The clock is a part of every player’s chess game experience that makes the thing complete. Proper usage of the clock is a skill that every player should know at some point, including which one do you press it with.
Do you press with the right? Do you press with the left? or are there any indications that dictate which one should you use?
As stated by Fide article 6.2, a player must press his clock with the same hand with which he made his move. Failure to comply may be up for some disciplinary action.
Now, it seems that it is too much to administer any penalties for such a light offense. And would it even be considered an offense in the first place? On what grounds is this rule made of?
That is what we are going to discuss thoroughly today, let’s begin.
Is there a rule that dictates what hand should the chess clock be pushed?
Yes, there is a fide rule applied in tournaments that dictates what hand should the chess clock be pushed (Fide article 6.2).
I have already briefly stated above that there is an actual rule to this, but we need more context.
So what is the entirety of this regulation? Here, read it in detail:
Fide article 6.2. A player must press his clock with the same hand with which he made his move. It is forbidden for a player to keep his finger on the clock or to ‘hover’ over it.
The fide article (6.2 in this case) is a well-respected content of the fide handbook, which is an official harbinger of the laws in chess.
Any suggestion and adjustment made by this international regulation are recognized as the “real rule” that should be implemented with the game moving forward.
So I am not making this up, you will receive a warning and some penalties by breaking this rule. It’s better for you to train in getting used to this idea to avoid issues in general.
And unlike some less relevant regulations (that are sometimes overlooked) this is strictly implemented even in lower tournaments. So don’t think this doesn’t apply to your level of play.
Why is hitting the clock with the same hand not allowed?
This may look like a hassle that is not necessary for the chess game at play. But believe me this has very important implications to avoid cheating that can come with the chess clock.
A timeout can draw or even win a completely losing position as explained by my other article. Regulating things like which hand you can hit the clock with is important.
Hitting the chess clock with the opposite hand is forbidden since such may be used to push the clock before the move has resolved.
One player can hover his or her (other) hand over the clock while moving the pieces, which may be used for untimely speed in the range of play. But what if both of the players do the same (hover the hand to the clock)? It will surely cause trouble for participants (there’s a higher tendency of pushing the clock before playing a move).
It will be complete chaos by doing this, chess should be played with finesse not who runs out of time first. Plus, such speed produces a sort of intimidation/provocation that may affect games.
This again should be a separate issue of chess playing that is supposed to not be a factor in play. Direct psychological provocations are extremely discouraged and may even be grounds for ethical interventions.
Such behavior may cause a lot of unnecessary disputes which this category can fall into. It is just much easier to prevent such mechanisms from being possible in the first place.
Anyhow, the issue of “players hitting the clock before a move has resolved” is especially problematic in time troubles. When there is time pressure people are more likely to press the clock more than they should.
And it will be harder to regulate this (since time troubles are played so fast) that it might change the result in a way that cannot be overturned. Sounds pretty unfair does it?
After all, nobody wants to deal with multiple disputes played with sometimes thousands of participants where you will review every game. And only if there are cameras, it is hard to confirm anything when the action is fast and the player’s feelings are at their peak.
Time scrambles are more frequent and faster than you think, I’ve seen top players gain time through increment than lose it (since it is so fast).
Team fights too are another format that is especially reliant on this rule in keeping everything in order. Teammates are usually placed side-by-side by each other where a player may push a teammate’s clock.
The point is you are more likely to pay attention to where you push if you can only use one hand, the limitation gives that extra attentiveness. You will definitely pay more attention to where you press lifting some hassles.
This may scale from a little annoying to something that would change some game’s outcome (especially if the time control is short). It is just more convenient to let the participants respect the clock indirectly.
Now I know that this is not the primary objective of this regulation (for team chess) but it definitely serves around that purpose.
If you can only use one hand the errors are significantly reduced even in one on one matches. This already tells you how this regulation can be useful to the chess experience in general.
Who decides where the chess clock (which would be pushed) gets placed?
Now, we know that you will push the clock with the same hand you move the piece with. But how do we determine the chess clock’s placement?
After all most people are right-handed, and the one that has the clock on his right side will have the advantage (since they can press more easily). While the one with the left (unless they are left-handed) will have a more difficult play.
The arbiters will get to decide where the chess clock should be placed at the start of each game. If not, it is customary that the black side will get to choose which area the clock should reside.
There is a rule addressing this very issue (Fide article 6.4). I’m posting it here:
Fide rule 6.4: Before the start of the game the arbiter decides where the chess clock is placed.
There are no guidelines that the arbiter should follow in deciding where the clocks belong. It may be an organizational thing, where perhaps the sets are grouped more conveniently in a way that it is easier distributed.
Take note though that the arbiters are not obligated to do this, there are definitely cases where the players decide for themselves. In these cases the black user can decide where the clock to be pressed will be located.
It is more of a policy than a mandatory one but should definitely be followed nonetheless. The black user can complain to the arbiter if they didn’t get the side that they want.
There are no penalties for this but is just a good practice that chess players follow. After all white inherently has the advantage of being able to move first, this privilege is a mediator that balances things off.
We don’t want to give too much advantage to a one side since chess is in pride, considered an equal game. This sort of benefit for playing black (placement of the clock) makes it so that the incentives are distributed between two colors.
Usually, the clock is placed to the right of the black pieces since the player is likely to be right-handed. Of course if black desires it to be on the left side that should be followed.
While doing this the clock is placed on the left of white (since there is a symmetry) that somewhat reduces pressing capabilities. This is why you should practice pushing the clock even if it is on your far side.
You will play the white pieces too at some point, and you should be prepared for extra movements.
Will you practice pressing the clock with the same hand you’re moving the pieces with?
Getting used to this is definitely changing from someone who’s not familiar with such ideas. When we play informally we just go with our dominant hand without thinking much about it.
Especially for someone who’s not used to the presence of a clock, this adds an extra burden that will have to be overcome. This is true at least for me when I’ve just entered my first tournament.
I had a “cold feet” syndrome (or cold hand I say) from this since every move appears to be very important, which it is. It only took me a minute or two to get used to it, so I think you’d be the same. Sleep well and play chess.