Player forgets to press their clock

I often get the question from players as to what they should do if their opponents forgets to press their clock. The 2021 FIDE Arbiters Manual states the following:

“Normally, when the player forgets to press his clock after making his move, the
opponent has the following possibilities:
(a) To wait for the player to press his clock. In this case there is a possibility to
have a flag fall and the player to lose on time. Some may think that this is quite unfair,
but the Arbiter cannot intervene and inform the player.
(b) To remind the player to press his clock. In this case the game will continue
(c) To make his next move. In this case the player can also make his next move and
press his clock. If the game is played with move counter active, then one move has been
missed by both players”

Perhaps adding a “TD Tip” in the US Chess rulebook after rule 5H, “Pressing the clock”, on this subject would be beneficial. I don’t like option c in the FIDE Arbiters Manual since not only is the move counter going to be off if the clock is set with the move counter on, both players will also miss getting one moves worth of increment if the game is being played with increment. How about something like this:

TD Tip: If a player forgets to press their clock, the opponent may remind the player to press their clock but are not obligated to do so and can simply wait for the opponent to press their clock. Flagging after forgetting to press the clock is a legitimate loss on time. A player should not press the opponents side of the clock in this situation.

I will point out that FIDE’s English grammar is better than yours. “His” (or, if you want to be inclusive, “his/her”) is the proper pronoun here, not “their”. Every instance of “their” in your proposed TD Tip should be replaced by “his” or “her” or “his/her”.

Other than that, I really have no problem with FIDE’s version of the rule. I consider move counters irrelevant, and the missing increment is less important than one might think. Under alternative “a”, the player who forgot to press the clock would be likely to lose more time by that omission than he would by missing an increment. By simply moving (with or without pressing the clock), you are most likely saving him time. As for your own time, your move was made with the opponent’s clock running, so unless you were going to move quickly enough to gain time, it isn’t hurting you either. This is one reason why I prefer delay to increment, though (another is that gaining time is unnatural). Missing a delay is, in practice, generally less serious, since delays are generally much shorter than increments. FWIW, in this situation, I usually do “b”, or occasionally “c”. Although “a” is legal, I consider it dishonorable and would be ashamed of doing it, especially if my opponent is in time trouble.

While some colleagues I respect take this view (including one I very highly respect), I have no issue at all with this remedy when a player has clearly failed to press the clock, particularly if correctness of a move counter is involved.

A player who deviates from fundamental procedure should expect his opponent to act in any reasonable manner in response to the deviation. Ensuring the accuracy of a move counter or increment accrual is reasonable.

It is also entirely reasonable to let the opponent’s clock run. That is the course of action I almost invariably take.

Balderdash. Your opponent is responsible for pressing his clock. Period.


True – that’s why it’s legal. But I would get absolutely no satisfaction out of winning a game in this fashion. And let’s suppose we’re in the opening, with neither player anywhere near time trouble. I have better things to do than to sit there for an hour waiting for my opponent to realize he has forgotten to press his clock. Why not just remind him and get on with the game? It just seems like the most sensible thing to do.

On several occasions, I have had opponents do “a” when I forgot to hit my clock. I didn’t think any less of them for doing so – my only emotion was embarrassment over having forgotten to press the clock. But I would be ashamed to use this option myself. It feels dishonorable to me.

Note: If I observed this happening as a TD, my lips would be sealed. It’s entirely up to the players to resolve this situation.

How does one know when his opponent has determined that he does not wish to offer a draw along with the move he has just determined?

Alex Relyea

Uh, because he didn’t? The context of the situation indicates that some time has passed between the move and the opponent’s desire to reply. If you are mulling over how to handle a non-punch, more than enough time has taken place for the hypothetical draw offer. I’d say by taking an option other than a, you’ve just declined the hypothetical draw offer!

Language evolves over time, and ‘their’ in a singular context is becoming more commonplace, especially but not exclusively in non-binary situations.

Yes, I actually encountered that in a poetry magazine just the other day, where the author credits used “his” or “her” for most people, but used “their” for two “non-binary” (i.e., transgender) authors. Even in that context, where it was obvious why they did what they did, I found it jarring. “Their” is an inherently plural pronoun, and just looks/sounds wrong in a singular context. In the current context, my guess is that Micah found “his” discriminatory, and “his/her” awkward (especially when used repeatedly), but IMO either is better than “their”. It just looks wrong.

I haven’t looked at a middle school or high school English text in years, but I strongly suspect that most of them nowadays would endorse the concept of using “their” in the singular to avoid the possible sexism of “his” or “her” as well as the awkwardness of “his or her”. And this is likely the case no matter whether the situation is binary or non-binary.

