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Why do chess players hit the clock? (Explained!)

You might have seen many chess players hitting the clock. Especially when the chess game is played very fast during final few seconds, chess players start hitting the clock and that sometimes grabs your attention. So, you might wonder about this question. Why do chess players hit the clock?

Chess players hit the clock in order to stop their timer and start their opponent’s timer. Chess clocks are made such that hitting the clock automatically stops your timer and starts the opponent’s one.

A chess clock is made up of two adjacent clocks that displays the timer for each player. For casual play you won’t require any chess clock. But in tournaments it is must.

Note that here when I say hitting the clock I mean to say pressing or tapping the clock. It is strictly prohibited to hit or damage the chess clock which we are going to discuss ahead in the rules section.

Chess Clock – A (Very) Brief Description

As per wikipedia, chess clocks were first played in a tournament during the 1883 chess tournament. After that its use spread to many other board games.

A typical chess clock consists of two clocks with buttons at the top. Hitting one of these buttons stops the time of that clock simultaneously starting the time of the other clock.

Chess clocks are used in order to keep time control in a tournament. Otherwise the game would extend for long hours.

So this is what chess clock is in a very brief. Not going into mechanisms of the clock, let’s head on ahead.

Rules of hitting the clock

There are rules related to chess clocks mentioned in the FIDE (the international chess organization) laws of chess. In that there are some specific rules that guide us on how to press the clock and other related rules. So let’s see!

What is time allotted to the player?

As per the article 6.7.a of FIDE laws of chess,

The time period between making the move and pressing the clock is known as time allotted to the player. 

Move is not considered complete until you hit the clock:

This rule is also mentioned in the article 6.7.a.

Your move is considered to be a completed move only when you hit the clock. If the move that you make ends the game then in that case this rule doesn’t apply.

There are five cases where this rule doesn’t apply: checkmate, stalemate, when neither player can do checkmate (dead position) or when the game ends in a draw due to agreement between the players. 

Therefore it is also mentioned that a player should always be allowed to stop the clock by hitting (pressing) it.

Don’t hit the clock hard or knock it:

It is clearly stated in the FIDE laws of chess article 6.7.c,

A player is not allowed to damage the chess clock by any means. You can’t hit the clock very hard because then you will be warned and may be penalised by your arbiter. 

Generally, in over excitement or frustration chess players punch the clock but you should definitely avoid this and follow the chess etiquettes. At least after knowing this rule. 

Use only one hand to hit the clock that is used to make a move:

According to this rule mentioned in the article 6.7.b of FIDE laws of chess,

The process is to first make a move with your one hand and then hitting the clock with the same hand. This topic we are going to discuss in more detail ahead so keep reading. 

According to the rule you are not allowed to hover your finger above the clock. You can’t keep your fingers above the clock because then it will be against the rules.

Now, so far we discussed all the rules and I hope you must have understood them as well. But I guess you might be still thinking why we are not allowed to press the chess clock with the other hand because that would save a lot of time, right? 🙂 But there are some issues with that.

So now, we’ll discuss what problems could arise if that was allowed to hit the clock with both hands. Hence coming to the next question.

Why do chess players hit the clock with only the hand that they used to move the chess piece?

Chess players hit the clock with only the one hand that they used to make the move because firstly it is strictly mentioned in the FIDE rules and so not following the rule will be regarded as penalty and secondly there are many problems that could occur during the game.

Following are some of the problems that can arise if the players don’t hit the clock with one hand that they used to move the piece:

1. Hitting the clock without making the move

If chess players were allowed to hit the clock with either hands then many times it would happen that they missed out a move but pressed the clock.

Specially, during the fast format games like blitz in which you have very less time this issue can come. During the last minute of the game each player moves the pieces as fast as possible so that they don’t run out of time. In that case it can happen forgetting about the move and just hitting the clock in nervousness.

So to avoid that issue this rule of using only that hand to hit the clock, that used to make move. Because then there will be almost negligible chances of happening these mistakes during the game.

2. Hitting the clock before completing the move

It can happen that a player pressed the clock even before hitting the move. During the final minutes the game goes on very rapidly. You might have seen that in many games.

So it is very common that you accidentally hit the clock even before completing your move and that would be totally against the rule. Hence to avoid this issue the rule has been made.

3. Hitting the clock simultaneously with the opponent

If it was allowed to hit the clock with either of the hands then the probability of pressing the clock at the same time when your opponent hit the clock, would become very high.

Just imagine that you and your opponent are making the move while both of you have one hand just above the clock. So, won’t you think that both of you might hit the clock at the same time.

Therefore to get rid of these problems the rule was framed.

4. Becomes a complete mess

In the rule it is already discussed that you can’t hover your fingers or heep your other hand over the clock to save time. If that was allowed then just imagine how mess the game would look! It would be difficult to see which player made which move. 

Normally when players make a move and use only that hand to hit the clock then first of all it overcomes many  issues that we discussed above and secondly the game looks very organised. So even when players are making the moves rapidly everything goes on well.

Final Comments

Generally when you play with your friends you don’t need to think about chess clocks and all the rules and regulations. But for tournament if you are not aware about the rules beforehand, at least the basic ones then you would suffer like one of my friend.

So he was playing in a tournament. It was his first tournament and like many beginners he was not aware of rules and regulations. He started playing the game and then when it was his chance he made a move by one hand but hit the clock with another hand. Due to lack of proper guidance, while practicing chess he had developed this habit. Just thought that it would help him to save some time.

But soon his opponent noticed that pressed the clock with another hand and called the arbiter. The arbiter warned him (probably because it was his first time) for doing that and explained the rule. Then onwards he never made that mistake again.

So that’s it! Hope you enjoyed reading this article. Please do share if this article helped you. Till then, Thanks!

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