How Many Moves Do Typical Chess Games Have? An Analysis

Chess games last for a very long time, this is the truth that you will understand after watching a couple of chess tournaments (or games). Many matches will be played for hours without too much rest, this is why it is interesting to know how many moves do games have on them?

It must be a lot for sure, and I think this is the answer:

Typical chess games last up to 30 moves, the majority of chess players don’t last until the endgame so the average moves per game becomes diluted. Professional chess games however typically last a little bit longer, about 40 moves in a normal competitive setting.

I have tried looking for statistics or some sort that would really give us the whole picture, however, there is no formal study yet on this. However, from my experience, I know the average moves of most chess games (anecdotally). 

This is what I’m going to share here, of course it will not be super accurate but I am confident that these are pretty close to the actual number. Keep on reading if you are interested.

The average length of chess games in tournaments are around 30-60 moves

The average length of official chess tournaments should be around 30-60 moves (rapid/classical) depending on the average rating of its participants. This is usually because players are more serious and they wouldn’t give up just by having a small disadvantage, simply put, they are willing to play it out.

If the average rating is more on the lower side, the estimated number of moves per game should be around 30-35.

This is because lower-rated players are more likely to make mistakes early in the game than higher-rated ones, this has an effect on the overall average. This makes the average lower since some of the participants are going to have games that end very quickly.

Some of the games will be over from a bad opening preparation, something that higher-rated participants are not that likely to do. So although some games would last above 40 moves, the overall average should be lower since some games end pretty quickly.

On the other hand, chess tournaments where there are a lot of higher-rated players (not elite ones) would have an average of 40-60 moves if we are going to tally everything. This is because most of the games will be a fight, they are also not so elite that they would rather go for draws.

So in estimates, the average moves per game should be around 30-60, the participants in a tournament after all are competitive and will do everything for a single point. They are unlike online players that would resign from minimal disadvantage.

The average length of chess games in prestigious tournaments are 30-40 moves

In prestigious chess tournaments the average length should be 30-40 moves which seems low, but we have to remember that a lot of players here draw quickly. 

Everyone in this level respects each other and are aware that they could lose from a minimal disadvantage.

This means that not many players are going to play on since they are confident that their opponent will not make a mistake (or can even turn around the match), the average would be shorter due to this. 

They would rather agree to a quick draw or just give up in a losing position, the games would end quicker.

In mid-tiered tournaments where everyone is willing to play longer the average will be higher, on these grounds the numbers are lowered. There are going to be chess games that would last 60+ moves but these are pretty rare, in most cases the games would end quickly.

And from years of watching elite chess tournaments I would say that the 30-40 moves estimate is a reasonable one.

The average length of chess games in faster time formats are around 20-30 moves

In faster time formats the average length of a chess game is of course going to be on the lower side (since the games can end abruptly due to tactics). It should be around 20-30 moves unless we are talking about prestigious tournaments where players can play accurately even on short notice.

If you do not think that the average moves on blitz/bullet are not lower than that of rapid/classical then you have never played the faster time formats.

Players don’t have as much time to think so they play lesser moves that can be taken advantage of, in longer time formats individuals are much more solid. In faster time controls there are going to be a lot of mistakes (naturally).

These mistakes can be taken advantage of by a tactic of some sort, this would make the average amount of moves per game lower. Some games can even end below 20 moves (or even 10!), with such short games the averages will be lower.

The games can even end from a misclick (time trouble) if it were played online, I suspect that the average move per game in online blitz/bullet settings would be lower.

On prestigious blitz tournaments I also suspect that it will be around the same, although I would not be surprised if the average is higher.

The average length of chess games in online games are around 10-30 moves

If we are talking about online games that the average length of each chess game should be far shorter, I am talking about 10-30 moves if we are to account for all the games. This is because the skill level in these arenas are much lower, the games don’t last very long.

I am talking about all the time controls in online platforms (bullet, blitz, rapid, classical). This is why the range is so wide (10-30) so that the estimate will actually account for all the games played in such online platforms.

There are many factors to this, but the biggest would be the skill level of the players. Participants in an official chess tournament will likely have a higher skill level than your regular person, they can hold their positions better.

However in online chess games, people all over the world will have access to matches no matter their skill level (which is great, but it makes the average lower). These are people who are likely to blunder very early in the game, I don’t think they can last 30+ moves without resigning.

And I suspect that about 80% of the online player population are made up of these people (which is great since the game is getting popular, but it makes again, the average lower). 

Having an average of 10-30 moves per game on the online population is not thay believable, I think it is actually accurate.

Conclusion

Overall the typical chess game should last around 20-40 moves, although it can vary a lot depending on many factors. The average is actually different depending on what we are talking about, I put the 20-40 move estimate since we are talking about the “typical” game.

If you are a beginner your game will naturally end faster and if you are more experienced then it will naturally end longer. This can make the average moves per game pretty wide, thank you for reading.

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