What Happens When Chess Clock Runs Out?

The chess clock is an important aspect of the game of chess. Without a clock, a chess game could go on for hours, days or even weeks.

As a result, players are given a specific amount of time on their clocks to complete their moves. The amount of time that is added to the clock depends on the format of the game being played (classical, rapid, blitz or bullet).

However, one common question asked by many beginners is “What happens when the chess clock runs out?” In this article, we will answer that question and share with you some tips to manage your time properly. Read on to find out what happens.

What Happens When Chess Clock Runs Out?

When the time runs out on your side of the chess clock you lose the game. However, if your time runs out but your opponent has insufficient material to checkmate, then the game is declared drawn. 

The vast majority of chess games nowadays are played with digital chess clocks. The digital chess clock runs out when the time falls to 00:00 seconds. A blinking flag will appear on the face of the clock to indicate that your “flag has fallen”. Some digital chess clocks will make a beeping sound in order to alert the players that the time has ran out for one player.

The flag is a visual indication that the time has expired 

“Flag has fallen” is a traditonal term associated with analogue chess clocks and is just another way of saying that your time has expired. The phrase is still being used today even with digital chess clocks.

Analogue chess clock comes with a red flag. When the time is close to expiring for one player, the red flag will rise as the minute hand approaches the top of the hour while pushing the red flag up.

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When the time has fully expired, the red flag will fall as the minute hand reaches or moves away from the number 12 position. This is a clear visual indication that your time has run out. This is how they got the phrase “Flag has fallen”

The time expires for an analogue clock when the red flag falls

For more information on how a chess clock works, see article: How to use a chess clock?

5 Tips For Proper Time Management In Chess

Time is an important aspect of the chess game. You could have a completely winning position and still manage to lose the game due to your clock running out. You shouldn’t let a winning position go to waste like that.

So how do you practice proper time management in your chess games? Here are 5 tips that will help you with that:

1. Blitz Out The Opening

Playing the opening quickly is a smart method of preserving time on the clock.  Since you already know your opening moves, you don’t need to waste time to think about playing them.

In most chess tournaments, players are given an increment on the clock. Increment is the amount of time added to the clock after each move is made. Therefore, if you blitz out your opening moves quickly, you’ll start to gain a lot of seconds or minutes on the clock. This can give you a head start over your opponent if you play the opening faster than him.

For example, if you are playing a 15/10  rapid game, then you’ll start with 15 minutes and get 10 seconds added to your clock after each move. The number of seconds added to your clock really begins to stack up the more you play quickly.

While blitzing out your chess opening helps with time management, you also need to be careful not to make any mistakes like a hang a piece. Be sure that the moves you are playing are sound opening theory.

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2. Calculate Efficiently

One of the main reasons why players get under time pressure is their failure to calculate properly. They will look at a certain variation or line repeatedly even after they’ve concluded that the move is bad.

When you’ve finished calculating a specific line, you should thoroughly evaluate the position based on material count, activity of pieces and king safety. If the evaluation yields a negative verdict, then you should discard that move and never to look at it again.

When you keep on calculating the same line over and over again, you start to lose unnecessary time on the clock resulting in time pressure. Once you apply this system of eliminating bad moves, you’ll start to manage your time more properly. For more information on calculating, see article: How to calculate in chess?

3. Complicate The Position

By complicating the position, you are creating tension on the board. Tension is created when pieces and pawns come in contact with each other or when there is a possibility of a capture(s).

By maintaining the tension on the board, you are forcing your opponent to calculate. Your opponent will have to burn time on his clock to calculate the right move in the position.

Complicating the position is also an effective strategy if you are on the losing end of the stick. You don’t have anything to lose if your opponent is ahead in material. You may fortunately complicate things to a point where he blunders a piece, giving you back the advantage or equalizing back the game.

All in all, creating tension in the position is one of the best ways to add pressure onto your opponent, causing him to burn time on the clock.

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4. Learn Basic Checkmating Strategies

Learning simple checkmating patterns such as queen and king vs lone king checkmate is convenient when you’re down to seconds on the clock.

One effective strategy to checkmate your opponent with just few seconds on the clock is the staircase method. This may not be the quickest mate but it’s the easiest to achieve because it doesn’t require much thinking.

When you’re down to seconds on the clock and you need to checkmate your opponent quickly, you don’t have much time to think.

One of the most common ways to achieving checkmate in a limited amount of time is to drive the enemy king to one side of the board by moving your major pieces down the ranks or files step by step.

Use the staircase method to drive the enemy king to the side of the board, then deliver the final blow

This checkmate strategy is done using 2 major pieces, namely the rooks or queens. See how the rooks move down the board like a staircase?

5. Try To Use 3 Minutes For Each Move (Average)

In most classical chess games, players are given 90 minutes on the clock to make 40 moves. After they’ve made their 40 moves within the time allotted, a final 30 minutes is added to the clock. This averages around 3 minutes per move.

Try not to exceed 3 minutes on the clock for each move, unless you’re calculating a forcing line in the position. Many grandmasters can calculate 12 to 14 moves deep, but on average they only calculate 3 to 5 moves deep unless the position is required of them to calculate deeper. For more information, see article: How many moves ahead do grandmasters think?

Final Thoughts

Learning how to manage your time properly is just as equal as playing chess itself. The clock plays an integral role in chess. If you allow it to run out, then you’ll lose the game.

Therefore, you should use your time wisely. Things you can do to manage your time properly includes: blitzing out the opening, calculating efficiently, complicating the position, and learning basic checkmating patterns. By following these tips, you’ll never let let your clock run out on you.