Which chess clock should a tournament player buy?

Recommendations from Portland Chess Club TD and board member Micah Smith

Virtually every tournament these days is played with one to three time controls and has an increment or delay of up to sixty seconds so you should get a clock that supports these features. For time controls with delay, it’s important for the clock to show the delay time in some fashion, either through a delay countdown and/or Bronstein delay, so you can tell exactly how much time you have for a move if you are low on time.

I think the Omcor GT960 is one of the best digital clocks and a steal for the price. This is the clock the PCC provides several of at all of it’s tournaments. It supports all the features mentioned above and supports the following nice features: 1) You can always tell exactly how much time you have remaining for a move when using delay, which is nice if you are low on time, since the clock shows the delay countdown and base time simultaneously when using the countdown form of delay (also known as simple and US delay) and supports the Bronstein form of delay. 2) It has the option of a move counter for increment time controls. 3) Except when using the countdown form of delay, it shows seconds at all times. 4) When using increment, it automatically gives the increment for move one (under US Chess and FIDE rules you get the increment for move one unless it’s stated otherwise. For example, for G/3;inc2 each player starts with 3:02 on the first move. Not all clocks automatically give the increment for move one but the Omcor GT960 does). 5) It has a Chess960 starting position generator. 6) Has timing methods used in other games such as Go and Scrabble. There are a few important things to know about setting the clock. 1) When setting the clock for a single time control with increment (which the clock refers to as bonus and Fischer) or delay using a manual setting, after setting the hours and minutes of base time for one of the players, the next screen that comes up may seem like this is where you set the increment or delay but this is where you set the seconds on the base time. Only after setting the hours, minutes, and seconds of base time for each player individually do you get to the screen where you set the increment or delay individually for each player. 2) When setting the clock for a multiple time control with increment, options 19-23 only have increment on the sudden death time control. To have the increment on all the time controls, which is now standard, use options 29-31. When setting a multiple time control using a manual setting, you set everything in the first period before setting everything in the second period, etc. In the first period you set the base time for each player individually first (in hours, minutes, and seconds) and then the increment or delay for both players simultaneously, if you are using one of the settings that has the option of having increment or delay in the first period. If using option 31, you then set the number of moves in the period. If you want the move counter turned off, set the number of moves to zero. You then set the base time on the second time control simultaneously for both players followed by the increment or delay simultaneously for both players, if you are using one of the settings that has the option of having increment or delay in the second period. When setting a multiple time control with options 31, 35, or 52, you repeat this last step for the third period as well as the fourth period for options 31 and 35. If there is no third or fourth time control, set everything in those periods to zero. 3) The clock is preset to beep during the last five seconds of each time control when using the countdown form of delay so remember to turn the beep off each time you use one of these settings or just use the Bronstein form of delay.

If you don’t mind spending more, then I would recommend the VTEK300 which I consider to be the best chess clock. While it’s currently the most expensive clock, you get free shipping on it in the US if you buy it from the companies website, visual-tek.com. The company also plans to regularly update the clock with new features and anyone who buys the clock gets one upgrade where you only have to pay for shipping. Besides the Chess960 starting position generator and the timing methods used in other games, the VTEK300 currently has all of the features the Omcor GT960 has that are listed above and has the following extra features. 1) It has the ability to show tenths of a second. 2) It has the option of a move counter when using delay. 3) When using the move counter the number of moves made is always displayed on the screen except when it’s showing the delay countdown. 4) It shows seconds at all times when using the countdown form of delay. 5) You can check anytime during a game that the clock was set correctly at the beginning of the game by pausing the clock. 6) It’s preset to not make any sound don’t have to remember to turn the beep off when using the countdown form of delay. 7) You can save a lot more time controls and there are a lot more commonly used pre-set chess time controls. There are a few important things to know about setting the clock. 1) The Bronstein form of delay is found under and increment setting in the preferences so when using increment make sure “Fischer”, not “Bronstein”, is selected. 2) Make sure you have the tenths of a second turned on for the end of the time control in the time format option in the preferences, otherwise if a player gets below one second but still has some tenths of a second left it will look like the player has run out of time since the clock will just show “0:00” (and it can be beneficial to have the tenths of a second on for the end of the time control anyway). 3) When using increment or Brostein delay, make sure you have the clock in the FIDE mode as this is the only mode that automatically gives the increment or Bronstein time for move one.

In short, if you want a cheaper chess clock but one that is still very good, get the Omcor GT960. If you want the best chess clock and don’t mind spending more for it, get the VTEK300.