Wednesday, March 10, 2010


At the beginning of a recent round, one player who was scheduled to have the white pieces came up and asked me to confirm that when delay is on, you are supposed to deduct one minute per second of delay. e.g. a five second delay in a 30/90 time control becomes 30 moves in 85 minutes with the delay. I told him it's a TD option and that to keep things simple we usually don't deduct it unless we are running a tournament where the rounds are tightly scheduled together and timeliness of the schedule is a priority. Actually, I wasn't aware of a club decision to make our standard 30/90 with or without the delay. Since this was just one game on a Thursday night, it didn't make a whole lot of sense to me to worry about five extra minutes, but the player claimed that it would be better for his schedule if he didn't have to play a game late into the night. I just shrugged, since I don't consider it my job to make TD decisions. "I'm not the TD" is a commonly heard statement out of my mouth at the club in 2010.

The player of the black pieces then came to question me in a huff insisting that our time control was 30/90 not 30/85. I said it didn't matter to me. Someone suggested he call our TD at home. He did question me about delay and got me to agree that delay is supposed to last the whole game from the first to the last move. I don't know if he heeded that advice to call the TD or whether the game started 30/85 or 30/90.

When the second player had only 12 minutes on the clock left in the sudden death second time control, he brought the matter to my attention that he didn't think that the delay was on. I was still playing my game. Another TD was available who wasn't playing his game. In irritation, I privately wondered why I was always the go-to TD. Since I presumed it was an honest mistake, I suggested that they write down the remaining times and substitute a new clock with delay since it was white's claim and intention that he set the delay and Black had in my opinion done all he could to make sure delay was set short of checking it at the beginning of the second time control and providing his own properly set clock. I think the players expected me to be knowledgeable about their clock so that I could fix it. I just shook my head. Someone else produced a clock instruction manual. I went back to my game. After another five minutes of chaos, I think the resolution was that the players substituted a different clock with the correct times and the correct delay and finished the game. The player of black who had less time won. I never found out if delay was improperly set on the original clock.

I've been trying to pretend that I've given up directing tournaments, but perhaps I need to get a custom baseball cap to wear in the club that says, "I'm not the TD". Six months of staying away from the club last year and declining to run as incumbent Secretary were probably negated when I stepped in to help organize the Holiday Swiss and Club Championship Qualifier. Like Michael Corleone in Godfather: Part III, "Just when I thought I was out...they pull me back in." Luckily, my game was already decisive enough that the externalities didn't mess up my move selection.

The relevant sections of the United States Chess Federation's Official Rules of Chess, Fifth Edition are:
5F. [..] Players, not tournament directors, are responsible for knowing how to properly set (16B) their delay clocks.

5Fa. The tournament director has the right to shorten the basic time control, up to the number of minutes equal to the time delay used in seconds. Examples: Clocks for G/60 with a 5-second time delay (t/d5) may be set starting at 55 minutes through 59 minutes instead of 60; [..] There is no requirement to advertise this option in advance. It may also be used for games starting later than the official starting time of any particular round even when not used otherwise. TD TIP: Using (a), while acceptable, is also a problematical option that does not come highly recommended due to the confusion involved in properly setting an assortment of different clocks from a variety of manufacturers, all with diverse time control setting capabilities. Whatever option the director is using should be announced at the start of round one.

5Fb. A game with a mixed time control, e.g. 50 moves in two hours followed by sudden death in 30 minutes (50/2, SD/30), is to use a time delay clock set with 5-second delay from the beginning of the game, if available. However, if the game starts with an analog clock it should remain, except in the procedure described in rule 14H2, Claim of insufficient losing chances in sudden death.

14H2d. TD TIP: There is no rule allowing players, after the game has started, to ask for a properly set delay clock to be placed on their game, which would replace an analog clock or delay clock not set properly. Only the TD can initiate placing a clock with time delay capabilities on a game after a 14H claim has been made and the steps of 14H2 have been applied.

16P. [..] TD TIP: Often digital and delay clocks are a challenge to set properly. The director should use judgment in deciding if a digital or delay clock was set improperly deliberately, or inadvertently. Adding two minutes to the injured player's unused time should penalize deliberate incorrect settings. In either case the error(s) should be corrected.

39A. Choice of equipment. If the organizer does not provide one of more elements of equipment, the players should agree on any that meets the standards or, failing such agreement, play with Black's choice if it meets the standards. TD TIP: Players of the black pieces sometimes misunderstand this rule when they want to use an analog clock on a game with sudden death times controls. If any part of a game is composed of a sudden death time control, a properly set delay clock is preferred equipment and supersedes Black's choice in cases where White has such a clock and Black does not (42D).

42D. Delay clock preferable in sudden death. A properly set clock with time delay capability is preferable to any other clock in a game with any sudden death time control. Therefore, if White has such a clock available and Black does not, White's clock should be used. The only occasions where Black retains the right to use his/her analog clock are in games with no sudden death time control, in cases where both players have the same type of clock, or if White is late and Black has already set up standard equipment.

In 2006, a similar problem cropped up in a club game involving a friend/TD, asking for my ruling to substitute a delay clock for a digital clock that was set without delay by his opponent. I chose to go with the 14H2d prohibition on dropping in a delay clock. I had been a TD since 2004 and the Fifth Edition rules were newer back then, published in 2003. I think my ruling injured my friend in that he had a winning position that was spoiled by his lack of time and he took a draw. I think today in 2010, I would rule the opposite and replace the non-delay digital clock with a delay one, mainly since there has been time for people to learn how to use their digital clocks to the point that there is tradition in properly setting the delay and also I am now more familiar with Bill Smythe's unofficial DIRTY POOL rules. In both situations, a digital clock is available, everybody presumably wanted delay and meant to have it, but the complexities of these devices defy our abilities to properly set them, so the right remedy is to just fix it. I think that 14H2d is to prevent a person who is in time trouble on an analog clock from buying more time by requesting a delay clock.

Back when digital clocks took the tournament scene by storm, there were all sorts of arguments about what standards should govern their use. It's a little obscure to those without access to the USCF Tournament Directing forums, but since 2005, Chicago Senior Tournament Director Bill Smythe developed and regularly posted at his tournaments a DIRTY POOL sheet to supplement what he perceived as deficiencies in the USCF Fifth Edition Rules:

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 claim.

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.

If the tournament has two time controls (such as 40/120 followed by SD/60), the delay should be turned on for both controls.

Clocks which do not permit this, such as the Saitek and FIDE, should be set for just one time control, with the delay on. After move 40, reset the clock manually, again with the delay on.

If your opponent furnishes a digital clock, you should watch its operation closely, during the first few moves, to make sure the delay is on. Request TD assistance if necessary.

Normally I'm the kind of person whose eyes glaze over when I read legalese. I don't know why I was juiced enough to even research this, but perhaps someone will find it useful. When I found the title for this post, I read that Timecop was actually one of Van Damme's decent movies involving time travel and lots of action without being too stupid. Now if I could go back in time to that fateful day when I chose to be a TD you wouldn't be reading this legal mumbo-jumbo. We now return to our regularly scheduled program of trying to enjoy chess without the legal distractions.

1 comment:

Robert Pearson said...

Oh for God's sweet sake this stuff has obviously become too complicated if even a detail oriented person like me falls asleep before reaching the end of your well thought out post. Forget delay. five-second increment should be the universal standard.

The End.