For you, chess may be a leisurely pastime, where you can idle away the hours with a friend considering and testing every move. But for the competitive player, chess is a discipline that must be strictly time managed.
With tournament chess, you are not only dealing with an opponent, but you are also fighting the analog clock, which sits by you and menacingly counts down.
Adding the clock dimension to your chess games may seem daunting, but once you get used to using an analog clock, you will enjoy several benefits, which we will explore below. You may not instantly transform into a Blitz chess champion, but we are sure you will appreciate a more authentic feel to your OTB experience.
In this article, we will give you the rundown on everything you need to know to use the analog clock in chess. We hope you will consider making a chess clock a part of your game!
What is a chess clock?
A chess clock is a timing device used specifically for the game of chess that times each player as they move in turn. A chess clock is not a single clock, but actually, two clocks that are positioned side by side. These useful clocks track the time each player takes to make their moves and ensures that the game does not become delayed by dawdling.
Chess clocks are unique in that the two clocks will never operate simultaneously. The clocks come with buttons that when pressed, stop one clock and starts the other. This precision mechanism is usually operated by the player as time, of course, is of a premium.
These precision timepieces were first used in tournament chess matches in the 19th century and have become a routine aspect of competitive chess. As multiple games are often being played at once, the analog clocks have large faces that can be easily seen by an adjudicator so he can direct his attention where it is needed quickly.
About analog clocks in chess
Just like other analog timepieces, an analog chess clock has a circular face with a numbered dial and long and short hands. They use mechanical buttons (known as play buttons) to switch between the clocks, and often carry a flag that falls when a player’s time is expired.
These are the original tournament chess clocks that have been used around the world for decades. Users sometimes encounter problems with accuracy or adding time to this older type of clock, but generally analog clocks have proved to be reliable.
There are several benefits of using an analog chess clock in your game.
- Keep it moving! Despite a brisk standard opening, a complex game can drag while players contemplate a near unlimited combination of offensive or defensive moves. Having your analog clock to hand keeps the game on track.
- If you need speed, you can use an analog clock for fast chess. This high-speed version of chess includes variants like blitz chess and bullet chess. Fast chess cuts down your time to just a few minutes, leaving you only seconds to master your moves.
- Train for tournaments with an analog clock on hand. If you are getting yourself tournament ready, having a clock to hand will discipline your game and fine-tune your reflexes on the play button. Depending on the rules you play to, the clock may be used to determine a handicap or prompt forfeiture of a game.
- Analog clocks are critical to time control in chess tournaments. Chess clocks make all the difference in tournaments proceeding in an orderly manner and are used to enforce the time limits on matches.
How to use the analog clock in chess
An analog chess clock will come with parts that are very similar to a regular analog wall clock. Each clock that makes up the chess clock carries the following components:
- The play button is pressed by players to pause the movement of their clock and activate their opponent’s clock.
- A time calibration knob can be used to adjust the mechanical movement of the individual clocks for accuracy.
- The winder is needed to tension the spring that keeps the clock functioning if it is not battery operated.
- The knob for setting the time is wound to move the clock hands to the desired position, just like a watch.
- The small red flag sits in the clock face of an analog clock. It rises as the time on the clock elapses, reach its peak as the minute hand of the clock approaches the 12 position. When the time expires it will fall, indicating the player who has lost the game (on time).
Setting the time for a game with an analog clock
For a thirty-minute game of chess, the knob for setting the time will need to be set to the “5:30” position on both clocks. The game will be completed when a clock hits the “6:00” position.
“6:00” is favored as a position for games because it is easily recognized by both players and adjudicators and tournament officials. The various match durations are set by simply deducting the number of minutes of the game’s duration from “6:00”.
Using the analog clock while playing a game of chess
The use of the chess clock is the same whether you play long chess with matches over two hours length or fast chess which only requires minutes on the clock. As you play you will need to remember to hit your play button to ensure that you do not lose time unnecessarily.
Reach for your play button atop your clockface and depress it to activate your opponent’s clock once you have made your move.
If you are new to using an analog clock for chess, pressing the button every time may seem a bit of a hassle, but if you want to play in tournaments you will have to build this skill. You need to be conscious of the time elapsed as well as play to ensure that your time does not expire first.
This is why you see masters and grandmasters being exceptionally fast with the play button. As your clock runs down, the final minutes and seconds of the game become pressured as competitors race to execute their moves as quickly and as favorably as possible. This time pressure even has its German name, zeitnot.
Managing your time when playing chess with an analog clock
Once you get the hang of play with the timer ticking, you will need to be strategic about how you use your time. Typically the opening of a chess match is relatively fast-paced, but in the midgame and endgame, you will find yourself far more conscious about the time you have left to make your moves.
More experienced chess players find that studying and practicing their opening and check moves in advance helps them save time when they are in play. Also by setting up a challenge for your opponent, they will have to think more, making them use up more of their time.
Plan ahead as much as you can for maximum time efficiency and if your flag falls, don’t call it as if you manage to beat your opponent within seconds the match will be drawn.
Once you handle and start playing chess with an analog clock, you find that they are very easy to use. It is well worth getting your own analog chess clock so you can start to enjoy this exhilarating dimension of the game!