Host a Tournament

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 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 here for the “Tournament Help Sheet” to get an idea.  The IHSA is not involved in these events. Current tournaments will be cited as examples.

Chess Tournament Setup Help Sheet.pdf

1. Determine the format:

A. Number of rounds

There is nothing sacred about a 4 round event with Game/60. This usually puts awards after 7 and makes for a very long day. To satisfy the IHSA requirement, a shorter, 3 round event can be planned. Several tournaments schedule Game/55 or Game/50. The NICL uses a 4-round Game/45 format.

B. Time Controls

It would be best to use a G/55 d5 (Game 55 with a 5 second standard delay) time control in order to best prepare the players for the IHSA State experience. Again, there is nothing sacred about this. The IHSA will not accept tournaments faster than game/30 however. The use of time delay is preferred.

C. Team Size

Again, an 8-board format is not required but must have at least 5. You can assign the board points however you wish. Downers Grove uses a 5-board, and a number of tournaments use a 6-board format.

D. Pairing

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. 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.

E. Tournament Officials

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 the will at State).  Further, if you have a Large Open section (more than about 20 boards) it would be wise to have 2 stewards for that section, and add a steward for each additional Section (Middle School, Elementary, etc)

1-8 Teams + Open

9-16 Teams + Open

17-24 Teams + Open

24-32 Teams + Open

32-40 Teams + Open


F. 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.

G. 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. Space considerations

A. 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.

B. 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.

C. Concessions

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.

D. 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.

E. 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. Awards and fees

A. 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.

B. Awards

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.

C. Tournament/Floor 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. A 3 round, 4 team round robin would be the simplest. All coaches should be aware of the IHSA rule book. Many are willing to answer questions to the best of their ability at events if asked. For larger events, TD’s charge between $75 and $150 for the day. Some groups will run larger events for $1 per player. 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. A single TD is usually sufficient to cover up to about 10 8-board teams and a small open section. If you plan on having a larger event, it would be helpful to have a plan for at least 1 Floor Director as well. If you have questions about adequate coverage, ask your hired TD or the ICCA.

D. Food

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.

E. 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 have a “cap” so that each school only has to pay a maximum. For example, a tournament might charge $60 per team and $5 per player with a cap of $100 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.

Available Tournament Directors:

Erik Czerwin

Stephen Had

Jeff Wiewel

Glenn Panner

Tom Doan

Harry Kyriazes

Dr. Christopher Merli

Joshua Flores

Ken Lewandowski

Hector Hernandez

Lucian Bogdan

Mikhail Korenman

Mike Zacate

Jim Aman

Betsy Zacate