Tournament Guide for Parents
Congratulations! Your child knows the rules of chess and
is confident enough to enter a tournament. This will be
the first tournament for many of the players, and each
tournament is a learning experience for everyone. This
guide is designed to answer the most common questions
and prepare parents for the tournament.
Renaissance Knights organizes many
tournaments in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.
Several of our tournaments
offer both USCF Rated (USCF membership required) and
Non-Rated (No membership required) sections.
Please visit our events
page for a list of upcoming tournaments.
As most tournaments are not
coordinated by the schools, parents should take an
active role and talk with other parents to find out who
else from their school will be attended an event.
Also, players can enter
these tournaments as an individual!
You don't need to be part
of a team to compete and have fun.
For those players attending CPS
schools, the CPS Sports Department holds two playoff
tournaments (south and north side) with the top
individuals and teams moving up to a Championship
More information on these
tournaments can be found at:
Most tournaments are individual
matches with team awards.
This means players are
paired as in an individual Swiss tournament, but the top
players from the same school are added together to
determine team trophies. For these tournaments, since
the best 3 or 4 players’ scores are used to determine
the team awards, the more players from the same school,
the better chance of winning a team prize!
Usually, players from the
same team are not paired against one another unless it
becomes necessary in later rounds.
What is a Swiss-System tournament?
Most chess tournaments are known as "Swiss-System"
events. Nobody is eliminated in a Swiss System
tournament. All players are expected to compete all of
the way through the tournament. It is bad for the
tournament to have players withdraw (quit).
The Swiss System operates by ordering the players by
rating, and pairing the top player with the player just
under the half-way mark. The second player is paired
against the next player under the opponent of the top
player, and so forth.
Players earn one point for winning, a half point for
drawing. In each round after the first round, the
players compete with others who have the same number of
points. If there is an odd number of players in a score
group, the lowest ranked player in the group is paired
against the top available player in the next group down.
Players never compete against the same opponent twice in
a tournament, and efforts are made to alternate the
color of the pieces the player uses each round.
A player with a bye in a particular round does not play
that round. There are two types of byes. When a
tournament has an odd number of players, the bottom
player does not play one round. Instead, that player is
awarded a “full-point bye,” meaning that the player
receives a point, as if he or she won a game. A player
receiving a full-point bye will see “please wait”
written across from his name on the pairing sheet. No
player receives more than one bye per tournament.
Sometimes, the player receiving the bye will be paired
against someone else, who either is not enrolled in the
tournament or is enrolled in a different section that
also has an odd number of players. In a rated tournament
the game will count for ratings, but the players both
receive a point for the tournament.
Players unable to be at the tournament for a certain
round may request a “half-point bye.” This second type
of bye awards a player the same score as would a draw.
In most tournaments, half-point byes must be requested
before the player begins to play in the event and are
not available for the final round. They are most often
taken in the first round, when a player cannot get to
the tournament by the time it begins.
We strongly discourage withdrawing from tournaments.
Players who leave because they lose are missing some of
the greatest benefits of the game. Learning to come back
after a defeat is very important in much more than just
chess. However, if an emergency arises and a player must
leave, it is crucial to inform the tournament director
that the player will not attend the next round. It is
unfair to the others in the tournament to leave without
telling the director, as it means that at least one
other player will not get to play a game.
The Awards Ceremony:
Similarly, we think that all players should remain for
the awards ceremony. In most scholastic events every
competitor will receive some sort of recognition,
regardless of score. Those who win the top prizes,
naturally, feel better knowing that their efforts are
recognized by others.
In most tournaments, a pre-determined number of top
prizes (usually trophies) are awarded at the end. In a
four-round tournament (which is most common) there will
always be ties. We use the US Chess Federations standard
tie break system. We acknowledge that this system, like
every other, is not completely “fair,” but we have to
break the ties somehow and this is the method used in
nearly all chess tournaments.
Ratings and the USCF
Many of the chess tournaments we organize are sanctioned
(USCF). Nearly always, membership in the USCF is
required in order to participate.
Annual membership dues for players
vary by age but range from $23 to $49. The USCF
publishes two magazines,
Chess Life, a monthly
magazine geared towards adult players, and
Chess Life for Kids,
a magazine for elementary school students. Membership in
the USCF may be purchased at any time registration or at
The USCF developed, and is constantly modifying, a
for its members. By playing in tournaments, players earn
a rating, which rises each time a player wins, and falls
each time a player loses. The rating of the opponent is
the major component of the formula. Children place great
value in their ratings, a fact we at Renaissance Knights
find mildly disturbing. Players sometimes play
considerably below their capability when they notice
that their opponent's rating is much higher or lower
than their own. As a result, we make every effort to
reduce the significance of a player's rating.
Contrary to the belief held by some, a chess rating has
no relationship to the child's value as a human being.
Although the USCF now keeps ratings up to date, ratings
for children are notoriously inaccurate as indicators of
results and will remain inaccurate until the children's
ratings are based primarily on results played with
Some tournaments offer a reduction in price for players
who register in advance. It is in the interest both of
the organizer and the players to register early, as long
lines form of players who have waited until the last
minute to sign up. Normally, once a player has paid an
entry fee, the player need only show up at the time the
first round is scheduled. If the tournament is free,
players must come at the registration time to let the
organizer know that they intend to play and should be
paired with an opponent.
The Tournament Director
The Tournament Director (TD) makes the pairings each
round and settles any sort of dispute that arises during
a game. TDs rule on claims of time forfeiture and claims
of draws. TDs have the authority to punish bad behavior
or other rules violations by adding or subtracting time
from a player, or by forfeiting a game.
In general, parents and coaches are required to stay out
of the room where the children are playing. They can
serve several useful functions, however. Tournaments
last a long time, and parents can be very helpful by
providing food for their children. Although many kids
can plan a “power lunch” and choose foods that will
allow them to play their best, others need guidance in
this area, lest they eat nothing but candy and soda.
Parents offer encouragement and consolation between
rounds, and some provide help analyzing the games their
kids played.. Children are not well served by having
parents argue about such things as pairings or rulings
of the TD. Such arguments delay the entire tournament,
which goes on long enough as it is. A four-round
tournament with a G/30 time control will last more than
five hours, sometimes as long as 6½ hours, including
registration, a lunch break and the awards ceremony.
Usually the advertisements for a tournament will give
some indication of when the event is expected to end.
Parents should expect to console their children when
they lose and encourage good sportsmanship regardless of
the results. Children play chess best when they are not
surging with adrenaline (or sugar) and when they know
that their primary aim is to play their best, not
necessarily to win. The ultimate winners of every event
are the players who do not get too low after a defeat,
or too high after a win.