Forum Archive : Tournaments

Clocks--Should they be part of the game?

From:   Kit Woolsey
Date:   14 June 1995
Subject:   Re: more clock scenarios

Robert Koca wrote:
>     Suppose I am playing in a clock match and have the advantage
> in time and feel that I have faster hands. It would be to my advantage
> to not cube a gin racing position in order to magnify my time
> advantage. I feel this would border on poor sportsmanship. Is there
> currently a rule about being forced to accept a resignation for maximum
> you could win? In a clock match I think there should be.
>     Conversely should I be allowed to claim a win as soon I reach
> a gin position?  If answered that must accept resignation in above
> scenario seems should answer yes here. If answer is yes, how would rule
> be implemented? Should there be a penalty for wrongly claiming that a
> position is gin?
>     I favor the use of clocks but scenarios like these should be
> ruled on before they occur in a tournament.

These are excellent points.  There are many other ways to take advantage
of the clock when playing in a timed tournament.  For example if you have
plenty of time left on your clock but your opponent does not, you might
choose to steer into a more complex position where the game is likely to
take more moves.  Or you might refuse to turn the cube (when your
opponent has a clear pass, you have no real gammon threat, but nothing
bad is likely to happen immediately) in order to chew up a few more
precious minutes.  Imaginative players can find several other ways to use
the clock in order to increase their advantage.

One form of backgammon, which can be quite interesting, does put a
premium on time.  It is called speedgammon.  The usual rules are a
5-point match with each player having 9 minutes on his clock.  If your
flag falls, you lose regardless of the state of the match.  There are
some other rules involving fouls (things like illegal moves which would
take time on your opponent's clock, etc.).  There is often a side
speedgammon tournament at major tournaments.  It can be a lot of fun,
plenty exciting, and any legal ploys which take advantage of the clock
are clearly called for.

For regular tournaments, the real question we want to address is:  Should
the clock be a major part of the game.  In chess, it is.  It is quite
common for a player who has the advantage on the clock to steer for a
more complex position (even if it involves making a less sound move) in
order to create problems for his opponent who is already in time
pressure.  In backgammon, the clock was first introduced just for the
sake of speeding up the very slow players so they wouldn't disrupt the
tournament by taking too long to finish their matches.  There are two
main reasons why I don't think it is good idea to use the clock to
determine the results of backgammon matches:

1) In chess, you can effectively pace yourself.  Normal tournament play
is something like 40 moves in 2 1/2 hours.  If you choose to spend 2
hours and 20 minutes on your first 20 moves, leaving yourself with only
10 minutes for the next 20 moves, at least you know what you are doing
and can play the next 20 moves at the necessary pace.  In backgammon,
this doesn't work.  Obviously you can't have the same structure of X
moves in Y minutes, since the pace is too fast for anybody to keep a
record of the number of moves made.  Also, you just don't know how long a
backgammon match will be.  It might be a few games if the cube gets high,
or it might be many games.  Also, any individual game my be quick or may
last over 100 moves if it turns out to be one of those marathon games.
Thus, if you are using a clock it is impossible to pace yourself properly.

2) In chess, it is possible to play virtually instantaneously if
necessary -- in fact, masters do this in a time scramble -- they can make
a move and hit the clock in a fraction of a second.  Thus, even if they
are under real time pressure with only a few seconds remaining on the
clock they can still squeeze out a bunch of moves if necessary.  You
can't do this in backgammon.  Regardless of how fast you are trying to
play, it still takes time to shake the dice, see the roll, move the
pieces, pick up the dice, and punch the clock.  In fact use of the clock
encourages players to inadequately shake their dice in order to speed
things up, as if this isn't enough of a problem already.

So, what is the solution?  We still need to speed up the slow players at
tournaments, but use of the clock the way it is used in chess tournaments
can lead to some very unfair situations and encourage players to try to
win with the clock rather than by playing good backgammon.  I don't think
we want this.  My proposed solution is as follows:

Initially give each player a specified time on his clock to complete the
match (say 1 hour for an 11 point match, for example).  If a player runs
out of time, a monitor is called over.  From then on, the player is
required to make every move in 10 seconds -- if he does so there is no
penalty, but if he fails to do so he loses the match.  These are the
advantages of my suggestion:

1) The match will not be decided by the clock.  Any player can find a
reasonable (if not best) move in 10 seconds, so the final result will be
a backgammon result and not a clock result.

2) There is no longer any incentive to maneuver to take time from your
opponent, since you will not directly gain even if his flag falls.

3) The very slow players will be forced to speed up, since they will not
want to have to make a move every 10 seconds if they can avoid it.

4) The problem of those 12 hour matches (yes, this has happened before in
major tournaments when one or both players is extremely slow) will no
longer exist since the players will be forced to eventually play at a
crisp pace.

5) If you have a really difficult decision you can take the necessary
time to solve it without dangerously handicapping yourself later in the
match due to the clock, since having to play the last couple of games at
10 seconds a move is not the end of the world.

Did you find the information in this article useful?          

Do you have any comments you'd like to add?     



