If you have been reading a lot of historical books about chess (or through some other medium like youtube) then you might have heard that games used to be adjourned back then.
But you might be wondering why this rule is nowhere to be seen in modern elite tournaments, what happened to this mechanism?
Is it really gone or not? Can chess games still be adjourned? This is the findings of my small research:
The traditional practice of adjourning games was abandoned completely in 1997 following the rise of chess engines that evaluate endgame positions precisely. The time format has also been shortened so that there is no need for adjournments.
This used to be a controversial issue (whether to remove adjournments) but clearly, everyone has an answer now and I can give it to you! Which is basically the role of adjournments in chess and why it is no longer practiced.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
Are adjournments in chess still practiced in modern times?
There are few tournaments that still allow adjournment of chess games but are not the international standard, adjournments have been abandoned due to chess engines being consulted, and the shortened classical format that accommodates the change.
If we are talking international-wise (which is the only thing that matters) then yes, adjournments have been erased in practice for most chess tournaments. Even if there is a minor local federation that allows this, it doesn’t apply to most people.
Adjournments of games in history are mostly applicable to the longest time format which is classical, this is the time control where maximum time is allotted for both players to make their moves.
It makes sense, if both players are not able to finish their game (with allotted time still) then the game should be postponed until tomorrow’s adjournments.
However adjournment in chess tournaments is no longer practiced even in classical time controls, the players after all can easily access engines that will give the best moves in the position.
Everyone can get a strong engine these days that can crush the world champion at a game or two, even I got one for free (Stockfish 10).
Even lower-rated tournaments (which is still adjourned in the day) would be infested with computer moves since computers are so accessible.
In fact, if it were practiced now, the majority of players would still take a peek in the engine even if there is a rule in place that doesn’t allow it.
Of course, this is not fair to the one who doesn’t use an engine for evaluation, the nature of chess tournaments are just too competitive and the players would sure take advantage if there are still adjournments.
Chess adjournments in faster time control
If it were not permissible in a classical time format (longest time control) then do adjournments for faster time control such as blitz and rapid still exist? The short and quick answer is just no.
Even back then, the games that were reasonable for adjournments were only the classical time control (longest time control) and not the quicker time formats, so it has always been only permissible to longer time controls.
If you think about it this makes sense, you don’t have to postpone a game if it only lasts for 5 to 10 minutes per player, waiting for a maximum of 20 minutes should not be hurtful for the event.
However, waiting for 2 hours for both players with the clock in increment is a different story.
Adjournment for faster time controls doesn’t exist now since it is not even practiced in the first place, a blitz game for example can just be waited out without causing a delay to the tournament’s time schedule.
If the organizers have to wait for hours for the game to be finished though, an adjournment is much more accommodating for the entire event. So no, adjournments do not happen in faster time controls.
There are local federations that allow chess adjournments
Every local area (mostly a country) will have a local chess federation that oftentimes makes quirky rules that are different from international standards (Fide), so things might be slightly different there.
There might be some unknown federation out there that still practices adjournments but take note that this is not the tradition, most prestigious modern chess tournaments (and even the world championship) do not subscribe to adjournments anymore.
However, I will acknowledge that this rule might still exist out there though I am not aware of it, if a tournament practiced it, they would definitely inform the participants.
You could also check from Google if the local federation that you are looking to enter practice adjournments if you want to find out.
When is the shift to not allowing adjournments in chess began?
The classical time control was modified during the mid-1980s by having 40 moves in 2 hours plus 20 moves in 1 hour, which makes adjournments much rarer. The last world chess championship to practice adjournments is the Fide world chess championship in 1996.
This is another shift that had to happen in order to fully accommodate the abandonment of chess adjournments, which is the shortened classical time control.
In the mid-1980s, a new time control of 40 moves in 2 hours + 20 moves in 1 hour became popular because it reduced the number of games that reached adjournment, and then it was modified again to add a 3rd lump sum of time, typically an hour, that was all the time the players were allowed and prevented a need for adjournment all together.
After all, there is still the issue of having games being too long for the tournament organizers to let the matches go on. The new classical time control lasts at the very least, still some two hours long, but not as long as the previous classical control.
This introduced the idea of urgency, where other time formats are still shorter (to separate the classical format) but the longest time format should be played with haste than what is traditionally done.
Some games do not even reach the first additional time increment after the first 40 moves (20 moves in 1 hour) and end much more quickly. It has changed a little bit in modern times to be longer, but not too long that the need for adjournments will arise.
