Forum Archive : Tournaments

Clocks--Arguments against them

From:   Timothy Chow
Date:   19 January 2011
Subject:   Why use clocks? The other side of the argument
Forum: Forums

Although I've never played in a backgammon tournament with clocks, I have
played other board games with a clock and favor clocks in backgammon
tournaments too.

However, in an attempt to give a fair hearing to the other side of the
argument, I've listed below a few old BGOnline posts that present some
concerns about clocks. The titles are my own attempt to summarize the
concern in question, rather than the original titles of the posts.

Brutal Losses on Time.  Bob Koca writes:

    There were at least two. I witnessed one just after it occurred. The
    player had about a 90% position and timed out. Complained that he
    didn't realize his time was low and that there should have been some
    warning. Appeal denied.

    The other one I only heard about. The player is down to 11 seconds but
    has an overwhelming position. The other player makes his play but does
    not hit the clock and he grabbed the dice. That incurs a 30 second
    penalty and thus he timed out. There was no disputing the facts and it
    was not a case of a fake.

Clocks should be imposed only on proven slow players.  Lenny writes:

    This year in this forum we've been told of major blowups caused by
    spilling drinks with clocks then being inadvertently left running, and
    a ludicrous argument over dice shaking which occured because clocks
    were involved.

    And those incidents don't address the unjust result of a difficult-
    decision type match being defaulted because of time controls
    inadvisedly chosen. And the ripple effect such an incident can cause.

    As to "singling out": yes, chronic slow players should be identified to
    the director community, and that's where proactive actions should be
    taken. A word to the wise would be better than a mechanical approach
    which creates a sterile and hypertechnical atmosphere.

Clocks are perceived by weaker players to give stronger players and
advantage.  Frank N Stein writes:

    One of the well-respected giants of our game has stated he believes the
    clock settings are where they need to be.   My point is this, he plays
    the game second nature and sees the board in ways I don't. He is
    capable of playing his very best and should not be concerned about
    timing out against me.

    On the other hand, in order for me to beat the giant I must focus hard
    and make sure I see alternative plays in order to make a good playing
    decision. How can I ever hope to defeat him if I do not do this? I can
    not rely on the luck of the dice to do it!

    Don't you think the giant has a twofold advantage with the current
    clock settings?  (1) He is a stronger player and in order for me to
    think things through I am prone to timing out.  (2) The giant sees my
    clock is running low and chooses to shift gears and play very
    complicated positions that he can play second nature while I have to
    scratch my head causing time to run off the clock or make blunder after
    blunder from not thinking clearly.

New ways to play unfairly that are enabled by the presence of clocks.
Lenny writes:

    Isn't it delicious that there is a cocked-dice-manipulation variation
    of the clock minefield?

      "Because then if I was low on time I would purposely cock my dice to
      finish my pip count, my match equity considerations, or even how to
      play my upcoming roll."

    Or that in one of the characteristically excellent Simborg interviews,
    backgammon's current leading citizen would volunteer as his specific
    example of unethical behavior that:

      "Some people don't tell an opponent that he forgot to hit his clock
      and they pretend to be thinking while their opponents clock is
      running. You should not take advantage of it when your opponent
      forgets to hit his clock."

One possible problem with clocks.  Bill Riles writes:

    "There was a potentially awkward clock situation in Novi during the
    Michigan Masters final between Brent Cohen and myself.  Sam had set the
    clock at the table prior to my arrival.  All the prior rounds had been
    to 11 points and the clocks were correspondingly set at 22 minutes.
    Here again, the clock was set at 22 minutes, however, the final round
    was 13 points and the clock should have been set at 26 minutes.  As it
    happens, I noticed the error when I sat down and reset the clock to to
    the correct 26 minutes.

    With Brent leading 11-9 to 13 and me involved in the backgame from hell
    (with ten checkers back and three of his home board points at one time)
    trying to win the game and, very definitely, trying to make sure to
    save the gammon/match I was also trying to further complicate the game
    as much as possible as Brent was precariously low on time.

    It was around that time that Sam realized he had wrongly set the clock
    and was unaware I had reset it.  He brought CJC to the table to discuss
    what to do.  With Brent having only 28 seconds remaining, CJC requested
    we stop the match midgame and asked us into the hallway for a private
    conversation. She explained their worry and we explained we had
    correctly reset the clock prior to beginning play.

    I appreciate the action they took. Had his time expired only for us to
    discover we had more time, the ramifications to play and result for
    both of us could have been even more substantial."
Did you find the information in this article useful?          

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



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