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Rules Question: What to do about Digital Clocks set without Time Delay?

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Old August 7th 03, 11:22 AM
Isidor Gunsberg
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Default Rules Question: What to do about Digital Clocks set without Time Delay?

In a recent tournament, where it explicitly stipulated that Digital
Clocks must be set for Time Delay, there arose a couple of disputes
involving clocks that did not have Time Delay correctly set. The cases
involved clocks that were lent to them by 3rd parties, so it was
impossible to assign culpability for incorrectly setting the clock to
either of the players who were contesting the games.

In the first case, the clock was mis-set, and neither player
noticed it until one of the players (Player A) had just a few seconds
left, whereupon he summoned the TD. The game was played under the Time
Control of Game/25 minutes, where the Standard Delay was supposed to
be set to 3 seconds.

What should be the remedy for the situation?

Some options a

1) Deem the game as having been played with an analog clock, and
consider the player's complaint about the lack of Time Delay to be a
request for a Time Delay Clock. In other words, treat the situation as
one would treat an Insufficient Chances To Lose (ICTL) claim. This
would entail that Player A's opponent (Player B) be given the option
of accepting a Draw. If Player B does not wish to settle for a Draw,
then set the Digital Clock to (finally) have the 3 Second Delay, and
have the players continue the game with no other adjustments to the

Variation 1a) Same as above, but make an adjustment to the amount of
time left on each player's clock, based on an estimate of the amount
of time that the player(s) lost because Delay was not set. For
instance, if the clock has a move counter, one could simply multiply
the number of moves played in the game, by the 3 second delay
increment, and restore that amount of time to each clock. Failing
that, if one of the players kept score, one could make a determination
based on the number of moves that were recorded, although it is
frequently the case that game scores become incomplete as time
pressure looms.

2) Change the setting of the clock to have the correct Time Delay, but
not consider the situation to fall under the rubric of ICTL rules.
That is, the claimant protesting the erroneously set clock can receive
the Time Delay, without the opponent being able to claim a draw.

The larger question is how much responsibility a player has for
spotting an incorrectly set Digital clock. Often, the clocks do not
overtly show seconds until the time has counted down beneath a certain
threshold--usually, 20, 10, or even 5 just minutes remaining in the
Time Control. By then, the players may be so engrossed in their games,
that they may not have the presence of mind to check the clock to see
if Delay is working.

I favor solution #2, since although the failure to have the Time
Delay set was not the fault of Player B, the tournament rules clearly
stated that Time Dely would be used, and Player A did, however
belatedly, make the claim that the clock was incorrectly set--before
his time had elapsed. I am leaning towards restoring some time on the
clock of Player A (and Player B, too, if his clock also lacked Time
Delay), although doing so seems a bit arbitrary. Restoring time to
Player A's clock does hurt Player B's chances, who--in good
faith--believed that Player A was on the verge of losing on time. Were
Time Bonus, rather than Time Delay, involved, there would be a much
more compelling case for restoring time based on the # of moves that
had been played.

In the 2nd incident, the situation was fairly similar, excempt
that the claimaint, Player C, made his claim that the Digital Clock
was programmed incorrectly, when he was left with only 8 seconds! The
players were also playing with a 3rd party clock. However, in this
case, Player C was completely winning, being a Queen up. Player D
protested the restoration of Time Delay on the clocks at this late
juncture, since he had decided to make some very speculative
sacrifices on the basis that his opponent, player C, was in grave
Zeitnot, and did not have his clock set for a 3 second Time Delay.
Indeed, Player D admitted that he was aware, at a relatively early
stage in the game, that Time Delay was not set on either of the
clocks, but did nothing about it. Presumeably, he viewed such
knowledge as a competitive advantage, whereby he could exploit the
fact that his opponent, Player C, might be assuming that Time Delay
was correctly set, but was seemingly unaware that it wasn't set.
Player D tried to exploit his opponent's ignorance by playing quickly,
and for a complicated attack that would force Player C to expend time
in order to find a refutation. Player D protested that he would have
played differently if his opponent had Delay, which was correctly set
on his clock.

I would argue that Player D took a calculated risk, in more ways
that one. He was aware that the TD had mandated that Time Delay be
used with Digital Clocks. He was aware that the clock with which his
game was being played was not set for Time Delay. He based his
subsequent play on that fact. In my opinion, Player D's calculated
risk was largely centered on the hope that Player C would not notice
that Time Delay was not working on the clock, and that Player C would
suffer a loss by Time Forfeit as a result.
It is hard to feel sorry for a player when his attempts at guile
blows up in his face. I believe that even though Player D did not
supply the clock, he had some responsibility to point out to the TD
that the Time Delay feature was not properly set, when he first
noticed the situation. While D should not be sanctioned for his
failure to do so, I think that it is appropriate not only for Time
Delay to be activated for the remainder of the game, but for Player C
to receive some compensatory time restored to his clock.

Even in the event that Player C was completely aware that Time
Delay was not set, it would seem that he always has the the absolute
right to make a claim that the (3rd party) clock was incorrectly set,
and demand remediation, in the form of the restoration of the
announced increment of Time Delay. However, I would definitely be more
reluctant to make a time adjustment, since the claimant could be
deemed to have voluntarily ceded the benefits of Time Delay for most
of the game.

In such a circumstance, a strong argument could be made that Player
C was even more devious thatn Player D, and was successfully able to
induce/bluff his opponent into unsound play. Thus, Player C fully
merits his victory, especially as Player D failed to adhere to the old
adage: "Play the Board, not the Clock".
Old August 9th 03, 04:06 PM
Bill Smythe
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Default Rules Question: What to do about Digital Clocks set without Time Delay?

"Isidor Gunsberg" wrote:
.... The cases involved clocks that were lent to them by 3rd parties


In most cases, I have little sympathy with players who need to use 3rd party
clocks. Each player should furnish his own delay-capable clock and know how
to set it.

I have even less sympathy for the player who tries to take advantage of the
lack of a delay, especially if he thinks his opponent believes the delay is

I guess it's time once again to trot out my Dirty Pool rule sheet which I
post (and sometimes hand out) at tournaments:



It is DIRTY POOL to use a digital clock without setting the delay. Such a
setting can confuse the opponent into believing there is a delay when there
is none. This confusion can result in questionable time forfeit claims and
unnecessary disputes.

If you furnish and use a digital clock without the delay set, any or all of
the following may happen to you:

1. The TD reserves the right, at any time during the game, to point out to
your opponent that the delay is not set.

2. The TD may allow your opponent, at any time during the game, to
substitute ANY other clock, digital or analog, furnished by him.

3. If you claim a draw by insufficient losing chances, the TD may summarily
disallow your claim and subtract time from your clock. Your opponent,
however, will receive the usual kind, gentle treatment should he make such a

4. If you claim a win on time, the TD may dismiss your claim and give your
opponent up to 5 minutes, plus delay time, to finish the game or reach the
time control. No such consideration, however, will be given to you, if the
shoe is on the other foot and your opponent claims a win on time.


This is usually enough to keep the players in line. Fortunately, I've never
had to invoke clause 3 or 4. I'm not even sure I'd really dare, despite the
advance notice. I don't think I've ever invoked clause 2, either. I have
used clause 1. There is a regular player in these parts who never sets
Bronstein mode on his Saitek. I make it a point to warn each of his
opponents, near the beginning of the game, that the delay is not set and
that he (the opponent) therefore has a right to furnish his own clock or to
make a later claim of insufficient losing chances.

I think it's helpful if a TD, near the beginning of each round, goes around
the room to make sure each clock's delay feature is set. That's not always
an easy matter, however.

Bill Smythe


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