Forum Archive : Tournaments

Clocks--Why use them

From:   Stick
Date:   18 January 2011
Subject:   Why use clocks?
Forum: Forums

Since I'm incapable of understanding why a tournament would chose to be run
without clocks for any reason other than not having a clock supply, I offer
up another try to encompass all post about clocks.

The main objective of using clocks is to avoid slow play. Slow play even by
one individual can bottleneck a tournament. I remember in a previous post
here on BGO where an ABT tourney had 33 entrants so there was non clocked
anti-bye round. These two individuals apparently thought they were out for
a Sunday drive and their 9 point match ended up taking 3 and a half hours!
Now one of these slowpokes had to advance and this entire scenario tore up
the tournament making it less than enjoyable for many players who were
forced to wait for matches, forced to play late into the night, forced to
get less sleep, all because two donkeys played like molasses. There have
been many other horror stories about non clocked matches.

I am not suggesting we've found the perfect time settings to use. In fact,
these settings can vary widely depending on the event in question. Since
the main purpose of clocks is to avoid the brutality of slow play and
hampering the flow of a tournament, some tournaments such as Monte Carlo or
4 day weekend tournaments may be able to use and get away with a looser
time control than your standard weekend ABT event. In this post I will be
talking mainly about your status quo ABT event.

The weekend ABT event has serious time constraints and it is where I see
the most possible benefits from clock use. The tournament doesn't usually
start til Saturday and there is a lot of play on that day. Then Sunday
people are rushing to make flights or get home early. Even on extended
weekend tourneys there's still a time press and I believe these tourneys
would be much better served implementing clocks.

As of now I am also only suggesting mandatory use for the main Jackpot
(Masters) event, the Open or Main division, and doubles. This isn't because
I don't think intermediates or beginner players wouldn't be able to handle
clocks once they became accustomed to them or that they wouldn't improve
their playing experience in some respect either, it's because these
divisions/events (side events) don't generally have the ability to ruin
everyone's good time if a match is slow. Also, we currently don't have
enough clocks in circulation to clock everything. If everyone got on board
with clocks I'm sure there would be a nice spike in clock purchases or even
a fundraiser giving the money to various TDs or an organization like the
USBGF to purchase clocks and make them available at all the tournaments.

Here are some positive aspects of clock usage:

* They allow a tournament to run smoothly. Both the tournament staff and
  players involved in matches now have a reasonable ballpark of how long
  matches will take. Most matches will finish within a given time frame and
  players won't be waiting around excessively long amounts of time. This
  should self monitor players dragging out matches and affecting the rest
  of the tournament. People shouldn't have to play matches so late in to
  the evening nor be forced to get up early and lose sleep because they
  were unable to finish matches the night before.

* Clocking these main events allows for more free time in general. This
  free time can be used to run more side events and create more revenue for
  the tournament running the event. More free time will also give the
  players time to socialize after their matches and not during. These
  weekends are mini social vacations for a lot of people. We go to them in
  hopes of breaking even but we really attend because we love the game and
  enjoy the company of many other people attending.

* With clocks comes 1 set of dice which also contributes greatly to the
  overall playing experience. With 1 set of dice many disputes can be
  avoided. A perfect example can be seen in diagram #1 below.

* One set of dice also eliminates fast rolling and needless shaking of
  dice. Your opponents are on a clock and they know it. When it's their
  turn to roll they are no longer going to sit there for what seems like an
  eternity trying to figure out their good rolls are, what they're rooting
  for, what their absolute worst roll is, they're going to roll, period. It
  also eliminates the annoying habit some of my opponents seem to have and
  that's shaking their dice while it's still my turn. Once they roll they
  aren't going to take the time to set up every silly play they know they
  aren't going to make and aren't really thinking about anyway.

