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GPCF Library

The Greater Peoria Chess Foundation Library

You may check one or two books out for up to two weeks and then return the book(s) or request renewal for another two weeks. Please do not write in any of the books, or mark pages. Please leave the book in the same condition for future users. The books may be picked up at Peoria Academy on Tuesdays, Hult on Fridays or the Lakeview Chess club on Monday nights.

E-mail your requests to: Mike Leali.

Tournament Pairings

The Swiss System is the pairing system used in most chess tournaments in the US. It allows an unlimited number of players to participate over any number of rounds and produces a reasonable result leading towards a tournament winner.

Ideally, a Swiss Tournament should have enough rounds, so that if every game were decisive, there would be a clear champion. Like a knock-out tournament, where all losers go home, raising 2 to the power of the number of rounds played yields the maximum number of players the tournament can accomodate and still guarantee a clear first place winner. For example, a 4 round tournament can produce a clear winner if there are no more than 2^4 or 16 players. Likewise, a 5-round tournament can support 32 players and guarantee a clear winner.

In practice the number of draws among the leaders modifies the number so that often a clear winner is determined even if there are more players than ideal. There are also modifications that the tournament director can make to speed up the process of determining a winner, called Accelerated Pairings.

Rules for Pairing

The basic rules for pairing (there are more details than presented here - see the USCF Official Rules for a complete explanation) are as follows.

1) Players are not allowed to play the same player twice in the same tournament. Round Robin pairings should be used if it is expected that it will be necessary for players to play each other more than once.

2) Players are placed into score groups. Score groups are determined by the players score at that point in the tournament (1 point for each win, .5 points for each draw). It doesn't matter what order the players achieved their scores, only the total score determines to which score group a player belongs. Players who are not paired in a round receive a bye. Byes are usually scored as 1 point if the player received a bye due to an odd number of players in the tournament, .5 points for an excused absence in a round and zero for an unexcused absence. (Some tournaments will allow players to schedule a half point bye in advance of the round if the tournament director is notified in a timely way. Rules for receiving such byes are dependent upon the tournament.) In general, players within the same score group are eligible to play each other, although in some team tournaments, players from the same teams are not paired against each other.

3) Players within a score group are sorted by rating. If there are an odd number of players in a score group, the lowest rated player in that score group will be paired with the highest rated player in the next or lower score group. In the first round, or in the last score group in later rounds, the odd player is given a bye. Note that the bye goes to the lowest rated player. Unrated players are not given a bye unless there is no other legal pairing with the last score group. As mentioned above, a bye is scored as 1 point for subsequent pairing purposes unless the tournament has published otherwise.

4) The top half of the score group plays the bottom half of the score group. Specifically, the top player in the top half plays the top player in the bottom half, and so on, with the lowest player in the top half playing the lowest player in the bottom half. For this purpose, unrated players are listed after all the rated players and paired as if they had a low rating. Score groups have already been adjusted to contain an even number of players.

5) If adjustments in a section need to be made, the lower half players are moved, the upper half players retain their relative positions. Adjustments may be required if two players are paired who have played each other previously in the tournament. Adjustments may also be made to correct colors where there is a color imbalance (one player has played more of one color than his opponent), or to alternate colors (ideally a player who played white in one round is due black the next, etc). The adjustments are listed above, roughly in the order in which they are applied. It is not always possible to make color adjustments, however, giving a player the same color more than twice in a row is to be avoided. If two players must be paired who are due the same color, the color is assigned according to the due color of the player in the top half.

Before the early 1990s, most pairings were made manually. Since then, most tournaments are paired by computer according to the same rules. The first computer pairing program used in a national scholastic chess tournament was in Peoria in the 1989 US K-9 Championship with a program written by Murrel Rhodes of the GPCF. Since then, a number of pairing and Tournament Direction programs have been sold commercially. The GPCF uses the Swiss-sys program. Bloomington-Normal chess directors use the Win-swiss system.


Money prizes are always split when more than one player ties for a tournament prize, but some non-monetary prizes, for example trophies, cannot be split and so some way must be devised to determine who among those with the same score should most equitably receive the prize. There have been many tie-break systems devised to try and accomplish this task. There is no perfect tie-break system, all have strengths and weaknesses. Tournament directors try to find the one that they believe is the most fair for their tournament.

When tie-breaks are used they are announced ahead of the start of the tournament. The one's used can be found in the tournament announcements and fliers and should also be posted at the tournament site. Frequently one tie-break system may not break all the ties and most tournaments use several tie-breaks, calculated in sequence, to determine the final tournament rank of the players.

