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See Our Club Perspective on The Quickplay vs Slowplay Debate

There are a few subjects that chess players get excited about and the issue of being obliged to play quickplay or slowplay finishes is right up there on the excitement scale! After many years of discussions that had not changed the status quo the feeling was that there was sufficient momentum for change this year in the Thames Valley League via resolutions put to the AGM.

The debate is often quite emotional when it comes to this subject with various experiences cited as reasons for change. There is no doubt that the advent of grandmaster strength chess playing computer programs retailing at £30-40 now means that many players have access to a super strength kibitzer during any adjournment when playing under slowplay conditions. The argument then goes that this means that players are no longer playing just using their own resources and that the intervention of silicon at a crucial stage of a game could unfairly distort the "natural" result between the players. This leads to an advocacy for quickplay finishes which keeps the players on their own resources throughout. This is now the accepted approach in all top class chess - so what is the problem? Some also argue that adopting mandatory quickplay could attract more juniors to the game and in general will lead to less consumption of time per game in a busy world.

One of the counter arguments is that, unlike in most top class chess, many chess clubs are still only equipped with mechanical clocks that do not allow a time increment (eg. Fischer increment) to be added for each move. Without this facility players can "hustle" their opponent even when they are blatantly losing or even just in a simple, level, position with a small time advantage. The guillotine falls and some injustices can occur when it does so. There are also those, predominately but not exclusively, older players who enjoy the prospect of analysing an adjourned game as they have done throughout their playing careers while noting that computers remain a lot less useful when it comes to endgames than complex middlegames. They also may believe that a "natural" result does not necessarily follow from a tense time scramble which may be more to do with managing nerves than with chess playing technique.

Ultimately whether one advocates mandatory or default quickplay or slowplay finishes it is pretty likely that such a judgement comes down to how good you perceive you are personally at handling each form of time control.

Prior to the Thames Valley League AGM on 21 June 2010 Surbiton's membership was canvassed for their opinion on this subject in order to inform the way we ought to vote. Below is the summary feedback note to the members:-

"Thanks very much to all who responded to the questions regarding this issue (see motion 2 below). We had 18 responders who, between them, played 90 games in Thames Valley Div 1 last season, which is, a very representative, 80% of the total games we played.

We looked at the results on a "weighted" basis, ie. the responses of each player are weighted by the number of games he played in TV Div 1 last year on the principle that if you play a lot your opinion should count more than if you rarely or never play. We have also reported “un-weighted” results too for transparency. You will observe that the “weighted” approach has a small, but not decisive, impact on the results.

Opinion Survey Headlines:

i) On a “weighted” basis on our scale of 1-10 (1=100% QP and 10=100%SP) the club comes out at 6.0. So a majority have a preference for slow play vs. quick play. (The “un-weighted” figure was 5.3)

ii) On a “weighted” basis 35% favoured the 4QP, 4SP default proposal (The “un-weighted” figure was 45%). Some quotes received regarding the proposal:

"I am broadly in favour as it is a good option on a practical level but want to ensure slow play remains.” “I don't like Quick Play, but I understand the reason for the proposal.” “I'm not keen on this as it exacerbates what I see as an already over-complicated situation!” “A 3hr session should be sufficient for 99%+ of matches to reach a fair result on the night via quick-play, and I think that's the main thing to be aimed at.” “I'd like to hear an argument for why the change is needed and what the objective of this half baked proposal is, as without that I don't see the merit of the change.” “I'm against the rule change - the element of compulsion for some and choice for others depending on board order is arbitrary and therefore unfair.” “At last!! Definitely in favour

iii) Of those who responded (approximately 33% of members) to the question regarding the number of moves in a session under SP rules, 80-90% favored increasing the number of moves from 30 to 35 in 2.5 hours and from 36 to 42 moves in 3 hours.

Common themes in other comments submitted:

1. Maximize the duration of playing sessions (to maximize number of moves made in first time control) and remove constraints to that (eg. start earlier if possible).

2. If 4QP/4SP proposal is adopted then clarify rules re: grading / board order and try to make as flexible as possible to allow player's preferences to be accommodated.

