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How to Set Up a Chess Tournament

Chess tournaments are fun and comparatively easy to set up.
chess image by Robby Weinberg from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Chess tournaments utilize most of the same rules as regular chess. The differences come only in a given time limit and the method used to narrow the field of competitors. Once you decide those details, you need to arrange for the proper equipment and alert local chess players of the tournament. Organizations such as the National Scholastic Chess Foundation and the United States Chess Federation often provide assistance when setting up a chess tournament, as do chess clubs from local universities.

Reserve a venue for your tournament. You will need somewhere large enough to hold all of your players, plus any spectators who may attend. Local schools often have gymnasiums or large study halls which you can use, and you can also reserve room in local community centers or host it in a private home if you wish. Wherever it is, it should be comfortable and quiet so that the players can concentrate.

Recruit knowledgeable chess players to serve as referees. Cheating takes place in chess just as in any other sport, and players may have disputes which require neutral arbiters to settle.

Write down the elimination rules for your tournament. Chess tournaments can follow a number of different formats. The simplest is a single elimination tournament, in which the loser of each game is knocked out until only one player remains. A more flexible format is a Swiss tournament, in which players are seeded into different groups and then play every other player in that group. The player with the best record in each pool advances to play the winners of the other pools.

Write down any other rules you require for your tournament. This includes any variation on the classic rules of chess, stipulations for breaks and clock usage, and time limits for each match. Time limits are important because chess matches can last for days otherwise. A one-hour or 90-minute limit for each match--evenly divided between the players with chess clocks--is recommended. Make sure your referees know the specific rules of the tournament before you begin.

Advertise for your chess tournament in local schools, chess clubs and libraries. Include contact information and registration rules, as well as prizes, fees, and the location of the tournament itself. Allow at least three weeks’ advance notice to bring in enough players and keep careful count of the number of players who sign up.

Purchase any remaining equipment you need, such as boards, pieces and clocks for every game, chairs and tables if required, and any other items such as water bottles or other refreshments.

Things You'll Need:

  • chess boards
  • chess pieces
  • chess clocks
  • tables and chairs


The fees you collect for the tournament should be used to cover expenses, including any prizes for the winner. If you have extra money left over, use them for snacks or refreshments during the tournament.

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