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Time Without End

Time Without End

Jan 5, 2008, 4:11 PM 2

" A little over a century ago, there were no chess clocks. A player could take as long as he pleased for a move, and no amount of pleading, would evoke a mite of feeling from the insensitive. Once, in fact, the invincible Paul Morphy, the world's unofficial champion, was driven to distraction, exasperation, and tears by Louis Paulsen, who would not respond.

But enough was enough. And a timing device was invented to speed up play. From then on, the accent has been on speed. Varieties of tempi are now in use. "Blitz" or lightning chess is about the fastest. Here each player must repply immediately after his opponent moves, as in volleing back and forth in tennis. Then there is ten-second or rapid-transit chess. Here a player is granted a full ten seconds for a move; failure to move on time is punishable by immediate forfeiture.

Then there is the currently popular five-minute chess. Here the minute-hand of each player is set five minutes ahead of the 12 o'clock mark. And the first player to overstep the mark is lost. Many chess clocks have a built-in flag that falls every hour on the hour. And the fall of the flag is the fatal signal."                                

(Al Horowitz)

The following is a sparkling miniature sampling of five-minute chess at its best played in New York in 1956.



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