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I'm in two minds here.

The good sportsman says you should always let your opponent know (maybe limited to once per game).

The more hard-nosed part of me says that managing the clock is part of the game and rules like anything else. If you are playing seriously then you should treat the clock no differently to for example, the 'touch-move' rule and expect no help from your opponent.

Does it matter whether one is playing a club game or a tournament with prize money at stake?

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Tell him. Do ya really want to win that bad? –  Tony Ennis Jul 28 '12 at 1:47
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Yes ofcourse. I even at one time at the US open, my opponent had 10 minutes left before he forfeited the game as he did not show up. I found and called his hotel room (the play was in the hotel itself) and he was sleep sleep. I told him he had 10 minutes before he lost the game on time. He runs down stairs and gets to the board with one minute left. I also ended up losing the game. (he was a very strong player, an IM :) –  Nasser Dec 1 '12 at 14:51
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3 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

In my personal opinion, if you have noticed that your opponent has forgotten to hit their clock, the unwritten rules of good sportsmanship dictate that you should advise your opponent of such. It can become distracting to both players, though, if you have to do this more than twice.

So the real question comes down to the legal technicalities.

Are you even allowed to make your move before your opponent hits his/her clock? The USCF rules, at least, are not very clear about this. But it does not seem to be illegal at all. Many people feel it is bad form to move before your opponent has pushed the clock, but such a rule would be unenforceable from a practical perspective.

What about in sudden death? Tournament Directors and Arbiters are generally directed to not interrupt the game to point out illegal moves when in sudden death. So even if this were a rule, it likely would be set aside in sudden death.

Other than information about time delays and time controls here is what the USCF says about the clock:

6.) Except for pressing the clock, neither player should touch the clock except:
   6a.) To straighten it.   
   6b.) If a player knocks over the clock a penalty may be assessed.   
   6c.) If your opponent’s clock does not tick you may press his side down and
        re-press your side; however, if this procedure is unsatisfactory, please
        call for a director.   
   6d.) Each player must always be allowed to press the clock after their move is made.   
   6e.) A player should not keep a hand on or hover over the clock.

Back in 2008 there was a bit of a controversy about these questions regarding the clock. For the most part things have just been left up in the air. So in summary, it is not your responsibility to advise your opponent, many people feel it is good form to do so. But if it appears that your opponent is habitually forgetting to press the click, I would just continue on with the game and not advise him or her more than twice. There is no reason that this should interfere with your enjoyment of the game and ability to concentrate. Ultimately, in the USCF, the rules put the onus on the individual to press his own clock.

Kasparov v. Karpov, 1987 (pointed out by Tony Ennis) from the AP Archives

For almost three minutes, members of Kasparov's delegation looked on helplessly as his time slowly ticked away. Under the rules, neither they nor the match arbiter could warn Kasparov of his mistake. When he finally noticed, Kasparov had less than a minute left for 14 moves. As he desperately played move after move, Karpov closed in with a crushing mating attack. "It's really a very bad psychological shock," Spanish chess writer Fernando Urias said. "Kasparov has not only lost right at the start of the championship, but he also lost playing with the advantage of white."

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I agree with pointing the mistake out being "good form". I would consider not pointing it out if my opponent had done something malicious to deserve it (such as being disruptive or disrespectful during the game). –  Daniel B Jul 27 '12 at 13:04
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Luckily I have never been in such a situation. But, I agree. If my opponent is a jerk, then it may be that we just go by the rules and the opponent gets no additional consideration from me. –  Robert Kaucher Jul 27 '12 at 13:14
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There was a Karpov v Kasparov world championship game where Kasparov forgot to punch the clock in time trouble. Karpov sat quietly letting Kasparov's time tick away. Kasparov noticed too late; when he realized what he had done he did not have enough time to make the time control. (It's amazing what you can find on the innertubes: apnewsarchive.com/1987/…) –  Tony Ennis Jul 29 '12 at 19:35
    
@Tonny Ennis, I added that anecdote. Interesting article. –  Robert Kaucher Aug 1 '12 at 13:46
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We are all humans and humans make mistakes. Including forgetting to press the clock when playing chess. Even top players. Personally, I was very impressed when I've read what Botvinnik did in such a situation.

The following is my free translation from Russian:

In Nottingham (Nottingham tournament, 1936) I didn't make any difference between my former countrymen - Alekhine and Bogoljubov (first one emigrated to France, second one - to Germany. Both were labeled as "traitors" by Soviet propaganda machine, Bogoljubov was said to be a Nazi supporter even) - and other players. During our game Bogoljubov made a move and forgot to press the clock, I instantly told him about that. "Was?" did he ask in German (unfortunately, he wasn't thinking in Russian anymore), then said thanks and pressed the clock. Perhaps, Bogoljubov appreciated my sportsmanship and in last round resisted against the Cuban grandmaster, making a draw against him, which allowed me to share the first place with Capablanca himself.

This may be from the book referenced on Wikipedia as "Botvinnik, M.M. (2000). Neat, K.. ed. Botvinnik's Best Games Volume 1: 1925–1941. Moravian Chess. ISBN 807189317.", though I've read this in a Russian book named "Analitical and critical works 1923-1941".

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¹ Don't tell him. His clock, his time-management. Especially if something's at stake.

Pressing the clock requires incredibly low skill², but do you tell your opponent every time he blunders, or is it just part of good play to never, ever make them ?

Now that most people would seem to tell me about it, I'm tempted to not press it myself, just to see them hesitate, tell me, chat as I don't seem to understand, losing any concentration they could have had on the way. That surely would be a crappy thing to do, but my point is don't let fair-play distract you from the actual game.


¹ I feel like an opinion is under-represented in here, so here it goes. Let's see what's it worth :)
² I'm not even sure you need a brain, you can probably achieve it with just practice and a spinal cord.

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