* Clocks level the playing field for all involved. My opponent has the same
  amount of time as I do from the start of a match. You aren't likely to
  get in to a war of the donkeys as I've referred to before that I
  witnessed between Bob Koca and Chris Yep in an unclocked match. I was
  watching this thing and I swear I aged 3 years while this match went on.
  I have no idea who was playing slower but each player involved felt like
  the other player was taking more than his fair share of time. To counter
  this he made sure he took an extra bit of time time on his turn! And the
  snowball turns into an avalanche.

* I am not worried about cheating but using 1 set of dice does reduce the
  probability of a dice cheat being successful. One of the main weapons of
  a dice mechanic is being able to swap out the dice. If every time he
  touches the dice you have your eyes both on him and them, it's less
  likely to occur whereas if you both have your own set of dice he can
  switch them in and out a lot easier when you're making your plays. Also,
  if he manages to insert a die containing an extra 5 and no 2 for example,
  you will get to use that die also and there's a higher probability of you
  (or someone else) noticing it.


        13  14  15  16  17  18      19  20  21  22  23  24
       |                     X |   | X   X   X   X   X     |
       |                     X |   | X   X   X   X   X     |
       |                       |   | X                     |
       |                       |   |                       |
       |                       |   |                       |
       |                       |   |                       |  O rolls 6-5.
       |                       |   |                       |
       |                       |   |                       |
       |                       |   |     O   O   O         |
       |                     O |   | O   O   O   O   O   X |
       |                     O |   | O   O   O   O   O   X |
        12  11  10   9   8   7       6   5   4   3   2   1

Scenario #1.  You are playing with two sets of dice. Your opponent rolls
what you see as a 65 but wait! He picked up his dice and is waiting on you
to roll. He claims he rolled 66, now what?

Scenario #2.  You are playing on a clock and with one set of dice. Your
opponent rolls the same roll. Regardless of what is rolled there is no way
this dispute shouldn't be easily settled. If your opponent rolled 66 as he
believes he hits his clock and the dice are still on the board. If he
rolled 65 and hits his clock thinking he rolled 66 the dice are still on
the board. Either way the dispute is settled without calling a TD over,
getting a ruling that is based on who knows what. All you have to do is
point to the dice in the clocked version.

Why are some backgammon players against modern delay clock usage? I really
can't figure it out. I understand it's something new and some people are
set in their ways but that's not a good argument about something that adds
so much good to the game and has, as far as I can tell, virtually no
downside. (minor notes of the scant negatives will be made shortly)
Everything else on this planet is clocked. In professional pool do you
think you can sit there all day and figure out every which way to run out
the table and choose which suits you best? In tennis do you think you're
allowed infinite time to serve? In chess, a game that is supposed to take a
lot of time, they still clock it to make sure nobody keels over before the
match is finished. If it's your turn to bowl do you think you can step on
the approach and play with your balls all day you pervert!? Scrabble?
Clocked! Go? Clocked! In poker you even have a limited amount of time to
act, I'm sensing a theme.

The possible cons of clock usage that have been brought up are people may
shake the dice less and plunk their rolls more. By 'plunk' I mean not
allowing their dice to tumble freely out on to the board. This would
certainly be a concern if it happened, esp. on a regular basis. I could see
this as a concern as a player gets low on time but I have yet to witness
anyone 'scoop and dump'. I have seen players low on time shake much faster
but they still shook them an ample amount of times and they launched their
dice on to the board instead of plopping them down.

In a recent article in the Chicago Point Bill Davis came after clocks
amongst other things. I am only going to refute that argument by again
linking to the original retort it in this post. Since Bill nor anyone else
ever addressed my post I will take that as the anti clockers agreeing with
what I said in that post until someone speaks up and tells me otherwise.

In a 1993 issue of Inside Backgammon Nack Ballard leads off his article
"It's About Time!" with this:

> In recent discussions, I've discovered that many backgammon players find
> a large percentage of their matches to be intolerably slow. In fact, I
> can't imagine getting interested in tournament backgammon again unless
> something is done about the time control. How can we speed up matches,
> but in a way that is fair to both players?

I think we found the answer.

Did you find the information in this article useful?          

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



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