How Our Tournaments Are Run

These rules apply to Highland Park’s unrated tournaments.

Sections will be organized first by school grade.  The grade ranges for our sections are usually K-1, 2-3, 4-5, and 6-8.  We may add or change sections based upon registration.

Based on past performance, some players will be placed in the Advanced section or a higher grade-based section.   This is intended to provide increasing levels of challenge to players as they progress, to reduce the domination of our grade-based sections by a few top players, and to retain flexibility for players struggling in higher sections.

Advanced section: The following players will be placed into our Advanced section:

(a) players with USCF ratings of 600 or higher, as published on the USCF website, whether or not the rating is provisional and whether or not the player is an active USCF member;

(b) players with a Highland Park local rating over 700; and

(c) players with local ratings outside Highland Park deemed by our tournament director to be the equivalent of a Highland Park rating of 700.

(d) Exception:  Any player scoring one point or less in the Advanced section, not counting byes, may opt at the next Highland Park tournament to play down one level (in the highest grade-based section below Advanced).

Higher grade brackets: Players who do not qualify for the Advanced section based on ratings but who have on two or more occasions finished in third place or higher in a Highland Park grade-based section (including those tied for second but finishing lower on tie-breaks) will be moved up one grade-based section.

Seedings (rankings at the start of a tournament):  A player’s seeding will usually be based on the higher of two ratings the player may have: the player’s “local” rating (based on the player’s won/lost record and the strength of the player’s opponents at previous Highland Park tournaments) or the player’s USCF rating.  Players without either rating may be seeded based upon input from club directors or at the discretion of the tournament director.

Errors in ratings: If there is an error in a rating, a tournament director must be notified before the start of the first round.  If this does not happen, the rating will not be changed for that tournament.

Effect on USCF ratings: Because our tournaments are not USCF-rated, a player’s performance at our tournaments will only affect the player’s local rating.

Pairings: Based on their seedings, players will then be paired for each round of competition.  We use the “Swiss System” of pairing used at most tournaments.  No one is eliminated; all players play all rounds.  Pairings are created using software that follows a set of rules. The first two are close to being absolute rules.

  • No two players ever play each other twice in one tournament.
  • No one should play against a teammate.
  • Each player should play against someone with the same or a similar point score in any given round.  This will not necessarily be someone with the same rating.  In fact, much of the time it won’t be.
  • Each player should play an equal number of games as black and white. (Ideally, players alternate playing black and white, but that’s a lower priority.)

These rules sometimes come into conflict, especially in the smaller sections, and the director may exercise discretion to optimize the pairings.

The software then does the pairings.  Before the first round, players in a section are ranked from highest to lowest.

The top half of the field plays the bottom half. Example: if there are 20 players in a section, Seed 1 plays seed 11, seed 2 plays seed 12, etc.

Time controls and clocks: Our games are all “G/30,” which means each player has 30 minutes to complete all of his or her moves.  Games therefore are completed within an hour.  If one of the players has a clock and wishes to use it, he or she has a right to do so.  Whichever side is playing black may designate which side of the board the clock should be placed on.  In games played without clocks, directors have discretion to put clocks on games still underway 40 minutes into the hour.  Usually each player receives 10 minutes to complete his or her moves.

Reporting results: At the end of each round, players need to agree on the result.  If they cannot agree, they should ask a Tournament Director for help.  When the matter is resolved, the players may then set up their board. Before leaving the playing room, both players must go to the scorer’s table and report the result.

Scores are tabulated after the first round, with wins being counted as 1, draws ½, and losses 0.  All players will thus either have scores of 1, 0.5 or 0.  For round two, all the players with a score of 1 will be ranked highest to lowest by rating.  The top half of that score group plays the bottom half of that score group.  The same is done for the other two score groups in that section.  If there is an odd number of players in a score group, a player is either moved up or down to a different score group to increase the chances that all players get a game.  A player who moves down a score group will generally play one of the highest rated players in that next score group.  A player who moves up a score group will generally play one of the lowest rated players in the next higher score group.

As the day proceeds, there will be more and more score groups of smaller and smaller size.  To the extent possible, these are treated as already explained: Players with a given score are ranked by rating from high to low; top half plays the bottom half.  Most players will have an opponent with the same score.  However, small score groups can make it difficult, if not impossible, to pair within a score group while avoiding pairing players twice and avoiding pairing teammates.  If necessary, several players may need to be dropped to play against lower score groups.  Players dropped will generally play the highest ranked players below them that they can play.  Unless a section is very small, no one should end up playing someone who has scored more than 1 point more than he or she has up to that point.

Byes: If there is an odd number of players in a section, the lowest-rated player in the lowest score group will see a note on the pairing sheet that reads “PLEASE WAIT.”  The floor director will try to find a game for that player within the section (by substituting the player at a board with a “no-show”) or by a cross-round pairing (playing against a player with a bye in another section, if both players agree).  Otherwise, the player will receive a full point even though no game was played (called a “bye”).  Since this is a player in a low score group, that point will have little impact on the standings, and is sometimes helpful for morale.

Late arrivals and missed games: If you let us know before the tournament that you will be late, you can receive a half-point bye for the first round, but only for that round. If you do not register in time for the first round and do not notify us, you will receive a 0 for the first round, but may be admitted for later rounds in the discretion of the tournament director.  You may also receive a half-point bye for a game you need to miss after the first round, but only if we are notified in advance of that round, and only once.  Half-point byes are not permitted in the last round.  If you leave during the tournament and do not tell us, you will be removed from the tournament.

Awards are given out as soon as possible after the last round.  Individual awards are based on players’ win/loss scores and “tie breaks,” which seek to assess the collective strength of each player’s opponents in that tournament.  Tie breaks are sometimes technical and difficult to understand and are described in a handout available at our tournaments.   We use the following order of tie breaks: Solkoff, Modified Median, Cumulative, Opponents Cumulative, and Sonneborn-Berger. Typically only the Solkoff system is needed.  The number of awards in each section is set forth in the tournament flyer.

Teams: District 112 students/Highland Park resident players will be grouped into the multi-school club teams as published on our website.  A player’s default team designation will be based on the player’s school (or the school the player would normally attend) regardless of where the player usually plays or receives instruction.  Exceptions, including for middle schoolers with allegiance to their former elementary school clubs, may be requested by parents or others and will be made at the discretion of the chief tournament director.   Out-of-district Club Teams are allowed per USCF rules.

Team awards are based on a team’s top six individual scores across all age groups.  We understand that this creates the possibility that a team may have a high score even if it is strong only in the lower grades, and that the team award may therefore not reflect overall team strength.  The advantage of our system, though, is that it tends to create solidarity on a team by rewarding good performance at any grade level.

Conclusion: Children cannot expect, of course, to win every game.  Even very good chess players lose or draw many of their games. Becoming a better player and enjoying the experience of tournament play are our primary goals.

Chess may be one of the rare intellectual activities in your child’s life that constantly expands to provide new challenges.  No matter how good your child becomes at chess, he or she can find a level that will provide challenge.  For some of our players, this means playing against adults. Chess is a place where your child doesn’t need to coast or be bored.  Chess will always “push back.”