal length (example: 20 minutes + 5 * 30 seconds). When the basic thinking time has expired, the time of the first injury period begins to run. As soon as a move is over, all fully expired stoppage periods expire. The stoppage period that is currently running will be increased back to stoppage time. If the player has used all stoppage periods, the game is lost. Due to several stoppage periods, in contrast to the Fischer and Bronstein system, no maximum total playing time can be mathematically determined here.

Canadian byo-yomi

Each player has a basic thinking time and an injury time in which a certain number of moves must be made (example: 20 minutes + 5 minutes / 20 moves). When the basic time has elapsed, the first stoppage period begins. The clock is set to stoppage time. In Go, the player places the appropriate number of stones in front of the board and covers the stone supply with the lid of the box so that stones are not accidentally taken from there. Time begins to run. Now there are two options:

  1. The moves have been made, but there is still time left: the next injury period begins with new time and new pieces.
  2. The time is up, but there are still stones: the player has lost.

The maximum total playing time in this mode is basic thinking time + (extra moves / moves for one extra time) * extra time



  • Can be done with analog chess clocks.

In the progressive Canadian Byo-Yomi, the number of moves that must be made in an injury period increases.

Fischer system

Each player has a basic thinking time to which a move time is added before each move (example: 3 minutes + 10 seconds / move). The system was developed by the world chess champion Bobby Fischer . The maximum duration of a game is the basic thinking time + number of moves × bonus time. The time credit per move is also called an increment .



  • In games where the maximum number of moves is known in advance, the time required can be estimated well.
  • No time is lost if a move does not take longer than the move time added to the basic thinking time.
  • The players can even accumulate time to think by pulling them quickly, which means that playing for a limited time is not possible or useful.


  • This system cannot be used with analog chess clocks.

Bronstein system

The thinking time is made up of a basic thinking time and a train thinking time (example: 10 seconds / train + 5 minutes). The system was developed by David Bronstein , a chess grandmaster. When a train starts, the clock does not start running immediately, but only after the train thinking time (so-called "delay"). Only when a player needs longer than the train thinking time does his basic thinking time decrease. On average, however, the total thinking time of a game is less than in the fishing system, since the unused move thinking times expire after each move (the possibility of accumulating thinking time - as in the Fischer mode - does not exist). With digital chess clocks like the DGT 3000 , the clock starts running immediately, but the delay is added again when the lever is operated. Disadvantage of the system: If you need less than the train thinking time for a move, the remaining time is lost.

Common hourglass

With this option, both players have a fixed contingent of time at the beginning. As with an hourglass, the sum of the reflection times remains constant. The "used" time of one player is credited to the other player. Thus, only the time per move is limited, but not the total time of the game. The former varies between one second and twice the starting time, depending on the position of the hourglass. A player loses the game on time if his thinking time is longer than that of his opponent plus the starting time quota. The maximum duration of a game here is start time + 2 * number of moves * start time.


  • The players can divide their time freely. No time is wasted.


  • When using a conventional hourglass , it must be set to exactly half the time at the start of the game.

Time penalties

These systems impose penalty points if a player exceeds their cooling off time. When going with Ing rules, there are penalty points for exceeding the basic thinking time and the stoppage periods. In Scrabble tournaments, the cooling-off time is set at 25 minutes per team, and 10 penalty points are awarded for every minute or part thereof that goes beyond this.


  1. http://www.usgo.org/resources/KSS.html "Ing's SST Laws of Go"
  2. ^ Official Tournament Rules ( memo of September 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) "NSA Official Tournament Rules", National Scrabble Association