What to Expect at a Scholastic Tournament

Source: http://www.chessstart.org/TournamentInformation.html

If you’re a parent taking a child to their first chess tournament, it’s likely to be a confusing experience – certainly for you, and possibly for your child as well. There’s a lot of information presented, as well as a lot that you’re assumed to already know. Things can seem to move impossibly fast, or painstakingly slow, and (somehow) sometimes even both at the same time! Most tournaments should be fun, enjoyable experiences for both children and parents alike, but it helps to have a little knowledge of what to expect going in. Here are a few tips for parents who are taking their children to their first ever chess tournament.

A loss does not eliminate you from a chess tournament!

Many kids will naturally get upset to some extent when they lose their first game, but make sure your child knows that this doesn’t mean the end of the tournament for them – or even the end of their chances to win a prize. Most scholastic chess tournaments utilize Swiss system pairings, in which players are matched up with other players with the same score (or as close a score as possible) in each round.

In chess tournaments, we keep score by assigning a player one point for a win, a half-point for a draw, and zero for a loss. This means that a player who has a win and a draw in their first game would have 1.5 points.

Also, at the end of a tournament – a typical scholastic tournament has 4 rounds – the player with the highest score is the winner. However, there are usually prizes for many of the participants, so you don’t need to have a perfect score (or anywhere close) to win a trophy.

Parents generally aren’t allowed in the playing room.

Yes, it would be nice to stand over your child’s shoulder and watch them compete, but most chess tournaments don’t allow this for a number of reasons. Many children get nervous or feel extra pressure when their parents are watching, and it’s better for everyone involved if the experience is as fun as possible for the players.


If you must leave the tournament early, please tell the tournament director!

It is critical that the tournament director knows who will be participating in the tournament going into each round. If you don’t let the TD know that your child won’t be able to play for the rest of the tournament, he or she will be paired with an opponent in the next round, and that will result in a forfeit victory for another child (who was probably just hoping to play a game).

Worst of all, if you only had to leave to miss a single round, the director will now assume you’re no longer participating; if you come back for a later round, your child will likely not be paired.


Stick around for the awards ceremony if you can.

Typically, the top 5+ players in each section are given a trophy. In addition, if your child had friends from their school playing along with them, they might be eligible for a team prize as well. Team prizes are another way to keep struggling players motivated, too; if your child has lost a couple games early in a tournament, it can help them to know that their wins in later rounds can still improve their team’s chance of winning a trophy.


Tournaments last a long time.

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.


Items to bring.

Bring a chess set to practice with in-between games. Parents should bring reading material or laptops as they will not be watching their children play. Internet service is typically available at the Stewart Center.

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