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If you've never played chess with a clock, you're about to enter an exciting phase of your chess experience!
You always thought there was only one way to win a game? Guess what! Here's another! You can win simply if your opponent doesn't move enough! That's right... now
you don't have to sit there for endless minutes while he ponders and
ponders... you just claim the win!
Not only are you going
to win by announcing checkmate, you're going to announce "flag". Wonder what
that's all about? In just a few minutes you're going to understand how to
play smart chess with a chess clock as I explain how it works, how to use it
in a chess tournament, plus some basic tips for effective time management
when you're actually playing chess!
how the chess clock works
setting the chess clock
chess clock in tournament play
tips for smart time management
how the chess clock works
For some reason, many
chess clock manufacturers don't include instructions with their clocks -
maybe they just figure the chess game clock is too simple to operate. Truth is, they
are simple... once you know how.
Chess clocks are
distinctly unique with two timers built into one unit - one for each player.
The two clocks are never running simultaneously, but rather keep track of
yours and your opponent's total used time. This keeps a chess game moving at
the desired pace since both players will have a predetermined number of
minutes to complete their game.
If you wish to play for
one hour, each player would be given 30 minutes on each side of the clock.
This way, with alternating moves, you're guaranteed not to exceed the one
hour time limit. In case you wondered, chess clocks are the heart of
organized chess competitions. You can see how a tightly run chess tournament
with hundreds of chess players can literally run like clockwork, round after
round, ending on time.
Ok. This crazy chess
clock is sitting in front of you. How do you work it? The chess clock is so
simple, yet for some reason people first stare at it dumb-founded - as if
their car suddenly had two steering wheels instead of one!
Notice the two buttons
on top the clock. These start and stop the timers in an alternating fashion.
Before the game starts the time will be stopped and the buttons in the
neutral position. Make your first move, press the button on your
side of the clock and your opponent's time starts to run. At the
same time, your clock is paused.
Now, when your opponent
makes his move, he will press the button on his side which stops his
timer and starts yours simultaneously. EVERY time you move, you will
press the button. It might seem tedious at first, but after a few games you
will feel like you've always played with a chess clock... it's part of every
chess move and you'll become skilled at it.
setting the chess clock
Both digital and analog clocks are readily available
today. Though digital are preferable for their versatility and nearly
limitless features, many people still prefer analog.
Digital clocks typically count down. Time has expired when
it reaches 0:00. Digital clocks have various setting methods and modes so
we'll deal with the more standard setting procedure for the traditional
analog clock instead.
First, most analog clocks need to be wound using the two
winders on the back face. Use care not to over wind. A light snug
will do. This should give it a good 12 hours of operating time. You might
also own the rare battery powered analog clock which will obviously not
Analog clocks feature a real clock face and therefore
count up. The signal for a player's expired time is a small red FLAG.
As the minute hand reaches the 12 o'clock position this small red flag will
rise. When it reaches precisely 12, the flag falls. In a competition, the
player whose "flag has fallen" loses the game.
On the back of the clock, locate the time setting
knobs. There will be one in the center for each display. Turn this knob as
you look at the face of the clock. You will notice the hour and minute hands
can be set. To set the clock for a one hour game (30 minutes per side),
watch the face of the clock as you set, first one side to 5:30, and then the
other side to 5:30. Make sure the clocks are not running. The time of 5:30
is chosen so that when the 30 minutes on each side have expired it would
read 6 o'clock. This is the desired ending time position.
Let's say you're playing with a friend. You have only 30
minutes to play a game. Set both timers to read 5:45. This way, you'll both
have 15 minutes before the time expires at 6:00 and one of the flags has
Let me warn you, you're probably going to get nervous and
feel rushed when you have less than 5 minutes left! If that makes you
fidgety, imagine playing in a blitz competition where every game is 5
minutes per player - for the WHOLE game! Let me tell you, a tournament
competition with a hotel ballroom full of chess clocks and supposedly quiet
chess players is quite the aural experience.
using a chess clock in tournament play
Chess tournaments would be impossible without chess
clocks. They keep the whole place ticking and tournament organizers happy.
While you might never play in a chess tournament it's helpful to understand
how it works and apply some rules for your own use.
Tournament Time Standards
A tournament may be organized as a Standard, Action Chess,
Blitz Chess, Speed Chess, Game 30. This is very important since people want
to know how fast a game they will be expected to play before entering the
Slow chess tournaments including US Championships will
allow 1 hour to 2 1/2+ hours per player. These games can last as long as 7
or more hours! Many tournaments that pick up the pace will allot 1 hour per
player, 30 minutes (Action Chess), 15 minutes (Quick Chess), 5 minutes
(Speed or Blitz Chess).
With your friend, if you want a fast paced game, choose 5
minutes a player. For a leisurely pace, 15 minutes, or slow... 30 minutes or
Here's something you might not have thought about... On
which side of the board do you place the clock? Most people favor it to
their right. Since both players can't choose, the player with the BLACK
pieces always gets first choice - supposedly since white has the first move.
If you bring a chess clock AND you opponent does, the
digital clock is automatically preferred... from there you can decide which
What happens if you Checkmate your opponent and your FLAG
falls (time expires) while you've made the move? As long as you have
checkmate on the board... you win! Be careful though... if you're opponent calls your flag BEFORE
you've made the move, you've lost the game, even though your next move could
Never call the flag on someone else's game. This makes
both players mad and you'll look like an idiot. Only beginners will do that
- and they never do it more than once.
clock tips for smart chess players
The chess clock is such an interesting dynamic to the game
that even the best players either have trouble with it or strategize to use
it to their advantage. Here are a few tips to help you maximize your chess
Both you and your opponent have the same amount of time to
start with. Will you make quick moves in the opening so as to accumulate
extra time for when the going gets tough? Will you spend extra time in the
opening to try to gain an advantage on the board early on and hope that you
can play the advantage quickly to a win later on? Notice how balancing and
monitoring your time closely is crucial.
Run out of time? Never call your own flag! ... that
is, if you're close to the end of the game anyway. If you can manage to
stalemate, checkmate, or capture all of your opponent's pieces before your
flag is noticed, you achieve a draw!
Learn a series of opening moves. This will allow
you to play the moves quickly. While your opponent has to think about them,
you know they are proven good moves. You'll gain time this way.
Try to stay ahead of your opponents time. In
theory... good. In practice... hard.
Here's one of the most important tricks. When
you're opponent is running out of time, he will be thinking hard on YOUR
time. Let him do this! But here's where you can use this to YOUR ADVANTAGE.
Assuming you have the time advantage, plan a series of moves. Make the move,
expect an immediate response and quickly make your planned response. These
three moves will allow you to grab more of
those key remaining minutes. Always revert to spending your time again
though... you should NEVER be caught blitzing out an endgame when you have
plenty of time. Just use this strategy. It works.
Those are the basics! I'm sure you'll find that playing
with a chess clock is not only more fun, but it's challenging and exciting
especially on those last few minutes!
Have fun with your new chess clock skills! It takes a
little practice, but you'll have it down in no time.