GUIDE TO SCHOLASTIC CHESS
(More Tournament Rules Appear In The U.S.C.F. Rulebook)
Welcome to the world of Scholastic Chess! To add to your understanding of how tournaments work, and to answer some of the many questions you undoubtedly are waiting to ask, we ask that you take a moment to read this Chess Tournament Introduction. How do you pair players together? We follow the pairing rules developed by the U.S. Chess Federation (USCF) on Swiss-System tournaments. The "Swiss" was designed to accommodate many players competing in the same tournament, while still producing a clear winner, even though the winner cannot play against everyone else in the tournament. This is done by matching together players who keep winning, thus reducing the number of players who continue to win (after each round, if all the players with "perfect" scores-- those who have won all their games-- play each other, and if half the players win their games, while the other half loses, then the number of "perfect" scores at the end of the round will be half as much as it was when the round started). Players who continue to win, therefore, will face harder opponents. Players who lose their games will face others who are doing the same, and their opponents should get easier. This is not an elimination tournament-- even players who lose their first five games will probably face someone in the last round who is in the same situation. Players do not face the same player more than once (except possibly in a very small section). The halving process continues until the last round, when, in theory, one player has won more games than anyone else in that section. A player's score in the tournament shows how he/she is doing. Each time a player wins, he/she gets 1 point for that round, while a draw is worth ½-point and a loss is 0 points. A player's score is the total number of points he/she has at any point in the tournament. Players with the same score face each other as much as possible, beginning with the top scores down to the 0's. In the first round, all the players are ranked in rating order. Unrated players are usually placed right after the lowest rated player, unless the Director assigns an estimated rating to an unrated player. The top half of the tournament, by rating, is then paired against the bottom half, in rating order. The same method follows for the rest of the rounds. Players with the same score are grouped together and paired with each other, top half vs. bottom half, in rating order. Sometimes, if there is an odd number of players with the same score, the lowest ranked player will "drop" to the next lowest score group of players and play the highest rated player in that group instead. If there is an odd number of players in the entire tournament, then one player, the lowest ranked player with the lowest score (a different player each round) will receive a 1-point bye that round. The halving process continues with this higher half vs. lower half method, and it is not uncommon for players to face opponents with ratings much higher or lower than their own-- remember,pairings are made by score first, then by rating. Occasionally there so many players that it becomes likely that more than one player will win all the games. In this case, we may "accelerate" pairings, dividing the tournaments into four quarters, instead of halves, in the first round. In Round 2, higher-rated players who won may play stronger opponents than usual, while the lower rated players who won may play higher-rated players who did not win. This is all to try and reduce the number of players who start round 3 with two points, reducing the possible number of perfect scores at the end. Adjustments are made in this basic method, so that players avoid playing opponents from the same school. In small score groups near the bottom of the tournament, it may sometimes be necessary to pair players together with different scores, to prevent players from the same school from playing each other. We also try to make adjustments so that players alternate colors, or at least so that they will have played three Whites and three Blacks by the end of the tournament. We also try every other legal pairing first, before we assign the same color three times in a row to a player. However, we avoid making any switches in pairings if there is a large difference in the ratings of the players being switched (except to avoid giving 3-in-a-row). The result is, in theory, that the top-scoring players will face each other in the last round to determine the winner of the tournament. What if the opponent is not there? At the beginning of the first round, some players, even though they have already entered the tournament, are not going to show up without giving advance notice-- a very unsportsmanlike thing to do, which we can penalize them for. The Tournament Director will decide if and when to make re-pairings among players without opponents. How are scores shown on the wallchart? The wallchart shows a player's cumulative score (how many total points he/she has) after that round. This is a 6-round tournament, so the highest possible (perfect) score is 6 points. The tiny numbers above a player's score each round indicate the Player Number on the wallchart of the player's opponent for that round, and the "W" or "B" shows if he had Black or White. The team wallcharts show the scores of the school's four highest-scoring players. Any number of players may compete for a school, but the total of the school's four highest scoring players produce the school's team score (at least two players from the same school are needed to make a team). It doesn't matter which players on the team won or lost that round, or how many players won their games. Only the scores of the four highest-scoring players are counted for the team.
