There are many different types of time controls in chess. For those that don’t know, a time control is the amount of time each side gets during a tournament. Here is a quick primer on common time controls that occur in US Chess tournaments. But before we get into time controls, you must understand about time delay and increment clock rules.
Time Delay and Increment
Time delay is a period that counts down before the game time begins to deplete. In most cases, a delay of 5 seconds is used; however, 10 second delay is becoming more common. In some variants of faster chess play, 1 second and 2 second delay is used (see below).
Increment is an amount of time added to the clock per move. The most common is 30 second increment. However, other increments are used for faster time controls (see below).
Bullet chess occurs when each side has 2 minutes or less. The most popular version is when each side is given 1 minute. However, it is common to see 2 minutes with 1 second delay/increment or even 10 seconds with 1 second delay/increment.
In US Chess rated tournaments, blitz time controls occur when both players have between 5 minutes and 10 minutes. The World Chess Federation (FIDE) defines blitz chess as anything below 10 minutes and the world blitz championship features a 3 minute 2 second increment time control.
When you play games with 11 – 65 minutes, it is considered “Quick Chess.” This time control is common in local clubs and tournaments. FIDE defines “Quick Chess” as more than 10 minutes but less than 60 minutes.
Standard time controls occur at 30 minutes or more. Whenever a tournament’s time control overlaps the Quick Chess and Standard Chess definitions, they are “dual rated” and your rating for both categories changes accordingly.
Multiple Time Control Periods
There are also events that feature several time controls for a single game. For example, a common one FIDE uses is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves and 30 minutes gets added to the clock thereafter. Most tournaments that make use of multiple time controls only have two different time controls. However, events do exist that have more than two.
Buying Chess Clocks
Now that you understand the basic ideas of clocks, it becomes a little easier to understand what to look for in chess clocks. Many chess clocks are capable of being used for all the above time controls. However, some are not. For example, some do not have time delay while others do not have increment. Some cannot do multiple time control periods while others can do as many as four. Knowing what questions to ask when buying a clock is helpful. So here is a quick buying guide with some recommendations.
Chronos Chess Clocks come in many different colors and configurations. Chronos Clocks are a top brand and are generally capable to run any time control you want. Their clocks feature a metal casing and a very long-lasting power source.
If you want a Chronos clock that can handle every time control, look at their standard models with touch sensors and with buttons. If you are only interested in playing fast chess, then the Chronos GX editions (with buttons and with touch sensors) are $10 cheaper. These are indeed pricy clocks though, but they will withstand the wear and tear.
Chronos Owner Tip: If your Chronos needs new batteries, get a Philips head screwdriver and open the clock GENTLY. If you pull the top of the clock off once the screw are out, you will rip the wire that connects the buttons to the motherboard.
A more affordable clock are ZMarts which come in a variety of different colors. While they feature a plastic shell, I would describe them as durable clocks.
They also run about half of what the Chronos runs. They are capable to run all the mentioned time controls. ZMart does have its own metal version which also features huge numbers which could be beneficial to people who have trouble seeing smaller numbers.
Another comparatively affordable clock that is also durable are the DGT North American clocks. They do not have a button system or a touch sensor system. Instead, they have a level system that works well and is of a good quality design. It is also a plastic shell clock, but they hold up very well.
The cheapest clock that allows you to play in any FIDE event or any US Chess event and is FIDE certified is the FIDE Approved Chess Clock. It is a small plastic clock that is designed to be more affordable and works with all-time control settings.
There are many other clocks out there, but practically speaking it does not make sense to buy a clock that does not feature time delay if you live within the US. You can live without increment; however, if you wish to improve or play in FIDE events, increment will become necessary. I hope this article helps you understand the basics of clock buying and clock rules.