Setting our clocks

By Andrew Medworth, Club Captain
Friday 24 March, 2023

This article explains how to configure DGT 2010 clocks (the main model of digital chess clock we use) and prepare them for the most common types of event we have at Hendon. It is mainly aimed at event organisers, such as captains of home matches, or other people helping set up before an event.

It is not intended to fully replace the clock manual – rather, to provide a tailored guide to situations which are common at the club.

General introduction

The following image shows the front of the DGT 2010 clock, which will be a useful reference for the rest of this article:

The DGT 2010 chess clock
The DGT 2010 chess clock

The general function of the blue buttons below the display is as follows:

  • The “minus” and “plus” buttons on the left are used to change the number which is currently flashing on the clock screen.
  • The “tick” button on the right is used to accept the current value of that number and continue.
  • The “play/pause” button in the middle is used to start and stop the clocks once set. It can also be used as a shortcut at certain stages, to skip to the end of the setting process when you know all the defaults are correct.

The underside of the clock has a useful quick reference, with details that will help you handle situations that are not listed in this article.

Getting started

The first thing to do with the clock is to power it on; the power button is on the bottom of the clock (thus not shown in the photograph).

The first thing you should see is a flashing number. This is the basic mode number which determines the type of time limit you will be using. Some of the modes are fixed time limits (so there are no further choices to make after you have selected the mode), while others allow customisation.

For example, mode 01 is a basic blitz setting of 5 minutes per player with no increment (“5+0”, if you are familiar with online chess). If this is the setting you want, you can get it very quickly just by selecting mode 01, and then you’re immediately ready to start the game.

Unfortunately, none of the time limits we commonly use at Hendon are available as fixed presets on the DGT 2010, so we virtually always have to use a custom one. For us, the most commonly used modes are:

  • 03: Single period for the whole game with no increment (e.g. 10+0)
  • 05: One fixed period followed by a quick-play finish or “guillotine” period for the rest of the game, with no increment
  • 18: Single period for the whole game with an increment (e.g. 60+15, 10+5)

Once you have selected one of these modes, you will be asked to set the specific parameters, such as the total time and increment you want to use.

Custom modes like these require you to set most of the parameters twice, once for the left clock and once for the right clock, because in theory, you can have different settings (e.g. different amounts of time) for the two players. However, in practice, we almost never do this, so you will be making the same choices for both sides.

Once you’ve finished setting all the options and are ready to start the game, you should see the play/pause icon shown in the middle of the display. Flip the levers to the correct side according to who is White or Black, and then you’re ready for the Black player to press the “play/pause” button in the middle to start the game!

General tips

By default, the values you see when you select a mode will be the ones which were chosen the last time that specific mode was used. Often, these will be correct, because the last time the mode was used was an event of the same type as the one you are preparing for now.

However, you should never rely on this: you don’t know who last used that particular clock, or what they were doing with it. Always tap through all the settings and check they look as you would expect.

You should also test the setting, by starting the clocks and flipping the top lever back and forth a few times. For example, if you are expecting an increment of 15 seconds per move, you should expect the clocks to increase by one minute roughly every four times you flip the lever back and forth. Or if you are not expecting any increment, obviously the clocks should never increase no matter how many times you press the lever.

This also allows you to check for elementary mistakes, such as confusing hours/minutes for minutes/seconds! If you have got this wrong, then you will see the time counting down much too fast or slow.

Bad assumptions – such as thinking you have set an increment when you haven’t – can be very annoying to fix after the game has started!

If you are happy that the settings are correct, you can easily reset by turning the clock off and on again by pressing the power button twice, then pressing “tick” to select the same mode again (which should be the default since it’s the one you were just using), then pressing “play/pause” to skip the detailed settings (accepting the defaults, which should be what you just set) and go straight to the pause screen ready for the game to start.

If you accept a wrong value at any point, then unfortunately there is no way to go backwards: you have to turn the clock off and on and start again.

Middlesex League matches (with increment)

For our home Middlesex League matches, our preferred time limit is “60+15”: 60 minutes per player plus 15 seconds per move. (Please make sure this is announced before the match, and emphasize that there will be no additional time at move 30, as some League players are still accustomed to the quickplay finish time limit detailed below.)

Select mode 18, and configure a time limit of 1 hour, 0 minutes and 0 seconds. The hours and minutes are set on the first screen, and then the seconds on the second screen. You do this for one side of the clock first, then the other side.

