What Is A Chess Clock And
How Is It Used?

Chess games played at tournaments involve using a chess clock as a time-keeping device. Each player must make his moves without exceeding the time limit.

In past years, no chess clocks were used, even on top class competitions but many games ran well over the time expected so chess clocks have been introduced to try to stop this happening.

The clock is a fair solution for players to have an equal amount of time to spend on thinking and making their individual moves.

There are two common types of chess clocks : the traditional (analog or digital) clock and the Fischer-clock. 

The traditional chess clock has two time counters, one for each player.

After a player makes his move, he pushes a button which stops his counter and starts the opponent's one. This procedure continues until the end of the game.

In analog clocks there is a flag that will fall if time is over for one player, while a digital clocks will beep to denote that.

The Fischer-clock, proposed and named after former World Champion Grandmaster Robert Fischer (a totally enigmatic and admirable chess personality), is used in a similar way.

The difference is that a constant amount of time (say 5 or 10 seconds) is added after every move made. This helps prevent players from running into time-trouble.

The negotiated time controls are in relevance
with the chess clock used...

Time controls may differ from game to game. Players need to take into account the time controls announced when a tournament is to take place.

Typical examples are : 'two hours for the whole game', 'one and half an hour for the first 40 moves and one hour for the rest', 'two hours for the first 40 moves and half an hour for every 20 moves thereafter', 'one hour and 15-seconds-added-per-move for the whole game (requires a Fischer-clock)'.

Shorter time controls give chess games different names.

A standard game usually has a time limit of two hours or more. A rapid game falls in the range of 20-45 minutes and a blitz game in the range 5-15 minutes.

There are even shorter time controls, for example 3 minutes per game or 1 minute per game (sometimes referred to as 'lightning' or 'bullet', can only be played online); one that is not very familiar with chess will find them exhausting.

But what happens if a chess player fails
to complete his moves in time?

In general, he loses the game.

There is an exception here : if the player who still has time does not have sufficient material to win, then the game is drawn.

In addition, a player who would normally win the game, had he enough time, may call the arbiter and ask for a draw; the arbiter will check the position and make his decision.

There are several issues regarding time controls but they are usually tournament-specific.

For example, what happens if both players run out of time?

This may actually happen some time, for a player may not notice his opponent's flag fell until his own does too.

In this case, the game is drawn.

In most tournaments players are responsible for checking their opponent's time; in others the arbiter may indicate a flag fall as well.

These details are indeed of minor importance and rules are reconsidered every now and then.

What is really important is the way a
player uses his time...

One should try to avoid getting into time trouble; it is at least annoying and leads to bad results.

One should also try not to play too quickly, or he takes the risk of blundering something.

Use of time should be rational. If two hours are available for the whole game, this makes about 3 minutes per move (assuming a game is averaging about 40 moves).

If one feels that the game is going to be rather lengthy, he may play a bit faster at the start because early moves usually require little thought and some moves are more or less automatic.

As the game progresses, a player can find himself in difficult situations which will require more thinking and thus more time.

In practical chess it is always good to have more time available than the opponent has, or at least about the same. The bottom line is that it is always necessary to keep an eye on the clock.

To read lots more about chess and how to play well, you can return to the Chess Homepage, by clicking here

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