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Colorado State Chess Association

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Scholastic Chess

Tournament Play Rated versus Unrated Memberships Rules of Chess Information for Parents General Chess Questions What are rated and unrated players?
Rated players are those players that are members of the United States Chess Federation (USCF). Unrated players are those that are not yet members of the USCF. Some tournaments only allow rated players to participate. If the tournament has separate divisions for rated and unrated players, they are sometimes called the Varsity divisions and Junior Varsity divisions, respectively. Parents should be aware that once a child plays in a rated division or rated tournament, they can no longer play in the unrated division in any other tournament. It is a one-way street. It is recommended that children play in several tournaments in the Junior Varsity division and do well before they switch to the Varsity or Rated Division.
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Do I have to bring a clock to a scholastic tournament?
It is recommended that if you have a chess clock that you bring it to the tournament. Children should learn how to use a chess clock as it is part of the game. Chess clocks typically run in the $35-$100 range. It is not recommended that you buy one just for a particular tournament. If your child has long-term interest in chess, a chess clock would make a nice birthday or holiday gift. Chess clocks may be obtained from your local game store or online. Do an online search on "chess clocks" or "chess supplies" and shop around for your best deal.

Different tournaments have different policies regarding the use of clocks. Most require the use of a clock if one of the participants provides one and wants to use it. Others require the participants to both want to use one. Get clarity before the tournament starts at the players meeting. There are two basic kinds of chess clocks: analog and digital. Digital clocks have more flexibility and ways to set them for delays, etc and are preferred. They are generally a little more expensive than the simpler, analog clocks. One last warning: Chess clocks are notorious for breaking when they are dropped. They are also easily misplaced. Put your name on the clock.

For long games without a clock, the Tournament Director will generally put clocks on games with approximately 20 minutes remaining to assure that rounds finish on time. Each player typically gets 10 minutes to finish the game. The TD should ask both players if they know how the clock works, and give an explanation, if necessary. Clocks must remain running at all times, except when a Tournament Director is called by either player to resolve a dispute.
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Why is it important to pre-register for a tournament?
Tournament organizers are almost always volunteers. It is tremendously helpful to them to know how many people to expect at the tournament and also not to have a rush at the door on the day of the tournament. Some tournaments do not even accept entries on the day of the tournament. Others have a monetary penalty for signing up late. Please do the tournament organizers a favor and register early. If you do pre-register and subsequently know that your child cannot make it, please try to contact the tournament organizer. The reason is that otherwise, some other child will end up waiting for your child to come for the first round. They have to wait for some period of time; usually 15 minutes to one hour to be sure your child is not just late. If you call ahead, then the tournament organizer can withdraw your child from the tournament and everyone is better off.
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Where can I get information about chess tutors for my child?
The Colorado State Chess Association web site has a section on it for tutors that have indicated they want to be listed. CSCA does not endorse any particular tutor and provides the list only as a convenience.
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How do I find out what chess tournaments are coming up?
The Colorado State Chess Association web site is the best source for finding out updated information on upcoming tournaments. Upcoming tournaments are listed in two places; one for scholastics and one for adults. There is also a Colorado State Chess Association mailing list for scholastics. For information about the mailing list, contact the Scholastic Coordinator. You will receive a mailing in the fall and spring and possibly one more for the State Scholastic tournament. This mailing list is not shared or sold except to advertise Colorado chess tournaments.
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I would like to get involved in setting up a chess tournament. What is there to know?
Contact the Scholastic Coordinator (link to CSCA Board Page) or any other board member to advise you or put you in contact to others who can be Tournament Directors and help with the computer pairings. Here are some things that you should be aware of in planning a tournament.
  • You will be lucky if you will break even financially
  • In Colorado, you should expect about 50-75 kids for a first-time tournament if you use the CSCA Mailing list to advertise, depending on your location
  • You will need to be sure to have enough rectangular tables
  • You will need to have enough chairs in the playing area and chairs in the parent's waiting area for both parents and for children that have finished their games
  • Selling food can defray some of the costs of the tournament
  • You will need an official Tournament Director if you are doing a rated event and several assistant Tournament Directors (usually about one per section)
  • Trophies will cost between $300 and $500 depending on how many places you award and how big the trophies are
  • Crown Trophy in Littleton (John 303-730-1711) is experienced at making trophies for chess tournaments and has very reasonable pricing
  • You will need an experienced person to do the computer pairings. The program most people use is either Swis-sys or Windows TD.
