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There seems to be some controversy on whether there is really any practical difference between Bronstein timing and Simple Delay timing. By "Bronstein" and "Simple Delay" I'm referring to the timing methods described in this Wikipedia Article

Now I think the fact that the two timing methods are functionally equivalent is proven quite convincingly in this YouTube video. Note that the DGT clock shown using Bronstein timing starts by adding the delay to the initial time before counting down and that is an important factor in making the two timing systems equivalent. Note that the Wikipedia definition I linked to earlier doesn't make any mention of whether the delay interval should be added to the time at start.

I've also noticed that other clocks that implement Bronstein timing don't automatically add the interval time at the start. For example, the Garde clock shown in this YouTube video. (Note, jump to 2:37 to see the clock started)

In the case of a clock like that, I believe the two timing systems aren't functionally equivalent in that the Bronstein timer would always run out sooner by the amount of the delay. And in the case of a secondary time control, that would accumulate so that it would be shorter by 2xDelay.

So here is my question, I can't find any definitions of Bronstein timing that specify whether the delay should be added to the start time as DGT has implemented it and I can't find the text of David Bronstein's original proposal of this timing method to see if it specified how the start time should be handled. To me the DGT way seems more correct, but if it isn't really specified then I guess both clocks could be considered correct as it is ambiguous how it should be handled. I also couldn't find a FIDE rule that specifies how Bronstein timing should work.

So does anyone know of a formal specification that addresses the starting time issue?

Also, If anyone has experience with other clocks that implement Bronstein timing other than the DGT and Garde clocks I mentioned, do most clocks add the delay from the start like the DGT or just start counting from the set time like the Garde?

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The Fide Laws of Chess state the following:

6.2. b. The time saved by a player during one period is added to his time available for the next period, except in the ‘time delay’ mode.

In the time delay mode both players receive an allotted ‘main thinking time’. Each player also receives a ‘fixed extra time’ with every move. The countdown of the main time only commences after the fixed time has expired. Provided the player stops his clock before the expiration of the fixed time, the main thinking time does not change, irrespective of the proportion of the fixed time used.

I'm under the impression that the literal interpretation is the correct one, and the delay should be added to the start time.

Technically, The Youtube video does not show whether the first 5 seconds of the first move are the delay (making the time control essentially 79 minutes 55 seconds for 30 moves etc. with delay starting from the first move) or not (the delay in the first move is completely skipped).

In addition, the video does not show what happens when the 30 move mark is reached, but the clock seems to be counting moves, and I assume it will add the extra time automatically, and I don't see any reason it won't also add the delay at the end of the 30th move.


While this was not your question, I think it's worth mentioning: The only other section related to this topic I could find in the Fide Handbook is in the section "Standards of Chess Equipment and tournament venue for FIDE Tournaments":

5.1. (b) The display at all times should show the time available to complete a player’s next move.

so it appears to me that in terms of the Fide rules, the correct method of showing time is the Bronstein method, as opposed to the delay method.

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  • Thanks for the rule reference. And also for pointing out 5.1 (b). It's for the reason that the clock is always displaying the time remaining till expiration and that the clock starts counting when you hit the button that I like the Bronstein method. Here in the USA though, time controls are nearly always simple delay. (Although I believe Bronstein timing is accepted as a substitute, not a lot of people seem familiar with it). – EvilSpudBoy Oct 9 '13 at 17:28
  • Also, since I posted the question, I bought the Garde clock shown in the second youtube video, and I can confirm that if you set a time control of 1:00:00 with a five second delay, then it starts counting right from 0 without adding the delay to the first move, but it does allow you to set the seconds so the workaround is to explicitly set it in the start time, such as 1:00:05 for example.. I also didn't think my Chronos clock supported Bronstein timing but it does, it just calls it Adagio timing and in the case of the Chronos, it will automatically add the delay with the first move. – EvilSpudBoy Oct 9 '13 at 17:33
  • When using a delay, I would think it most useful for a clock to show the amount of remaining delay time and the main time, so if using a 5-second delay, and 12'34 remains on the main clock, then two seconds after the start of a move it would display "12:34+3". Knowing that one had 2-3 seconds of "free" time would seem more useful than knowing that one had 12'36-12'37 remaining. – supercat Nov 23 '18 at 20:49
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According to this Wikipedia article (a different article than was linked in the question...), the Bronstein time adjustment is always added back at the end. The first clock I had that implemented this was the original Saitek digital clock, and it implemented it this way (same as the other clocks that were described in the question).

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So, I noticed this as well. I recently purchased a DGT3000 to replace my Saitek Game Clock II that had finally died. With Bronstein timing, the Saitek did not add the increment to the initial time control (i.e. at move 0), but the DGT3000 does. This seemed odd to me. I play a lot of 2-12 Bronstein games (2 minute games with a 12 second increment). I programmed one of the DGT's manual setting slots for a Bronstein 2-12 control and I was surprised to see 2 minutes and 12 seconds on my clock at the start of the game.

I've been a USCF rated player since the 1970s. I'm also a certified tournament director, and I've never seen a clock that handled the Bronstein control like this. Yes, I understand the rules stated above 6.2. b and 5.1.b. However, the problem in adding the delay to the initial time control violates Bronstein's own rule that the bonus can never increment the time to more than what was on the clock at the beginning of the move. Finally, I would also point out that Bronstein controls seen on the online sites such as FICS, etc. don't do this.

Fortunately, for the DGT, you can get around the problem by setting the initial control down by the increment. In other words. a setting of 1:48-12 in reality yields the 2-12 game I'm after on the DGT.

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