Time for a game? Standard, Rapid, or Blitz? Or Bullet?

Analogue chess clock
Analogue chess clock

The English Chess Federation grading database gives two types of Grades: your Standard grade and your Rapid-play grade. What are the differences between these types of game? And what are Blitz and Bullet games? We take a minute to look into the different types of chess game.

Standard and Rapid are just two of several types of chess game duration. There are also Blitz and Bullet. Time duration is usually defined as the amount of time each player gets to complete the game, and can be formed of a base set amount of time plus an option for extra time added with each move made – called an increment (such as 5 seconds per move and so on). Online you might see a time control described as a number followed by a + another number – for example 5+3: it will be the base amount of time in minutes + number in seconds for the increment: 5 minutes plus 3 seconds per move in this example (for a Blitz game).

Another type of time control can also be set on the time for each move.


Standard: chess clocks at 90 minutes each
Standard: chess clocks at 90 minutes each

Standard chess games are defined by the international Chess body FIDE as being chess games where each player’s thinking time is at least 60 minutes.

There are various ways Tournaments and Leagues determine their time-control: this could be one fixed time of say 90 minutes for all moves each, or to have a time-control for a certain number of moves followed by a fixed ‘quick play finish’ (QPF) to complete all remaining moves (example: 36 moves in an hour and 15 minutes, followed by 15 minutes each QPF to complete all remaining moves). Another method is to have a fixed element plus increment: each player has a basic amount of time, but every move they make gains extra time on the clock, say 5 seconds a move; digital clocks are necessary for this.

For our League games (certainly in the lower Divisions) and our own tournaments we favour a fixed all-moves time control of 90 minutes each (i.e. without adding increments). The digital clocks count down, and analogue clocks, where used, are set at half-past four, flag falls (time’s up) at 6 o’clock. Whoever’s flag falls first loses the game – they’ve “lost on time”.


Rapid-play is defined as being a game where players’ thinking time is more than ten minutes but less than 60. Some tournaments now have games where the players have 25 minutes each to start with, with an increment of say 5 seconds a move: these games do not usually go beyond one hour in all.

Rapid-play: chess clocks set for 30 minutes each
Rapid-play: chess clocks set for 30 minutes each


chess clocks set for 10 minutes each (Blitz)
chess clocks set for 10 minutes each (Blitz)

Blitz is where all moves are played in 10 minutes or less each per player. If a game time is under 3 minutes, that is defined as Bullet.


Bullet chess: less than 3 minutes
Bullet chess: less than 3 minutes

Bullet games are under 3 minutes for each player. Playing this type online would avoid the inevitable knocking-over of pieces in a frantic live face-to-face game..

Relevant Links

FIDE Laws of Chess see Appendix A and Glossary

Chess.com – interesting article on chess clocks and time control https://www.chess.com/article/view/an-introduction-to-chess-clocks

Wikipedia on Fast Chess: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fast_chess

Examples of tournaments of various time controls

Castle Chess http://www.castlechess.co.uk/ their time control is of Standard type of length, 36 moves in 90 minutes plus 15 QPF to finish.

Southend Easter Congress (cancelled for 2020…) http://southendchesscongress.org.uk/ Another example of a Standard play tournament: 90 minutes per player per game PLUS 30 seconds per move.

Docklands Rapid-play http://www.spanglefish.com/docklandschessclub/ An example of Rapidplay, time control at their regular tournaments in Poplar is 25 minutes plus 5 seconds per move (i.e. about an hour a game in all).

Golders Green FIDE Rapidplay http://goldersgreenchess.blogspot.com/ also have a time control of 25 minutes per player plus 5 seconds per move increment. Interestingly they seem to be running online tournaments whilst the Covid-19 Coronavirus health crisis continues, using Lichess.org as hosts (join team Chess-England).

Lichess.org Arenas (tournaments) for Blitz as well as other types – bullet, Rapid etc.

Chess.com online chess website: players can select the time limits for their games.

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