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What is flagging in chess?

If you're watching chess on Twitch and are wondering what's the meaning of the term "flagging", we've got you covered!

Over the last year, the popularity of chess has skyrocketed, especially on Twitch.

The streaming platform has become home to a number of high-profile grandmasters who are streaming their games for a huge audience, but the popularity of the game has spread even beyond the chess community, as many big-time streamers started playing the ancient strategy game as well. 

This has even led to several big PogChamps chess tournaments, which included some of the biggest content creators competing against each other.

If all this chess-frenzy has invoked your interest in the game, you have probably started watching a few of the big chess streamers to get more familiar with the community and the game itself, but you've noticed that there is a lot of terms that aren't often used in traditional chess.

One of the terms that confuse people new to the world of chess streaming is "flagging".

What does "flagging" mean in chess?

chess clock time flagged flagging meaning
The term comes from chess clocks' red flags. (Picture: dash28)

The term "flagging" is related mostly to blitz and bullet games, and it means to win (or draw) by forcing the opponent to run out of time, essentially winning on time.

When playing blitz and bullet games, players have a very limited time, and that time is a huge resource that should be considered as a very important part of the game.

Some players often enter the late game with an advantage but with significantly less time on their clock, and the player with the disadvantage will try to prolong the game long enough to prevent the opponent to end the game in time have left. 

This strategy is called "flagging". The term comes from small flags on analogue chess watches, that fall whenever a player runs out of time.

Is "flagging" considered unsportsmanlike behaviour?

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In this game, Hikaru manages to tie the game by flagging Hovhannisyan despite being at a disadvantage. (Picture: Chess.com)

No, flagging is a perfectly viable strategy, especially when playing online blitz and bullet games. Time management skills are very important in modern chess and players should always know how to use their time.

You will sometimes hear some pro players and friends joking around and calling "flagging" a dishonourable move, but they don't mean that seriously and everyone considers winning on time when they are in a bad position.

And that's about it, now you know what it means when someone is getting flagged in chess - they've lost by running out of time.