How To Choose The Best Chess Clock – The Ultimate Guide
As chess is a sport where players are competing against each other, there need to be strict rules. One of these rules is that the time for both players in a chess game is limited. In a game, each player is given a certain amount of time for all their chess moves. If you want to play a real match against somebody, you need to have an appropriate chess clock.
A chess clock is a basic part of the equipment required. It consists of two adjacent clock faces with two buttons. When it is your move, your chess clock runs down until you make your move and push your button, pausing your timer and activating the opponents simultaneously. This means that the two clocks never run at the same time – only the player whose move it is.
If the timer of one player runs out, they lose the game. Therefore, the clock is an important factor in the game. Just like material or positional advantages, having more time than your opponent can give you a win – even if the position is balanced.
While it’s easy to understand how to use a chess clock, it’s definitely not an easy decision to choose the best chess clock.
Of course, this is partly a matter of practicalities, and partly a matter of taste. Everything will be a lot easier if you know what you are looking for. You would never walk into a car dealer with no idea about what you want to buy. While it might be possible to find the “perfect” clock, more likely you will need to compromise on some aspect.
As there is a broad market of chess equipment out there, you are spoilt for choice and overrun with dozens of offers!
In the following article, we’ll first highlight some reasons why having your own chess clock is beneficial. Second, we’ll help you decide which chess clock is right for you by concentrating on 5 criteria to make a fully satisfactory choice on the right chess clock. Finally, we’ll present you with 3 of the best chess clocks on the market in our opinion.
Why Buy a Chess Clock?
“The fact that a player is very short of time is, to my mind, as little to be considered as an excuse as, for instance, the statement of the law-breaker that he was drunk at the moment he committed the crime.” – Alexander Alekhine
There is a big difference between playing under time pressure and just playing for fun, being able to think about a move as long as you want. Chess clocks were used for the first time at the strong London 1883 chess tournament, by the best players of that time such as Zukertort, Steinitz, Chigorin, Winawer, and Blackburne. Today, chess clocks are used in almost every chess tournament.
That said, time pressure has become a third opponent we all face. Whether a seasoned grandmaster or a beginner to tournament chess games, we all have to be conscious of the clock.
A brilliantly played game is overshadowed by simply running out of time, and such is the cold, harsh reality of the sport. Just as in a game of soccer, when the final whistle blows, it’s game over – no more time to find an equalizing goal! It is difficult to say how much attention one should dedicate towards clock management, but managing your time is part of the game and should be treated as a real enemy. A player who loses on time while ahead mountains of material on the board should ask the question ‘why did I take so long to make those moves?’ It is just as risky to play too slowly as it is to play too quickly.
You do not only need your own chess clock in order to play games against your friends, but also for effective chess training. If you often use a chess clock when training in chess, it is very likely that you’ll become a better tournament player soon.
The reason for this is that the differences in skill and playing strength between players are not only determined by the potential performance level and decisions each individual player takes, but also by the time a player needs to reach this level and to make the decisions. As the time to make a move in a tournament is limited, it is recommended for chess players to put themselves under pressure from time to time at home and simulate tournament conditions.
For example, you can set up a difficult chess puzzle on the chess board, give yourself 15 minutes on the clock and come up with a definite decision on which move you’ll play. Another training method is to play training games or to play out training positions with a chess clock. Of course, training games will never be the same as real tournament games. However, if you take them seriously and concentrate when you play them, they can give you a valuable insight into your strengths and weaknesses.
Collecting serious playing experience is absolutely essential for improving your skills. If you love a little exciting competition, a chess clock is an indispensable tool for your training.
What Chess Clock is Right For You?
Selecting a chess clock that’s right for your personal needs does not have to be difficult. Here’s some guidance to help.
- Is the chess clock for home, or for travel?
Your first decision when it comes to choosing a chess clock is whether you want to travel with it or not. Most likely, you won’t want to be carrying an expensive wooden analog clock around while you are on the road.
Portable chess clocks are likely to be less beautiful – the high-end clocks are more suited to stay in the home. You can, of course, have more than one chess clock – a bigger, more expensive one for the comfort of your own home, and a smaller, more austere one for when you are on the road.
- What materials do you like?
