Host a Tournament

Chess Tournament Setup Help Sheet.pdf

     Hosting a Tournament is easier and simpler than one might think.  This page is designed to give potential tournament hosts some hints about how to run a chess team tournament that qualifies for the IHSA Tournament Requirement. 

     Remember, you can set up your event any way you choose as long as it is a team event meeting the minimum requirements of being Swiss paired with 3 rounds with at least Game/30. Be clear in your invitation about the tournament so coaches know what to expect. If you have any questions about what format, facilities, awards, or fees would work best for your needs, ask the ICCA, your Tournament Director, or other coaches. We’re glad to help you get set up!

     If you would like a complete detailing of everything you would need for facilities, click on the “Tournament Help Sheet” to get an idea of some of the key considerations.

What do I need to do?

1. Determine the format...


A Varsity 8-Board section is a standard.  But what do you do with all the other players?  Will you add a 5-board JV team section?  Will you run an Individual/Team Medley in an Open section?  Or just an individual Open? 
To best support your whole program and the community around you, it's wise to consider adding a Middle school section or Elementary school section.

Team Size

8-Board format is the IHSA standard, but it is not required.  In order to qualify teams for IHSA, the tournament must have at least a 5-board team section. 8-Board scoring is 12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5, but 5-Board formats have a variety of board weights; one typical pattern is 10-9-8-7-6. 

Number of rounds + Time Controls

There is nothing sacred about a 4 round event with G55/d5. This usually puts awards about 7pm and makes for a very long day. To satisfy the IHSA requirement, a shorter, 3 round event can be planned. It would be best to use a G55/d5 (Game 55 with a 5 second delay) time control in order to best prepare the players for the IHSA State experience.  However, in the interest of making the day a little shorter, many events use a G45/d5.  3-Round events can usually determine a single clear winner with up to 16 teams.  4-Round events can usually determine a single clear winner with up to 32 teams.  It's up to you, the number of registrations, the time it takes for teams to travel to you, how long you have the space...  All these factors can help you decide how many rounds to play


The USCF Rule Book has an appendix that explains how to pair various types of tournaments. Several formats can be run without a hired TD, especially if your numbers are small enough to run a Round Robin tournament or a Quad format.  Events that qualify for IHSA must use Swiss-pairings.  If your numbers are larger, it is best to hire an IHSA, ICCA, or USCF Tournament Director (TD) to run the pairings using appropriate software. A list of TDs can be found below or by contacting the ICCA.

Entry Fees

Most high school events charge $8-$15 per player. Many tournaments charge a fee for each team entered into the tournament and a per-player fee for the Open section. These tournaments also often have a “cap” so that each school only has to pay a maximum. For example, a tournament might charge $100 per team and $12 per player with a cap of $250 per school. Once you figure how many teams you can invite and your awards, figure your break even cost for 2/3 of the teams you expect. The hosting school should end up with something extra.

Reporting Results

Match Score sheets and Notation sheets can be found at the ICCA documents page. The ICCA uses WinTD to enter data and electronically pair tournaments. The tournament host and/or the TD should e-mail the WinTD file to the ICCA for recording, rating, and posting of the results via the ICCA website.

2. Consider the spaces you'll need...

Playing Room

Check with your school about available space. Remember to stress that this is a possible fundraiser for your school and that the IHSA has a tournament attendance requirement. If you have attended tournaments in the past, you should have a ‘feel’ about the space taken up by a match between two teams of 8 players. You can look at your space and determine how many teams you can handle and limit the registration to that number. A rule of thumb would be 2 feet of table space per board. With 8-board teams, this would be 16 feet of table per match, with 8 chairs on each side.

Skittles Area

(No we don’t know the origin of the word either.) Remember to have almost as much space for the ‘lounge’ as the playing area. West Chicago uses the hallways outside its cafeteria and simply rolls extra tables out there. Some schools, like Evanston, use two separate cafeterias. Guilford has a student commons area and a cafeteria. Try to keep the two areas near each other. This area also needs chairs and tables although fewer tables would work as long as everyone can sit. Keep in mind that restrooms should be easily accessible as well. The skittles area will also require trash cans as teams usually eat and/or snack in between rounds. Also, keep in mind that you should have a location to post Pairings and Results. Pairings tell player whom they're playing and where to go each round. Results show a players win/loss throughout the tournament. Players should expect to check results after each round to ensure that everything is accurate.


Though certainly not required, concession stands are a great way to generate more funds for the event. Be sure to have the space for a concession stand if you plan on one. If you do not plan on having a concession stand, it would be helpful to let attendees know ahead of time.

Coach’s Lounge

If available, coaches appreciate a space they can use as a ‘refuge’ from the students. It should not be too far away from the playing site in case a coach is needed. Small events may not need this. Typically, coaches are provided snacks and/or coffee, though it is certainly not a requirement.


You'll want to work with your TD to determine how to place signage around the event to direct players and coaches to the right areas, the right boards, the right tables, etc. etc.  Most of the types of signs you'll need are available at the bottom of the TD Files page on this site.

