Brian Karen
By Joel Benjamin   
September 27, 2006
Hi Joel,

Congratulations on your new column.

Today some friends and I were having a debate regarding whether g/30 time controls should be given the same K as Standard time controls. The three opinions were that:

A: G/30 is not "real" chess. Its 25 minutes of maneuvering and a 5-minute blitz game. Real chess is a much deeper and better test of chess abilities.

B: G/30 is in many ways a better test of chess abilities than slower time controls in that it favors the person who has a deeper understanding of chess and can calculate quicker.

C: While neither game is intrinsically better than the other the differences between them are substantial and therefore it warps the rating system to measure two different games with the same system.

I'm wondering what your opinion is of these three arguments.

Best Regards,

Brian Karen


I would be lean more to "A" than "B." My heart says yes to "C" but my head says no.

When game/30 was first introduced, the USCF fielded a brisk debate over whether it should have a separate rating system. At the time, USCF officials contended (erroneously, as it transpired) that a separate rating system would be prohibitively expensive. So it was decided that G/30 would be rated the same as slower time controls.

In my experience, game/30 is a qualitatively different type of game. You cannot think for more than a few minutes on a move. You cannot fall too far behind on the clock. You have to accept that you will produce something less than quality chess. I don't like to have to speculate on my decisions, so I have found that G/30 on the whole tends to cost me rating points.

Recognizing the essential qualitative difference, the USCF instituted a rating system for games faster than G/30 called "quick chess." G/30 tournaments can be rated in both the quick and standard systems. For a player like me, more often looking to maintain my rating than augment it, quick chess can be quite attractive. [In one of the few G/29 tournaments I have played in, I lost to a very low-rated player that would have cost me a boatload of points in the standard system]

The problem is that most people play in tournaments largely because they want to try to gain rating points. The quick chess system has just not caught on. How many people even know their quick rating (no peeking at the MSA)? Who is the highest quick-rated player in the country? And when will Greg Shahade write a column on the top fifteen quick players in the country?

Game/30 enables people to get in a lot more rated games. Entire tournaments can be played in one evening. And more rated games seems to make more people happy. So even though I sometimes shudder when I think what a game/30 will do to my rating, it is probably for the best that they be rated under the same system.

I'll admit I don't know much about K factors. If the USCF can rate players of different ratings using different K factors, I suppose they could do the same for tournaments of different time controls. It may be proper to use a different K for G/30 (though it brings up a question: what about G/45 or G/60?) but would it be popular? I think more people like to bet their rating will go up than it will go down.

Joel Benjamin