  • Chess tournaments by their nature take a long time; you will need to reserve a room for an entire day or more; be sure it is affordable
  • You will need a way to record results; sometimes this is done with results sheets, sometimes by having children mark their result on a chart on the wall
  • You will have to decide if you will take entries on the day of the tournament; if you do, leave at least a half an hour after registration closes for your computer people to enter these late entries. It is also suggested that you encourage pre-registration by having the day-of entries be quite a bit more expensive. Recent tournaments have been $12 for preregistration and $20 or more for late registration.
  • You can rent chess sets and pieces for $25 from CSCA. There is a delivery fee of $25 each way or you can pick them up yourself.
  • You will also want to make some signage to indicate where the sections/divisions are and you will also want to number the chessboard locations on the table.
  • You might also considering calling your local newspaper to come and take photos.

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What are tie breaks? How do they work?
When awarding trophies it is a necessary evil that a tiebreak system be used to distinguish the winners, as it may be the case that several people have the same score at the end of the tournament. The tie-break systems in use today take into consideration several factors such as how each person in the tournament did against each person they played and how well that person did, etc. What follows are excerpts from rules quoted from the U.S. Chess Federation's Official Rules of Chess. Each tournament has the choice of how to decide tiebreaks; it is customary to decide the tiebreak system prior to the event. 34A Introduction. There is no perfect tiebreak system; each has it faults. In some events, especially large ones, ease and speed of calculation is a concern. 34B Announcement. Frequently, one tiebreak method alone will not break the tie, and it is necessary to use a secondary and sometimes even a tertiary method to produce a decision. 34D Choice of tiebreak methods. Different systems will yield different results, but the systems discussed here are not capricious or random. Each seeks to discover the "first among equals", the player who has a somewhat better claim to a prize than those who earned the same score based on the strength of his or her opposition. 34E Calculating Swiss tie breaks. Unless a different method has been posted or announced before the start of the first round, players will expect the following sequence of tie-break systems to be employed as the first three tie-breakers: 1. Modified Median 2. Solkoff 3. Cumulative 34E1 Modified Median. The Modified Median system...evaluates the strength of a player's opposition by summing the final scores of his or her opponents and then discarding the highest and lowest of these scores. The original system is used for players who tie with even scores, but is modified for other scores to disregard only the least significant opponent's scores. The lowest-scoring opponent is discarded for tied players with plus scores and the highest scoring is discarded for tied players with minus scores. 34E2 Solkoff. The Solkoff system is just like the Modified Median except that no opponents' scores are discarded. 34E3 Cumulative. Add up the cumulative (running) score for each round. For example, if a player's results were win, loss, win, draw, loss, the ... cumulative score by round is 1,1,2,2.5,2.5. The cumulative tiebreak total is 9. If another player scored 2.5 with a sequence 1,2,2.5,2.5,2.5, the tiebreak points scored would be 10.5. The latter player's tie-break points are higher because he or she scored earlier and presumably had tougher opposition for the remainder of the event. One point is subtracted from the sum for each unplayed win or one-point bye.
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How do pairings work?
Virtually all chess tournaments are paired using the Swiss System. The rules that govern this system are too numerous and complex to address here, however, they are covered in detail in the U.S. Chess Federation's Official Rules of Chess book. (This link is dead, and when it was alive, it probably pointed to an older version of the rule book.) Here are the basics for the Swiss Pairing System. Before the first round, each player is placed on the pairing sheet based on his or her rating. Players are listed from the highest rated to the lowest rated. Unrated players are placed randomly below the lowest rated (usually in alphabetical order). To start the first round, the group is split in half and the top half plays the bottom half. For example, if 20 players are entered in a section of a tournament, the highest ranked player plays the 11th ranked player in round 1, the second-highest ranked player plays the 12th highest, etc. If there are an odd number of players, then the lowest rated player receives a bye. Players are awarded one point for a win, bye or forfeit; a half point for a draw or requested bye; and zero points for a loss. Each subsequent round, each score-group plays the top half against the bottom half. For example, if 6 players have 2 points after the second round, the first in the group plays the fourth in the group, 2nd versus 5th and 3rd versus 6th. If two players have 1.5 points, they play each other. Players with 1 point play each other, etc. Unfortunately, it is not even as easy as this makes it appear. There are many exceptions that confuse pairings. There are rules that attempt to correct pairings so that players play an even (or almost even) number of times as black as they do as white and there are sometimes rules that attempt to disallow pairings between members of the same club or school. These paragraphs describe the basic philosophy for pairings using the Swiss System. As a result of this system, the games get more even as the tournament goes on, so there tend to be more draws in later rounds and more intense competition as well. This is because both opponents have the same score (or close to it) in each round and those that are doing well play others that are also doing well. The converse is also true.
