The ideal time allotment
by Wim van Vugt
(posted 5 June 2005)
Wim van Vugt (photo by Frank van der Wolf)

Recently a lively discussion has arisen again
about the best time schedule that can be applied for ICCF email
and server games. In my view there need not be any difference
between these two forms of correspondence chess. A characteristic
of CC is that the reflection time is counted in days, not in
hours, minutes and seconds. The current 8pm rule could easily
be changed into a server analogue, saying that if a move is
sent back within 24 hours ZERO days are counted, and so on.
Such a unification of the rules would be my preference. But
even if this slight rule difference remains between the two
types, one can still look at how the allotted time is spent
and saved up.
The recently mentioned problems about abuse of huge amounts
of savedup time just to drag on a game (often a lost position)
are not a new problem. It returns to TCCMB
with a rather constant frequency of once per year and after
the discussion is over we may sadly conclude that nothing is
done to repair the problem. And so we go on in circles.
Many solutions have been proposed, such a 40/10 instead of 60/10. This is the standard tempo of IECG and could solve a lot of problems which have been caused by the overluxurious 60/10 which should have been the equivalent of the postal 30/10. But it's far from a true equivalent of that, although the postal transmission time can be 3 days on average. The difference is that postal CC gives you only 3 days reflection time as soon as the move arrives in your postbox while email and server grants you with 6 days, or even 7 days if you cleverly make use of the length of a day=24h.
The problem is not the slow pace of play itself
but the abuse of saved time in a later stage of the game, when
the sea of time isn't needed anymore. Proposals to limit the
carryover time to 30 instead of 60 days per 10 moves seem to
solve the problem in a very simple way. A second type of proposal
uses the Fischer clock idea: 30 days at the start and 3 days
per move extra.
Another proposal limits the carryover until a maximum of 100 days reflection time is saved up. This also is an elegant way to solve the problem.
There can be various subvariations of the three
proposals mentioned above, and they all have in common that
the pace of play is speeded up a little without changing the
current average use of time much. But still all of these proposals
have met fierce resistance reasoning that the tempo is speeded
up too much.
Let's compare the three proposals in order to see what's real and what is subjective.
Proposal 1: 60/10 with maximum 30 days carryover
This proposal has first been brought in on TCCMB
by Vytas Palciauskas in a slightly different form. He used the
concept of "3 phony days" whereby of the 6 days reflection time
per move only 3 days could be saved. A year later the proposal
returned to TCCMB, brought in by Ken Reinhart looking at 10
moves as a whole. Of the time that remains from the first 10
moves only 30 days at most may be carried over to the next group
of 10 moves, and so on.
The ultrafast player here has 60/90/120/150
days for 10/20/30/40 moves, respectively. And thus a quick player
using only 13 days per move can easily save 150 days at move
40. This amount may continue to grow after that. There is no
ceiling.
Proposal 2: 30 + 3/1
This is the Fischer clock idea. It can be compared
to #1: 30+30/10 is the same as 60 days for the first 10 moves.
Next 30 days per 10 moves are given. The only difference is
that the Fischer clock gives the days per move, not per 10 moves.
Also here a quick player can easily save 150 days at move 40.
Also here there is no ceiling.
Proposal 3: 60/10 + carryover until 100 days maximum is reached
This idea came recently to the forefront, proposed
by Franklin Campbell. It guarantees 60/10 as a minimum for every
10 moves, but also guarantees an upper ceiling of 100 days.
Here even the quickest player never can collect more than 100
days.
The third proposal is fundamentally better than
the two preceding ones, because of the ceiling of 100 days.
This should be more than enough to slow down a game for three
months. Such a deliberate delay, although still conform the
rules, is an absolute horror to me and I guess to many others
as well. Too often it has been practised by a player facing
a lost position.
Now more fundamental analysis is given of how
the allotted time of 60/10 is used. A number of TCCMB
posters have provided information of their saved time and that
of the opponent as a function of moves performed, including
a WC finalist. In total it comprises the data of 120 different
games. When these data are put together it can be seen that
if player A uses little time then player B generally
uses much time, and vice versa. A compensation effect, which
was mentioned by Marius Ceteras about a year ago. This means
that T_{A}+T_{B} is more constant per move than
T_{A} or T_{B} alone. The sum of these times
is less dependent of the individual player than the separate
T_{A} or T_{B} themselves are. So I looked at
T_{A}+T_{B} and the accumulated saved time S_{A}+S_{B}
as a function of the number of moves N. It turned out that the
sum of the used time approximately tends to go to 6N: T_{A}+T_{B}
6N;
the sum of the saved time S_{A}+S_{B}
6N. The reflection time given by the rules is 12N for both players
together. This means that about half of the time is used and
the other half is saved up for later use or to provide a feeling
of safety. In fact, the average use is therefore about 3 days
per move while 6 days are available.
This use of 3 days per move slightly varies
when the game progresses. The mean accumulated saved times at
move 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 were 35, 65, 94, 122, 148 days per player.
From this it follows that the mean consumed total time becomes
25, 55, 86, 118, 152 days respectively. For a cluster of 10
moves (move 110, 1120, 2130, etc.) these consumed times then
are 25, 30, 31, 32, 34 days. This is roughly 3035 days on average.
Instead of looking at mean values one could examine the upper 25% (slow player), middle 50% (average player) and the lower 25% (fast player). The resulting table of used times by each of these groups then becomes:
Move 
Fast
 Average 
Slow 
110 
16 days 
25 days 
38 days 
1120 
20 days 
30 days 
44 days 
2130 
21 days 
31 days 
46 days 
3140 
21 days 
32 days 
48 days 
4150 
22 days 
34 days 
50 days 
Looking at this phenomenon it becomes clear that the current 60/10
tempo is too slow. There is no need for 6 days per move at all
and it leads to disproportional huge amounts of saved time that
sometimes has been abused to slow down a game to a pace of one
move per year instead of one move per week.
Contrary to the general belief that the first opening moves are played within a few days, it also often happens that these moves are chosen very carefully even if everything is still theory. From the above table one can see at a glance how much time is generally spent by whom and in which stage of the game. Saving up huge amounts of time is not in line with the rather constant need for about 5 days per move at most.
Instead of one of the above mentioned three proposals another simple model could solve the accumulated time in one stroke: abolish the carryover time completely! Just give 60/10 to accommodate the slow players, although 50/10 would do equally well and would have my preference.
No savedup time anymore. Then also the much debated and ambiguous "40daysnomove" rule 3b can vanish. Two problems solved at one stroke.
And then only remains the question how to get the ICCF congress in motion in such a way that they really want to solve problems.
© 2005 Wim
van Vugt. All rights reserved.
