For long-time chess players, the chess clock is something they see and deal with regularly. However, understanding how a chess clock works can be quite confusing for beginners.
For example, which side does the chess clock go on? And Why?
Traditionally, the player with black pieces always gets to choose the side the chess clock goes on. This is a way to equalize the advantage the other player gets, which is playing the first move.
In this article, you’ll find answers to most questions going through your head regarding the chess clock. So, keep reading.
Which Side Does the Chess Clock Go On?
Just like all sports and games, chess has many rules to follow. One essential rule is that the player with the black pieces chooses which side the clock goes on.
This is because the player with white pieces always gets to play first. So, there has to be a counter-advantage for the opposing player.
For right-handed players, placing the chess clock on the right is a huge advantage.
That’s because another rule requires both players to press the clock’s button with the same hand they play with.
So, if the clock is on the left side, the right-handed player needs to reach across the table to press the button. These milliseconds can be crucial, especially near the end of the game.
So, What Is a Chess Clock?
There are two kinds of game clocks used in chess: the analog and the digital clock. Both of them have the main job of keeping track of the time left for each player.
In fact, people use these clocks during any two-player games where opponents have to play in turn, not just chess.
Game clocks were invented by Thomas Bright Wilson. The first time people used these clocks was in 1883’s London Tournament.
The Analog Chess Clock
Just like any traditional clock, the analog chess clock has two hands pointing at the hours and minutes. However, the chess clock has two round faces rather than one.
On the clock’s top side, there’s a button for each player to press after a move. This button stops the clock on the player’s side and starts the opponent’s clock.
The clock’s face has a tiny red flag that drops once the player’s assigned time is over.
What’s more, the analog chess clock has two setting knobs on the back to set each clock face separately.
Usually, these clocks aren’t accurate and can pose a challenge when trying to match the two faces. That’s why the digital game clock is more popular nowadays.
The Digital Chess Clock
As the name suggests, the digital chess clock has the same function as the analog one but in a digital form.
Of course, the digital clock is much more precise than the analog clock and is hard to tamper with. Plus, it’s much easier to set additional time on the digital clock than the analog.
The first person to introduce a digital chess clock was Bruce Cheney. He created it as a project for his undergraduate course in 1973.
With time and more advanced technology, digital chess clocks gained more features. Today, digital chess clocks are preferred in chess games over the analog type.
So, the rule states that if both players bring a clock, the digital one is automatically favored.
How Does the Chess Clock Work?
The time on the chess clock is set depending on the tournament type. Some slower championships allow one to over two and a half hours for each player.
Other types require much less time, such as Rapid Chess (15 minutes), Blitz Chess (5 minutes), and Bullet chess (2 minutes)
Digital clocks countdown the remaining time until it reaches zero. As for analog clocks, they set it to point at six o’clock when the time runs out.
So, if it’s a 30-minute game, the analog chess clock should read five thirty at the beginning. Similarly, if it’s a one-hour game, it should read five o’clock.
Additionally, digital clocks enable the players to add increments starting at any point of the game.
So, if it’s a 15/10 game, players start with 15 minutes on the clock and get 10 additional seconds after each move.
Once the minute handle reaches 12, a small flag falls.
When it comes to digital chess clocks, there’s no flag to fall. Alternatively, the clock flickers with a flag sign, and sometimes a beeper goes off.
According to the U.S. Chess Federation, players don’t have to keep score for chess games under 30 minutes.
For games longer than this, players must keep track of their and their opponent’s moves.
Of course, this rule has an exception for young players and beginners who are yet to learn how to do it. Moreover, it’s also not a must for disabled players to keep score.
What Happens When a Player Runs Out of Time?
When a player’s time is up, the flag falls. It’s the opponent’s responsibility to notice that and verbally claim “flag.”
Otherwise, the player out of time can keep playing until this happens.
So, if the checkmate is on the chessboard before the opponent claims “flag,” the first player still wins.
However, if the first player doesn’t get to make the winning move before the opponent calls time, the opponent wins.
A Final Thought
As boring as it may seem to some, chess is actually an interesting and highly competitive game. Unlike the common misconception of being slow, there are types of quick chess games.
Watching a chess tournament for the first time, you may wonder “what are chess clocks for? And why is that?”
Among many other rules, this rule states that the chess clock goes on the side the player with black pieces chooses.
Chess has many rules, and they’re not that hard to learn. Once you get to know the game better, all the rules become more familiar.