How To Get The Most From Tournament Life

(Modified version with additional CCA info)

Entering  a chess tournament in advance is easier for both you and the tournament organizer, and usually costs less. Enter ONLINE, or by sending full name, address, USCF ID number, schedule (number of days) if more than one offered, and section desired (if any) to Continental Chess. Also give your last official rating if you know it (see the USCF website).

The official rating for the month of the tournament
is used (March tournament uses March official ratings, April tournament uses April official ratings, etc.)  If the tournament starts in one month and ends in another, we use the later of the two official ratings.  So for the 2019 New York State Championship, which started in August and ended in September, we used the September official ratings.

Unofficial ratings: A rating that appears on between official ratings will not be used, unless the player would otherwise be unrated, in which case it is usually used (the Director has the right, in unusual circumstances, to assign a higher rating or consider the player unrated).

If you are unrated, or have a rating from many years ago, be sure to indicate this.  Old ratings are still valid- you never lose your rating.  

Click here for an online entry blank which may be printed out and mailed.

Bring a set, board, and clock if you have them, plus a pen or pencil for keeping score and posting your result on the pairing sheet.  It is also a good idea to bring your USCF card or a current Chess Life with your mailing label, in case any question arises regarding your USCF membership.

In most events, you don't have to win the tournament to win a prize- you can win a class prize as a top scorer of your rating group, or a section prize in a section restricted to your rating group.  These groups include:

Senior Master 2400 & up, Master 2200-2399, Expert 2000-2199, Class A 1800-1999, Class B 1600-1799, Class C 1400-1599, Class D 1200-1399, Class E 1000-1199, Class F 800-999, Class G 600-799, Class H 400-599, Class I 200-399, Class J Under 200.

Many tournaments have "under" prizes or sections including all under a specified rating. For instance, an "Under 2000" prize or section may be won by players in any class from Class A down to Class J.  However, a "Class A" prize may be won only by players in Class A (1800-1999).  Some prizes or sections have different groups, such as Under 2100, Under 1900, Under 1700, Under 1500, etc. or 2300-2399.

Sections are not the same as class prizes.  If a tournament announcement says:

Under 1200: $600-400-200-100, top U1000 $300-150

This means that the first four prizes in the Under 1200 Section are $600, $400, $200 and $100, and the top two scorers rated Under 1000 win $300 and $150.  However, the Under 1000 players do not play in their own section and do not face only each other; they are in the Under 1200 Section.  

What happens if an Under 1000 player wins the Under 1200 Section?  That player would win the larger of the two prizes ($600 in this case).  The second Under 1000 player would win the top Under 1000 prize of $300, and the third Under 1000 player would get the second Under 1000 prize of $150.

Money prizes are split on ties.  Let's say a section in a 5-round tournament has prizes of $600 1st, $400 2nd, $200 3rd and $100 4th, and the results are:

No one scores 5
3 players score 4
1 player scores 4

The players with 4 tie for first, second and third prizes, and each receives $600 + $400 + $200 divided by three, or $400.  The player with 4 points is fourth and receives $100.    

Some newcomers to tournament chess think that in this situation, the three players scoring 4 points split only first prize of $600, so each receive $200, while the player with 4 points is "second" and gets $400, and those with 3 points are "third."  Of course, it doesn't work that way- what would be the point of penalizing players for scoring an extra half point?  

If three players score more points than you do, you are fourth.  The fact that these players are tied with each other does not promote you to second! Consider baseball or football standings- if three teams were tied for first in a 4-team division, would anyone say that the last place team was "second"?  

"Provisional" ratings, based on 4 to 25 games, are eligible for all prizes unless otherwise stated in the tournament publicity.  Provisionally rated players are not unrated.


  If you enter online, after your entry is completed, you can click on the "entry list" for your tournament, and your name should soon be displayed there.    

PLEASE DO NOT CALL OR E-MAIL TO ASK WHETHER YOUR ADVANCE ENTRY WAS RECEIVED!  For online entry, just click "entry list." For mailed entry, we sometimes fall up to a few weeks behind processing entries and catch up in the last few days; eventually your name will be posted.   

If you arrive at a tournament to find that we do not have your entry, YOU WILL NOT BE TURNED AWAY, but can still enter at the door.  

Rates listed ("HR") are often special chess rates- you must request the chess rates or you will be charged more.  The rates may be higher or rooms unavailable if not reserved early enough- see the details of each tournament for the reservation deadline (usually 2-3 weeks before).  Reserving as early as possible is wise, as even if you adhere to the listed deadline, it is possible that the "chess room block" has already been exhausted.

Hotel rates of "99-99" indicate that the rate is $99 per night, per room, for either one or two in a room (two beds).  Hotel rates of "99-99-99-99" mean that the rate is $99 per night, per room, for one through four in a room (however, do not expect more than two beds; a rollaway or two may be available for an extra charge- ask the hotel about this).

It is especially important to reserve early for major events.  For example, the hotel usually sells out about a month before the World Open, and Bally's Las Vegas sometimes is sold out almost two months before the North American Open.  Even if a hotel does not sell out, they have the right to raise their rate after the reservation deadline listed in our publicity.   

If you enter in advance and cannot attend, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you give notice before first round pairings are started!  Please send an email to DropoutsAtChess.US (replace "At" with the symbol @), preferably at least an hour before the round.

If it's a last minute emergency and you have no access to email, call the hotel and ask for the chess tournament headquarters. Do not ask for the Tournament Director by name, as this may lead to a message visible only in his guest room, and he probably won't go there before making round one pairings. 

