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MACA Chess Horizons Magazine Article
 The Tyranny of Time!
 Richard “Doc” Kinne
  November 2011

The following is a private opinion (but, I believe, amply backed up by the Rules) from a USCF Tournament Director who happens to direct tournaments at the Boylston Chess Club. It is not necessarily the opinion of the Boylston Board of Directors, nor the Boylston CC Tournament Committee.

The use of a chess clock in modern tournament play is as much a part of the game as Staunton chess pieces, how a bishop moves, or “touch-move.” You would not expect to play a tournament game with a set other than a Staunton design no matter how pretty it was. Bishops don’t move along ranks & files. When you touch a piece, you have to move it. This is how you play a tournament game. You’re expected to know how the pieces move and you would really look strangely at anyone, of any age, really, who was participating in a tournament who didn’t know these things.
The same thing has to be true of clocks and the rules involving their use. In the defense of some players, perhaps, the way a bishop moves hasn’t changed in the last 400 years or so, but rules involving clocks and time limits are much more fluid. 
Let’s take a look at some of the more important rules involving clocks, especially digital clocks, in this day and age.
US Chess Federation’s Offi cial Rules of Chess, 5th Edition: Rule 16Bb - Players are responsible for knowing how to set their own clocks.
First of all - and this I consider the most important rule - it is the responsibility of the players to know how their clock works. It is not the responsibility of the Tournament Director to know how your clock works. It is critical that you know how to set your clock for various time controls.
For most of our tournaments that’s simple. We have Game/60 d5 - one Sudden Death time control, 60 minutes per person for the whole game, each move delayed by 5 seconds. However for a slower tournament you may have multiple time controls like, 40/90, Game/20 d10. Here the fi rst 40 moves are made in 90 minutes, then you have 20 more minutes to complete the game. All moves give you a delay of 10 seconds. In this case, assuming the 40 moves are made on time, at the completion of the 40th move, you get 20 additional minutes on your clock in order to fi nish the game. The more expensive, newer clocks such as the Chronos and the DGT XL do this automatically. The older or inexpensive clocks, such as the DGT 2000 or the Saiteks, require you to do it manually. It is critical that you know how to do this before your game so you can do it quickly and effi ciently when your 41st move comes up!
Now, say your opponent makes an illegal move and you call him on it. The most common penalty an Arbiter can assess is to add two minutes on your clock - giving you two extra minutes - as compensation. (USCF Rules of Chess: 11D) (While a lot of us would like to just have the person who made the illegal move forfeit the game, that’s not how it works usually. :-) ) You will then need to know how to manipulate your clock so that you can add or subtract time from either clock face on the fl y. Remember, if it’s your clock it’s your responsibility to know this, it is not the Arbiter’s responsibility. If you cannot manipulate your clock the Arbiter may be forced to replace it with a clock that quickly can be properly manipulated in order to effi ciently move the game forward.
US Chess Federation’s Offi cial Rules of Chess, 5th Edition: 42D - A properly set clock with time delay capability is preferable to any other clock in a game with any sudden death time control.
Finally, it needs to be recognized that digital delay clocks are now the preferred default equipment for a tournament game. This means that if there is a choice of clock during a game, the digital clock gets the nod. This means that if Black, who gets choice of equipment, has an analog clock and White has a digital clock, White uses his or her clock, even though Black normally gets choice of equipment.
The digital delay clock for tournament competition is here to stay and I think there are good reasons for that fact. It is now as standard as algebraic notation or even the Staunton Chess Set. Indeed, there has been serious discussion within the USCF of banning analog clocks from tournament play, something that I am against because I feel it would put an undue burden on clubs, such as ours, that still have an inventory of analog  clocks. That being said, no tournament competitor should even consider for a nanosecond buying an analog clock these days, and clubs should replace their analog clocks, as they become worn out, with digital models.
As a craftsman it behooves you to know how to use your tools. We all know how to use Bishops and Knights. We all know a few openings in order to start our games. Now, in this new digital age, we all need to review and know how to use one of our most basic tools - the clock. Before your next tournament, swap out that review session you planned on the Modern variation of the French Defense and go through your clock’s manual (you do have your clock’s manual, don’t you?!) and review it. Parents! If your little warriors are at less than reading age (but still fl attening middle-agers like me over the board!) it is your responsibility to either teach your child how to use their clock, or to know this yourself, and be on hand to assist your child if the Arbiter requests you do so.
Time marches on, even for our venerable game of Chess. Your clock is as much a part of the game as your pieces. Take “time” to learn how to use it effectively!