Article 6: The chessclock
Article 6 This article applies to both analogue and digital clocks and as such can appear overly complicated. Future editions of the Laws may remove analogue clocks to an appendix.
6.1. ‘Chessclock’ means a clock with two time displays, connected to each other in such a way that only one of them can run at one time.
‘Clock’ in the Laws of Chess means one of the two time displays. Each time display has a ‘flag’.
‘Flag-fall’ means the expiration of the allotted time for a player.
6.2. During the game each player, having made his move on the chessboard, shall stop his own clock and start his opponent’s clock (that is to say, he shall press his clock). This “completes” the move. A move is also completed if:
1) the move ends the game (see Articles 5.l.a, 5.2.a, 5.2.b, 5.2.c and 9.6), or
2) the player has made his next move, in case his previous move was not completed.
A player must be allowed to stop his clock after making his move, even after the opponent has made his next move. The time between making the move on the chessboard and pressing the clock is regarded as part of the time allotted to the player.
b. A player must press his clock with the same hand with which he made his move. It is forbidden for a player to keep his finger on the clock or to ‘hover’ over it.
c. The players must handle the chessclock properly. It is forbidden to press it forcibly, to pick it up, to press the clock before moving or to knock it over.
Improper clock handling shall be penalised in accordance with Article 12.9.
d. Only the player whose clock is running is allowed to adjust the pieces.
e. If a player is unable to use the clock, an assistant, who must be acceptable to the arbiter, may be provided by the player to perform this operation. His clock shall be adjusted by the arbiter in an equitable way. This adjustment of the clock shall not apply to the clock of a player with a disability.
Article 6.2(a) 2 This states that the player must always be allowed to stop his clock. There are various reasons for this Law. Firstly, where incremental times are used, the clock must be stopped for these to be added. Secondly, it ensures the move counter is accurate (which may be important if extra time is added on when a further time control is reached. Additionally, it stops arguments in a time scramble. Even if the opponent has replied before the player has stopped the clock he may still stop his own and start the opponent’s. Indeed this is likely to cause the opponent to lose more time than if he had waited and played properly. It would be unfair for the opponent to deliberately pause before pressing the clock.
A move must be completed by pressing the clock. This means that a player, who on playing the last move of the time control, loses if the clock is not stopped before the flag falls.
Pressing the clock after a move completes all previous moves. It had been argued that if a player forgot to press his clock on move 15 then the clock press on move 16 completed only move 15! Article 6.2 (b) states that the clock must be pressed with the same hand as the move was made. This stops the player stopping his clock with one hand before making his move with the other which was not uncommon. It also helps prevent a hand being permanently on the button or rocker arm preventing it being pressed.
Players often forget this rule. A quiet word at the end of the game is often enough.
However, if you feel that the player was doing it deliberately to gain time then the player should initially be warned and subsequently the opponent should be given additional time.
Article 6.2 (c) Abuse of the clock can be a serious matter. ‘Thumping’ the clock can be distracting to others. It also does the clock no good and in digitals could dislodge the batteries at a critical point in the game. Such action should be stopped.
Article 6.2 (d) There are several reasons why a clock cannot be pressed by the player.
One may be due to an injury another could be for religious reasons. In either case the player should not be overly penalised for this. The time deducted should be no more than a few minutes if anything is deducted at all.
6.3. a.When using a chessclock, each player must complete a minimum number of moves or all moves in an allotted period of time and/or may be allocated an additional amount of time with each move. All these must be specified in advance.
b. The time saved by a player during one period is added to his time available for the next period, where applicable.
In the time-delay mode both players receive an allotted ‘main thinking time’.
Each player also receives a ‘fixed extra time’ with every move. The countdown of the main thinking time only commences after the fixed extra time has expired.
Provided the player presses his clock before the expiration of the fixed extra time, the main thinking time does not change, irrespective of the proportion of the fixed extra time used.
