This, from Competitions Secretary, Mike McNaughton:
At a recent Committee meeting, Bob made the suggestion that digital clocks should be made compulsory. He said they are always used in the British Championship.
Well, that's as may be, but I can recall a fiasco at a British Championship which was held in Southport some time between 1983 and 1986. The organisers, bless their little cotton socks, had decided that digital was the future. All the clocks for the Championship proper were to be digital. Ta-ra! The beginning of a new era! You remember, Harold Wilson, the white heat of technology, or words to that effect.
What happened was that competitors, to a man, refused to use these digital dervishes after the first few rounds, and they had to revert to analogue.
That wouldn't happen now, of course. But I remain worried about them. It's not the cost; there is little difference between an analogue clock and a simple digital model (although I suppose that 4 x £25 at a time of austerity is something that most clubs would not welcome). I suppose it's just that I've used analogue ever since I was in nappies. Just one look at an analogue clock will tell me at once what I need to know, whereas with a digital I have to think about it. Only for a few seconds, of course.
But I suppose the juggernaut of technology will steamroller on, flattening everything in its path. There will come a time (I won't see it, thank goodness) when people of my age will solemnly tell the younger generation, "In my day we used to use analogue clocks" and be rewarded with a disdainful stare from the young whizz kids. As a matter of interest, Norfolk has now introduced a rule change about the use of digital clocks; in effect it means that if the home team provides a digital clock the away team has no right to object (eat what is set before you, so to speak).
So I suppose, when I start pushing up the daisies, that digital will become the norm. But please please please, the Suffolk League is not the World Championship, and even for a time trouble freak like me, nanoseconds aren't all that important. Can we, at the very least, ban fancy time limits like Fischer, time delay, Bronstein and Lord knows what else (except by prior agreement between the players). We don't want or need clocks which flash, light up, and sing Nessun Dorma when the time control is reached.
Perhaps the way forward (assuming the clubs want a way forward) is to agree a protocol for the use of digital clocks so that clubs can replace their analogues over a period of time, and pay £25 or so for a new digitral clock (more or less what you'd pay for a basic analogue) as their old clocks wear out. Players will gradually get used to digital, and eventually an analogue chess clock will make its appearance in the British Museum in the section, 'Stone Age timing devices'.
Thankfully I won't be around then.
Ed - Thanks Mike for this article, which was written a few months ago and was destined originally for the Suffolk Chess Journal. Let's see some responses from you the readers!
All Suffolk players will wish to send Mike our deepest sympathies for the recent loss of his wife, who died in the USA after a long illness.