If your child or your chess club is playing in their first tournament, especially if it is a large one like the Triangle Championship or the NC K-12 Championship, then you may have some questions. Here are answers to the ones I have heard asked most frequently:
What should my child do the night and morning before the tournament?
Children should eat a good dinner and get a very good night’s sleep. Avoid scary movies, arguments, and negative conversations the night and morning before the competition. Please postpone sleepovers until after the event. Being well-rested will help children play with more concentration and focus. They will also have more energy in the later rounds. Solving puzzles on ChessKid or reviewing chess topics they have already learned is okay but trying to learn new material in the hours before a tournament is generally not helpful.
What should we bring to the tournament?
- Have your child wear their school or club t-shirt, because it will be fun for them and will make it easier for you to see them.
- notation book, pencils (if your child knows how to take notation)
- chess clock (if you have one, write your name on it and bring a spare battery. Set it for the tournament time control ahead of time)
- sweater or sweatshirt (in case it gets cold in the tournament room)
- portable chair (if your child is in K-1, you may want to sit outside of the K-1 tournament room)
- snacks, drinks
- any medication your child may need
- chess set, book, game, or tablet and charger (in case your child finishes a round earlier, write your name on the chess board and bag)
- phone or camera (share photos afterwards with your club, PTA, etc.)
When and where should we arrive?
Try to arrive early so you have time to meet with your team and help your child find their board for the first round. If you are registering onsite, try to arrive even earlier. If you have registered and paid in advance, then large tournaments typically do not require you to sign-in while small ones might (please check this in advance).
Confirm in advance if your team will meet in a team room or the “skittles room.”
The NC K-12 Championship usually allows teams to rent team rooms. For the February 10-12, 2023 event in the Raleigh Convention Center, the Indermaur Chess Foundation has reserved rooms 302a and 302b for the schools we support.
Other events like the Triangle Championship have a “skittles room” or waiting area. For the January 15, 2023 event, this will be rooms 301a and 301b in the Raleigh Convention Center.
Who from our school is registered? Can another parent watch my child if I cannot stay the whole time?
Large events usually provide lists of players who are already registered, so you can arrange carpools, child supervision, etc. Here are links to the registration lists for the 2023 Triangle Championship and the 2023 NC K-12 Championship.
Can I still register my child? Can parents play, too?
Most events allow late and even on-site registration (although usually at a higher fee than if you had registered early). Some events like the Triangle Championship have Adult or Family sections.
Where can I find my child’s US Chess membership number?
You can search for it at https://new.uschess.org/player-search
How will I know who my child will play and where they should sit?
The tournament director will post new “pairings” on a physical bulletin board before each round. Many events now also post these online. The pairings are typically in alphabetical order by last name. Find your child’s name, what color they will be playing, and on what board they will be playing. Tips: take a photo of your child’s pairing and, once they are seated, make sure your child is seated across from the correct opponent, as the other child might be at the wrong board.
How are pairings generated?
Large chess tournaments use “Swiss System” pairing. Players are initially ranked and grouped by their ratings. Swiss pairings split each group into two halves and pair the top of the first half with the top of the second half. For example, if, after two rounds, there are 16 players with 2.0 scores, #1 will play #9, #2 will play #10, etc. If there are 4 players with 1.5 scores, #1 will play #3, and #2 will play #4. This process repeats to cover all groups of players. This Wikipedia article that explains this in more detail including exceptions and special situations like accelerated pairing.
Why does my child have to play such a highly rated player?
The pairings for the first round or two in big tournaments typically have the largest disparity in ratings. After that the games are much more evenly matched. Most children will get to play some opponents who are rated higher than they are. They may also play some who are rated lower or are un-rated. Please encourage your child to focus on their game – not their opponent’s rating. If they play someone un-rated or with a low rating, the opponent could be a strong player who is new to tournament play. They should not let their guard down but instead focus on playing their best. When children play higher-rated opponents, they should stay focused, play thoughtfully, and look for any mistakes their opponent may make (as their opponent may let their guard down).
How many rounds will my child play? Could they get eliminated?
Every child gets to play every round. No one is eliminated. That is one of the advantages of Swiss System pairing.
What should I do if my child needs to miss a game?
Please request a bye for the round that your child will miss. You can do this via the tournament website. If you request this in advance, your child will receive 0.5 points for that round. It also prevents another student from being paired with your child that round and sitting at the board waiting for your child.
How are tournaments scored?
Players earn 1 point for a win, 0.5 points for a draw, and 0 points for a loss. In big tournaments, your child will need to walk with their opponent to a scorer’s table and report their score together. Your child’s tournament score is the total of the points they earned from each of their games. Team scores are usually the total of the top 4 individual scores.
How are ties broken?
Ties are broken using formulas based on your opponents’ success in the tournament. For example, if you are tied with someone for first place and your opponents did better than theirs in the tournament, then you would receive the first place trophy. There is also a good Wikipedia article describing these tie break calculations.
How many trophies and medals are awarded?
Large tournaments like the Triangle and NC Championships typically present over 100 awards for all ability levels. Students will be able to win individual and team awards.
What can my child do to prepare?
I included tips in my previous article, “Benefits of Playing in a Team Tournament.” ChessKid also has several articles that explain what to expect:
Here are some specific preparation tips:
- Play in some school or local tournaments
- Solve ChessKid puzzles to practice tactics
- Review your games and those of potential opponents. Ask yourself questions like, “Why did I do this? What was their plan?” and try to answer them. Try to remember what you were thinking during the game. You can also replay your ChessKid games by clicking “Play,” selecting “Game History,” clicking on the result for a specific game, and then clicking on the magnifying glass icon to step through that game.
- Defending against Scholar’s Mate: Please encourage your child to watch these videos to learn how to defend against Scholar’s Mate before the Triangle Championship. Many young players try this trap in tournaments, so it it good to know how to defend against it.
Please let me know via a comment if you have any other questions, and I will update this article.
Enjoy your tournament!