What time control is the tournament? Tell me more about clocks!

Short Answer: 

Our time control is G/30;d5 for most sections. For our top section it is G/35;d5. You don't need to bring a clock, and there is nothing to worry about, but kids and parents worry about clocks. 
More details: 
This means game in 30 minutes, with a 5 second delay per move. A g/30;d5 game should last about an hour if it goes the longest. A 3 round tournament with "long games" should finish in 3 hours or less. Sometimes, but rarely, longer. Beginners and intermediate players usually finish in 1.5 hours or less. Usually once a week, there is one "section" where 3 games are played in under 1 hour. The kids are playing too fast, but kids will be kids. 

Draft for a very small target audience. In the future I will edit this more, and place some of the useful information in more organized spaces. I've just been having a lot of "TD Talk" and this gives me a chance to share some ideas immediately with those who are interested. 

When I write the following, I think that mainly tournament directors, and maybe a few parents, might benefit from reading this. It's a way to share some of my experience and opinions. It's mainly common sense, that some players and directors learn from experience.  The following writing conists of: quick thoughts, fun facts (in reality, so boring that it is almost silly to share them), and just food for thought. Please think of it as casual, and please don't be offended by any of it!  

Most important clock tip: Use your hand to press the clock after you moved. Don't forget to press it, and you'll be fine. 
Clock Rule: Use the same hand that you moved the piece with, to move the clock. We emphasize hand, because many players use a piece to press the clock, or a pencil, or permanent marker. Unfortunately, this habit results in broken clocks, broken pieces, and clocks with markings. 

The "same hand" rule makes it so that people don't accidentally press the clock BEFORE they finish their move (this would be unfair). The emphasis on hand is underrated. If everyone uses their hand to press the clock, then people can purchase nice wooden chess sets and not worry about their opponent breaking them (this happens). 

When you capture pieces, put the pieces on the side of the board. Just remember, the SIDE of the board. Left or right. Very simple! This will avoid accidents during time pressure. Learn this habit while you are young. Encourage others to do this. People shouldn't stack or toy with pieces during the game. It breaks pieces, it is distracting. I've seen a lot of adult and children complain about this. It doesn't bother me, personally, as a player. As a tournament director, it is my duty to tell players not to break pieces and to not distract others, and very often it's some tapping/smashing of pieces. It is a very boring thing to tell people, and it doesn't exactly make chess look very "cool." I'm a big believer in treating every chess piece with respect. I ask some kids to treat their pieces and chess equipment with the same respect that they treat their phone (and often it's just because I don't want them to offend other players).  

Chess clocks make it so a game ends. Experienced players can spend hours on a single chess move. Most kids don't really have to worry about this. For most kids, clocks are just a formality. I sometimes joke that if you put a potato next to the board, and ask the players to tap the potato after moving, it would produce the same result as using an actual chess clock. Basically, most people play faster than necessary, and they don't run out of time. If you put a stopwatch or chess clock next to any activity, a person naturally wants to act differently. Experienced people understand time management, and when to worry, and when not to worry, and the smartest kids can't be expected to know this. This is more of an age thing. They can learn about it through chess. The main thing is to remind kids that clock is not really a big deal, and don't move fast just because you see a clock. 

If a player runs out of time, they lose the game (there are some situations where it's a draw, and when this happens, the tournament director will tell you, and if you are curious, research "insufficient mating material"). Out of 500 Panda Chess Academy tournaments, I've only seen a few people lose on time, and it was usually in a situation where they were losing "on the board." Basically, what I'm saying, is that the few times that when the clock seemed to matter, it really didn't matter.

There are cases where kids just forget to press the button, and they lose on time. I personally think that it is nice to remind your opponent if they forget to hit the clock, but it's not required. Some people feel that it is very rude not to remind them. Others will say that it is foolish to remind their opponent to press the clock. The rules pretty much let you do what you want to on this. The unwritten rule is that it's not the nicest way to win a game, and winning a game this way might give you a bad reputation. The thing is, the people who forget to press the clock are very young. It's a problem that just goes away at the higher level. When in doubt, be nice. The most important thing to learn from this topic is that with some rules, you have the option to be nice. With most rules, you have no option to be nice to your opponent by doing something nice that may result in you losing. If your opponent makes an illegal move, you have to say something. If your opponent touches a piece, he has to move it, etc. Most rules have to be enforced. I recently learned that in golf, this idea is called "protecting the field" or "protecting the tournament." The pressing the clock thing.. it's a rare thing in tournament chess, where you have the option to be courteous. If you want to be really technical, you can argue that telling your opponent to press the clock is distracting? I've never seen anyone get in trouble or even warned, for pointing at the clock after their opponent forgets to touch it. 

I hear a lot of "I hate clock" comments. I think it's caused by a loss to an intimidating player. The experienced player put a clock on the game, the newcomer lost. The kid blames and hates the clock. 

Two very important things not to hate: Clocks, and touch move. If you hate them, then you basically hate tournament chess. I don't like hearing kids saying how they hate this or that. With chess, it's just a very common, bad habit, to hate certain rules, certain openings that are good, and then they just have a harder time learning, or they will get frustrated with chess quicker! Don't hate vegetables also. I hear "I hate clocks" and "I hate touch move" so often, that it's worth addressing in a paragraph or more.  