School Support

Find out how to reserve the space you need and follow your school’s protocol. Never assume you can use the space you want. Most schools have a lot going on each weekend. Chess can be low in the school ‘pecking order’ and space can be reassigned at the last minute to ACT’s, Saturday Detentions, and dance practices. Once reserved, check often as the date nears. Also remember to alert your school for security and custodial support. Evanston always requests heat and ventilation as the building often ‘goes cold’ on weekends in the winter. Although this sounds silly, make sure the proper doors get unlocked and are clearly labeled for participants to found the playing area.

3. Plan for Awards & Food

Trophy suppliers

Your school may have a ‘preferred’ awards maker, check with the athletic department. There are a couple award/trophy supply websites, check the listings or ask the ICCA for recommendations.


Determine how many awards you wish to give. It is not necessary to provide awards. You can have extremely low, or no, entry fee and no awards. Awards increase your overhead and preparation. West Chicago gives two per board, Evanston 3 and Glenbard West gives 5; it is entirely up to you. Generally, the more teams expected, the more awards you should consider. Three is traditional. In an 8 team format, there should be 1 perfect 3-0 and 3 tied for second at 2-1. Many tournaments offer “Top Player” awards for each board as well. The NICL awards the top 3 players on each board.


Even during a 3 round event, the players will need a meal. Evanston has an agreement with another club at school to come in and handle everything. Naperville and West Chicago have parents organize this. As long as you can estimate how many players will come, you can estimate how much food to plan for. Evanston hands out a list of local fast food options and places to order in from that many coaches appreciate. You and your team should know the local spots the best. Although not required, it is appreciated to provide some coffee/snacks in the coach’s lounge and for the TD’s.

4. Announce and Invite!

Make a Flyer announcing your tournament and distribute it at other tournaments you attend. You can e-mail coaches/teams you hope to attend and invite them directly and attach the flyer. A very basic flyer is available at the ICCA Tournament Schedule page (look for the link near the top). Finally, e-mail the flyer to the ICCA and ask it to be posted on the Tournament Schedule. Most teams look at this schedule when planning their season, and having your tournament listed will help get the word out to teams across the state.

Staff for a Tournament

Pairings Directors, Floor Stewards

You'll want to line up Tournament Officials to make your tournament run smoothly. You'll need a Tournament Director who will function as the "Head" official of the tournament. This person should be in charge of Pairings each round and can also function as the Head Steward. You'll also want to arrange for a Steward for each section. A Steward is the official in charge of rules and making rulings on the boards. A rule of thumb is to have enough stewards so that each one has to cover no more than 8 team tables at a time (see table below). The Host of the tournament should not function as the TD, generally. There is plenty of work to do just running the operations of a tournament that doing TD work as well can be overwhelming and result in a poor experience for teams and players. It's a good idea to have the TD set up in the playing room so that he/she can run the pairings as well as keep an eye out for rules calls. Basically, the Tournament Director is in charge of the Playing Room and should live there for the day. This makes it easy for players to report scores, as well (just as they will at State).  Further, if you have a Large Open section (more than about 30 boards) it would be wise to have 2 stewards for that section, and add a steward for each additional Section (Middle School, Elementary, etc)

1-16 Teams + Open (2 staff)

17-24 Teams + Open (3 staff)

24-32 Teams + Open (4 staff)

32-40 Teams + Open (6 staff)

Staff Payment/Fees

     Typically, a Chief/Pairing TD will ask anywhere between $200 and $500 for a tournament.  A ballpark formula is about $100 for expenses plus $12-$15 per school attending the event.  Floor Stewards can earn between $$100 and $200 for the day.  Staff that work to run a tournament ought to be offered pay for their work, but they may turn it down in order to support the host's program.  Work with your staff to decide what is appropriate for each worker for the day.  If you need guidance, work with your Chief TD to determine the expectations.

Staff support

     The ICCA has the TD Files page set up to support all TDs and Stewards.  Pairings TDs should use the ICCA files for the quickest and best processing of tournament results.  All the signage and possible forms needed during chess competitions can also be found on that page.

Available Tournament Directors:

See below for a list of current Tournament Directors that have experience with IHSA rules. If your event is small, there may be no need to hire someone. Many TDs are willing to answer questions to the best of their ability at events if asked. Although the ICCA encourages everyone to use the IHSA rule book, any event can deviate from these rules. It would be best to state major differences in the invitation.  Tournament Directors are responsible for running the competition side of things.  They pair the rounds, process and post results, and enforce the rules of chess.

Erik Czerwin

Stephen Had

Jeff Wiewel

Glenn Panner

Harry Kyriazes

Tom Doan

Bill Buklis

Mikhail Korenman

Joshua Flores

Dr. Christopher Merli

Bryan Devine

Hector Hernandez

Jim Aman

Betsy Zacate

Suzanne Sheridan

Available Floor Stewards:

See below for a list of current Stewards.  The TDs above can also steward, but these folks are focused on Floor stewarding work for tournaments.  Floor stewards make rulings on the floor, answer players' questions, and enforce the rules of chess.

Ken Lewandowski

Neal Suwe

Nick Glowaty

Rebecca Phillips

Jonathan Phillips

Dominic Salvino