Adjusting to face-to-face play  (Paul Epstein+, Feb 2006) 
Adjusting to face-to-face play  (Daniel Murphy, June 1999) 
Avoiding disputes  (Kit Woolsey+, Oct 2007)  [GammOnLine forum] [Long message] [Recommended reading]
Baffle box to roll dice  (Ken Bame, Mar 2012) 
Calcutta auctions  (David Moeser, Nov 2001) 
Calcutta auctions  (Roland Scheicher+, Dec 1998) 
Calcutta auctions  (Anthony R Wuersch, Oct 1994) 
Calcutta problems  (Marty Storer, Dec 2002)  [GammOnLine forum]
Clock ethics  (Patrick Gibson+, Mar 2009) 
Clock rules--Digital clocks  (Chuck Bower+, Oct 2003)  [GammOnLine forum]
Clock rules--End of turn  (Carlo Melzi+, July 2001) 
Clock rules--How do they work?  (Gregg Cattanach, Oct 2002) 
Clock rules--Illegal move  (Brendan Burgess+, Feb 2000) 
Clock rules--Why forfeit instead of penalty points?  (neilkaz, Sept 2010) 
Clocks and older players  (Stick+, July 2010)  [Long message]
Clocks--Arguments against them  (Timothy Chow, Jan 2011) 
Clocks--Common arguments against  (Chuck Bower, Feb 2006)  [GammOnLine forum]
Clocks--Losing on time  (Jason Lee+, Mar 2004) 
Clocks--Pros and cons  (Michael Strato+, Jan 2004)  [GammOnLine forum]
Clocks--Should they be part of the game?  (Kit Woolsey, June 1995) 
Clocks--Why use them  (Stick, Jan 2011) 
Compensating for byes  (Hank Youngerman+, Dec 1998) 
Factors that affect attendance  (Stick, Oct 2009) 
"Fighter's bracket"  (Chuck Bower+, Sept 2010) 
First backgammon tournament  (Mislav Radica+, May 2007)  [GammOnLine forum]
First backgammon tournament  (Ed Collins+, Dec 2006) 
Hedging  (Jason Lee+, Apr 2009) 
Hedging  (Marv Porten+, Feb 2009)  [Long message]
Hedging  (Tad Bright+, Jan 2003)  [GammOnLine forum]
Hitting clock instead of rolling  (Bob Glass+, Mar 2010) 
Keeping score during a match  (Gregg Cattanach, June 2007) 
Links to tournament rules  (Daniel Murphy, Oct 2009) 
Major tournament attendance 1998-2008  (Daniel Murphy, July 2008) 
Making notes during play  (Randy Pals+, Aug 2008) 
Manually recording a match  (Kevin P+, Apr 2007)  [GammOnLine forum]
Manually recording a match  (gammonus+, Feb 2006) 
Manually recording a match  (Daniel Murphy, Aug 1999) 
New U.S. Rules  (Gregg Cattanach+, Dec 2007)  [GammOnLine forum]
Newbie questions  (Donald Kahn, Oct 1999) 
Playing at Monte Carlo  (Achim, July 2007)  [GammOnLine forum]
Playing-off 3 remaining players  (Gregg Cattanach+, Apr 2007)  [GammOnLine forum]
Recording matches  (Robert Maier, May 2009) 
Recording matches  (Chuck Bower+, Sept 2003)  [GammOnLine forum] [Long message]
Recording matches  (Sean Dakin+, Aug 1999) 
Round robins  (Hank Youngerman, Nov 2001) 
Rules for doubles play (with a partner)  (steve+, May 2012) 
Seeding  (Roland Scheicher+, Dec 1998) 
Skill level  (Kirk J. Rupnik+, Nov 1998) 
Skill levels  (Leonardo Jerkovic, Aug 2012) 
"Stop pots"  (Chuck Bower+, Sept 2010) 
Swiss format  (Osman Guner+, May 2001) 
Swiss format  (Osman Guner, Oct 1998) 
Swiss format  (Hank Youngerman+, Mar 1998) 
Tournament formats  (MikeMadMonk+, May 2003) 
Tournament rules  (Daniel Murphy, Apr 2001) 
Tournament rules links  (Daniel Murphy, Oct 2009) 
Types of events  (Daniel Murphy, Nov 1997) 
Uniform rules and procedures?  (Michael Crane+, Mar 2003) 
Variable side pools  (Art Grater+, July 2011) 
Vegas trip report (fall 2004)  (Gregg Cattanach, Nov 2004)  [Long message]
Vegas trip report (spring 2005)  (Gregg Cattanach, May 2005)  [Long message]
Videotaping matches  (André Nicoulin+, Nov 2000)  [Long message]
What is a "Monrad format"?  (Daniel Murphy, Sept 2000) 
What is a "side pool"?  (Daniel Murphy, Nov 1997) 

[GammOnLine forum]  From GammOnLine       [Long message]  Long message       [Recommended reading]  Recommended reading       [Recent addition]  Recent addition

  Book Suggestions
Computer Dice
Cube Handling
Cube Handling in Races
Extreme Gammon
Fun and frustration
GNU Backgammon
Luck versus Skill
Magazines & E-zines
Match Archives
Match Equities
Match Play
Match Play at 2-away/2-away
Opening Rolls
Pip Counting
Play Sites
Probability and Statistics
Source Code
Strategy--Bearing Off
Strategy--Checker play


Return to:  Backgammon Galore : Forum Archive Main Page