Sunday, February 3, 2008

Deducting, Choosing, Switching


A question I am frequently asked at the start of tournaments is, “Should I deduct time for time-delay?” My answer is always “no.”

The purpose of “deducting” time is to compensate for the extra five seconds per move. One rationale is to make sure all players have the same amount of time (which, of course they won’t – those five-second increments never add up exactly). Another is to get the games over more quickly so you can pair the next round.

However, the current (5th edition) Rulebook advises against deducting (though it is still permissible). The reason is a practical one. They are probably a dozen different delay clocks on the market. If a TD announces that players should deduct five minutes for time-delay, the players will form a line asking him how to set their clocks. Then they’ll form another line a couple of hours later complaining that they didn’t do it right and asking the TD to fix it.

In my opinion, deducting time should be used only if the time between rounds is so tight that there is no way to get the pairings made otherwise. And, if that’s the problem, you should change your format.


Who decides what equipment to use? Some older players are still under the impression that Black always gets the choice, but that’s no longer the case. The USCF, wisely or not, has changed the equipment rule as follows:

1) Black gets the choice of standard equipment.

2) Time-delay clocks (with the delay in effect) are “more standard” (I know it makes no sense, but that’s what it says) than “analog” clocks (you know, the ones with hands).

3) So, if either player has a delay and wants to use it, he can. If both players have delay clocks, or both have “analog” clocks, Black gets to choose.

4) Exception: If one player is present at the start of the round and the other is not, the player who is present gets to set up and start. By not being there at the round time, the other player forfeits any right to object, period.


I’ve been seeing a few requests lately from players to insert a time-delay clock at some point in the game, typically when the player starts to worry about losing on time. Short answer: No. There is no rule allowing a player to “request” or “demand” a time delay clock after the game has started, except for the special case of an “insufficient losing chances” claim.

This claim can only be made only if the player has less than two minutes remaining in a sudden-death time control. It amounts to a draw offer, which your opponent can accept if he wants. The TD may uphold the claim (if it’s something obvious like Bishop and wrong Rook pawn versus King in the right corner) or reject it and give your opponent an extra two minutes as a penalty (if the claim is obviously frivolous or made to gain time), but usually he will put in a time-delay clock and let you play it out. If you can’t hold the game with five seconds a move, you had sufficient losing chances to lose.

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