If giving notice by mail, send this at least 8 days before the tournament.    

For prizes of $600 or over, bring your U.S. Social Security card or Tax ID number.  If you have no Social Security or Tax ID number, the organizer must deduct 30% from your prize. See also 

For foreign players with multiple ratings (USCF, FIDE, CFC, FQE, other foreign) the highest of the ratings (plus possible adjustment points) is used.  See for further info.  

The Tournament Director may assign an estimated rating to any player, and may expel an improperly rated player from an event in progress.  CCA minimum ratings are used in all CCA events if higher than USCF.  Only about 100 players have CCA minimum ratings, which we assign if we feel their USCF ratings are too low.  


40/100, SD/30 d10: Time limit per player is 40 moves in the first 100 minutes, then the rest of the game in 30 minutes, with a 10 second delay on each move of the whole game.

40/2, SD/30 d10: Time limit per player is 40 moves in the first two hours, then the rest of the game in 30 minutes, with a 10 second delay on each move of the whole game.

G/100+30: Time limit is 100 minutes per player plus a 30 second increment on each move of the whole game.

40/90, SD/30+30: Time limit per player is 40 moves in the first 90 minutes, then the rest of the game in 30 minutes, with a 30 second increment on each move of the whole game. 

$$G: Guaranteed prizes.

b/ or $$b/: Based-on prizes; number of entries needed to pay full prize fund follows. USCF rules specify that at least 50% of the advertised prize fund must be guaranteed if over $500 is advertised.  Some CCA tournaments have guaranteed prizes while others use the based-on method; those using the latter usually guarantee more than the required 50% (see announcement of each tournament for the exact guarantee).

Blitz:  Five-minute chess (G/5), played with no delay in CCA events.  This is now rated by USCF under a Blitz rating system for G/5 to G/10, counting minutes per player plus seconds of delay (so G/3, d2 is also blitz, but G/8, d3 = 11 and is quick).  We also hold the annual World Open Game/7 Championship, which at G/7, d2 is considered Blitz. For CCA Blitz tournaments, the higher of the regular or blitz rating is used for pairings and prizes.

BYE:  Indicates which rounds players who find it inconvenient to play may take half point byes (draws without play) instead.  For example, BYE: 1 indicates the bye is available in round 1.  Most CCA tournaments allow byes in all rounds, but those in the latter part of the tournament must be committed to early (see details of each event).

CC: Chess club.

d10: 10 seconds delay. After your opponent hits the clock, 10 seconds elapse before your side starts running.

+30: 30 seconds increment. After your opponent hits the clock, you get 30 seconds more and your side starts running immediately.

EF: Entry fee.

Ent: Where to enter.

FIDE:  Section results submitted to FIDE for rating.

G/:  Game in.  For instance, G/75 means each player has 75 minutes for the entire game.

GPP: Grand Prix Points.  The USCF Grand Prix is a year long contest, primarily for Masters.

HR:  Hotel rates.  For example, 90-95-100-105 means $90 single, $95 single, $100 3 in room, $105 4 in room.  The 3 and 4 to a room rates usually include only two beds.

JGP:  Junior Grand Prix.  A year long contest for players under 21. Includes all ages events, but not fast time control events (G/60 d10 qualifies, but not G/60 d5 or G/55 d10). Availability of JGP points does not mean the tournament is only for juniors.

Memb req:  Membership required; cost follows.  May refer to state affiliate. All our tournaments require USCF membership/

Norms:  Results needed to qualify for the FIDE titles of International Master or International Grandmaster.  Only tournaments of at least nine rounds can offer norms, and even with this many rounds, the tournament must also have sufficient foreign, titled, and FIDE rated players for a player to have a chance for a norm.  

NS:  No smoking.  Standard at all CCA tournaments, so not listed.

Open Section:  A section open to all.  Often has very strong players, but some who are eligible for lower sections choose to play for the learning experience. Many tournaments have a restricted section instead such as Major (limited to 1800/up) or Premier (limited to 1900/up or other requirement).

Play up:  To play in a higher section than necessary.  For instance, a player rated 1700 who enters the Under 2000 Section (or Under 2200 Section or Open Section) when an Under 1800 Section is offered is "playing up."

QC: Quick Chess (Game/11 to Game/29). Minutes per player plus seconds of delay are used to determine rating system, so G/10, d2 equals 12 and is quick, not blitz. USCF rates these events with a separate Quick rating system.  For CCA Quick rated events, we use the higher of the regular or quick rating.

Quad:  4-player round robin sections with similar strength players.

Rds:  Rounds; scheduled game starting times follow.  For example, rds Sat 11, 2, & 5, Sun 10 & 3:30 means rounds begin Saturday at 11 am, 2 pm, and 5 pm, Sunday at 10 am and 3:30 pm.

Reg:  Late registration at site (not necessary at CCA tournaments if you have entered in advance; we have no "check-in"). 

RR:  Round robin (preceded by number of rounds).

SD/:  Sudden death time control (time for rest of game follows).  For example, 40/2, SD/30 means each player has 2 hours for the first 40 moves, then 30 minutes for the rest of the game.

Section:  A division of a tournament, usually excluding players above a specified rating. Players in a section face only each other, not those in other sections.

SS:  Swiss System pairings (preceded by number of rounds).

U:  Under.  For example, U1200 means Under 1200.

Unr:  Unrated.  Note that players with foreign ratings or categories are not unrated, and provisionally rated players are not unrated.  Also, you never lose your rating, so if you were rated 40 years ago, you are not unrated.  And if you have an unofficial rating at based on at least 4 games, we will usually consider you to be rated.

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