Chess Tournament FAQ

How does a chess tournament work?

The tournament is non-elimination, all players will play all rounds regardless of their results! They are divided into groups called "Sections" based on grade and skill level, and play only against other children in their section.  Each game a player wins is worth one point, and a draw (tie) is worth half a point. Chess tournaments are typically 3-5 rounds. Participants will play opponents with scores similar to theirs. For example, if a player has won their first 3 games, they will be paired during round 4 against another player who has done the same thing (or close).

The top players in each section (determined by the number of points accrued through the tournament) and the top schools win trophies.  When there are ties, we use a 4-level tiebreak system. The day before each tournament we send out an email to the registrants with information and details on that specific tournament.

Are tournament games different from regular chess games?

At chess tournaments, we follow the touch move rule!

If you touch a piece, you have to move it, If you touch your opponent's piece you have to take it. When you grab your piece and click it against your opponent’s piece, you have to take the piece you clicked on the board with the piece in your hand, and if you move a piece to a new square and then let go that is the end of your turn. When your pieces are crooked, you can say ‘adjust’ and then re-center the crooked piece. You have to say the word prior to handling the piece!

Additionally, at chess tournaments, hand-raising and self-advocacy are both strongly encouraged. Adults cannot interfere in the same way that they might during chess club. When your child is playing their game and anything unusual comes up, they should definitely raise their hand and specifically explain what is going on!

Is my child ready for a tournament?

Probably!  Our tournaments are really beginner friendly, and hundreds of children do their first ever tournament with us each year.  Anyone comfortable with the rules and has gotten a checkmate or two (on purpose) during a game in chess club is ready.

I should sign up for your chess tournament newsletter, right?


How long is a tournament?

Silver Knights chess tournaments range from 3-5 hours to a full day, but you should check the specific listing. The trophy ceremony generally concludes 15 minutes after the last game finishes so if a listing says 1pm - 5pm, you can expect the announcements to start at 1pm, the last game to end at 5pm, and the trophy ceremony to conclude at 5:15pm.  Our tournaments sometimes end early, but they almost never end late.

Wait, is my child going to be playing chess for FOUR HOURS?  That seems like too long...

They'll be fine! There's an hour allotted for each game, and since most games take less than the full hour, the kids return to the space where the parents are waiting (called the "skittles room" in chess parlance) until the next game starts.

Does my child need to write down their moves?

This is called taking notation.  We don't require it at our tournaments, though it is encouraged for players who've done a few tournaments, and we supply scoresheets and pencils.  We don't generally teach it in our school chess clubs or summer camps, but it's an integral part of our fantastic Tournament Training classes.

What's this USCF membership thing?

If you don’t know anything about it, don’t worry about it. Just type ‘pending’ into that box when you register. You will not have to pay for the USCF membership.

The US Chess Federation (USCF) has a rating system used to rank chess players throughout the country.  It helps ensure that players get fair games, and can be placed in the correct sections. In general, if a player wins, their rating goes up, and if they lose it goes down.  Ratings range from 100 (brand new tournament player) to infinity. Currently, the highest rated US chess players are in the 2800-range. If you're interested in more detail about how ratings, here's like.... way, way more information.

We provide free USCF memberships to players participating in the tournament when it is needed to rate the event. Memberships that are active cannot be renewed through our system, they must be expired!

I'm interested in details about pairings and how tie breaks work.

We use Swiss-system pairings and the tiebreaks we use are (in order) Modified Median, Solkoff, Cumulative, and Opposition Cumulative.Opposition Cumulative.