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What is the Colorado State Chess Association? Should my child join?
The Colorado State Chess Association is the organization that is responsible for supporting chess activity in Colorado. A membership is required to play in the scholastic state tournament and also many of the adult tournaments that are run by the organization. It is not required for most other scholastic tournaments in the state. Members receive a magazine called the Chess Informant that highlights chess activity in the state along with interesting games. The CSCA also hosts this website. The CSCA is a 501-(c3) non-profit organization and accepts donations.
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What is the United States Chess Federation? Should my child join?
The United States Chess Federation (USCF) is the primary organization in the US that supports chess. Chess is played around the world and there are other organizations in Europe (FIDE) and elsewhere. You can become a member of the USCF online. When you do, you will be eligible for a rating. Some tournaments only allow rated players to participate. If the tournament has separate divisions for rated and unrated players, they are sometimes called the Varsity divisions and Junior Varsity divisions, respectively. Parents should be aware that once a child plays in a rated division or rated tournament, they can no longer play in the unrated division in any other tournament. It is a one-way street. It is recommended that children play in several tournaments in the Junior Varsity division and do well before they switch to the Varsity or Rated Division. Scholastic members of USCF receive Chess Life magazine every other month, while adult members of USCF receive the Chess Life magazine every month (The scholastic membership rate is lower than the adult rate).
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How do I find a chess club that my child can participate in?
There is a listing of chess clubs on the CSCA website. Please call before you attend to find out how many children participate and whether the date and time is current.
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What is the Denver Chess League?
The Denver Chess League is a school team league in the Denver Metropolitan area. The deadline for entries is September or early October. To get on the mailing list for the Denver Chess League, contact Bruce Galler. Also, see more information on the Denver Chess League section of the CSCA website
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Who do I call if I have a question about scholastic chess in Colorado?
If these frequently asked questions do not answer your question, contact the Scholastic Coordinator or any other board member.
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How do I decide if my child is ready to become a rated player?
This is a difficult question to answer. You should see if your child is no longer challenged in the unrated divisions of the tournaments they are playing in. If that is the case, they may be ready to become a member of the USCF and play in the rated division. Parents should be aware that once a child plays in a rated division or rated tournament, they can no longer play in the unrated division in any other tournament. It is a one-way street. It is recommended that children play in several tournaments in the Junior Varsity division and do well before they switch to the Varsity or Rated Division. Talk to your child's chess tutor if they have one. They should be able to advise you.
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How long do tournaments last?
Tournament lengths vary considerably. Most tournaments post the start time of each round and some try to move the rounds along as soon as the previous one finishes. You can estimate the length in the latter case by computing how long each round can take. You will also need to ascertain whether there will be a lunch break. If the rounds are G/60, this means that each opponent has 60 minutes on their clock so the round could take as long as 2 hours. You can usually assume that at least one game will last the entire length of the round. Add up the rounds and add a few minutes between rounds to do the pairings. There may also be an awards ceremony at the end, which usually takes 20-30 minutes. Don't leave the tournament site for any extended period of time without checking with the tournament director, if a round ends early, he will usually start the next round early, and you may forfeit the game or have to play it with a time disadvantage.
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What does G/60 or G/30 mean?