The following lists of tie-breaks are among the most popular:

Tournament Etiquette

  • Every game must begin and end with the players shaking hands.
  • Between the two handshakes, no talking is permitted.
  • Never do anything to distract any other player in the tournament.
  • Always use the "touch move" rule.
  • If you want to dispute a move or have a question, stop the clock and raise your hand to summon a tournament director.
  • When the game is over, agree on the outcome before moving/removing any pieces from the board. If you do not agree, raise your hand to call a tournament director.
  • Reset the pieces on the board after the game is completed and result is agreed upon.
  • Report the result, together with your opponent, at the scorers table.
  • Leave the playing room quietly when you finish so that you do not distract other people who are still playing.
  • Never comment on a game in progress whether the game is yours or one that you are just watching.
  • Never gloat over a victory or become despondent or hostile following a defeat.
  • If you wish, analyze the game with your opponent after the game ends, but do not do so in the tournament room.
  • Have fun, but be a good sport!

Touch Move Rule

The touch move rule causes scholastic directors more problems than almost all other claims combined. Most of this is due to ignorance of the actual rule and the rest due to the ultra legalistic mind of the young chess player trying to eek out every advantage possible.

The rule itself states “A player who is on the move and deliberately touches one or more pieces, in a manner that may reasonably be interpreted as the beginning of a move, must move or capture the first piece touched that can be moved or captured”.

The key here is “touched with the intent to move” - thus ruling out all accidental touches.

There is also a rule which allows a player to adjust a piece on the board by saying “I adjust” or “j'adoube” before touching the piece. Adjusting a piece is not the same as moving it – but the piece must be adjusted on the square that is sits on. Adjusting a piece onto another square that would be a legal move is touching with intent. We should also note that the rules say that omitting saying adjust deserves only a warning if the action is obviously adjusting and not moving the piece.

In cases where there is a dispute of facts, the input of others on adjacent boards may be sought if they observed the activity. If the director cannot determine the facts, the USCF rule book encourages the TD to strongly consider denying the claim, shutting the door to all false claims, as false claims usually cause more harm than good.

It is our policy to issue a warning to both players while explaining the rule, and then to keep a closer eye on the board involving the dispute. We also explain at this time, if there seems to be a need, that moves are made deliberately and quickly. Hovering a hand over piece or placing a finger on the top of the piece while the player looks around is discouraged as it only intensifies related touch move claims.

Using Clocks

Each tournament has a standard time control for use in that tournament - check tournament details on the schedule or with the Tournament Director (TD) if you have questions. In games started with no chess clock, one will be added by the TD if the game plays long and the end of the round is getting near. With 20 minutes left in the round, the TD will place a clock on the board with 10 minutes left for each player.

In games started with clocks, the clock will be set with the proper time control at the beginning of the game and the clock may be started even if one of the players is missing. If white is at the board, he makes his move and starts the clock; if black is at the board, he just starts the clock.

On an analog clock (old style hands), time forfeiture is indicated by the falling of the "flag". On most digital clocks (numeric LCD/LED display), time is usually indicated by a light turning on or a beep sound. If a players time runs out, he loses the game. Only players themselves may call time forfeiture - TDs and other bystanders may not call attention to the time situation unless one of the players asks the TD a question regarding the clocks.

The game on the board takes precedence over the clock. If a checkmate or stalemate occurs on the board and the flag falls before the clock button can be pressed, the game is still a win for the checkmater (or a draw in case of a stalemate) as long as the move was completed on the board before time ran out. Remember, a move is not completed until the player takes his hand off the piece and stops his clock. If a player forgets to punch his clock after making his move, his opponent has no obligation to point that out.

A draw offer should be made after a player makes his move on the board and before he pushes the button on his clock. If a draw offer has been made, the offer is good only until the opponent plays his move. Since subsequent moves may change the balance of power on the board, a new offer must be made to renew drawn proposal. In any case, the offer must be accepted before the time runs out to take precedence over the clock. If time runs out while a player is considering the offer, it is a loss for the player who ran out of time.

A few simple points about using chess clocks:

  • Operate the clock with the same hand that moved the pieces.
  • Neither player may pick up or hold onto the clock.
  • If there is a question about the clock, raise your hand and call for a TD.
  • If both players exceed the time limit, the game is drawn.
  • Assisting other players with time management is forbidden.
  • The are additional rules about clock usage with illegal moves, equipment malfunction, etc.
  • Should you have a question about the clock, raise your hand to call a tournament director.
Use this USCF recommended site for instructions on Setting and Using Digital Clocks. Image:Flagfall.jpg

The Lighter Side of Chess

Research and Benefits of Chess

Life Lessons a Kid can Learn from Chess by Agencies,

Benefits of Chess in Education - A Collection of Studies and Papers on Chess and Education. By Patrick S. McDonald, Youth Coordinator for the Chess Federation of Canada

Research and Benefits of Chess - A Scholarly Research Paper. By Dr. Robert C. Ferguson

Chess Thrives in Idaho Grade Schools - Idaho Leads the Nation with Chess in Schools

American Chess Foundation's First Move Program - Professionally Designed, Maps to State Standards for 2nd and 3rd Graders, and is Fun and Easy to Teach.

St. Louis Introduces Chess to Classrooms (1,696.02kb PDF) - The Urban Educator - March 2008

Chess and Autism - chess stimulates social, emotional and cognitive development.


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Chess References
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About the Game of Chess
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