Should you Play Chess with a Timer? From a Chess Player

If you are someone who has learned to play chess casually (without the influence of competitive or online formats) then playing with a timer might be throwing your game off. I have known people who have genuinely thought of quitting chess because of the timer, which is a sad thing.

This post will answer why you should play with a chess clock in most instances, and when it is fine to not play with a timer.

As a summary here is what I know:

Chess players should almost always play with a chess clock in order to prepare them for future competitive endeavors. If a beginner is struggling with timed games it is better to play in longer time controls than without a timer at all. The only exception is with casual games.

I want to raise awareness upon beginners who have antagonized the existence of chess clocks, it is actually one of the most enjoyable parts of the game. It will surely elevate your game to the next level, you will have to do it eventually after all.

With all of that in mind, let’s begin.

Chess players should play with a timer to prepare them in competitions

This is probably the biggest reason why most chess players advise new learners to play with a timer as soon as possible, this is to prepare them for future competitive participation. Once people get used to the feeling of not playing with a clock they are much more likely to not break it later down the road.

There is a reason why a chess clock is a necessary part of the game, they make things fair since both the players can only move in equal amounts of time. Even in casual games, it is fair to still play with a timer to ensure that both players are only spending about the same amount of time at each move.

Plus almost all chess players will play competitively at some point in their lives, it is almost impossible to only play casually without becoming curious about what it’s like to be competitive. 

Developing the habit of playing with a timer while your mind is still fresh would be the easiest way to get over the timer hump, it is not that hard once you have played a decent 5-10 timed games.

All competitive chess tournaments require players to compete with a clock running, this is why it is recommended for all chess players to play with clocks in cases that they would decide to turn competitive. Do not get me wrong, it is perfectly fine to not play with a clock if you are just wanting to be entertained.

However, if you are my friend and you want to experience the best things that this game can offer, I will assure you that playing with a timer will really spice things up. It will not only prepare you for competitive ventures but also for entertaining experiences that unique time formats can offer.

It is better to play classical than to not play with a chess clock at all

Many beginners are struggling to play well in timed games due to the anxiety of not having enough time, this is understandable if you are not used to it. 

However this is definitely a problem that needs to be solved, I suggest playing in longer time formats (doesn’t matter how long it is) just to get some sort of practice. If you are really that anxious and it is affecting your game you can even go play 1+ hour games which would surely cover your thinking time.

There are some beginners who believe that they should play with no clock at all in order to not have the pressure of time, in these instances it is better to play in longer time formats than none at all. Delaying the introduction of time controls would only be problematic later down the road.

Playing with a chess clock on can only bring benefits, the negatives are minimal

There are many beginners who think that playing in time formats genuinely makes them worse, in my experience however this is mostly psychological since they are not used in time-stressed games. When people are not used to something one of the best ways to cure it is to do it over and over again, it is fine to be pressured but make sure you are working at it.

There is almost no negative when a chess player is introduced to time controls, it will force them to make better decisions in the shortest amount of time allotted while recognizing the competition. In my experience, people tend to take the game seriously when there is a clock ticking.

When there is no clock in chess games people tend to move with no disregard since psychologically it is only for “fun”, you can certainly have these moments but it should not be your default format. It should only be your fun side gig that you should use when introducing the game to non-chess players.

And the best thing about this is it interestingly makes people better in the game, they make moves not only faster but also better due to the accountability that the clock presents. Different time controls give unique benefits, there is almost no negative with playing in timed games so it is worth a try.

Chess players are only recommended to play without a clock in casual games

This is a caveat that I have alluded to before, it is of course fine to play non-timed games against your friends who are not necessarily invested in the game. It can even be sort of a party game that you can use to introduce your friends to chess which is great.

Other than casual encounters there is almost no reason to not play in a timed chess game, I would even say that casual games which are not necessarily against people who are inexperienced should be with a clock. There is also fun in playing a friendly competitive game even if it is meant to be casual.

The only recommended circumstance where a player should play without a timer is if they are introducing a friend to chess (or any other casual situation). Even a beginner should play with a chess clock to introduce the importance of time management.

But at the end of the day, you do you, this is just advice that I think would maximize your experience with chess. It will make you competitive as well as entertained by how much the game changes with unique time formats.

Conclusion

It is recommended to play with a clock in order for a player to be competitive and to maximize the experience that they can get by playing chess. It might be a frightening thing for beginners but there is almost no one that I know who regrets doing it, plus most online chess platforms have a timer by default.

It also makes the game fair for both players since the clock will punish those who abuse their thinking time by having them lose by flagging (or drawing the game if checkmate is not possible). That is all, thank you for reading.

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