This is the time control that is used in the tournament. All tournaments should post the time controls. Some tournaments post the time that each round will start and some simply start the next round when the previous round finishes. There are several types of time controls. For Scholastics, sudden death time controls are the most common. G/60 means that each player gets 60 minutes to complete his or her moves. Chess clocks maintain two times, one for each player. A player's clock only ticks on their turn. When a player finishes their move, they "hit the clock" which starts their opponents clock. For analog clocks, it is customary to have the flag fall when the clock shows 6 o'clock. Thus, for a match that is G/60, both players would set their clock to 5 o'clock at the start of the match. G/30 means each player gets 30 minutes and they would set their clock to 5:30 so that again the match would end when a player indicates that the other player's flag has fallen at 6 o'clock. More advance time controls are sometimes used as well. For example 40/2, G/60 is a common one, which means that players must make 40 moves in 2 hours followed by a second time control that is game in 60 minutes, sometimes called sudden death in 60 minutes. Digital clocks can handle these more complex time controls. Children should be counseled to ask if they have questions before the match starts. In general, most beginners have plenty of time for their games and the clock should not be an issue. Many times beginners think they have to rush because of the clock. The best advice a parent can give to a beginner is to take their time and not worry about the clock.
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How do I know if my child is ready to play in adult tournaments and where do I get information on adult tournaments?
If your child has been doing well in scholastic tournaments and shows interest in playing in adult tournaments, they may be ready to try it. All CSCA-sponsored tournaments offer a discount to children. Generally, adult tournaments have prize funds instead of trophies. Children do win money at these tournaments. There are usually divisions based on ratings. The schedule for adult tournaments is posted on the website.
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What is the touch move - touch take rule?
If you touch a piece when it is your turn to move, that piece must be moved if you can do so legally. If you touch an opponent's piece when it is your turn to move, the opponent's piece must be captured if you can do so legally. You must say, "I adjust" before touching a piece if you want to adjust that piece on the board. You should do so only when it is your turn. If you accidentally release a piece on an unintended but legal square, you must leave it on that square.
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What is the most important thing I can tell my child going into their first tournament?
Take their time and to raise their hand if they have a question. The Tournament Directors are there to help and will assist in getting problems resolved.
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What is a half-point or full-point bye?
When there are an odd number of players in a division, there will be one player in each round who gets a full-point bye. This player will get a full point (as if they had won their game) for that game and will not have to play. It should be noted that byes do not count very well during tiebreak calculations. If a player cannot participate in a round, they may usually still play in the tournament. They may request a 1/2-point bye for those games that they will not be able to attend. They must usually do this prior to the start of the tournament, but it is up to the tournament organizer.
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Where can I purchase chess sets for my school or for me?
Chess clocks can be obtained from the USCF store or from other stores in your local area. You can also do an online search on "chess sets" or "chess supplies" and shop around the internet.
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What is a digital clock and what are the differences between an analog and digital chess clock?
Digital chess clocks are recommended as they are more feature-rich than analog clocks, but are a little more expensive and harder to use.
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Does my child have to keep score and how does one keep score?
Each tournament decides what the requirements are for the tournament. For scholastics, it is usually not required to keep score, though it is strongly recommended. There are many reasons for this including the fact that some chess rules are not enforceable without a valid scoresheet. Examples are the 3-move repetition rule and the 50-move rule. If there are less than 5 minutes left in the round on a player's clock then both players are not required to keep score. (In International rules, only the player in time trouble may stop keeping score). Perhaps the best reason for keeping score is so that the child can go over the game after the tournament and learn from their mistakes.
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Where can I get a scorebook?
Some tournaments provide scorebooks for the players. Other tournaments provide scoresheets. Some do not provide either. You should always bring a scorebook if your child is able to keep score. These are inexpensive and can be obtained from the USCF store or other line chess sites. Young children should look for a scorebook that has wide lines. Older children can use scorebooks with narrower lines to write in. Always have your child put their name on their scorebook as they tend to get lost easily.
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As a parent, what should I expect when I bring my child to a chess tournament?
As a parent, you can expect a lot of time sitting. You should bring reading material and be prepared to keep your child fed. You are responsible for the child when they are outside the playing area. Most tournaments have the parents sign a responsibility statement. For beginning chess players, the children will be in the playing area only for a short time. As they gain experience, their games will be longer and there will be more reading time for you as a parent.
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What books do you recommend for beginners?
Todd Bardwick's Picks:
  • Yasser Seirawan's series: Play Winning Chess, Winning Chess Tactics, Winning Chess Strategies, Winning Chess Brilliancies, Winning Chess Openings, and Winning Chess Endings.