What if several players are tied at the end with the same score? The tiebreak systems used are: 1. Players who have won all 6 games (only) will play a special speed playoff for First Place; 2. Otherwise, the computer adds up the scores of each tied player's opponents (a half-point is counted for any rounds that the opponent did not play), and disregards the least-significant (usually the lowest scoring) opponent (the Modified Median System). The player with the highest total has played opponents with the best scores in the tournament-- in theory, the hardest opponents. If the players are still tied, the low scoring opponents are counted also (Solkoff Tiebreaks). For players who are still tied, 3. The computer adds each player's score to his/her score from the previous round (the Cumulative System). Thus, if a player won his first two games, lost his third, won his fourth, lost his fifth game and drew his last game, his score in the tournament would be 1 point after round 1, 2 points after round 2, still 2 points after round 3 (he lost), 3 points after round 4, still 3 points after Round 5 and 3.5 points after round 6. His Cumulative Tiebreaks would be 1 + 2 + 2 + 3 + 3 + 3.5 = 14.5. To break ties among players with the same Cumulative Tiebreaks, the computer repeats this process, but it adds all the Cumulative Tiebreaks of the opponents of each tied player (the Cumulative Tiebreakers of the Cumulative Tiebreakers, or CTBCTB system). This almost always breaks the tie. The Cumulative Tiebreak System rewards players who win earlier when the opponents are easier, then face tougher opponents. NOTE: If computers are NOT available to calculate tiebreaks, then Modified Median and Solkoff Tiebreaks will be used first to break ties for players with 5.5 points. If still tied, and for all players with 5 points or less, cumulative, then CTBCTB Tiebreaks, will be used. What is the time limit on the game? Each player has 60 minutes for the game (each game, therefore, lasts 2 hours at most). Unless the game has already ended, the first player to use up all his time usually loses. A clock will be used for each game if either player has one. If neither player has a clock, start without one. The Tournament Director will assign a clock to a game, splitting the elapsed time equally, when necessary. Is it necessary to write down the moves? All experienced tournament players are required to keep score of the game; inexperienced players are not, but they should, otherwise they won't be able to learn from their mistakes by going over their games. If a player is keeping score and his/her opponent is not, the opponent will lose ten (10) minutes as a penalty (if the opponent has between 5 to 15 minutes left at that point, he/she will continue with only 5 minutes). This rewards players who are taking the time during the game and making an effort to keep score, if their opponent is not doing so. EXCEPTION: In games where either player is in 1st grade or below, scorekeeping is not required, with no penalty. If either player has less than 5 minutes left for the game, neither player is required to keep score anymore. All players lose chess games, but good players play over their games, to find out where they might have improved, and learn how to do better next time. What time is the next round? When is the lunch break? The schedule of rounds is posted outside and elsewhere. Here it is again: Rounds are at 11 am; 2 pm and 5 pm Saturday; and 10 am, 12:30 pm and 3:30 pm Sunday. We will try to put the pairings up earlier, if possible, and both players may agree to start early (only if both players are present can clocks be started early). There is time between the rounds for meals. The games should all be done in time for the Awards Ceremony at 6:00 or 6:30 pm Sunday. SPECTATORS CAN WATCH THE HIGH SCHOOL AND JUNIOR HIGH GAMES, AND THE TOP BOARD GAMES, BUT THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED NEAR THE OTHER ELEMENTARY AND PRIMARY GAMES. EVERYONE MUST RESPECT HOTEL PROPERTY AND GUESTS AND MUST COMPLY WITH THE HOTEL'S RULES OF CONDUCT. SECURITY MAY EXPEL VIOLATORS FROM HOTEL PROPERTY! How do I find out about other tournaments? Everyone in the tournament will be a member of the U.S. Chess Federation (USCF). This means that they can receive a rating, along with Chess Life magazine every month (for $25 Youth members), or every other month (for $19 scholastic members). There you'll find answers to your questions about ratings and other tournaments. There are MANY DIFFERENT USCF-rated tournaments, both scholastic and Open tournaments, for you to play in! Many are designed just for players with certain ratings (Under 1600, for example). You can see what your national chess rating is on the mailing label of your magazine. You can use your rating to play in rated chess tournaments anywhere in the U.S.! Need more information? Call the USCF at 845-562-8350. REMEMBER: THE BEST WAY TO GET BETTER IS BY PLAYING BETTER PLAYERS!