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Different Time Controls in Chess

One of the largest obstacles to making good moves is the chess clock. Not literally, of course, but the time control of a game significantly impacts the nature of the gameplay. The longer the time, the greater your (and your opponent’s) ability to think about your next move and the more accurate you can expect the game to be. Typical time controls include 1-hour games, 5-minute games, 1-minute games, 40 moves in 2 hours followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game, 2-minute games with 3-second increments per move, etc. These settings can generally be classified into 4 categories: bullet, blitz, rapid, and classical.


Bullet games are the shortest and are generally played with less than one minute per move for both sides. These games are played on instinct, with minimal time to think about every move. Even if you blunder, the game is not over, as your opponent might not be able to exploit the mistake in the limited time they have/ make a blunder of their own. This type of game is very convenient, as you can play a full match almost anytime.


The second-shortest games are blitz games. Blitz games last from 3-5 minutes, allowing for a bit of thinking on critical moves. The best ways to improve your blitz game are to study an opening really well (to play it every game) and to practice time-pressured tactics. One of the best things about online blitz and bullet games is that there are fewer cheaters, as the limited time prevents the use of engine assistance.


Rapid games last between 5-30 minutes. They sometimes also have increment time controls, meaning that you gain a few seconds following every move. Unlike the previous 2 modes, time pressure is not a major game determining factor in most games.


Finally, classical chess is the longest time control, lasting up to several hours. Big mistakes are rare and it isn’t uncommon for players to spend half an hour on a single move. Most of the time, the end of a classical time control includes a sudden death period o around 30 minutes. If you don't enjoy time pressure or need a long time to think, this is the game mode for you.

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