Thoughts on Time Limits

Vishwanathan Anand put his critics firmly in their place when interviewed about his match with Boris Gelfand. It echoes my own thoughts that it would be a very tough event and that the predictions for an easy Anand victory were simply wrong.

The players have also come in for a lot of criticism for not playing more ‘entertaining’ chess but here I think the system is to blame. From a competitive standpoint both of them evidently believed that their chances lay in keeping things very tight and trying to take any chances that came along. I think this reflects the nature of modern ‘classical chess’, players of this strength can have such control over how the games go and if they want to they can make it very difficult for their opponents to beat them.

How can this control be diminished? A good and glaringly obvious first step is to simply accelerate the time limit, yet nobody seems to want to do this. And they could also negate the advantage of having White by each ‘chess match’ consisting of at least two games. What time limit would be good? There’s a lot of choice with this, but something which would mean an expected game duration of 2-3 hours seems sensible to me.

Should such a time limit be adopted by players of every level? It would certainly make sense to have a degree of standardisation and club chess is already played with this sort of game duration. Yet one of the ironies of the situation is that the more players need a decent amount of  thinking time, the less they want to use it. Bullet chess (1-3 minutes each per game) tends to be the  speed of choice in internet games, which for most players means nothing more than playing faster than the opponent rather than better.

So I think we should give serious thought to the time limits we are using at every level of the game. At the top level they are too slow and at the bottom too fast, but not may people seem to have noticed.