Chess tournament primer

Go Team Bryant! The Bryant Chess Club strongly encourages its members to participate in tournaments. Think of it like playing a sport: the weekly sessions are practices and scrimmages. Tournaments are where you put your skills and sportsmanship to the test in a gameday setting. Our students enjoy the healthy competition and camaraderie of supporting each other as a Team. Check back here regularly for a list of local tournaments.

Registering
Ratings
Checking in
Your Day
5 game Swiss format
Individual scores
Checking pairings
Tournament etiquette
Judging
Notating
Clocks
Awards
Team ratings
Qualifying for State
Quads

Registering
Each tournament is set up in its own way. Some are grade level tournaments where you only play students in your grade. Others have sections (e.g. K-2nd, 6th-8th, ect.). Most tournaments encourage players at all skill levels offering incentives like trophies for all kindergartners, sportsmanship trophies, first time participant medals, etc. Many tournaments have Kindergarteners playing in their own section. Others have groupings by rating level (e.g. a U800 section would mean that you need a rating under 800 to play in that group see Ratings below). There are also events called quads (see below) that are usually smaller events. At registration, if you’re prompted for a school code, use BRY. There is another Bryant Elementary in Tacoma that uses a different code, so take care to select the right one.

Ratings
Ratings are a way for a student to measure their improvement from one tournament to another. The ratings formulas take into account the result at each rated game and the rating of your opponent. Hearing that they have a higher or lower rating than another student chess player can provide unnecessary stress. Remind your student that ratings are a measure of individual progress and do not at all determine how any individual game will go. It is not uncommon for low-rated players to play and win against higher-rated players at a tournament.  If you’ve played a tournament before, then you likely have a rating. Most common to this region is the NWSRS rating system. If the tournament says that it’s a state qualifier, then your player will automatically be issued a NWSRS ID and rating after the tournament results have been posted (typically 3-4 days later). Chess4Life also posts some nicely sortable and graphical ratings data . There is also a national rating system, the USCF. Tournaments using this system will typically have some reference to Nationals. To play in these games you have to be a USCF member which costs $17 annually for students. Competition at these tournaments tend to be tougher, but there is often a less rigorous section in these tournaments that accepts players who are not USCF members. Sometimes you will come across a tournament that is dual rated. That just means it counts toward both the NWSRS and USCF rating systems.

Checking in at the Tournament
Some tournaments require that you check in when you arrive. At check-in, you will generally be asked to confirm the information you submitted online, specifically, the player’s name, grade, and school. If you know that you’ll be late, or unable to attend a tournament, contact the tournament director and let him/her know. Your rating may take a loss if the pairings are made and you’re not there to take your seat. Also, if you miss the first round, the tournament director may remove you from the roster for the rest of the tournament unless they know you’ll definitely be there. Also notify the tournament director if you need to leave early.

Your Day
A tournament day is a long one. Tournaments start in the morning and go through late afternoon, and sometimes into the early evening, depending on the size and format of the event (and if you’re sticking around for the awards ceremony). When you arrive at the tournament location, set up a home base. There’s typically a cafeteria or common area for family. If there are enough Bryant students attending, we may have reserved a team room or table with the tournament directors. Or we will just stake out a table or two. Players are dismissed from the playing area as they complete their games. Make sure your student can find his/her way back to the waiting area after s/he’s done with the round. You can also wait by the entrance to the playing area for your student to finish. There are usually concessions available to purchase for lunch (usually pizza) and snacks, but it’s wise to bring plenty of provisions. Only players are allowed in the tournament area during the rounds. Parents may escort their students to the assigned table, but must leave before play starts. There is a lot of down-time between games. Usually there are 5 games (there’s no elimination, so your student will play all 5 rounds). Depending on the tournament director, consecutive rounds will start either after the previous round is done (keeping in the time limit) + time to generate new pairings, OR the rounds will start at designated times. Most regional tournaments follow the former format. In between rounds players should stay close as the new pairings could be posted at any time. But if there’s a playground available, take advantage of it. Bring soccer balls, footballs, basketballs, frisbees to keep yourselves moving. You can also bring books, games and electronic diversions to pass the time. But getting in some fresh air and physical activity really helps the kids focus when it’s time to get back to the tournament. There is usually no designated break for lunch. And concession service at your tournament may be erratic. Players are expected to have meals in between games. Bringing a variety of healthy snacks and a well-stocked lunch to graze on during the breaks will ensure your player isn’t starving while playing, or rushing to get in a meal while on a break.

5 game Swiss format
Most tournaments follow anon-elimination, 5 game Swiss format. The first round will be paired randomly or according to your rating. Consecutive pairings are based on whether you won or lost the previous game. Typically, when you win a game, you will face a tougher opponent in the next round, and if you lose you’ll face an easier one. Your board number will also reflect how you’re doing in the tournament.

