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Time Limits - July 1991

In tournaments it is important that games be finished in a specified time so that the next round can start on time. In games without time limits one player can delay playing until the other runs out of patience. Sakata Eio, one of the greatest players of modern times, was denied entry to professional ranks for some years because the insei tournaments in those days had no time limits. He couldnít compete on stamina when the games lasted several days. for these and other reasons we have time limits and clocks.

Kami Kaze first touched on time limits in the October 1979 newsletter. The reader might like to read the book "The Master of Go" by Kawabata for some insight into Japanese fellings about the introduction of timing to professional games. In this issue I wouild like to go into the different methods of timing games.

In New Zealand tournaments we use the system of byo-yomi used in the WAGC. Each player has a set period of time for thinking and when this is used up they get a small amount of time (typically 30 or 60 seconds) to make each move. This method works well and should be even easier to use now that byo-yomi clocks are available.

Where byo-yomi clocks are not available and to avoid having to get a third person to time byo-yomi tournaments in North America typically time overtime by allowing 5 minutes for 10 moves. This can lead to a rush to finish the 10 moves in time and can be quite distracting. In some tournaments they even increase the number of moves to be played in each subsequent allocation of 5 minutes.

In amateur tournaments in Japan and China there is usually no overtime. Players are expected to have finished their whole game within a set time. This is a bit draconian and has the disadvantage that sometimes people continue playing a lost game in the hope that their opponent will lose on time. It does have the advantage that the games get finished on time and it is possible with short time limits to play a 5 round tournament in one day.

Professional games have a much more generous time control. The time limits vary from 3 hours to 10 hours per player. When the last 10 minutes come due the player goes into byo-yomi. If they use a full 60 seconds that minute is marked off and they start counting the next minute. Otherwise they keep the minute if they play within the 60 seconds. A player effectively has 10 lots of byo-yomi. When the professional play in quick game tournamenmts (Haya go) they typically play under the conditions we use for our provincial opens.

No discussion of time control would be complete without mentioning Taiwan where one can buy time. If your time is running short you can give up a number of points to gain some more time to think. This might avoid the unfairness of losing a "won" game on time. Ingís clocks which allow the use of this system were the first clocks available here to time byo-yomi.

Chess timing is more uniform but less satisfactory. Each player has to finish 40 moves in 2 hours. adn often has to hustle to get finished. Bobby Fischer (of the famous match with Boris Spassky) has proposed a new method of timing which may also be suitable for go. Last year he patented a clock which starts off with 1 hour (10 minutes might be suitable for go) for each player for the first move. Each time they press their clock a further dollop of 2 minutes (1 minute would be good for go) is added. This allows you to use your time as you prefer, but might favour people who play quickly in the beginning. His clock counts the time down in a synthesised voice which may annoy the traditionalists.

His method would definately be an improvement over the current method of timing chess games. I donít know whether he has had any success in getting people to use it.

Generally Kami Kaze thinks that the byo-yomi method of counting times works well enough for go that no change is necessary. I would like to see some games played using Fischerís method. Perhaps the Americans might like to try it in preference to their method. I donít know haw easily available the clocks are likely to be.

©2004 Leon Phease