Once this is done, you set the increment: 15 seconds for each player. Again, you do this separately on both sides.

Once you’ve done that, just give it a quick test as suggested above, reset, and you should be good to go!

This is a useful video from South Shields Chess Club showing this procedure in action. It uses the same mode 18 on the same DGT 2010 clock model, though it sets a different time limit, of 1:15 plus 10 seconds per move. But it’s quite obvious how to modify that for our situation here.

(The video also shows you how to adjust the clocks once play has started, which can be useful in some circumstances – see below!)

Middlesex League matches (quickplay finish, no increment)

Our traditional League time limit was 30 moves in 60 minutes followed by a 15-minute quickplay finish, with no per-move increment.

We no longer prefer this for our home matches, because most players find it more pleasant to play with an increment (also, people are increasingly accustomed to online time limits and 60+15 is more consistent with those). However, at the time of writing, the League rules allow either player to opt for this time limit on any board, so it’s important for home captains to know how to set it.

To start, select mode 05. First you set the time limit for the first period: this should be 1 hour, 0 minutes, 0 seconds. You set this first for one side of the clock, then the other. Next you set the time limit for the “guillotine” or quickplay finish period: this should be 0 hours, 15 minutes, 0 seconds. (For some reason this is only set on the right-hand clock, while the left hand one displays a “2”, but it applies to both players.)

After that you should be good to go.

The DGT 2010 has no built-in move counter in this mode, so the extra time will not be automatically added at move 30. There is no button the players can press to add on the extra time manually at move 30 either. Instead, the extra 15 minutes will be added to both clocks as soon as either clock has hit zero.

The key things the players need to know are:

  • If your clock hits zero, a flag will appear next to it. If this happens before you have made your 30th move, then you have run out of time.
  • Once you have made your 30th move, you have 15 minutes longer than the clock says you have, until either player’s clock hits zero.
  • At this point, 15 minutes will be added to both clocks. You can tell this has happened because the flag will appear on the first clock to hit zero.
  • From then on, the times you see on the clocks will be the time both players have for the rest of the game.

This is a common behaviour for digital clocks in quickplay finishes, which most experienced League players will be used to. However you should make sure to explain this clearly, as some players may lack experience with this type of time limit, or may be used to another type of clock (e.g. an analogue one, or a different digital model).

Some relevant pictures and explanation are available in my article on OTB chess for online players.

FIDE Open Blitz

For this event we use a “10+0” time limit: 10 minutes per player, with no increment.

For this, please use setting 03. It’s then straightforward to set 0 hours, 10 minutes, 0 seconds on both sides, at which point you’re ready to start the game.

It’s also possible to use setting 18 and just set the increment to zero. Please don’t do this, as it unnecessarily changes the default parameters in that mode, so next time we have a home League match, we will have to reset the clocks, which is more work than just accepting the defaults.

There’s no need to use an increment-based mode if you don’t actually want an increment: it’s helpful to organisers of future events to use the dedicated blitz mode. This is actually quicker for you as well, as there are fewer options for you to set and check.

FIDE Open Rapid

For this event we use a “10+5” time limit: 10 minutes per player, plus 5 seconds per move.

For this you have to use setting 18, and set both sides to 0 hours, 10 minutes, 0 seconds, and then an increment of 0 minutes 5 seconds for both sides.

This does unfortunately change the defaults for setting 18, so if someone uses that clock for a League match in future, they will have to reset it. Unfortunately there is no way around this, because both types of event require a custom increment-based time limit, with different parameters.

Adjusting clocks during the game

It is rare to need to adjust the amount of time on the clocks during the game, though it does sometimes happen, for example if a player makes an illegal move.

To do this, press and hold the “play/pause” button until the display starts flashing. Then you can move through one clock then the other by pressing the “tick” button until you get to the number(s) you want to change, then use the “plus” and “minus” buttons as normal. Once you’ve completely clicked through, you should be able to resume the clock.

Note that this does not change anything except the current clock times. If you need to switch to a different setting altogether (e.g. if you were playing without an increment but need to introduce a 5-second increment according to the quickplay finish rules) then you need to write down the clock times (including the seconds, which you can confirm if necessary according to the procedure above) and then reset the clocks from scratch using the appropriate custom mode.