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Monday, May 21, 2012

Modern Time Controls

      The US Championship has finished. In one amusing incident Kamsky defeated a washed up Seirawan in round 9. After 20 moves Kamsky had won a position and, thanks to the increment, more time on his clock than he started with! Kamsky had prepared the whole opening a year previously and Seirawan walked into the prepared analysis. Winner, GM Hikaru Nakamura beat GM Gata Kamsky for the first time ever in classical chess and finished first. The time controls were: 40/90 with 30 minutes for the rest of the game plus a 30 second per move increment from move one.

      In the tie between Zatonskih and Krush for the women’s championship the rules were: Two-game rapid match (G25+5) and if it ended in a tie after the two games, an Armageddon game was to be played. That’s 45 minutes plus a 5 second increment per move, draw odds for Black. Additionally, each player was to ‘bid’ an amount of time with which they were willing to play in order to have their choice of color.
      The match for this year’s world championship is only 12 games. The time control is 120 minutes, with 60 minutes added after move 40, 15 minutes added after move 60, and 30 additional seconds per move starting from move 61.
      In case of a tie at the end of 12 games, there will be a series of tie breaks. Colors will be drawn and four rapid games with a time control of 25 minutes plus 10 seconds per move.
      If the score is tied after the four rapid tie break games, colors will be drawn and two blitz games (5 minutes plus 10 seconds increment per move) will be played. If the score is tied after two blitz games, another two-game blitz match will be played, under the same terms. The process will repeat, if necessary, until five blitz matches have been played.
      If the score is tied after ten blitz games, a single sudden-death Armageddon game will determine the champion. The winner of a draw of lots gets to choose the color to play, with white given 5 minutes and Black 4 minutes. Beginning with move 61, a three-second increment will be added following each move. If the game is drawn then the player of the Black pieces is declared champion.
      I don’t know what to make of all this time control mumbo-jumbo. In the days of yesteryear the championship was a 24-game match with the champion keeping his title in case of a tie. The time control was 40/120 then 16 moves per hour (or whatever it was; I don’t remember exactly) and adjournment after 5 hours play.
      The argument goes that these days during adjournments the players can use engines to analyze their games. What’s the difference between having a gaggle of GM’s analyzing an adjourned position for the participant or having an engine do it? I guess another idea is that all of the moves are those of the participants and not others, man or machine. This may be a good idea, but somehow I miss the old days. The Botvinnik-Tahl and Fischer-Spassky matches had real drama.

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