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Chapter 14: Clocks


“Time goes on crutches ….”

Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing

The Club began with hour-glasses but has been using clocks for the past 120 years. For much of that time it has been abusing them. Theft was the worst offence: in 1985 a lockable cabinet was made by Carl Nater to safeguard clocks as well as trophies. The unfailing popularity of lightning chess during the last 60 years has meant that we have suffered from the Battered Clock Syndrome. Some players (even in leisurely games) think that giving the poor clock a good slap signifies, not boorishness, but brilliance. Many sensible players have thought that no clock is safe in anything below five-minute chess.

Time and again the Committee has come to the defence of its clocks. In 1987 it prohibited the use of clocks for one-minute chess and introduced a fine of One Dollar for clock abuse in lightning tournaments; repeated abuse was to result in an outright ban on using Club clocks. On the move to Fitzroy in 1990 the Committee made a by-law against the use of clocks for anything less than five-minute chess and empowered any of its members to fine for clock mistreatment, and the AGM discussed “the eternal problem of damage to clocks through misuse”. Two years later the Committee re-affirmed the rule that clocks were not to be used for under five-minute chess. By 2004 the Club was discussing the relative merits of digital and analogue clocks, while 120 years before the choice had been between hour-glasses and the new-fangled chess clock. Technology had made its strides, but not human behaviour. For the 2004 debate centred around clock mortality and lightning chess.