Classical Chess: Over the Board Play with Classic Time Control

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In the world of chess, classical chess is thought to be threatened by online chess games where rapid and blitz chess is far more popular. But classic chess will always remain the best form of chess and the defining version for a World Chess Champion.

In this article, I will look at what classical means in terms of time control (i.e., how long each player has to make all their moves), and explore why this style of chess is still so popular today.

1. What is Classical Chess

Classical chess is defined by over-the-board play with classical time control. This means that you have 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game; in addition, you get an extra 30 seconds per move starting from move one.

This makes for a more strategic and thoughtful game, as players are not rushed to make moves. If you are interested in playing classical chess, be sure to check out your local chess club!

Classical chess explained

The rules of classical time control chess are simple enough for anyone to understand. It’s just like regular chess, but with time control.

You can consider the game to be partitioned into two sections of differing time control.

The first is where there are 90 minutes in total for the first 40 moves to be made. This is simple enough to understand before moving into the second phase of the classical time control.

Once the first 90 minutes are up, there is an additional 30 minutes remaining to complete the game.

This 30 minutes can be extended, and will be, each time a player makes a move when they gain a further 30 seconds for each move they make

Where are FIDE Classical Time Controls Used?

All official FIDE tournaments will use classical chess time control, in the format as explained of 90m+30m+30secs

  • Chess Olympiads
  • World Team Championships
  • Continental Team Championships
  • World Cup
  • Continental Championships
  • Zonal Tournaments
  • World Youth & Junior Championships
  • Continental Youth & Junior Championships
  • World School Championships
  • Continental Club Championships

You will have noticed the World Chess Championship is not included in the list above.

Is The Chess World Championship Classical Chess?

The annual world chess championship is classical chess of course, but played to a slightly different time control to regular FIDE tournaments, in that there is an extended amount of time.

The World Chess Championship time control is 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, followed by 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move starting on move 61.

Note: A time increment is an additional amount of time (30 seconds per move as in classical time control chess) that is added to the chess clock at the point the move has been made and the player has pressed his button on the clock signifying his opponents time starts counting down.

For more information, I have a guide to chess clocks and timing which goes into more depth into time control in chess, as there are many different variations.

Classical is the most common time control in chess played internationally

The classical time control is used in many tournaments around the world, including the World Chess Championship. It has been adopted by FIDE (the governing body of international chess) because it provides a fair and balanced contest between the two sides.

2. Why play classical chess

Whilst most players getting familiar with the game of chess in this day and age are playing online and most likely in rapid formats, there are many benefits to playing classical chess.

It is chess in the truest form and many a chess purist will state the best form of the game.

Classical time control chess allows a player sufficient time to think of as many possible options. After the opening which, will probably still be a swift exchange of moves, there is ample time to assess the board, your position, and that of your opponent and try to figure out what strategy is being played against you and how you can consider that for your next move.

In Rapid chess, time is very limited, just seconds per move in many cases, and it does not allow you sufficient time to consider every eventuality and ensure that you are not making a mistake or blunder.

It is important to consider what your opponent might be planning and ensure you are not hanging a piece, leaving it undefended, or even putting yourself in a position where forced ‘mate’ could occur in the end game.

Classical time control chess provides ample time to avoid inaccuracies in your moves.

3. Can you play Classic Time Control Chess Online at

It is possible to play 60-minute games online at, although not in the exact format as standard classic chess as seen in FIDE tournaments or the World Championship.

Classical chess is best played over the board, if you have enough time, as it also negates the opportunity of your opponent using a chess engine and cheating. Playing online provides ample time and opportunity for unscrupulous players to analyze next move generators to always play the best engine moves.

Even Grandmasters can not beat chess engines these days so it is quite demoralizing [And obvious] when your opponent is doing so, and it ruins the game

Even with an unbeatable chess strategy, it is virtually impossible to play the best move every time.

4. How to Play Classical Chess

If playing chess informally with a friend, all you have to do to play classical chess game is have your chess board set up and agree a time control with your opponent.

You can use, 30 minutes per player, or 60 minutes if you have time and prefer a longer game.

You can even choose to use standard classical time control of 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, (if the game lasts that long) with the additional time and increments as required.

All of this can be discussed and agreed upon before you play.

If you are playing with increments you will need a chess clock and know how to set it for the game. With new digital chess clocks, this is a simple procedure.

If you do not have access to a clock, you can simply play until the game reaches a conclusion, which is the most simple method for informal chess playing. Indeed, if you want to try some old-school classical chess you even enter a game of Correspondence chess. – Again, better in the old format, but ‘daily’ games can be played on with friends should you prefer.


Classical chess is one of the most popular forms of the game in informal settings between friends and family and can be argued to be the best way to play the game. Comfortably positioned at a dedicated time and place to enjoy the best boardgame in the world at leisure and for fun. Although it can still be competitive of course.

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