What Is The Clock For In Chess?

One thing about chess that many players take for granted nowadays is the chess clock!

Chess has been around for such a long time, and as such it’s probably surprising that chess clocks as we know them didn’t come into development until the late 1800s.

Nowadays, they are a vital part of the toolkit for many chess players!

What Is The Clock For In Chess?

What Is A Chess Clock?

Chess clocks are really important pieces of equipment for many chess players.

They allow the measurement and tracking of time across a game, and are a vital part of many tournaments for one simple reason – they give a way to enforce a fair time limit for a game!

This is really important because without a way of putting a time limit on players in a game of chess, there’s no way of telling when a game could end. Indeed, games could potentially go on for days or weeks if players are allowed to use as much time as they want to plan their moves out.

After all, if there’s no advantage in making moves quickly, players are incentivized to play as slowly and thoughtfully as they can.

This might make for really intense games in the players minds – but it’s unrealistic to have such lengthy games at a tournament.

So, for the sake of actually finishing games in a timely fashion, a time limit has to be enforced. Chess clocks are how these time limits are imposed on players!

Chess clocks have been around for a very long time now – since the 1800s, in fact. Indeed, they were invented for the very purpose of speeding games up.

Chess clocks typically have two faces, one for each player. PLayers will have a set amount of time each to make their moves.

During each players turn, their clock counts down from this set amount of time.

Once they’re finished with their move, they press a button on the clock and the counting down stops on their side – and starts on their opponents side.

Each player takes turns making moves like this, with their clock counting down the whole time. Oh, and the final thing about time – if you run out of it, you lose the game!

So, not only does this speed games up, but it also forces players to think more quickly – which arguably makes them better chess players in the long run!

What Are Chess Clocks Used For?

As previously mentioned, the primary use of chess clocks is to ensure that games actually end in a timely fashion!

Without any restrictions at all on time, there’s nothing to stop a player from taking as long as they want to make a move. This can frustrate their opponent, of course – and in extreme cases can ruin games.

Not just that, but having no time limit on games makes tournament play difficult to say the least.

Tournaments must of course run to a schedule, and so it’s essential that these chess matches have a strict time limit.

What Is The Clock For In Chess?

PLayers also use them as a way of speeding their chess games up, and making them more exciting!

Chess players will often find that games without time limits not only drag on, but also don’t excite them as much as games that force them to make decisions quickly.

Playing with time restrictions means that players not only have to make good decisions, but also have to learn how to make them quickly.

And, of course, having a restriction on the length of chess games means that players actually get to play more games of chess!

Rather than spending all day and night on a single game (which can easily happen if there are no restrictions on move length), a shorter time allotment can mean that players get to play many games instead of just one.

For those who like chess, playing more games is surely a great thing!

Does Every Game Of Chess Need A Clock?

No, not every game of chess needs a chess clock. One of the great things about chess is that it can be played with only a board and pieces!

Well, in fact, higher level players can actually play a game of chess entirely in their heads – but most of us will need at least something physical in order to keep track of the game.

Chess can be played perfectly well without a clock, for many reasons. For one thing, not having a strict time limit isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and doesn’t have to lead to games that drag out for eternity.

Most casual players of chess don’t use chess clocks – but instead use gentlemen’s agreements to ensure that moves and games don’t go on for too long.

Simply having an agreement at the start of the game about not taking too long over moves is often sufficient for many players.

And, the prospect of a game that doesn’t have a known end time can also be something that many players like – assuming, of course, that they have enough time to actually finish it!

And, of course, there’s the argument that for many players having a game end by timeout simply isn’t satisfying at all, either to win or lose!

While it’s a great idea in circumstances where games simply need to end at a certain time, it can also be a far less fun way to play if the time limit restricts the fun the players are having.

Of course, players can use chess clocks without being overly draconian about them. Really, outside of tournament play, the game is run however the players say it is.

For some, using a chess clock makes the game better – for others, it’s not something they feel they need.

Still, chess players should get used to using both ways to play, as there are positives to both!


Chess clocks are great tools for many chess players. However, many chess players also get on perfectly well without them.

Whether you play with a chess clock or not, hopefully this guide has helped you to learn something about them!

Jenna Ostria
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