Lightning chess

Lynne Murphy m.l.murphy at SUSSEX.AC.UK
Tue Feb 5 17:18:50 UTC 2008

For what it's worth...the same clocks/timers are used in matchplay
Scrabble, in which each usually gets 25 minutes per game.  We call them
'clocks' but the most popular brand in Scrabble is the SamTimer
(<>).  Still, at the beginning of a round at a
tournament, the director calls out "Does everyone have a
clock...board...opponent?", not "timer...board...opponent".  Those who
don't have SamTimers generally have analog chess clocks.  (Since SamTimers
are made for Scrabble, they come pre-programmed with 25 minutes per side,
but they are reprogrammable, so could be used for games of any length--and
any game.  I don't know why Sam doesn't try to market them to chess

There is 'lightning'-type Scrabble, in which the time is limited to 5
minutes or less, but I've never heard it called 'lightning Scrabble'.

More than you wanted to know about the world of competitive Scrabble, no
doubt.  It has copied quite a bit from chess, though--including the
four-digit rating system.  (Though the UK rating system is different.)


--On Monday, February 4, 2008 12:26 pm -0800 Benjamin Barrett
<gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM> wrote:

> I'm pretty sure that is called a clock, though your word makes more
> sense. The clocks I always played with did not have the reset mechanism,
> but we smacked the buttons pretty hard.  :) BB
> Wilson Gray wrote:
>> Not a clock. A timer. A player makes his move and smacks the top of
>> the timer with the palm of his hand to reset it for his opponent's
>> move. I assume that the top of the timer has some mechanism that
>> supports this. I've never really looked at it, having no personal
>> interest in this version of the game
>> -Wilson.
>> On Feb 4, 2008 2:49 AM, Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at> wrote:
>>> I have to admit, I haven't ever seen such a clock.
>>> The only chess clocks we could afford kept track of the overall time,
>>> not the time for each move.
>>> I do use byo-yomi, basically a form of per-move timing, when playing go,
>>> but do so over the Internet with computers keeping track of per-move
>>> time. BB
>>> Wilson Gray wrote:
>>>> Interesting. My experience agrees with AHD4. I've never played it
>>>> myself, but I've seen it played by others - I had a roommate who was a
>>>> player - and a timer was used to ensure that moves were made within
>>>> the time alloted. Most players made their moves in about three
>>>> seconds.
>>>> -Wilson
>>>> On Feb 3, 2008 11:32 PM, Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at> wrote:
>>>>> The AHD4 says that "lightning chess" means "A form of chess in which
>>>>> each move must be completed within a very short time, usually ten
>>>>> seconds".
>>>>> When I played lightning chess in the early 1980s, we played with a
>>>>> maximum of five or ten minutes per player, not with a set time per
>>>>> move. Wikipedia ( confirms
>>>>> that playing with time per player is not the most common form of
>>>>> lightning chess.
>>>>> Further reference is available at

Dr M Lynne Murphy
Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and English Language
Arts B135
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QN

phone: +44-(0)1273-678844

The American Dialect Society -

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