3. If QP finish incorporate Fischer increments where possible.

4. If QP finish clarify rules in relation to QP including 10.2.

Conclusions:

a) There is a majority of our players who prefer SP over QP.

b) The 4QP, 4SP proposal did not enjoy sufficient support in Surbiton for us to vote in favour.

c) There is support to maximize the playing session duration.

d) A majority support the proposal to increase the number of moves per session under SP.

e) Based on your comments we proposed a motion to the AGM (see motion 4 below)

How it went at the AGM on Monday 21st July 2010 :

Here are the motions and how the voting went:

1. Play shall continue for three hours unless both captains (or deputies) agree to play for a shorter period of time or, because due to restrictions on the playing time available to the home team, it is unreasonable to play a three hour session. [We voted in favour and overall there were 7 votes in favour and 4 against. The motion did not achieve the necessary two-thirds majority so it was not passed. Notwithstanding this it was recognized at the meeting that teams should strive for 3 hour sessions wherever possible.]

2. In division 1, boards 1, 4, 5 and 8 to have quickplay finish except by consent of both players, whilst boards 2, 3, 6 and 7 to have adjournment except by consent of both players. [We voted against and it was defeated 10:3]

3. An adjournment can only occur after: (a) move 35 if the first session lasts 2½ hours (b) move 42 if the first session lasts 3 hours. [We voted in favour and it was passed]

4. When a quickplay finish is agreed and Fischer clocks are available and both players want to use Fischer timings that they should be permitted with increment of 5 seconds a move unless BOTH players agree something different. [We proposed this and it was passed]

Paul Shepherd (on behalf of Paul Durrant) 22 June 2010 "

Hopefully a substantial number of clubs will see the outcome of the AGM votes as a step in the right direction which ought to directionally lead to longer playing sessions and more moves per session thus increasing the chances of a result "on the day". Also, as clubs gradually change their clock stock over to digital over time, there will be an increasing facility to play quickplay with increments which may encourage more players to volunteer for quickplay finishes. No doubt this issue will be revisited in the future!

Addendum January 2013

“Well it seemed like a good idea at the time!”

That is how I would summarize our attempt to make 3 hour sessions work in the 2010-11 season following the changes at the 2010 AGM . The result of that experience in general was that, certainly for the first team, there was a lot of negative feedback associated primarily with people ending up getting home really late after matches, being tired at the end of matches and for work the next day. The league is quite gentlemanly and most teams give each other a bit of slack at the official start time of 7:30pm as travel distances and times can be long and the traffic burden on the streets of London seems to be increasing each year. So 7:45pm starts are quite common. Add 3 hours to 7:45pm and we are looking at leaving for home later than 10:45pm once move sealing and gathering the troops is taken into account. Some away trips are an hour’s commute….You can do the arithmetic!

So, after all that, we have come to the view, through actual experience, that 2.5 hour sessions are what we currently desire. They remain the default position in the league’s rules.

The change to the number of moves played in the session (from 30 to 35 moves in a 2.5 hour session) has gone pretty smoothly from our perspective. This is probably because it brought the “pace” of the Thames Valley league up to the same level as the Surrey league that we also compete in.  

The insertion of the Fischer increment option has so far made zero difference as no one asks for it. The reality probably being that those who do not like quick-play will not be placated with a mere 5 seconds per move and those who do like it prefer the “guillotine” hanging over their opponents head when in hustling mode!

What are the results of all this experience since the 2010 AGM ?

The first team seems to average roughly one adjourned game per match. I would say roughly 25% of the games are agreed as quick-play finishes although this varies considerably from match to match. With 2.5 hour sessions the vast majority of games are either resolved “on the night” or a result is agreed prior to resumption. Hence thirty five moves appear to generally be enough to decide most games based on this experience. Even for those few games that are agreed to be adjudicated on the night it is quite rare for the result not to be agreed prior to the formal adjudication. The first team has averaged only about one actual formal adjudication decision per season for the past couple of years. The adjudication fee is undoubtedly a factor for all parties!

For those of our team who want to play quick-play this is generally accepted by our opponents but not in all cases. The upper boards of teams appear in general somewhat more inclined to play quick-play than the lower ones but, again, this varies. I have experienced some of my players declining to play in matches where they knew their prospective opponents would not agree quick-play finishes.

We and the league clearly need to keep this issue under review to ensure the league format is as attractive to as many players as possible.

Paul Shepherd 21 January 2013