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Tournament FAQ

Most of the information about the when the tournament starts and where it will be held is on the tournament information page and flyer. Below are some other questions that you might have. Always feel free to approach any Tournament Director (TD) who are usually wearing yellow vests with any questions or concerns. For USCF rated games we are required to follow the official rulebook, a copy of which is kept at the tournament. The rulebook goes in to much more detail on some of the issues mentioned below and you can request to have a look at the book at the tournament.

Q. How does the tournament work?
A. Most tournaments consist of 5 rounds where each student plays in each round (with some exceptions). Unlike in the movies a player is never eliminated; a player earns one point for a win and zero points for a loss. Each player receives one half a point for a draw. After each round players are paired with another player who has about the same number of points. Attempts are made to prevent players from getting paired with siblings or players from the same school or team. After the final round the scores are tallied and trophies are awarded to top players and teams. A computer program is used to pair players but TDs have full discretion on any and all pairings.
A number of Tournament Directors (TDs) will be available to confirm game results and answer any questions or concerns that players may have during their matches.

Q. What is this USCF Membership thing? Does my child need that?

A. The U.S. Chess Federation (USCF) is the official sanctioning organization for chess in the United States. Members are assigned a unique number and, after a tournament is played, they are assigned a national rating corresponding to their performance against other rated players. Over time and more tournaments this rating more accurately reflects the player's relative skill compared to all the other USCF members.

For tournaments and sections that are USCF rated each player must have a USCF membership ID in order for this rating system to work. First time players can include their membership fee with their tournament fee and get a member ID and rating assigned after the tournament completes.

Membership can also include a magazine subscription. Full membership options are described at the USCF site,

Q. When should I show up?

A. Registered players should show up about 30 minutes prior to the start of the first round to confirm your student's registration. Players registering on site should show up at least 45 minutes prior to the initial round. Please register ahead of time to avoid delays!

Q. How long will the tournament last?
What are chess clocks and how are they used?
A. Scholastic tournaments are usually Game/30 means that each player has 30 minutes to make all of their moves. This means that each game could last up to an hour. Younger players rarely use all their time. :) Clocks are not required for non-rated sections but we encourage players to be familiar with how they work. Players should move pieces and tap their clock timer with the same hand. If a player runs out of time then they lose the game. The primary exception to this is when a player runs out of time but their opponent does not have enough material to mate them (i.e. they only have a king). In that situation the game would be declared a draw because of "insufficient mating material" even though somebody ran out of time.

Q. I have another engagement and can't make it for one or two of the rounds - is that OK?

A. Yes, you can request a "bye" for up to two rounds, ideally not the last round. For scoring purposes the first bye counts for half of a point, just like a draw. Subsequent byes are zero points. A bye must be requested before the tournament begins to receive the half point. Half-point byes can be granted in special circumstances at TD discretion. Zero point byes may also be assigned if a player does not show up but still would like to play in subsequent games. Always confirm any requested byes. Always let the TD know if you need to unexpectedly leave so your student is not paired for the next round.

Q. Do I have to be there the whole time? What happens between rounds?

A. It is your responsibility to make sure your student is supervised at all times. If your student finishes a round early you are, of course, welcome to leave and come back before the start of the following round. You may want to bring a book and play equipment to pass the time between rounds. Bring sunscreen and warm clothes and maybe a comfortable chair.

Q. What happens if there are an odd number of players for a round?

A. If there are an odd number of players, the player with the lowest score (who hasn't already had a bye) gets a full-point bye, equivalent to a win. If appropriate and possible, the player may be paired with someone from another section.

Q. Can I change which section my student is in after they've started?

A. Yes, it is possible, at TD discretion. It is complicated so there should be good rationale for doing so. Please notify a TD as soon as possible.

Q. What about lunch and snacks?

A. You should plan on either bringing your own lunch and snacks or purchasing food at the tournament. You may also have time between rounds if your student finishes early. 

Q. How are the players matched up?

A. For the initial round, higher rated players are paired with lower rated players and for the rest of the rounds, players with approximately the same score play each other. 

Q. How many kids will be there?

A. The more the merrier! Sections may be combined at TD discretion if there are not enough players.

Q. Does my student need to write down their moves?
A. Writing down moves is not difficult and is highly recommended for all players. However, new and younger players may be excused at TD discretion. Time penalties may be given to players not writing down moves, usually 10 minutes off their clock if a clock is being used.

Q. Do I need to bring our own chess board and clock?
A. Boards and sets will be provided, but please bring a clock if you have one. We have some extra clocks if needed.

Q. Will I be able to watch my student play? What can I do while they are playing?
A. Parents and other supporters can help their student find their board and take pictures prior to the round starting. After the round starts players may be watched from a distance. You can bring a book to read. 

Q. How are winners determined? What if there is a tie?

A. Winners in each section are determined by the number of points each player has. A maximum of 5 points is possible. A somewhat complex calculation is used to break ties. Usually the player who has higher scoring opponents will win any ties that might occur. Contact the TD if you have specific questions. 

Q. What can my student do to prepare?

A. Practice playing with a clock and using official tournament rules like touch-move; if you touch a piece, you have to move it. It is also good to practice writing down the moves of the game accurately. A 30-minute game is often quite long for players but usually the best players take the longest time to think about their moves so practice taking a long time to think. 

Q. This is awesome! What can I do to help out?

A. The best thing you can do is get the word out to more schools and students. If you own or know of a business that would like to support local chess or donate money or prizes, please contact any of the organizers or email