A Beginner's Guide to Chess Clocks

April 27th, 2:49PM

Every chess player must become accustomed to playing with a clock. Devote some time during practices learning how to play with a clock and understanding how the clock can impact the outcome of your game. The usual cadence in a chess game is (1) player moves (2) player presses the clock. The player can record the move either before or after the player presses the clock. It is not your turn to move until your opponent presses the clock. Do not rush to move on your opponent’s time.

Same Hand Moves Pieces and Presses Clock.  Each player must operate the clock with the same hand that moves the pieces.

Recording moves.  If either player has fewer than five minutes remaining, both players are excused from the obligation to keep score.

Time Control.  The tournament flyer states the “time control” for an upcoming tournament is Game 30/d5. What does that mean? The first number after “Game” is the number of minutes each side has to complete its moves. In this example, the player has 30 minutes. The “d/5” indicates the “delay” that is also applied for each move.  So, in this case, each player has 30 minutes with a five-second delay for each move. This is the customary time control in most scholastic tournaments.


What happens if a player runs out of time? The player who runs out of time will lose the game if his or her opponent has sufficient mating material (i.e., has sufficient material on the board to checkmate if the player had not run out of time.) and claims the win on time.


Should I let someone know that I ran out of time? No. It is your opponent’s job to notice your flag has fallen (most digital chess clocks display a flag when you run out of time). Until your opponent notices, you could achieve stalemate, checkmate, or capture all your opponent’s pieces and end the game with a draw instead of losing on time.


Should I point out the flag has fallen on someone else’s game? NO!! Stay focused on your own game, not everyone else’s game. The tournament director can discipline you by forfeiting your game as assisting players with time management is prohibited.


When can I pause the clock? A player can pause the clock to wait for a tournament director (TD) to approach the board and make a ruling on a claim.

A player cannot pause the clock to:

·       go to the bathroom, or

·       record moves, or

·       argue with the opponent.


May I object if my opponent or players nearby are slamming the clock? Absolutely. The USCF rules prohibit disturbing noises and disruptive behavior in the playing hall. A tournament director may take 10 minutes or half the remaining time off the clock of the offending player for the first offense.

What side of the board should the clock be? Generally, the player with the black pieces can place the clock on the side of the board he chooses. One exception to this general rule is when the tournament organizer places clocks at every board and wants all clocks facing in the same direction. Usually the tournament director will arrange the boards so that the clock is placed to the right hand of black when clocks are provided. When you arrive in the playing room and see that clocks are provided and facing in the same direction, do not move the clock.

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