Chess Armageddon

What's an Armageddon in chess? What should an arbiter know about this tiebreak? Find out everything about it in this article.

Chess Armageddon
Written by
Ranveer Mohite
Published on
Nov 28, 2022
Read time
4 min
Rules Tournaments

One of the most exciting ways to settle a tie in chess is with an Armageddon match! It's thrilling for the players and the spectators.

But what about the arbiter? What if you're organizing a tournament at your local club or school, and then the final championship has to be decided by Armageddon?

As an organzier/arbiter, what should you know about it?

We will discuss that in more detail here in this article.

What is an Armageddon?

An Armageddon is a type of chess tiebreak where White has time odds, meaning more time on the clock, while Black has draw odds, meaning a draw is as good as a win.

In most Armageddon battles, White starts with 5 minutes, whereas Black starts with 4 minutes. If Black draws or wins, they're declared as the winner.

The 4 most exciting Armageddon battles

Here are some games that went down to the wire:

Smirin vs. Anand, 1994 - The legendary 1-minute pause

Aronian vs Vachier Lagrave, 2017 - Queen vs Rook

Anish Giri vs Jordan Van Forest, Tata Steel Masters 2021

Hikaru Nakamura vs. Magnus Carlsen, Magnus Chess Tour Final 2020

Who has the advantage in Armageddon?

Many consider Black has an advantage in Armageddon because of the draw odds. So they choose the Black pieces.

However, in many Armageddon games between strong players, the results seem to be fairly balanced. White's extra time does count as a big advantage.

Chess Armageddon Rules

Most major tournaments have pre-written rules regarding the Armageddon format.

But what if you're hosting a tournament at a school or a small club? We recommend you stick to the following:

  • White should have more time on the clock. Generally, 5 minutes for White vs 4 minutes for Black without increment is a very good Armageddon format.
  • In case of a draw, Black should be adjudged as the winner.
  • In major tournaments, players often increment after 60 moves. Unless you know how to set the clock that way, we would not suggest going with an increment format.

To choose who gets White, and Black, there are 2 ways you could go about this.

One is random selection. In this, you leave it up to chance to decide who gets White and who gets Black.

Flipping a coin and drawing lots with the colors (the arbiter places the White piece in one hand and the Black piece in another while asking a player to guess) are common methods to go about this.

The other one is by allowing the players to bid.

Bidding in an Armageddon

Having the draw odds is often considered slightly more favorable. So many prefer to play with the Black pieces.

Now how to decide who gets the Black pieces? For this, both players should be given a fair chance. This is where the bidding comes in.

The main problem we are trying to solve is this - how much time disadvantage is a player willing to accept in return for having the draw odds with the Black pieces?

First, a baseline time is set. This is the time White will have.

Then, both players must bid on the lowest time they can play with if they had the Black pieces. The lowest bidder gets the Black pieces and the draw odds.

Let me give you an example, so you understand this.

2013 US Chess Championship

In the 2013 US Chess Championship, 2 players fighting for the top spot - Gata Kamsky and Alejandro Ramirez in Armageddon.

And the bidding Armageddon system was used to find the winner.

A base time control of 45 mins was set, meaning that White would start with 45 minutes.

Now both players had to bid how much time they would want in return for getting the Black pieces and the draw odds.

Kamasky bid 20 minutes.

Ramirez went a little lower with 19 minutes and 45 seconds. And with that, he got the draw odds and the Black pieces. (Lowest bidder wins)

In the end, Kamasky won the tense battle and became the US Champion. The extra time with White proved to be extremely valuable.

If you too are deciding to hold this 'bid format in your club, we're sharing a few tips regarding that in the next section.

Duties of an arbiter in a 'Bidding Armageddon'

  • Explain to both players the bidding system for deciding who gets the draw odds.
  • Setting a base time control with the White pieces and communicating about it.
  • Making the necessary arrangements for the players to bid. It's always better to get the player's bids in writing than verbally.
  • Declaring the result of the bid.
  • Setting the clock time accordingly.

When should you use the Armageddon tiebreak?

Use it only when all other tiebreaks have failed to determine a clear winner between 2 players. However, when there are more than 2 players, using Armageddon is not very practical.


The Armageddon is the most exciting chess tiebreak out of all. The spectators love it! We hope this article gives you a clear idea about this tiebreak.

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