Hourglass Time Control

I suggest a new option be added to the Time Control list: Hourglass.

The basic premise of Hourglass time control is: When it is a player’s turn, their time is being transferred to the opponents side, similar to an hourglass being flipped. When one of the players runs out of time they lose the game, similar to “Simple” time control.

The hourglass timer is the only mode that incentivises playing as quickly as possible without a lower bound. In a Simple timer game with 10 second rounds, a player is incentivised to wait 9 seconds before playing, there is a limited advantage to playing immediately. In an Hourglass game, speed becomes a legitimate offensive tool.

This option is practical for all game speeds: blitz,live, and even correspondence. It could also be broken into main time/X rounds of secondary time, similar to byo yomi.

EDIT: there could also be an optional lower bound, a minimum time allowed. For example both players start with 1 minute, and can “push” the other player’s time down to 10 seconds per move, which they can then push back up.


I feel this would be very easy to abuse. There are a lot of sloppy moves that you could play without ever losing the game in go, since there is not really a definite end to the game.


Yeah that is a sad point - it would be like the abuse we get of Absolute time.

It seemed like a nice idea :s


I have added an edit. Do you think a minimum time option could effectively curb this “abuse”? I put abuse in quotes because i think it is also the advantage point of the hourglass timer, to some types of players.

1 Like

First fun an then abused a perfect analogy :smiley:

I vote yay (not that my vote matters in any way :D) we already have a bunch of abusable time-settings so what’s the added harm… It is a backend issue however, so I am afraid even if we all agreed, it will be a lot of time, before this becomes a priority addition.


I actually did suggest having hourglass timing back in 2015 or so, and i still remember few of the arguments against it:

  1. thou if its used in chess, most chess players dislike hourglass timing and even prefer absolute time over hourglass
  2. it emphasises speed over skill, meaning that usually the faster player wins if he/she can just prevent the mate (which of course will never happen in go)
  3. ~none of the other go servers or tournaments use it, so it might cause more confusion than bring any benefits to the site
  4. in practice its just a tweaked version of fischer timing, and the main reason why people like fischer is because they like knowing how much time they will gain by each move and can adjust their pace accordingly

I personally still think that hourglass timing would be fun thing to add to the site since we already have the largest variety of time controls and rulesets, and that is one selling points of ogs. But would i myself ever use it? Probably not…


I think part of what was being discussed above/earlier is that you can similarly prevent the end of the game by just not passing and playing moves that in theory shouldn’t work. It might as well be the equivalent of not being able to mate someone under time pressure in what should be a win.


It isn’t practical for correspondence games. With a lower bound, you can just use simple time (or equivalent time controls) and without lower bound, it’s a live/blitz game.

Correspondence time controls are more about availability, but not so much about time to think.

With both players sharing similar availability times, playing the last move in an availablity window is worth much additional time. With very different availability times, the player with more time to be online just takes away all time of the other player.

I don’t understand how you mean that. Since both players play at different paces, they will not finish main time at the same round, so one player would have to play hourglass on his own?

Btw I hate hourglass time controls for prioritising speed over skill.

For go it becomes a competition of who is able to turn the hourglass faster. And with a lower bound it’s just blitz with simple time controls :man_shrugging:


This is what blitz is all about isnt it :wink: Maybe it should be “the” system for blitz :smiley:

1 Like

I used to play a lot of 5-minute blitz chess and was pretty fair at it (more than 40 years ago). In my experience, the key to that blitz setting is to think on your opponent’s time. This means, contrary to what the OP said, that there is tremendous value in playing fast to minimize your opponent’s ability to think on your time.

After a player’s main time expires they would be given a secondary time while the other player is still on their main time. Both players would still be on “hourglass” time just with different upper limits. This doesn’t have a good analog IRL, but would be like an hour glass with adjustable “bulbs” that shrink after they run out.

And I don’t blame you for that! I’d expect most would agree with you. But a small minority might like both.

I disagree with this: With a 5 second lower bound and a 1 minute upper bound, sometimes it would be like Blitz speed, and sometimes it would be like Live speed, depending on how things are playing out. The variability is the difference.

And yea it would probably not be too useful for correspondence.

Yes but in this scenario, in simple time, there is an unchangeable limit to how much you can minimize your opponents ability to think: its always (main time) < (opponent’s time to think) < (main time * 2). In hourglass timing there is either no limit, or the limit is at least adjustable.