Individual scores
In a 5 game tournament you can earn a total of 5 points: 1 point for every win, and a ½ point for a draw or stalemate. If there are an odd number of players in a section, you may get a bye round where you’re not playing a game. You would usually receive a point in this case. If, however, you got a bye because you showed up late and missed the first round, that may only be worth a half point. Encourage your student to not accept a draw. Typically, it’s the player at a disadvantage that offers it.

Checking pairings
Before each round the tournament organizers will decide which students will play each other. When they are ready for students to make their way to the tournament room, they will post the pairings in one or more designated areas. Watch for the big rush of parents and players leaving the waiting area. Check for your table assignments, opponent information and whether you’re playing black or white. Typically, you will alternate between playing the black and white side of the board. Generally, tournament organizers avoid pairing teammates against each other or pairing the same students more than once in a tournament. Once you know your student’s table assignment, you can walk him/her there, but only players and judges are allowed on the tournament floor during game play.

Tournament etiquette
Your player should introduce him/herself to his/her opponent. Tournaments observed the touch-move and touch-take rule. If a you touch a piece you must move it during that turn. If you touch an opponent’s piece you must capture that piece. If a piece is jostled out of position during play, a player should announce that s/he is adjusting the piece before doing so. Also, if a student needs to use the restroom during a game, s/he can raise a hand and be excused for the restroom by a judge.

Judging
At the end of each chess game, the players will raise their hands to call a judge over to report the result of the game (White wins, Black wins, draw or stalemate). Both players will be asked to verify the result. If there is a dispute between the players during the game, they should call a judge over to settle it. If you learn of an irregularity after the game (ie., your student misreported a result) speak to the tournament director or pairings director immediately. S/he will track down the opponent in that game to settle the discrepancy.

Notating
You can download Bryant’s own notation sheets. You can read the basics on wikipedia. Notating isn’t required in tournament play, but can be useful to you and your student. Reviewing a game will help you see where your strengths and weaknesses are. Having a record of the game will also be helpful if there’s a dispute about the game. Notating can help settle an antsy player by encouraging him/her to take time, thinking about a move and writing it down prior to touching the pieces. Encourage your student to notate as long as s/he can without it becoming a distraction.

Clocks
Most tournament, regardless of whether they require clocks, have time controls on the individual games, usually 30 or 45 minutes per side. Some tournaments and sections (usually the older groupings) may require the use of a clock. If the game goes long, the judges may put the players on the clock with 10-20 minutes to finish playing. A player running out of time would lose the game. At most tournaments any player can request that the game be put on the clock, and there are usually a few clocks available onsite. Typically, there will be a time control per game, not per move. So each player may have a total of 30 minutes (or whatever the time control is for that tournament) for the game. Since your student may, at any time, be faced with playing on the clock, please consider practicing timed games home. There are many chess clock apps you can download for a smartphone to practice with. Or you can purchase a moderately inexpensive digital or analog clock. Bryant Chess Club also has a few analog clocks. Let us know if you’d like to check one out to practice with, or to bring to tournaments.

Awards
Following the chess rounds is an trophy/award ceremony. If you can, stick around for this. There are sometimes participation awards, or special recognitions for sportsmanship. Be prepared for a wait, though, as it can take a while for the judges and pairings directors to calculate the results and sort out the tiebrakers. Typically, they will announce the grade level places first. These are the students who placed the highest in each grade who didn’t get overall placement. Students who did make overall standings are the ones who got the top scores in each section. There are also usually team awards.

Team ratings
Most tournaments will also offer team awards. You don’t need to register as a team. The tournament directors tally the top 4 or 5 scores from individual players from each school, and award trophies to the top groups. It’s possibile to have a smaller group and still take home a team trophy.

Qualifying for State
The Washington State Elementary Chess Championships is hosted in a different city each year. The 2016 event will be in Tacoma on Saturday, April 16. To qualify, you need to play in any regional tournament that says it’s a State Qualifier (you can ask the tournament director if you’re unsure), and score more than half the available points in a single tournament. So in a typical 5-game tournament, you’d need to score 3 points or better. In a 4-game tournament you’d need 2.5 points. You will not be penalized for a poor showing at a tournament. As long as you qualified at one tournament during the year, you can go to State. Participation at State is entirely voluntary, though we encourage anyone who qualifies to go. There is usually also an “I Love Chess Too” side-tournament that happens at State for players who want to go to State, but didn’t qualify based on their regional tournament results. The Bryant Chess Club is usually represented by about a dozen students, and the club can help pay for lodging and registration fees if you plan to go.

Quads
Quads are usually smaller tournaments, and usually are not state qualifiers, though they’re usually rated games. A quad is a grouping of 4 players who each face off against each other, playing a total of 3 games. There may then be tiebreaker games with top players from the other quads at the event.