Watching tournament and competitive club play, players playing black sometimes switch the clock to their dominant side before the game starts without asking.
Presumably, having the clock on your dominant side compensates slightly for losing the first-move advantage because it makes it easier to operate the clock for you, it makes it harder for your opponent if they have the same dominant side as you, and it may serve as a small psychological crutch — particularly during blitz games.
But FIDE’s Laws of Chess state that:
6.4 Before the start of the game the arbiter decides where the chess clock is placed.
Additionally, I’ve seen Black switching the board around before either player has sat down so that they get the view of the room they prefer. IM Jeremy Silman even gives this tip in his “Psychology” section of The Complete Book of Chess Strategy:
If you’re playing outdoors, don’t forget to face your opponent towards the sun (it worked five hundred years ago and it will still work today)!
Which must be a reference to this quip:
Sit your opponent with the sun in his eyes.
— Ruy Lopez, 1561
- As black, will I get in trouble for moving the clock before the game without asking?
- As black, is it an acceptable practise to ask to trade seats?
Answers can refer to casual play, club play, and tournament play.