One of the best ways to improve your chess game is by playing at tournaments. It’s also fun and exciting (and from time to time profitable as well)! There are many kinds of chess tournaments one can enter depending on the age and rating (we’ll talk about ratings in a blog in the near future), style of tournament, etc. So what should you expect at a tournament? Let’s take a look at the different kinds and what each is like.
Scholastic Tournaments: Scholastic tournaments are for kids only. Typically, these are for children in grades K-12 and will have pairing split into sections based on grade and/or rating. There will often be hundreds (if not thousands) of children depending on the size and importance of the tournament… in other words, these tournaments are often very noise between rounds (and since many scholastic players tend to rush in their games, there won’t be much time of peace and quiet).
Open Tournaments: These are for children and adults alike. Age doesn’t matter in an open tournament where it’s all about the rating! If you’re a 1200 rated player in the U1300 section, you’ll be combatting other players with ratings of 1299 and below whether they are 6 or 60. And don’t feel bad if you lose to a child… they have way more free time to study than you do!
Quad Tourneys: If the tournament you play is is a Quad, that means there will be 4-person sections. The 4 people in each section will have very similar ratings to one another. In a Quad tournament, there are 3 rounds (unless it’s a “double quad”) where each player in the section will play one another round-robin style and the person with the most wins is the winner of the section.
Swiss Tourneys: A Swiss tournament will pair winners against winners and losers against losers. Each win gets you 1 point, each draw gets you 1/2 a point, and each loss gets you 0 points. Every round after the 1st round, players with the same number of points will duke it out. There are no eliminations, so even if you lose every game, you’ll continue to play the entire tournament. The first round is slightly different… since everyone is starting off with 0 points, everyone is in the same “bracket”. They will line up everyone in the section according to ratings, then cut the list in half. The top person of the top half plays the top person of the bottom half, the second person of the top half plays the second person of the bottom half and so on. The same thing happens every round… but each round the list of players that needs to be divvied up is smaller as there will be less and less people who have the same scores as one another.
Quick VS Normal: “Quick” tournaments (whether they are swiss or quad) will consist of all games that are 30-min or less for time control (usually G/20). “Normal” (non-quick) tournaments have varied time controls that could be anywhere from G/35 to 40/2.
Often, these tournaments will take place either at a hotel with a large ballroom, or a school gynmasium.
You’ll likely want to bring your own food as hotel food and/or vendors can get expensive.
If the tournament is at a hotel, you may want to book a room at the site hotel so you can just go straight to bed after a late round and sleep in longer than if you stay at a hotel that’s a 30 min drive away but cheaper.
Nearly all tournaments also have “Skittles Rooms”, where players can congregate to chit-chat, go over games, study, or play casual chess.
Most tournaments will also have a chess store, which sells sets, clocks, books, dvds and more. Make use of these stores. If there’s a certain opening you want to learn, find a book about it at the store (they’re often times on sale).
Now that you know what to expect, the only thing to worry about is the entry fee, which can range anywhere from $2 for local mini-tournaments at your local chess club to over $300 for the World Open! Look for tournaments that have a good entry-to-prize ratio and that has sections you think you might be able to win!