Just the Rules: Case Studies in Forgetting to Press the Clock

There is no such thing as reality. There is only perception Gustave Flaubert.

CASE 1

YOU: Great, my opponent made a move — well, they grabbed a piece from one square and let go of it on another one. But their clock is still counting down their playing time. Why is their clock still running? Why don’t they just press their clock to complete their move? What could they possibly be thinking about? Should I do something here? Ok, just this one time.

THEM: I made my move. My opponent’s reply is forced. It is hard to believe that their next move is taking this long. Why is my opponent pointing at my clock? Are they trying to distract me? OH NO!! I forgot to press my clock — they are reminding me! That was nice of them.

TJ Says: This is probably the most common practical non-rulebook solution when an opponent does not press their clock.

 

CASE 2

YOU: Hmmm… my opponent seems to not have pressed their clock again. That is the same thing that happened a couple of moves ago. They probably just forgot — again. I will, as quietly as possible, remind them to do so.

THEM: Aw crud?! I better press my clock and not make that mistake any more. I am glad my opponent reminded me — again. I should apologize to my opponent. After all they could have just ignored my oversight and let me lose playing time — which might cost me the game at some point?!

 

CASE 3

YOU: I have reminded my opponent several times to press their clock after their move. This is getting silly. I have to stop doing that. It is not working; they haven’t started pressing their clock on their own. If they lose on time, it is their own fault.

THEM: Wow, my opponent is taking a long time to calculate a reply to my last move — say what? My flag fell? I lose?

 

CASE 4

YOU: My opponent has forgotten to press their clock. I don’t want to win by making a time-forfeit claim. I know their clock is running; however, I can work out my response on their time, then make my move on the board, and finally, I will pretend to press my own clock.

THEM: Oh good, they moved. I’ll think about my reply — got it! I need to make my move and press my clock.

OR An Alternate Response…

THEM, Alternate Response: Whoa, I forgot to press my clock, but my opponent made a move anyhow. They can’t do that — it is still technically my turn! Doesn’t that cheat me out of my increment? I need a TD to solve this problem.

 

CASE 5

YOU: It is obvious my opponent has forgotten to press their clock. I’ll make my reply on the board anyhow, press their clock, and then press my own clock. That should get the move counter (and increment time) back in order!

THEM: What’s wrong with my opponent? They have no right to just press, or even touch, my clock — no matter what! Where is the TD?

TJ Says: It is probably better to get your opponent’s permission before you try this. Otherwise you risk the possibility of some unneeded wailing and gnashing of teeth.

 

CASE 6

YOU: I can see that my opponent made a move, but their clock is still running. If I am patient their time will run out. I can simply sit here and then make a time forfeit claim, all according to the rulebook.

THEM: I lost on time because I forgot to press my clock?! I know my opponent has no rulebook obligation to remind me to do that; however, ????...

 

So, what do you do when your opponent does not press their clock?

 

The free, updated US Chess Rules (Chapters 1+2 + 10 +11 from the 7th edition rulebook) are now downloadable and available online. Past “Just the Rules” columns can be viewed here. Plus listen to Tim when he was a guest on the US Chess podcast “One Move at a Time.”


Tim Just is a National Tournament Director, FIDE National Arbiter, and editor of the 5th, 6th, and 7th editions of the US Chess Rulebook. He is also the author of My Opponent is Eating a Doughnut & Just Law, which are both available from US Chess Sales and Amazon/Kindle. Additionally, Tim recently revised The Guide To Scholastic Chess, a guide created to help teachers and scholastic organizers who wish to begin, improve, or strengthen their school chess program. Tim is also a member of the US Chess Rules Committee. His new column, exclusive to US Chess, “Just the Rules” will help clarify potentially confusing regulations.

Comments

You didn't answer your last question there.
Maybe: What Should you do when your opponent doesn't press their clock? I think I'll download the free rules book. Thank you for all your hard work.

If it's my chess students in practice then I let it run down. I'm tough on them like that. 😁. In a tournament game I may let the clock roll a few seconds then do a little pointy finger.

Regarding your Case 5, or at least the sub-variation of it where my opponent has already failed to press his clock many times, and I'm getting tired of reminding him:

Letting my opponent's clock run while I am considering my next move, and then finally making my move, then pressing first his clock and then mine in rapid succession, is highly unlikely to elicit the response you describe (yelling about rights and demanding the TD).

An opponent who repeatedly forgets to press his clock is almost certainly not observant enough to even notice what I did. He is probably not even looking at the clock, and the two clock thumps he hears will merge in his mind into a single normal clock press.

Problem solved, no fuss no mess.

Then there is the rare case where an opponent makes a move and after seeing it on the board realizes there may be a three-fold repetition or 50-move rule, and thus hasn't pressed the clock yet because of the possibility of making such a claim during the same move.

Making a move may obscure a valid claim or may be considered disturbing a player during the player's move.

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