For most sections it is g/30;d5. For the top section it is g/35;d5. In about 1% of Panda Chess Academy tournaments (sample size of about 500) we had to make the top section play g/30;d5 in the final round, as the tournament was going too long. No matter what, a tournament can always go long. It is like baseball in that way. This happens even if the players and organizers did everything perfectly. Sometimes games just go long, and with 5 second delays, they can, technically, never end. 

I dislike starting late, and I like to end the tournament as soon as the game is over. I pass out one trophy to the 1st place winner of each section as fast as possible, take a photograph for their parents (available on our website for free), and say good day to them. 

I, personally, skip the opening speeches, and I skip the closing award ceremonies, and I usually don't have to shorten time controls. I've received a lot of compliments for using the "get-in/get-out" format, and the people who wish I followed tradition more haven't said anything to me. 

Having said that, I have to admit that it is partially an excuse to avoid giving a speech. I do think it's nice to avoid down-time. I do think, that in the future, that I might change the format for special tournaments. As a coach, and player, I do kind of enjoy the opening and closing speeches, assuming that it works with my schedule. I wish people would listen or pretend to listen during opening ceremonies and closing ceremonies. 

Illegal moves: If your opponent makes an illegal move, you can add 2 minutes to your clock. Call a tournament director. This is optional. If someone repeatedly does something illegal, or just breaks sportsmanship rule, tournament directors can subtract 1 minute from a clock. Subtracting time is something that hasn't happened once, yet, at a Panda Chess Academy tournament. Adding 2 minutes because of illegal moves has happened maybe 20 times out of 500 tournaments.

Also, don't worry about owning/bringing clocks to Panda Chess Academy tournaments, or other tournaments. Tournament directors usually have clocks to add to games that go too long.

If you just request a clock, a tournament director usually won't loan you one, unless they have one they can loan to everyone. It's the same asking a tournament director to give you a cupcake. Unless he doesn't have one to share with everyone, he can't just share one with you since you are nice. Tournament directors have to systematically add them to the games that are delaying the tournament.  
The only way to be guaranteed of getting a fair amount of time is to bring your own clock. If you have your own clock, you can use it for every game. 

Boring Clock tip: Don't rapidly press the buttons. It's very tempting, and makes cool sounds, I know. It breaks clocks and drains the battery. Think of it like a smart phone: If you leave your smart phone on and keep touching it every few seconds, the battery goes dead quickly. If you leave it alone, or use it normally the battery lasts maybe a day. If you use your chess clock naturally, the battery lasts years. If you rapidly press it, the battery dies quickly. It's really annoying to buy batteries for a chess clock! They often use like D or C batteries, and sometimes you have to unscrew the clock to access the battery area. Clocks are designed to last for years with "normal use." Normal use is very good!

Also, pressing the buttons fast will eventually press in you, or some imitator, to press both sides at the same time, breaking the lever. It's like a see-saw. If two giants sat on a see-saw at the same time, it might break the see-saw. 

When should you buy a clock? 

New players don't need to buy clocks. I recommend that you don't get a clock right away. Basically, a player who asks for a chess set for their 8th birthday should consider requesting a chess clock for their 9th or 10th birthday. I'm not trying to give my opinion about values on spending money, but it has to do more with the player's educational experience.  

If a player hates waiting for their opponent to move, or feels that their opponent "thinks forever," then just deal with it and see how it works out. It sounds mean, but some kids should just get used to waiting for their opponent to move. Also, the clock really doesn't speed anything up. It does make it feel more fair, and it honestly, is more fair for advanced players.  

Sometimes opponents are over-thinking and accidentally abusing the fact that there is no clock, but very often it's just normal thinking. I've heard of some kids who are coached to take advantage of having no-clock. I don't agree with that, and if you think that's a problem, get a clock and bring it to every tournament and use it all of the time. 

Professional players usually bring a chess clock to tournaments. 

If you don't have your own clock, and your opponent "thinks forever," then the tournament director will have to add a clock to your game. And the clock might be set for like 7 minutes each, and this might not feel fair because your opponent used more time. The United States Chess Federation rule book calls this "splitting the elapsed time." If this is causing a problem that makes you lose, get it a clock. Again, this is an advanced player problem, and easily solved by getting a clock. 

Like baseball, chess tournaments can go very long sometimes. If the last round starts too late, we ask all sections to play g/30;d5. At the time of writing this, we have hosted about 500 tournaments, and in in less than 5 of them, we asked the players in the last round to set their clock to g/30;d5. I hear complaints about tournaments that are poorly organized because they finished late. I got a complaint because one of my tournaments finished late, and I'm sure the other late finishes weren't well received by some parents, and they just didn't tell me anything. There is a solution: Request a bye for the last round. 

Professional players who have a tournament that ends on a Sunday, always schedule their flight for Monday. Even if the Sunday game begins at 9am. It's common to schedule a "bye" for the last round, which is basically the formal way of leaving a tournament early. You can schedule before the tournament or during it. You just can't cancel it. 

The clock is set for 30 minutes each side, and there is a 5 second delay, meaning that a player who moves in under 5 seconds loses no time. This delay is designed mainly for the endgame, to avoid "time scrambles." People often think the delay is so you can notate... that's not what it was intended for. Basically in the older days, a lot of arguments happen because players lose on time in completely winning endgames. And then pieces get knocked over during the time scramble, spectators get accused of being a distraction, and it's just a very difficult situation for the players and organizers. It is very difficult to make fair rulings in these situations.