Time to play: The temporal organization of chess competition

Gary Alan Fine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


How is competition to be understood as a time-bound activity? While the comparison of task completion success is a central feature of competition, time is routinely used as a principle through which contests are organized, either as a direct measure of success or as a constraining resource that insures the contest is fair. In competitions various models of temporal organization (and sequential turn-taking) organize strategy and produce constraints that lead to the evaluation of success. I present an ethnography of competitive chess to demonstrate the centrality and consequences of temporality in contests in which time is used as a resource. Time shapes chess on the macro-level (for organizing events), the meso-level (as interpersonal engagement), and the micro-level (as psychic pressure). Put together, activities create a temporal tapestry. Treating time as a resource in competitive activity emphasizes that rules depend on temporal strategies to create equitable outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-416
Number of pages22
JournalTime & Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2012


  • Chess
  • competition
  • games
  • resources
  • temporal capital

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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