USCF-Rated Tournaments: A Primer for Parents
By Kristin Brown
What is USCF?
It’s the US Chess Federation and most of the bigger tournaments in which our children compete are rated by USCF. You may have heard your chess player talking about “ratings”. You get a rating when you join USCF and play in a USCF-rated tournament.
How does it work?
One of the nice things about chess is that you can play as much or as little as you like. There are tournaments every weekend from mid-September through mid-April (and more from April – September, too, but not necessarily every weekend). You always compete as an individual, but in most of the larger tournaments, they also keep track of team scores, adding up the points for the top 3 or 4 players on your team and in your division (depending on the tournament). Divisions are usually K-1, 2-3, 4-5 and 6-8– although these also vary depending on the tournament.
There is no “elimination” in chess – after each round, each player is paired with another player who has approximately the same win/loss record – so the number of those who keep winning is cut in half each round, but everyone continues to play –and as the day progresses, players are more and more likely to play another player at the same level. So if you show up, you get to play all day and you can choose which tournaments fit your schedule: you don’t “hurt” the team by choosing not to play in any given tournament but if you have a great day – you may very well “help” the team.
For example, our 4th-5th grade team might consist of 5 kids – who will all compete as individuals, but the best 4 scores would be added together for a “team” score. Rated tournaments have a complicated system for breaking ties – so 2 kids with equal win/loss records may be ‘ranked’ differently…but that’s too much information for those of you who are new to USCF!
Is my chess player ready?
If your chess player has played in local tournaments and enjoyed him or herself, s/he may be ready for a rated tournament. If you’re not sure, let him or her participate in the next local Evanston tournament. It’s easier to start out at the local level and move on to rated tournaments. On the other hand, if you know your child is gung-ho to play as much chess as possible, they’re not required to play local tournaments first.
We’re ready. What’s the next step?
If your chess player wants to attend a rated tournament, first buy him or her a USCF membership at www.uschess.org. Select a “Scholastic” membership ($17). When you complete the purchase you will get a membership number and an expiration date. You will need both the number and the expiration when you register your child for a rated tournament.
Note – rated tournaments typically cost $20-$25 per tournament – a step up from our $4 local tournament fees!
After your child has played in a rated tournament, you may look up his/her rating at www.uschess.org/msa .Click through the various pages, and you can literally see the result of every rated game your child has played, as well as the names of all of his/her opponents.