Forum Archive : Tournaments

Clocks--Pros and cons

From:   Michael Strato
Date:   24 January 2004
Subject:   Re: VERY short survey: Clocks in tournament play
Forum:   GammOnLine

Clocks will affect attendance of tournaments. A few tournament players
here say they won't attend clocked events. Why do something that kills
the game?

Clocks are a hassle to use. If there's only a FEW players out there
that are slow then why should ALL players have to use a clock? If two
or three people are coughing, should we make everyone take some cough
medicine? If I play fast, and I do, why do I need the annoyance of
having to remember to punch a clock after every move? It's just a
nuisance that will affect my concentration on the game.

Finally, clocks are an added expense.

Directors need to resolve the problem of slow players and should be
pressured to. They should first threaten, and then force slow players
to use a clock. I bet they'll play faster next time.

Neil Kazaross  writes:

I favor the use of the clock for advanced level BG tourneys. However,
many players don't want to use a clock at any level so this is a
sticky issue. Slow play sucks, pure and simple. In nearly every ABT
tourney there always are one or two players who hold up the event due
to their plodding play. These problems are compounded by directors and
staff members who (for the most part) are far too unaggressive in
putting a clock on, or otherwise speeding up unreasonably slow players.
Most of us know who the slow players are, and yet, some directors don't
do much about them.

I propose clocks not be used for most matches and reserved only to speed
along and prevent rediculously slow ones which delay the event's progress
and create an unpleasant atmosphere for many players who wait a long time
for the following matches.

Chuck Bower  writes:

> Why should everyone have to use clocks when only a few matches need
> them?

Objectivity, for starters. No one wants to be singled out and have
special rules applied because of a perceived condition. More
bothersome is when an individual player upon his own whim is allowed
to influence director's decision to use a clock, allowing selective
clock usage to gain extra advantage. If everyone is clocked from the
beginning, then there can be little concern over objectivity.

At most tournaments there aren't that many staff to be watching
everything, and often staff members aren't even regular players.
Further, waiting until there is a time problem on a match is too late.
The damage has already been done. I've seen matches put on the clock
that still caused 30 minutes or more delay for that round.

Kit Woolsey  writes:

Why play with a clock? Because the mechanics of using a clock are much
less likely to lead to a dispute than without a clock.

With a clock, only one set of dice are in play. The roller shakes and
rolls the dice, makes his play, and then punches the clock which stops
his clock and starts the opponent's clock. The opponent then picks up
the dice, shakes and rolls, etc.

This procedure eliminates almost all of the common situations which
lead to disputes. Consider the following:

1) A player rolls the dice, makes his move, and starts to pick up the
dice. At this point he sees a superior play which he overlooked. He
claims that his dice were still on the table, while his opponent
claims that the dice were up. Who is right? When is the move
officially complete? With a clock, there is no possible room for
dispute. If the player has punched the clock, the move is officially
complete. If he has not, the move is not complete. There can be no
question as to whether or not he has punched the clock. If his clock
is running, he hasn't punched it. If his clock is not running, he has
punched it.

2) A player rolls his dice, plays a 5-3, and scoops the dice up. His
opponent screams: You rolled a 4-3. Who is right? This can be a
problem even between completely honest players, since anybody can
misread the dice. And if one of the players is not completely honest
and is looking for an angle, this is a perfect way to get one. With a
clock, this problem is eliminated. The player making the move doesn't
touch the dice after they are rolled. If his opponent disputes what
the dice roll was, the dice are still sitting on the table for all to
see. Once the non-roller picks up the dice, that of course condones
the play. However, the non-roller doesn't have to stop his opponent in
the middle of the move in order to make sure that number rolled on the
dice is the number played.

3) A player rolls the dice, and one of them lands near the edge of the
board. He makes his play quickly (it was a favorable roll), and scoops
the dice up. His opponent screams: The dice were cocked. Were they?
The evidence is gone. With a clock, this doesn't happen. The dice are
still on the table until the non-roller picks them up. If the
non-roller thinks they are cocked he has time to say so without
breaking his opponent's wrist, and if necessary a director can be
summoned to judge whether or not the dice are cocked -- and the
director can look at the actual position of the dice rather than
having to rely on somebody's word.

4) A player rolls the dice, makes his move, and as he is reaching for
his dice he has second thoughts. His opponent is impatient and rolls
before the dice are actually picked up. Does the roll count? Doesn't
this give the initial roller a fielder's choice -- he can see if the
roll is good or bad for him. If it is good, he picks up his dice. If
it is bad, he leaves them on the table. And, of course, the opponent
may claim that the dice were picked up. With a clock, this problem of
tailgaiting does not exist. Your opponent can't shake and roll his
dice while you are completing your move, since he doesn't have the
dice -- they are in the center of the board. The worst that can happen
is that the opponent can pick up the dice before you have completed
your move, but if he does this you have plenty of time to tell him to
put them back before he can shake and roll them.

5) A player makes his move. His opponent starts to shake, and then as
he realizes (or thinks he realizes) that the previous move was
illegal. What exactly is the statute of limitations on calling illegal
moves anyway? With a clock, this is not a problem. When the opponent
picks up the dice, that action condones the move. If you believe your
opponent has made an illegal move, you simply let the dice sit on the
table and you can do what you wish. The statute of limitations is
clearly defined as when you pick up the dice.

6) A player who is on roll reaches for the cube to double, touches it
perhaps, and then has second thoughts. Did he double? At what point
does the turn of the cube become official? It isn't clear. With a
clock, it is clear. If the player has punched the clock, his double is
official. If he has not punched the clock, his double is not official.
Once again, the evidence of whose clock is running is indisputable.

In my years of playing backgammon, I have seen all of the above
disputes occur several times. As discussed, use of a clock would
eliminate them. That has to be worth a lot. In addition, there is the
question of cheating via dice manipulation. Fortunately this doesn't
appear to be too much of an issue today (it was a much bigger problem
20 years ago), but it can still happen. It is far more difficult for
the potential cheater to manipulate the dice when he is sharing the
dice with his opponent than when he has his own set of dice.

If I am playing in a tournament where clocks are an option, I will ask
to use a clock even if I am playing against another fast player (I
play very quickly myself), so I know that the match will be finished
long before the time limits. The mechanics of playing with a clock are
simply so much better than playing without one.

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) 

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