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Time Delay in USCF Events

Time Delay in USCF Events

Dec 10, 2013, 8:49 AM 0

Below, I have pasted a piece I wrote that appeared in the April 2011 issue of Chess Life:

Time Delay in Sudden Death Events

While I know this is a polarizing issue among tournament players, I am a big advocate of time delay.  It maintains the integrity of the game by making the position on the board more valuable than the clock itself.  In addition, time delay voids USCF Rule 14H (a draw claim of insufficient losing chances) which means there is no director interference.

That being said, as a player and tournament director, I have observed a misguided standard when using delay clocks in tournaments with a singular sudden death time control, such as G/120, G/90 or G/30.

The accepted practice for the vast majority of tournament directors/organizers is to announce that all clocks with time delay (a 5 second delay is the norm for regular, non-quick rated events) be set with 5 minutes removed from the base time control.  For example, in a G/120 event, the current trend is for all delay clocks to be set to G/115 with a 5 second delay (or G/115, t/d5).  Conventional wisdom for the removal of the 5 minutes is that it provides equalization with players using analog clocks or digital clocks set without the delay.  The players using delay clocks, the argument goes, are getting extra time since there’s a delay on each move, so removing the 5 minutes balances it out.  At first glance that may seem logical, but it’s actually mathematically flawed and inherently unfair to the players using time delay.

Do you see why?  Five minutes is of course 300 seconds.  To make that five minutes up, the game would have to be 60 moves or longer when using a 5 second delay.  300seconds/5minutes = 60.  However, the average chess game is about 40 moves, and so the removal of the five minutes is clearly a flawed and erroneous practice.

For example, at my club on Long Island, the base control for our regular (non-quick) rated events is G/90, and I announce that all digital clocks should remain at G/90 with a 5 second delay (G/90, t/d5, and not G/85, t/d5).  This is what I believe should be the standard practice.  One final note: players should be reminded that a standard or Bronstein Mode delay is to be used, not a bonus delay (like on the Internet) where extra time is gained. 

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