Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Use Chess Clocks - You Will Love It!

Most serious players will tell you that a chess clock is just as important as the board and pieces. What constitutes a good chess clock can often be the subject of heated debate. This is because there a variety of designs and types of chess clocks to choose from and everybody has their personal preference.

Types of Chess Clocks

All chess clock have a few things in common. They have two clocks positioned side by side, one for the white pieces and one for the black pieces. There are two buttons or levers. Depressing the button on your clock will stop yours and start your opponents.

The first choice to make is whether you prefer an analog or digital clock. Many purists prefer the analog (standard wind up clock). Each clock is set just as an analog wall clock would be by twisting a knob on the back until the hands line up correctly. There is usually a flag hanging from the 12. When the time has expired the flag will fall and players are responsible for noticing when this happens.

Some analog clocks run on batteries while others require winding with each button above its respective clock. Today the casing is usually made from a polymer or plastic but older ones are typically made of wood and are much more durable. In most cases, an analog chess clock will be less expensive than a digital one.

Analog Clock Advantages; Easy to use, durable and cheaper.

Analog Clock Disadvantages; Sometimes the ticking is annoying, got to calibrate the clocks to make sure they are fair, and must let them wind down after play if you are not planning on using the clock again for a while. You don’t want to leave the winding spring tight for long periods of time (wear). And once you are under a minute remaining, you have no real idea how much time you have left.

Digital Clock Advantages; You can pre-set a variety of game lengths and options, alarm sounds when time runs out, and almost silent operation. It gives you the exact time left. Many of the digital clocks have a much lower profile so players do not have to lift their hands very high to depress the button or lever.

Digital Clock Disadvantages; Needs batteries (and a back up), difficult to learn to set and operate, not intuitive to amount of time left – meaning you must READ the numbers (instead of just glancing at a clock face).

Chess Clocks In Play
Tournaments are the most obvious reason people use chess clocks. Each player has the same amount of time to complete either a set number of moves or for the entire game. If one player runs out of time, they lose the game. It is the best way to ensure the players have a fair game. The player playing the Black pieces decides which side of the board the clock sits on.

Many casual players prefer using a chess clocks as well. Lightening and blitz games are popular and rely on heavily on chess clocks. In lightening games the players will have between 1 and 3 minutes each to complete the game. Blitz uses time controls between 3 to 10 minutes per side. The 15 minute and 30 minute per side time control is really gaining popularity – even for tournament play.

Chess clocks are also used to handicap games. If one player is much stronger than their opponent, they may only have 5 minutes to complete the game while their opponent has 15 or 20 minutes. You get the idea.

If you haven’t played chess on the clock, you are missing out on one of the most exhilarating aspects of the game.


  1. Just a reminder - the player playing the Black pieces gets the choice as to what side of the board the clock sits on - his right or left.
    PS: I like analog clocks better. Just call me old fashion.

  2. I prefer analog clocks. They don't have batteries to leak when the clock is unused for a while. If they are maintained with synthetic clock oil, they won't gum up and don't need to run down prior to storage.

    Paul B.

  3. +1 on this! Playing with clocks is a must. It's just not chess to play without some kind of time limit. You don't have to play blitz, but you should set a reasonable limit that is agreeable to you and your opponent. Mechanical clocks are fine, as long as you don't play blitz with them -- they don't hold up to the pounding -- or over-wind them. Digital are nice, just don't leave them out in the car like I did so the LCD freezes ! ;-)