A Matter of Time

Would it be simpler if NECL used a single time control of all moves in 90 minutes?
Should NECL clubs with digital clocks have the option to use time controls such as Fischer?
Should we adopt either/both of these, or leave things as they are?
If a club is thinking of investing in digital, such changes could affect the type of clock and the quantity affordable. These are not proposals but I do wonder what other members think about this, so please comment if you have views one way or the other?

More clubs are aquiring digital clocks which have the option to use the Fischer type of time control. Some tournaments (British Chess Championships, 4NCL..) already use Fischer, and some leagues have either adopted it as an alternative, or are considering doing so. It’s just “a matter of time” before someone proposes players have the option in NECL matches to work to a Fischer control of say 75 minutes + 10 bonus seconds per move. A single control of all moves in 90 minutes is another option that players might find simpler (than present time controls) when using either type of clock.

Analogue clocks:-  The double period time control requires a player to “fiddle about” adjusting the clock, checking the opponent agrees the target time before/after moving the hands, ensuring you both see it square-on, and maybe not saying anything if it looks half a minute out either way – all has a tendency to disrupt player’s thoughts. The single time control avoids all that.

Digital clocks:- have been around some years now but still raise more discussion (than analogue) about exactly what they will/not do with present NECL double period time controls. Whilst some players are happy with either type, many still find digital less intuitive – and this is not just because they count down instead of up or look/feel different to the familiar analogue clock.
Other reasons that come to mind;-

  • Many players are not comfortable to use them, and even less confident to set them up – because hitting the wrong button/switch underneath might put it into an obscure mode, maybe without this being immediately obvious and might be difficult to correct later.
    Did anyone need “an expert” after their first encounter with an analogue clock?
    It was all pretty obvious. You didn’t need to read the manual, and it didn’t much matter what brand and model it was either, as they are all pretty much alike!
  • Some digital clocks will add the 15 minutes after the 30th move, most will add this on after the 75 minutes.  Do we always know which type we are using?
    Not only did we have to get used to time being added in a different way, players still often need to inquire at the start “when does this add the time on” – “does it add to both at the same time” etc. – and we still often hear the need for further reassurance by players later needing to ask “has it added on yet?” – all unnecessary with analogue.
  •  If players omit pressing a digital clock for one or more moves this can cause it to prematurely flag/flash and stop, falsely indicating that the game is over because time was reached without enough moves made in the first time control, then needing an “expert” to do the resetting. Conversely, if players gave extra presses, such as an initial “check it works”, or after taking back an illegal move, it may fail to indicate if the first time control was not met. It counts presses, not moves.
  • A digital clock might give warning beeps a few seconds prior to final time control expiry – a setting available on most models. I was once caught out when a clock on an adjacent board did this. Expecting to be warned myself I paid less attention to my clock, only to discover after my flag had fallen, that it was set silent.  Nothing in the rules covers this specifically, but we might expect silent to be the normal setting because a warning beep is “assistance” – no different to an observer telling a player about their clock being low. (So maybe we should always ensure the clock is set silent, so it can’t warn you and risk your opponent making a claim on these grounds?)

Both the single time control and the Fischer time control simplify this, because the time you see is always the time you have left.

An advantage sometimes claimed in favour of Fischer timing is that FIDE Rule 10.2 (the ‘two-minute rule’, which can be problematic), is no longer applicable – though it would be within the power of a league to simply not adopt this anyway (because it needs an arbiter), so this should not be a main influence in the choice of time control. With the Fischer time control though, provided you can make a move within the bonus seconds, you should never lose on time.

The time control we adopt is a consideration for any club about to invest in digital clocks.
Are 20 or 30 modes an unnecessary extra complication if you only ever use 3 of them?
Some cheaper models are quite adequate for both Fisher and single time controls – though some do not support the present double time control.
There are many makes and models but comparing price v time-control-capability of just DGT clocks (as these are the most popular brand) all quoted from same supplier;-

Price each (for 3 or more)
incl. VAT,  excl. P&P
    DGT 2010   Y   Y  £49.99
    DGT XL  Y £59.99
    DGT 960    £23.40
    DGT Easy   Y   N £23.40
    DGT EasyPlus   £27.85

Whatever discount clubs may get for higher quantities, it is apparent that if the present double period time control were replaced by a single one, with or without a Fischer option, clubs investing in digital clocks could buy twice as many suitable ones for about the same budget.

One thought on “A Matter of Time

  1. Personally I like the old clocks with the audible tick and the drama of the hanging flag and am quite happy with the “back 15” concept. As we are slowly moving towards digital clocks however a single 90 minute time control makes sense as it takes out all possible confusion for the technically challenged. You know exactly where you are from the start, the game will finish within 3 hours and you never have to pluck up the courage to fiddle with the infernal gadget. Within the Essex League adopting the 90 minute time limit has not seemed to cause any particular problems.

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