Let’s face it – we all played our first few chess games without any time restrictions. And while it’s definitely fun to play with friends and family without having to worry about the clock, chess timings are a fundamental part of the game when it’s played officially, be it online or over the board.
Have you ever wondered how long the average chess game is? Here’s everything you need to know about chess timings.
The average chess game lasts 10 to 20 minutes. Online games tend to last shorter, whereas over-the-board games usually last longer. Tournament games played at the highest level can last for hours. Blitz and Rapid are the most popular time formats.
Additionally, the average chess game lasts 41 moves.
In this article, I’ll tell you how long the average chess game lasts, what the most popular time formats are, and which time controls you should use in your games. I’ll also answer some FAQs at the end, so stick around to learn everything there is to know about chess timings.
How Long Does the Average Chess Game Last?
The average chess game lasts between 10 to 20 minutes. That’s not the narrowest range, but it exists because of the considerable difference between the two most popular time controls.
10 to 20 minutes is about how long you would expect a chess game to take if you were playing with friends, even without a clock.
Now, if we separate online and over-the-board chess, the averages change. Most online games last 5 to 10 minutes.
Most games played over the board last 10 to 20 minutes.
This disparity exists because of the difference in the most played time formats. You’ve probably heard of these time formats before – Blitz, rapid, Bullet, etc. If you haven’t, don’t worry; we’ll cover them in more detail in a later section.
Rapid is the most popular time format in both over-the-board and online chess. It involves 10 to 15 minutes for each side, which comes out to 20 to 30 minutes for both.
In rapid, most games come to a conclusive end before the time runs out.
However, Blitz and Bullet are considerably more popular in online chess than they are over the board – and it doesn’t take a lot to figure out why. You can input moves very quickly on a touchscreen.
In Bullet, players have 1 to 2 minutes each. In Blitz, each side has 3 to 5 minutes. The popularity of these formats substantially reduces the average for online chess games.
Increments and Delays
Before we move on to the official time formats, we need to talk about increments and delays. These two elements of time control are the most confusing to beginners.
An increment is the bonus time you get with every move you play. So, for example, a popular online time control is 5+3 – Blitz.
This means you’ll get 5 minutes that will count down from the start of the game as usual. But each time you make a move, you’ll get 3 extra seconds.
Playing with increments makes a big difference, especially as the clock runs out. The ability to keep playing with quick-enough moves is sufficient for most skilled players to see their game through to the end without running out of time.
Delays are a bit more complicated. An example will help.
Let’s say you have 60 seconds left. Your opponent makes their moves and presses the clock. If you’re playing with, for example, a 5-second delay, your 60 seconds won’t start falling until 5 seconds have passed from the time your opponent pressed the clock.
Once those 5 seconds are over, your clock will run down normally.
You should know that the total time on your clock can never increase when playing with a delay. With increments, you can increase your total time if you move fast enough.
Chess Time Formats
Let’s talk about the official time formats in chess.
When we categorize time controls, delays and increments aren’t taken into consideration.
- Bullet: Bullet is the shortest time format and is thematically named as such. Games that involve under 3 minutes per player are considered bullet games. It’s very commonly played online. Over the board, bullet games are less common.
- Blitz: Games featuring more than 3 but less than 10 minutes per player fall into the blitz category. Blitz is popular both online and over the board.
- Rapid: Games involving 10 to 30 minutes per player. 10+0 and 15+10 are the most popular rapid rests, though. Rapid is the perfect compromise for most people. Not so long that the game gets boring, but long enough that you can really think your moves through.
- Classic: Classic games last over an hour — usually several. Most international tournaments feature this time control. Seldom played casually.
Most online platforms, such as chess.com and lichess.org, will allow you to set your own time controls. A great option for you if the existing presets don’t quite hit the mark. You can set any base time and increment you want.
And, of course, when playing over the board, you can agree with a suitable time control with your opponent or just not use one at all. I would encourage you to play with some degree of time restriction if you’re looking to improve, though.
Most chess clocks will allow you to set your own custom time control. You can also find mobile apps if you don’t have a physical chess clock.
Improving Time Management
As you climb the Elo ladder, you’ll realize the significance of time. Especially when you first play Blitz and Bullet, you’ll often run out of time, sometimes mere moments before victory.
You’ll have to improve your time management.
Here are a few key pieces of advice that will help you think and move faster without compromising accuracy.
- Play openings you know. It can be helpful, especially when you’re starting out, to stick to a particular opening and get good at it. The time you’ll save at the beginning will carry over to the rest of the game.
- Learn the basic chess principles. Calculation is difficult, mentally draining, and time-intensive. Learning the principles of chess will help you develop a set of safe moves that you can ‘default’ to.
- Save time for critical positions. Slow down only when you feel like there is something to find, such as a tactic or a break in the enemy position.
- Use your opponent’s time to think. Think about what they’re planning and what your response to their best moves would be.
Time management is something even the best players struggle with, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you lose a few games on the clock.
Which Time Control Should You Play?
We’ve talked extensively about the different time controls. Here’s which one is suitable for you.
As a Beginner
I recommend starting with rapid chess. Either 10+0 or 15+10.
Most beginners will find rapid chess to be a comfortable and mentally stimulating experience. As a beginner, you will need to take some time to think your moves through and understand what you’re doing.
This will also be the most suitable entry point for you if you’ve previously been playing without time controls.
If You’re Looking To Improve
Rapid chess is again the way to go here. Although, this time, you should lean towards even higher time controls.
So, 15+10 and 30+0, for example.
While Blitz may be the most fun time control, it’s not the most conducive to your improvement. Longer games will allow you to find tactics and explore the specifics of the position. In shorter games, you’ll be relying more on your ‘gut feeling,’ which really doesn’t do much for you improvement-wise.
If You Often Play On The Go
This one’s a no-brainer! Online Blitz and Bullet are the ideal game modes for those who find it hard to incorporate chess into a busy schedule.
These shorter games are packed with action and intensity, which is why they’re becoming increasingly popular these days.