Introduction to Scholastic Chess Tournaments
Scholastic events are hosted for K-12th Grade students enrolled in public, private, home-based, and independent study schools. Tournaments range from beginner to statewide championships and allow students to compete as individuals and/or as members of a school team. Furthermore, scholastic tournaments may be rated (USCF membership required,www.uschess.org
to join) or unrated, and players compete for trophies and individual and school rankings.
Each tournament has sections corresponding to grade level or chess ratings level. A grade level section does not differentiate between new or inexperienced players. The kids will all be within a few years of age to one another, unless an experienced player chooses to “play up” a section. (Players are not allowed to play in a section younger than their own.) A typical tournament sectioned by grade level may look like this:
- K-1 for Kindergarteners and 1st graders. Pre-K and younger children are welcome to register in this section.
- K-3 for (experienced) Kindergarteners through 3rd graders
- K-5 primarily for 4th and 5th graders, though experienced K-3 players may register for this section.
- K-8 for middle school players
- K-12 for high school players
Tournaments sectioned by chess ratings level offer competition within ability levels, as measured by past performance in USCF rated tournaments. Rated tournaments will break their sections as the Tournament Director sees fit, but here are the frequently used categories:
- Unrated - new members of the US Chess Federation (USCF) do not score a chess rating until after their first tournament. In scholastic tournaments, an unrated player usually means that the child is fairly inexperienced and new to chess. Sometimes, however, an unrated player is someone who has considerable experience playing at home or in unrated tournaments, so never underestimate your opponent!
- Under 600 or Under 800 - The minimum chess rating a USCF member may have is 100, which indicates that all previous rated chess matches were losses. Points are awarded or deducted for draws (ties) and wins based on opponents’ chess ratings. A win against a much higher rated player elevates the winner’s chess rating much more so than against a player whose rating is similar to his own. The same works in reverse for a loss. The Under 600 or Under 800 section will have beginner or intermediate skilled players.
- Under 1000 or Under 1200 - More advanced scholastic players with several years experience play in this section, though sometimes kids near the upper limit (within 100 points) of the next lower section will choose to “play up” for the opportunity to compete against more skilled players and potentially improve their own chess ratings.
- Open - An Open section is for the highest rated players or those desiring the most competitive matches. Open is technically available to any player, but kids are usually advised to compete within their own skill bracket. Each tournament will specify the requirements for playing in a particular section.
Each of the tournaments on the Schedule of Tournaments will identify itself as Rated or Unrated and for Individual and/or Team play. Tournaments are typically one full weekend day, although some beginner tournaments may take place in a single afternoon, while experienced players may compete in multi-day events.