6.4. Immediately after a flag falls, the requirements of Article 6.3 a. must be checked.
Article 6.4 means that the Arbiter or the players must confirm that the specified number of moves (or more) have been reached. If this is not the case then the player whose flag has fallen has lost (Art 6.9). The players must also complete their scoresheets if necessary. If both players have failed to record all the moves then the clocks are stopped until this is done. If only one player has failed to keep score then his scoresheet must be brought up to date in his own time. This is usually no problem if it is the White player who is behind as his clock just remains running. If it is the Black player who has not recorded then White should be given the opportunity to play before Black is required to update the scoresheet.
The opponent’s scoresheet or the Arbiter’s can be used for this. However, Black will often take White’s scoresheet to update his own. Technically this is disturbing the opponent but if it is the opponent’s move most Arbiters would only step in if White objected.
Digital clocks may incorrectly show a loss on time because players did not press the clock after every move. This can be annoying and a move counter feature is often disabled because of this.
6.5. Before the start of the game the arbiter shall decide where the chessclock is placed.
Article 6.5 gives the Arbiter the right to decide on clock placement. The clock must be visible to the Arbiter so that it can be checked to ensure it is working properly and for flag falls where necessary. It is normal to place the clock on White’s left hand side and to have the room set up accordingly. If a clock has to be placed on the other side then it is normally to turn the board round rather than having the clock facing in the opposite direction. Some Arbiters will allow Black to determine the clock position in blitz games.
6.6. At the time determined for the start of the game White’s clock is started.
Article 6.6 determines that the White clock is started at the beginning of the session regardless of who is present. Normally therefore only White is penalised although if the default is 0 then any player not present will lose (see 6.7)
6.7 a. The rules of a competition shall specify in advance a default time. Any player who arrives at the chessboard after the default time shall lose the game unless the arbiter decides otherwise.
b. If the rules of a competition specify that the default time is not zero and if neither player is present initially. White shall lose all the time that elapses until he arrives, unless the rules of the competition specify or the arbiter decides otherwise.
In Britain the National Associations have said that this default time is automatically amended to 30 minutes for normal games and 10 minutes for Rapidplay games unless the entry form says otherwise. 6.6 (b) gives the Arbiter/Tournament Organiser discretion over the allocation of the time elapsed before either player is present.
The actual start time, rather than the scheduled start time should now be used to determine if a player has defaulted. (The use of the phrase scheduled start time has been removed from the Laws.)
6.8. A flag is considered to have fallen when the arbiter observes the fact or when either player has made a valid claim to that effect.
Article 6.8 The Arbiter should try to be present when a flag falls. This is not always possible. If the players fail to call flag fall until both flags are down then 6.11 should be applied. The fact that one clock has used more time than the other cannot be used as proof that the time on that clock expired first.
6.9. Except where one of Articles 5.1.a, 5.l.b, 5.2.a, 5.2.b, 5.2.c applies, if a player does not complete the prescribed number of moves in the allotted time, the game is lost by that player. However, the game is drawn if the position is such that the opponent cannot checkmate the player’s king by any possible series of legal moves.
Article 6.9 A player whose flag has fallen has not automatically lost even if the required number of moves have not been made. If the position is blocked for example then a draw will be given. A player with king and rook will be given a loss against a player with king and knight because there is a series of legal moves which would lead to mate by the knight, no matter how unlikely this is to occur.
6.10 a. Every indication given by the chessclock is considered to be conclusive in the absence of any evident defect. A chessclock with an evident defect shall be replaced by the arbiter, who shall use his best judgement when determining the times to be shown on the replacement chessclock.
b. If during a game it is found that the setting of either or both clocks is incorrect, either player or the arbiter shall stop the chessclock immediately. The arbiter shall install the correct setting and adjust the times and move-counter, if necessary. He shall use his best judgement when determining the clock settings.
