Lesson 5 - Other Topics: Chess Clock, Time Control, ELO Rating And Chess Titles

"Under no circumstances should you play fast if you have a winning position. Forget the clock, use all your time and make good moves."
- Pal Benko

Bravo! If you made it here through all the previous lessons, it means that you know all chess playing rules. You can now start appreciating fully the joys of this wonderful game. But before running to the first tournament available or registering to your local chess club, let me explain you some additional little things related to organized chess events.


The Chess Clock and Time Control

The chess clock is a case containing two timers used for tracking the time remaining to each player during a game. The mechanism inside the case links the two timers together so when a player stops his timer, the opponent's timer is then started to calculate the time he takes to think and play his move.

There are analog (mechanic) and digital timers. The digital type is more common nowadays and allows for a wider variety of time control settings.

Analog Timer
Analog Timer
Digital Timer
Digital Timer

Time controls are used to allow each player to have the same amount of time to play their moves. Several time control settings can be used. Here are some examples:

  • Standard: 40 moves/120 min + 60 minutes for each extra block of 20 moves
  • Incremental: 30 moves/75 min + 45 min/checkmate + 30 secondes by move (possible only with digital time controls)
  • K.O. : all moves must be played in a given period of time (60 min/checkmate, 25 min/checkmate, 5 min/checkmate)

When a chess timer is used in an official game, the player whose time expires (we also say that his "flag falls") is loosing automatically the game if his opponent has enough material to checkmate him. The game is a draw if it is not the case (more details in section on draws).


The ELO Rating And Chess Titles

The ELO rating is used to determine the level of play of chess players. A mathematical formula based on the work of the mathematician Arpad Elo uses statistical probabilities about performance between players in an event to generate a rating. A beginner player without competition experience will have a rating between 800 and 1000. A player with 50 to 100 games played has a rating around 1200. A serious chessclub player training on tactics and doing post-mortem analysis of his losses could rreach a rating around 1400 to 1500. A good chess club player has around 1700 to 1900. Starting at rating of 2000, chess players deserve a title:

  • Expert : rating between 2000 and 2200
  • Master: keep a rating over 2200 for 20 consecutive games
  • International Master (IM): got 3 IM norms in international events. IM rating is around 2300 to 2450
  • Grandmaster (GM): got 3 GM norms in international events. This is the highest rank we can reach in chess. GM rating is around 2400 to 2900. Once a player is grandmaster, he is so for the rest of his life because this title cannot be revoked.

IM et GM titles are permanent: even if the player's rating goes down significantly, his international title cannot be revoked. Top 10 players in the world currently have an average rating of 2790.

Now that you know all the rules, let's see them in action by going through a complete gameonline chess tutorial on the next page.