Look at other people’s chess clocks, decide upon your preferred material, and how important this is to you against other factors when you choose a chess clock. Usually, the most attractive material is wood.
However, wood is generally more expensive, and are also less durable – a wooden chess clock can get scratched. Still, this shouldn’t be a problem if you don’t travel with your clock. On the other hand, plastic is relatively cheap and very durable, but it feels mass-produced and less authentic. Again, it’s a trade-off.
- Button type: Is this chess clock for playing or mostly for design?
If you are looking for a chess clock for the home, you will need to consider the question of aesthetics versus practicality. If you want to play with your clock often, the buttons should be easy to press. Small and hard to reach buttons can result in a loss of precious time during a chess game.
- Clock type: Analog or Digital?
The difference between analog and digital chess clocks has a huge impact on accuracy and aesthetics. Analog clocks have a “flag” that falls when one player’s time has expired. One major drawback of an analog clock is that they are less accurate. You can’t always see exactly how many seconds you have left. This can be especially problematic in blitz chess. You don’t know if you have 45 seconds left or only 15.
Moreover, you can’t use an increment on analog clocks as additional time per move cannot be added. However, if the clock is mostly for decoration, an analog chess clock might be preferred because of aesthetic reasons.
- What is your budget?
Chess clocks can be expensive, but they do not have to be. As already mentioned, factors such as the material and the design will influence the price of the clock. People spend thousands of dollars on other hobbies – think how much golf clubs and sports cars can cost – but it is very rare for even the most expensive chess clocks to cost more than a few hundred dollars.
Chess is a time-intensive hobby, and it can be worth the extra cost if a nicer clock like a wooden chess clock gives you a lot of pleasure.
How To Choose The Best Chess Clock – Top 3
DGT chess clocks are user-friendly and offer all the features chess players need to have a lot of fun together. You can choose from a ton of different time controls from 1-minute bullet to 5 minutes blitz to 60 minutes games and more. The most popular game modes are included as presets, so you don’t have to change the mode manually all the time. Moreover, they are the official clocks of the World Chess Federation (FIDE).
The clock has a large display and large buttons – exactly what a regular tournament player needs. It is light in weight and thus can be used for both, home and travel.
Another good clock we can recommend is the Easy Game Timer digital chess clock from DGT Projects. The clock is not too expensive and is easy to use and to set up. It looks stylish and can be programmed for all relevant time controls, even for games up to 9 hours and 59 minutes. Moreover, it can be used for both countdown and count-up starting from zero.
It is an ideal clock for chess beginners and chess players that are budget conscious and do not need the advanced features offered on more expensive models. It is very attractive and is manufactured by the leader in digital excellence, DGT Projects.
You might be surprised that there are chess clocks in the form of an app. Digitalization makes it possible. The reason we included an app rather than a third physical chess clock is simple. Speaking from experience, it often happens as a chess player that you’re not at home when there is a possibility to play a game. In such spontaneous situations, even if you have a chess clock at home, you usually don’t have it in your pocket.
Chess Clock is a chess app offered by chess.com.
If you meet a chess friend in order to play some games but don’t have a chess clock at hand, you can use this great chess app on your smartphone or tablet to play under time pressure and collect serious playing experience.
You can choose from tons of different time controls from 1-minute bullet to 5 minutes blitz to a lot longer time modes. Moreover, the app allows time controls with increments, so that after each player makes a move, he has an extra amount of time added to his remaining time. Finally, the chess clock’s buttons are easy to read and press. The chess clock app is available for Android and iOS.
Concentrating on the 5 criteria presented in this article will help you to find the best chess clock for your personal needs. However, having your own chess clock is only half the story to becoming better in dealing with time pressure. If you’re looking for a world-class training course on the art of decision-making and eliminating time trouble, we’ve got a special deal for you.
GM Francisco Vallejo Pons – one of the world’s top 50 players with a Super-GM rating of 2707 – has created a unique chess video series on exactly this topic. Armed with Paco Vallejo’s valuable advice on how to avoid time trouble, eliminate blunders and recognize the critical, game-winning moments, you’ll be ready to outplay even the strongest players in the heat of the battle. Click here to get your copy with 35% off.
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