Article 6.10 (a) With analogue clocks it is unusual to have both sides of the clock faulty so any discrepancy in the total time used is likely to be attributable to one clock only. But be aware that this is not always the case.
Examples of possible faults are
- clock not going – Often the clock simply needs wound and this is a useful first course of action.
- both clocks going – subtract time from the errant clock to equal total amount used.
- jammed hands – the minute hand can catch on the hour hand or the flag
- loose hands – it is not too uncommon for a minute hand to slip towards the 6
- spring unwound – normally noticed when trying to rewind as the mainspring will not tighten
- flag not picked up as minute hand approaches 12
- flag stuck in ‘up’ position after minute hand clearly past – tapping the bottom of the clock rather than the top can free the flag
- flag falling ‘too soon’. This can be difficult. If when the clock is turned upside down the flag catches on the minute hand this is usually acceptable evidence that the flag fell before the minute hand reached the end of the flag and the game should continue. If the flag swings freely then the loss on time should be given.
It can also be difficult to decide which side of the clock is at fault within an acceptable time frame. You cannot accurately time both clocks to see which one is running slow for example. when adding time to clocks the arbiter must use his common sense. The arbiter should be careful not to overly penalise a player for something which is not that persons fault so if adding on time a player should not be left with less than 1 minute for each move until the time control. Where there is a total failure of the clock (usually with digitals) the arbiter may wish to look at the players’ scoresheets to see if one or other has been recording the times. This may well give a starting point for your considerations.
Clock setting alterations should not put unfair burdens on the players but neither should it adversely affect the running of the tournament.
Article 6.10 (b) would apply where the wrong setting has been given to digital clocks. For this reason players should be strongly discouraged from doing anything other than elementary resetting of the clock.
6.11. If both flags have fallen and it is impossible to establish which flag fell first then:
a. the game shall continue if this occurs in any period of the game except the last period.
b. the game is drawn if this occurs in the period of a game in which all remaining moves must be completed.
Article 6.11 (a) If the game continues into the quickplay section then there is no problem with the game continuing. If there is another session of, say, 20 moves in 1 hour following 40 moves in 2 hours then it may be advisable to inform the players that they must still reach move 60 by the next time control and not 20 moves on from where they are.
6.12. a.If the game needs to be interrupted, the arbiter shall stop the chessclock.
b. A player may stop the chessclock only in order to seek the arbiter’s assistance, for example when promotion has taken place and the piece required is not available.
c. The arbiter shall decide when the game restarts.
d. If a player stops the chessclock in order to seek the arbiter’s assistance, the arbiter shall determine whether the player had any valid reason for doing so. If the player had no valid reason for stopping the chessclock, the player shall be penalised in accordance with Article 12.9.
Article 6.12 (a) If a fire alarm rings or there is a lighting failure then the arbiter should announce the suspension of play. “Please pause all clocks” is a useful announcement to make. Try to avoid saying “Stop all clocks” as players have been known to switch them off in that situation.
Obviously in the case of a fire alarm the players should be instructed to leave the building. If you have a power cut and there are blind players it is worth explaining to them why the announcement has been made!
Article 6.12 (b) Another case where the clock should be stopped is when a piece has been displaced. Restarting the opponent’s clock (a common practice when using analogue clocks) can cause havoc with digitals in incremental mode and should be discouraged.
Article 6.12 (d) This rule can prevent gamesmanship such as stopping the clocks to seek an arbiter when short of time.
6.13. Screens, monitors, or demonstration boards showing the current position on the chessboard, the moves and the number of moves made/completed, and clocks which also show the number of moves, are allowed in the playing hall. However, the player may not make a claim relying only on information shown in this manner.
Article 6.14 The Arbiter may however consider such additional information when considering an Appendix G (quickplay finish) claim regarding a player not trying to win by normal means. Players often ask friends to record during a time scramble. This is permissible provided it is done out of sight of the player and no information regarding the number of moves played is conveyed.