Adjournments are abandoned on world championships starting 1997
The first world championship match to not use any adjournments was the “Classical World Chess Championship” 1995 between Kasparov and Anand, and the last one to use it (adjournments) was the 1996 “FIDE World Chess Championship” between Karpov and Gata Kamsky.
The 1995 world chess championship still mostly follows the rules that have been traditionally imposed in previous world chess championship matches, except of course for one thing, which is adjourning games.
This is sort of a test run that has been brought to the biggest stages of all, the world chess championship, and turns out to work well due to the shortened classical time format and was repeated for years to come.
The 1996 Fide world chess championship match is actually a separate world chess championship from the still considered world champion Garry Kasparov (which separated from Fide) and has its own rules. F
or matches made by Garry since then, he made it so it does not subscribe to the adjournment rule any longer.
And after that, the rule of adjourning games started to fade away even in lower-tier tournaments until it has become so unpopular that it has become a relic of the past, something that is out of place today.
Why is abandoning adjournments in chess necessary?
If adjournments have been brought to modern times, it would make the game much more drawish by having the engine analyze the positions when the players are at home. It is also a more fair approach that benefits players who work on their endurance.
Back then when games are adjourned, players would work with their seconds to analyze multiple lines of the current position that would give them an advantage. This is of course unfair for competitors who do not have access to seconds.
Abandoning the adjournment of games is much more favorable to less known players with less backing from seconds, some famous grandmasters with a team behind them can use their human resources to win in an adjourned endgame.
It basically means that you do not have to be better than your opponent in order to win, you just have to outcompete them with the human resources that you already have.
But you might argue that everyone has access to computers nowadays so you don’t necessarily need seconds to evaluate variations, but this is not true.
Players can still work with engine lines but on a much deeper scale with the help of multiple seconds. In the end, it boils down to more people means more work that can be done (which makes it unfair).
If adjournments of games have been completely abandoned (just like what it is now) it would ensure that it would only be the competitor’s efforts that will matter rather than the help that they can get outside of the match.
Players rarely blackout in classical time formats
A hurdle that comes to mind when people learn that adjournments no longer exist, will competitors become too tired to continue playing at some point?
You might think that an issue will arise (eventually) where both players may be too exhausted to play a long game and would force adjournment, however, this has not happened yet and it seems that human competitors are able to endure long chess games.
I have mentioned this over and over again but I will say it one last time, the classical time format now has been shortened from what it was a century ago (making it bearable).
It has been tested over and over again that human competitors are able to endure such long games to the point that they can do it several times in a row (although it will be exhausting) without blocking out.
Another thing is the players have become better at enduring these formats, the competitors nowadays are trained to be able to respond to these classical controls much effectively without getting too tired.
So no, the downsides are not that existent (therefore accommodating the need for abandonment)
Chess engines are similar to seconds
This is something that a lot of people think of, that consulting a chess engine isn’t necessarily much different from consulting a bunch of seconds that was practiced decades ago.
Some have argued that even back then players used to consult with seconds in order to analyze the position, they argue that it is not much different from consulting an engine.
This is of course not true since computer moves are sometimes moves that cannot be detected by the human eye.
No matter how many people analyze a position, there are just lines that are too crazy that only an engine can identify.
This means that even though it is unfair back then to have a lot of seconds behind you, there will be diminishing returns that it will only benefit one player than the other in little amounts (or what I called an analysis ceiling).
A computer is much more different, there is no such thing as an analysis ceiling and it can do everything. But there is a more important reason why adjournments are abandoned entirely.
Computer moves lead to drawish boring results
If you watch any game that has been played by two computers ever, you would know that the draw rate is astronomical in such games. If adjournments have been totally welcomed, it is consequently inviting a game played between two engines.
If adjournment of games has been accepted in modern times it would increase the already excessive amount of draws that we see in human competitions, abandoning this rule is a step to allow some decisive results in today’s drawish tournaments.
The game of chess will never flourish if the draw rate of computer games approach those that are in human competitions, it has to be separated.
We might even see a 95% draw rate if the adjournment of games has been allowed in classical, it would make the game much more predetermined rather than with sprinkles of creativity.
Do you now know if chess games are still adjourned?
Every competition based-game out there will have an update in its rule-setting every now and then, it is a part of evolution.
People will just figure some things out later than the road and would adjust based on that knowledge, such is the case here.
People have learned the negatives of adjournments and found some minor adjustments in order to not rely on the rule, overall giving better experience.
People are sometimes afraid of change so they try their best to argue, but it seems to be working fine now.
At least at the time of writing this article it is fine, hope it will be for long, sleep well and play chess.