Friday, June 17, 2016

DGT960 Chess Clock Review

Thanks to it's folding nature, the DGT960 chess clock takes up a fifth of the storage space of the old reliable Excalibur Game Time II

  When I started my youth chess tournaments in West Des Moines in late 2010 I had enough chess sets for a hundred players but only a half dozen clocks in various states of repair and disrepair. Hardly any players brought their own clocks and I would hold off on using my few clocks until I could identify the slowest moving games in each round at which point I would give these slow moving games a clock with at least 10 minutes per side.

  This was my way of keeping the tournament moving but not especially satisfactory. I bought a few more clocks here and there and in the fall of 2010 bought 12 Excalibur Game Time II clocks from American Chess Equipment. I kept these clocks in as good condition as I could by only using them for tournaments and storing them in their boxes when not in use. I chose the Excalibur clock because they were inexpensive, easy to set and use, and seemed quite durable judging from how many players I knew that owned them for many years. In the succeeding tournaments I was able to have a clock on almost every board from the beginning of each round which made the tournaments a lot classier and made my job as a tournament director easier since I didn’t have to think about which boards were going to need a clock.

  Last fall I was ready to get some new clocks so I went online looking to get more of the Excalibur Game Time II clocks but found out that the Excalibur clocks were not available. I have found some snippets of the company declaring bankruptcy in 2009 but nothing definitive except that ‘Yelp’ reports the company headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida as closed.

  With no Game Time II clocks available I was on the lookout for a different brand of clock. I wanted clocks that were durable, easy to set, and allowed for a delay. Eventually I settled on the DGT960 folding chess clock from digitalgametechnology.com. The clocks had the features I needed, were relatively inexpensive, and could be folded into a box which I assumed would help their durability.

  I ordered 10 of the DGT clocks earlier this year and finally used them in my April youth tournament. The 10 clocks took less room in my car than two Excalibur clocks. I was able to set the clocks from the instruction guide easy enough using the middle button of the clock to get into ‘clock set’ mode and the surrounding directional ring button to set the time, delay, and type of delay. Even though the DGT960 clock is a fifth of the mass of the Game Time II, when unfolded it take up a little more surface space.

When opened for use the DGT960 takes up slightly more real estate than the Game Time II but not nearly as much height which makes it perfect for long narrow caves...

  The clocks worked just fine for the tournament. The kids liked the black and red colors and I heard no complaints. As a tournament director I had a couple of quibbles. There was no move counter on the clock which meant that if the game was in a state where one player was checking the other over and over because they couldn’t execute a checkmate I had to hang around the game and count moves instead of relying on the Game Time II’s built in move counter. My other quibble was that the angle of the DGT960 made it difficult for me to see the board and the clock at the same time. These were minor issues and like I said the clocks were fine for using at my youth tournaments.

  When I headed up to Okoboji this year I put a few of the DGT960 clocks and some Game Time II clocks into my box of tournament directing stuff because there are always those few people that don’t have clocks so having some loaner clocks is a useful extra although I don’t think I’d lend anyone my clock at a tournament in New Jersey. As it happened I did need to loan someone a clock during the first round before the blitz tournament. Without thinking I pulled out a Game Time II from by box. This got me thinking about the features most players’ clocks possess and where the DGT960 stacked up.

  One area the DGT960 falls well short of most other clocks is the lack of a way for the player to see if it is their move from across the tournament room. The Game Time II has a white stripe under the button you press after your move and when it is your move the stripe can be seen from a long distance. I only stay away from my board during a tournament for two reasons. One reason is when I’m so disgusted with my play that I can’t stand looking at my position. The other reason is when my opponent drifts into some sort of trance like state and uses gobs of time. When that happens I try to get away from the board so as to not disturb my opponents reverie. If I was using the DGT960 I’d have to get close to the table to see if it was finally my move and risk reminding my opponent that he was in fact playing a timed game. Most clocks have a LED light or lever that can be seen at a distance but not the DGT960.

  A feature the DGT960 has that I haven’t seen before on other clocks is the source of the ‘960’ in the clock’s name. Chess 960 (aka Fisher random chess) allows the rearrangement of the back row of pieces in one of 960 different combinations). The DGT 960 uses the bottom row of its display to pick a random or selected 960 position, showing a bare bones LED display of the 8 pieces arranged on the back row as well as the ‘960’ numbered designation for the starting position. This is all nice but the display is distracting if you aren’t playing Chess 960. Luckily the display is turned off with a press of the 960 button on the clock’s control panel but when the clock is turned off and on (the preferred way of resetting the clock after the game), the ‘960’ piece display is back on the bottom row! The clock will remember the last clock settings and reset it for a new game but it won’t remember the setting of the 960 piece display’s visibility.

  The DGT960 seems to be perfect for the purpose I purchased it for - an inexpensive clock for my youth chess tournaments that doesn't take up a lot of room in my car. The only aspect I can't answer to is the clock's durability which will take a couple of years at least to determine. As a clock for personal use it falls far short of what I'd want in a chess clock with the exception of being small enough to fit in my pocket. Except for the Chess 960 starting position features that I don’t use I was having a lot of trouble finding an area where the DGT960 would be superior to the Game Time II or any other chess clock until I accidentally pressed the on/off button and the clock reset. The on-off button is located conveniently on the front of the clock right next to the button you press to end your move and start the opponent’s clock. It may seem like a detriment to have the clock reset during the game but what if you are in tough spot with seconds on your clock? Wouldn’t it be a shame if the clock accidentally reset…

This action-packed video shows how easy it is to open the DGT960 chess clock with one hand, how easy it is to accidentally reset the clock, and how the chess 960 starting position icons reappear after turning the clock off and on. Please send any 'hand modelling' inquiries via private email.