Chess Frequently Asked Questions
Content is provided solely as a guide.
1. How are pairings done?
Generally, tournaments use the "Swiss Style" (SS) pairing system. Winners play winners, and losers play losers, and pairings are done based on rating order. These tournaments are "non-elimination", i.e. every player plays every round. At the start of the tournament, all of the players are listed in order, from highest rated to lowest, followed by unrated players. The top half plays the bottom half, i.e. with a 10 player tournament, #1 plays #6, #2 plays #7, etc. to #5 playing #10. Winners get 1 point, losers zero points, and each player gets a 1/2 point if their game ends in a draw. For subsequent rounds, players are listed first by the number of points they have, and within that, in rating order. Pairings are done within a point group. So in the second round, all players with 1 point are listed and the list is cut in half and the top half plays the bottom half. Same with the 1/2 pointers, and the zero pointers. There are certain variations to this with uneven groups of players, but for the most part the above rules apply.
2. What's up with bye's and forfeits?
Bye's and forfeits represent games not played. As such, there is NO RATING CHANGE for that player in that round. There are 2 kinds of byes - FORCED and REQUESTED. If you are given a bye by the tournament director (i.e. forced) you are typically awarded one full point for that round in the tournament. This can occur if there are an uneven number of players in a round, and you are the lowest rated, lowest performing player and have not yet had a bye. If you cannot play a round, you can request a bye. If you do so enough in advance, the TD (Tournament Director) may award you a 1/2 point for the round. If you opponent does not show up, you get a point by forfeit. This is a major inconvenience, as you typically need to sit and wait until your opponent's time runs out. If you cannot make a round, please let the TD know in advance!
3. What's a Chess Clock all about?
Tournament games are timed. That is, each player has a certain amount of time to make their moves. If their clock runs out and the game is not over, they lose. (It's the responsibility though of their opponent to point out that they have "won on time.") There are basic analog clocks, and more advanced digital clocks that can be set with time delay. For instance, this would allow each player 5 seconds before their clock starts ticking down. So, with just a minute left to play, in a winning position, a player using a time delay clock will have the time to win.
4. How do the ratings work?
Ratings are used to indicate the probability of a win or loss against another player. A higher rated player is more likely to win a game against a lower rated player. Your rating goes up when you win games and down when you lose them. How much? Well, if you win against a higher rated player it goes up a lot. If you lose to a lower rated player it goes down a lot. If you draw a player of the same rating, it stays the same. Generally, a win or loss against an equal rated player will cause your rating to adjust by 12-16 points. A win or loss against a player much higher or lower, could impact your rating typically by a maximum of 24-32 points. There are also "bonus points" awarded for performance way above your rating in a single tournament. Use this rating information to estimate your rating, and for links for more information about ratings. Note that your rating is "provisional" for 16 or more games. This means your rating will change more dramatically until you've played enough games for the rating to be fairly accurate. You need a USCF (United States Chess Federation) membership to be rated.
5. When are ratings updated?
TD's submit tournament results to the USCF - maybe 1 day after the event, maybe 1 month after the event. The USCF batches the ratings and updates them online every week or 2, typically 1-5 weeks after they are received. So, you can see the rating change based on a tournament probably 2-8 weeks after the tournament.
6. What's a "Supplemental" rating vs an"Unofficial" rating?
Although the USCF updates ratings online every week or 2, they publish "official" ratings, i.e. "supplements" every 2 months. These are the ratings used for tournaments. Use the Unofficial ratings just to see how you are doing, but the Supplement ratings are the official ones used for tournaments.
7. How do I find out about tournaments?
Stay in touch with the Alaska Chess League Homepage for tournament information regarding Chess in Alaska.
8. Should my child write their moves down?
YES! Having the moves recorded helps to resolve any disputes during games. You have no claim if you don't have the moves written down. Also, having a record of your game allows you to analyze it. Possibly the 2 best ways to improve chess playing, aside from one-on-one training, is doing puzzles (mates in 1,2,3, etc.) and analyzing your games. You need to record your moves to analyze your games.
9. Where can I get more information?
The United States Chess Federation.
10. Where can I submit a question?
Alaska Chess League, FAQ's