We old fogies who find singular “their” jarring (and I’ll admit that includes me) will just have to accustom ourselves to the new way of thinking.

Bill Smythe

One way to finesse this issue is to alternate using “his” and “her”, assuming of course that you’re going to need to use more than one pronoun. Either that or rephrase to avoid having to use either “him” or “her”. But “their” used as a singular pronoun? I’m sorry, but that’s just wrong. If that makes me old-fashioned, so be it.

I agree. In this case, I’m not sure any pronoun is needed. Couldn’t all references to the clock simply say “the clock” rather than “his” or “her” or “their” clock? After all, there’s only one clock, and it’s implicit which side of the clock is being referred to. If I talk about a player forgetting to press the clock (or hit the clock), everyone knows what I mean.

I don’t like option (c) either, for those exact reasons. But I also don’t like leaving the situation up in the air.

First, FIDE should add another option:

b To make his next move, then immediately press first the opponent’s clock and then his own. This action corrects both the move count and the increment time for both players.[/b]

Then a TD Tip could read:

TD Tip: A player who chooses option (d) is advised to do so only after giving the opponent a reasonable opportunity to press the clock, and only when it becomes obvious that the opponent has, indeed, forgotten to do so.

I don’t see why this matters. If the opponent was considering offering a draw, he can simply offer the draw again – with or without making his next move.

If the opponent was considering claiming a draw, based on the previous position before the first player’s just-made move, then the arbiter can rule that the draw claim is in order, and settle the draw claim based on said previous position.

Bill Smythe

I see if I can reword the sentence so that “their” refers to multiple people.

maybe it’s just me but i would never, ever press my opponent’s clock under any circumstance. i make a motion to the clock to indicate it needs pressed. and will do that once, maybe twice. but, have been known to indicate more than twice if my opponent is a “newbie”.


So what do you do, then, when the “maybe twice” or “more than twice” is used up? Either you’d have to sit and wait, possibly winning the game by time forfeit, or you’d have to keep reminding him ad infinitum. Neither of those options is attractive to me.

I would grant you that simply pressing only your opponent’s clock, long after he has moved, may not be such a great idea. For one thing it would confuse him. Making your move without pressing either clock is not so great either, as it would throw off the move count and the increment.

But if you wait until you are ready to move, then make-your-move-press-his-clock-press-your-clock all in one rapid motion, you won’t be doing anything your opponent isn’t expecting. He probably won’t even notice the extra clock thump. He’ll just notice that you moved, and that his clock is now running, and he may even notice that his increment or delay is now counting down, and he’ll feel back in sync with the world. And you’ve saved him an embarrassing time forfeit.

I would suggest, though, that this action be taken only after the opponent’s body language indicates he thinks he’s finished moving and he’s waiting for your move. Perhaps a wait of at least 10 seconds would be appropriate.

Bill Smythe

One issue with making a motion (or just letting the clock run until you move) is that the player may think it is their turn again and make a move (particularly if the person is new enough to not be used to the clock).

Generally, I try to indicate that my opponent’s clock button needs to be pressed, usually by pointing at the clock and/or whispering to him. If that doesn’t work, I would simply make my move (as soon as I have decided what move to play) and press my clock button (I realize this has no effect if his side of the clock is already/still running, but it gives him an extra visual indication that it’s now his move). As I have indicated in previous posts, I don’t care about the move counter or the increment (if it’s my clock, there will be no move counter set), so that’s not an issue for me. Pressing his button seems overly anal (note: I can be pretty anal at times, but this is too much even for me), and is not something I would ever do. To me, it would feel as inappropriate as writing moves on his scoresheet.

Well I don’t see a problem with doing a quick tap, tap if we’re using a delay to get the move counter correct. This is important in two time control tournaments. (Yes they still exist.) And it reminds the player to push their clock. I usually whisper to him what I’m doing and why. They’ve always agreed.

Question for you aficionados, if using an increment time control, won’t you be short one move’s increment if your opponent doesn’t press his clock?

A week ago I moved and got up to get some water. I came back to the board and, as my clock was running, I attempted to figure out what my opponent’s reply was. After a long time, maybe ten seconds, I glanced over at his scoresheet to see what he had written, and the last thing was my move. I checked the position more, then finally pressed my clock.

It may not have been entirely my fault. I’m not sure which clocks I was using, but in at least two or three rounds I had tremendous physical difficulty stopping my clock, like my press didn’t register about half of the time.

Alex Relyea