Saturday, May 10, 2014

Clock Move: A rumor that almost became a rule.

Some thoughts: 

"Clock move” is a silly rule sometimes used in blitz or bughouse. Touch move is a great rule.

The only imperfection about touch move is that sometimes kids lie about it. Also sometimes a kid will come “close" to touching a piece and the opponent will overreact. But this happens rarely, and it is usually done by really young kids or beginners.  

I feel silly calling clock move a “rule” because I have never seen it officially acknowledged in any rule book or rule list. 

It is a new “rule.” While I don’t know the history of the “clock move” rumor, I do know that the chess clock hasn’t been around for that long. 

I’m pretty sure "clock move" was invented by a weak chess player and it got popularized by weak chess players until some stronger chess players were forced to play this way.  

In clock move, a player can place a move on the board. It’s not official until the clock is pressed. There is no touch move. There is no “I took my hand off the piece so it is complete” rule. The move is completed only when the clock is pressed.

Think about how this compares to touch move… think about how annoying it would be if your opponent is trying out random moves on the chess board and taking it back. What if your opponent has a very good move and you are hoping he doesn’t see it. He plays it on the board. He takes it black, plays a blunder, just to mess with you, then he plays the good move that you were hoping he wouldn’t play? How annoying would that be? Even if your mind is a fortress, and this doesn’t get an emotional reaction out of you, it’s still kind of annoying that your opponent is wasting time and perhaps being unethical with these theatrics. 

Of course, you can complain that your opponent is abusing a rule to be distracting. Like if my opponent touches a Rook on a1 when it can’t move, and he keeps on doing it to annoy me, I can complain to a tournament director. But still… this clock move rule just creates new complicated ways to be annoying. A good rule (like touch move) minimizes problems for the players and referees. 

Clock move encourages people to 1) Calculate less 2) Annoy their opponents more.

By the way - I use the word “annoying” because USCF has a rule that literally says: “Annoying behavior is prohibited.” 

In "clock move,”  a player benefits by placing just one move on the board before pressing the clock. It makes a variation a lot easier to calculate. It makes it a lot easier to check for blunders. If you really think about it, it is smart to “think” this way if your goal is to win that particular chess game.

Fact: There are 3 popular ways to play chess. Touch move. Not Touch Move  (move is complete once you take your hand off of it). And clock move. It is weird that I only see touch move and clock move… and not the other option (which, in my opinion, is so much better than clock move, but still worse than touch move). 

I have played a lot of people in blitz who blunder, then take it back before hitting the clock. When I play against someone who plays this way, I have to put on a “poker face” whenever I see my opponent blunders… until the clock is pressed. It’s very annoying. 

I heard, recently, that USCF changed their official blitz rules so that it is touch move. I never even knew “clock move” was officially recognized anywhere, so I was surprised to hear that USCF had to “change” their rules. It’s more likely that they just clarified that there is no such thing as clock move. And I’m glad they did this (but against, I have only heard about this and I will check up on this later). 

I played against thousands of people in blitz, and I would say 80% of my opponents assumed it was "clock move."

When I was a beginner, I played in a weekly chess club that had a blitz tournament, and it was touch move. At this time there was also a World Blitz Chess Association (WBCA) that had a magazine subscription, rating system, and a list of rules. WBCA rules were to play touch-move. So I was lucky enough to only know about touch-move. Later I learned that a lot of people play “clock move.” 

When you play a game… it is best to assume it is touch move in the same way you should assume you are not allowed to touch the ball in soccer, or that you are “out” when hit by a dodgeball. There will always be people that touch pieces and deny it, in the same way one denies behind hit by a dodgeball.

If you are a chess purist, and you naturally play touch move, unfortunately you might want to ask your opponent, before the game starts, if you are playing touch move. It is sad that one should ask this question. I personally avoid asking this awkward question, and just play touch move, while my opponent plays clock move (even though it gives me a disadvantage). And honestly, I don’t remember the last time I touched a piece then regretted it. 

There aren’t that many blitz tournaments, and when there are, they are usually “just for fun.” If it isn’t awkward, you might want to ask if it’s touch move or not. If it’s a major blitz tournament, the rules should be posted. 

One last point: It looks really pathetic when you blunder your Queen, then try to take it back saying “I thought we were playing clock move.” I can’t believe that I see this happen so often. 

Touch move is the best!