  • Comprehensive Chess Course, Volume 2 (Lev Albert)
  • Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess (Bobby Fischer)
  • Chess Basics (by Nigel Short)
  • Beginning Chess (by Pandolfini)
Jim Hammersmith's Picks:
  • Comprehensive Chess Course Vol 2 (Albert)
  • Chess Tactics for the tournament player
  • King in Jeoparady
  • Chess Strategy for the tournament player
  • Just the Facts
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What books do you recommend for players with a rating between 1000 and 1500?
Todd Bardwick's Picks:
  • Chess Tactics for the Tournament Player (Alburt)
  • Best Lessons of a Chess Coach (Weeramantry & Eusebi)
  • Combination Challenge! (Hays)
  • Pandolfini's Endgame Course (Pandolfini)

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What books do you recommend for players with a rating over 1500?
Todd Bardwick's Picks:
  • How to Reassess Your Chess (Silman)
  • My System (Nimzovich)
  • Amatuer's Mind (Silman)
  • Think Like a Grandmaster (Kotov)
  • Reassess Your Chess Workbook (Silman)
  • Secrets of Modern Chess Strategy (Watson)
Jim Hammersmith's Picks:
  • How to Reassess Your Chess (Silman)
  • Logical Chess Move by Move (Chernev)
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Why does my child have to wait at the board if the other child does not show up?
Standard chess rules allow players to show up late, however there is a penalty as the clocks are started when the Tournament Director starts the round. Each tournament can be different, but the Tournament Director will specify how long the player must wait before the game can be forfeited and a full point awarded to the waiting player. Most tournaments are either 15 minutes or an hour.
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How do I read a pairing chart?
The pairings chart shows who is to play whom for each round. A new one is posted before the round begins and the players need to look to determine two things from the pairing chart. They need to see what board number they are playing on and which color they will be, black or white. Sometimes pairing charts have the player number on them, which is easy to confuse with the board number.
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How do I read a standings or wall chart?
A proper wall chart or standings report will be sorted in standings order. Listed at the top will be the leaders. There will usually be a cross table that lists who the players opponents have been in each round and the result, either a win, loss, draw or bye. Also listed is the cumulative score. Note that it is cumulative. Players get one point for a win, zero for a loss, half a point for a draw and either a half or full point for a bye. See the question about byes for details.
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What is the 3 move repetition rule?
If the same position occurs 3 times, then a game can be claimed as a draw. Clearly, a score sheet is needed to make this claim. The 3 positions do not have to be consecutive.
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What is the 50 move rule?
If fifty moves are made without the advance of a pawn or the capture of a piece, then a game can be claimed as a draw. Clearly, a score sheet is needed to make this claim. Alternatively, players may ask a Tournament Director to count the moves in some cases.
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Should I get an even number of rounds as white and as black?
Theoretically, each player in a tournament should get an equal number of rounds as white and black, however, technically this may not be possible, e.g. if there are five rounds in the tournament. There are rules that are usually applied to try to do the pairings so that no one gets 3 consecutive rounds with the same color. It is not always possible.
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Why does my opponent keep saying "I adjust"?
Your opponent is required to say "I adjust" before they adjust the placement of a piece on the board. They would do this if a piece was placed on the board and it was not centered on a square, for example. Some people say J'Adoube, which is French for "I adjust"
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Okay, you got my interest…where can I find more detail about starting a chess club?
USCF provides a document that has lots of suggestions for everything from starting a chess club to running tournaments. Check it out at http://www.uschess.org/scholastic/sc-guide2.html
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Where can my child play chess on the Internet?
USCF provides a free Internet chess playing service for members. Far more popular is the Internet Chess Club http://www.chessclub.com/ The Internet Chess Club (ICC) charges a yearly fee to be a member. They have a significant discount for children. You download software (Blitzin http://www.chessclub.com/interface/download_sys_srv.html for the PC, other java-based software http://www.chessclub.com/interface/java.html is also available). This software provides a client that runs on your PC and talks to a server application that supports chess games for people all over the world. A rating system (that is separate from the USCF rating system) is maintained by the ICC and so children know how strong their opponent is. The rating system is claimed to be similar to the USCF rating system, but there is some deviation. This is a great opportunity for children to improve their chess. There is a chat facility as part of this service (and other online chess sites), so parents should caution their children about the standard stuff related to chat, i.e. do not reveal your real name, address or much else, etc.

There are also plenty of free sites on the internet to play chess online. Always be weary of the online chat feature, for your child's protection and safety.
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