Chess Tournament FAQ

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.

How does a Quads style chess tournament work?

Students are placed into groups of four by age and skill (rating), and play the other 3 players in their group.  These typically take 60-90 minutes for all three games for beginners, and 90-120 minutes for advanced players, though it's possible that a quad can take up to 3 hours. The player who wins the group of 4 gets a trophy.

How does a Swiss style chess tournament work?

Chess tournaments are non-elimination, so 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 as close as possible).

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.


What's a rating and how do you get one?

After you play in your first tournament, you get a rating.  When you win it goes up, when you lose it goes down, and when you draw it depends on who you played.  If you beat a stronger player you go up a lot, if you lose to a stronger player you go down a little, and the reverse is true for weaker players.

For what the numbers mean, 100 is the lowest rating, and it's a beginner who's lost all their games against other beginners.  700 is an intermediate player, and there's a good chance that they're the best player in their school.  1200 puts you in the top third of tournament players.  2000 is top 3% of tournament players, 2200 is master and is top 1% of tournament players, and 2800+ is the world champion and 0-2 other players depending on the month.

Note that these numbers are for over the board ratings, and they'll be little different (usually just lower) than ratings on Lichess/

How long is a tournament?

Magnus Academy 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.

Do I need to stay the whole time, or can I drop my child off?
We supervise participants while they are inside the playing hall and actively playing a tournament game. The child's parent or guardian is responsible for supervising him/her at all other times, including prior to the first round, after the last round, in between games, etc.

How are tournament games different from regular chess games?

The biggest difference is the 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. If you want to be fancy you can say "j'adoube" which is "I adjust" in French. You have to say the word prior to handling the piece!  If you want to see what you're not allowed to do, here's many time US Champion Hikaru Nakamura doing it wrong, followed by his opponent, Grandmaster Levon Aronian, doing the correct thing and calling over the tournament director:

Additionally, at chess tournaments, hand-raising and self-advocacy are both strongly encouraged. When your child is playing their game and anything unusual comes up, they should definitely raise their hand for help.

A second difference is that the games need to be totally quiet.

Can I watch my child's games?

You can't - before each round starts, we ask parents to leave the tournament hall, and head back to the skittles room.  This helps keep the tournament hall quiet, so that participants can focus on their games.


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.

What's this USCF membership thing?

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 the 2800s. 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.