The Gazette - November 2010

Sponsored by Sean O'Brien
Edited by Guy Whitehouse
The views expressed in the Gazette do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the BCA, nor those of the editor.

News on Talking Digital Clocks

As you will know the British Championship in 2010 was played with Fischer time increments for each move. This weekend I am playing in the Leek congress which will use this system.

An electronic clock for blind players is essential and in Belgrade we had a demonstration of a prototype device developed specially for the use of blind players.

It uses the FIDE approved Silver Chess Timer and was developed by that firm. Instead of creating a totally new clock, Silver provides merely a socket at the back for a plug-in device. The cable which also provides power from the clock batteries to the device leads to a simple box with four buttons and two sockets for earphone connections. This device allows both players to access audio information in English about whose turn it is to move and the time shown on each digital display.

The advantages over the Spanish audio clock are: the basic clock is familiar to arbiters and sighted players and causes no worries over its acceptability; the time information is given much more rapidly, the Spanish clock seemed to assume its users would require a slow speech delivery; the basic clock has 12 pre-set programs and one manually settable program.

Disadvantages (this one not to us): the device currently uses only English. It is not cheap. The Silver clock which is the only one adapted to use the device will cost you around £50 and the device around £80. It is unlikely that Silver clocks will allow their device to be used in conjunction with other timers. The development of the device has been done as an act of kindness and the price merely reflects the cost of its production for a small section of the chess-playing market.

The device does not currently allow a blind chess player to independently set the chess clock program without some sighted assistance.

The next stage is for the IBCA players in the FIDE Olympiad to test the device in a real tournament. If there are no problems I hope that IBCA would sanction its use in games between blind players and the device become available generally.

My overall verdict: How do I persuade my wife to buy this as a present for the next Christmas/birthday/congress after it becomes available?

Bill Armstrong.