Arlington Chess Club

Basic Registration Information For New Players

We hope the following information will help you
trouble-shoot any registration or tournament questions you may have!!

Please note that there is No Advance Registration for
ACC's regularly occuring Friday Ladders, or Blitz, or Action events!!

"Thank you!!" Registering & paying in advance saves your time and that of the organizers!


1) Double Check Whether Your USCF Membership Is Current:

If you're not a member yet, or if your membership will expire before the tournament, please visit the USCF website to join or renew online (credit or debit card). If you are not sure when your membership expires, you can check the USCF Member Services Area. Please update player memberships at least several days before the tournament, so that we will have time to verify that your membership is current.

If you are unable to join or renew online, membership applications will be available at the tournament registration desk. You will need to allow extra time at check-in, and pay the membership dues in addition to your entry fee.

If you have not registered for the tournament in advance, you will need to bring your current USCF membership card, or USCF magazine label, or a printout of your membership card from the online USCF Member Services Area so that we can verify your membership at the registration desk.

2) Register For The Tournament:

Advance ON-LINE Registration ($5-10 LESS than the regular entrance fee, depending on the event) is available for 2-3 weeks before many of our tournaments, usually until 1:00am the day before the first round of the event. To register, fill out the information on the on-line Advance Registration Form (found on the registration page).

Advance POSTAL registration (also $5-10 LESS than the regular entrance fee, depending on the event) is available 2-3 weeks before many of our tournaments BUT the envelope must be post-marked NO LATER than the Monday before the first day of the event. Postal registration must include: a check covering the entrance fee (and USCF dues, as needed) as well as the player's name, USCF ID, Rating, e-mail address and any "byes" requested. For Scholastic players, we also need a parent's name.

For larger, two-day tournaments, players can check online for an Advance Registration List to see who is registered for the tournament, and to verify that registration information is correct and your USCF membership is deemed current.

Regular Registration is available at the tournament usually for an hour up to 10 minutes before the first round of the tournament. Players that try to register right before the first round of a tournament MAY be forced to take a "bye" in the first round because ACC will not delay the start of any tournament for late registrants.

3) Pay Your Entry Fee:

Regular registration fees are available at the tournament site the day of the tournament. There is ALWAYS a discount for early registration. ACC club members always get a discount for ACC events. Payment can be made using cash or check only; ACC does not take credit cards. On-line registration uses the very secure on-line payment service. Any checks must be payable to the "Arlington Chess Club" and mailed to: "Adam Chrisney, P.O. Box 151122, Alexandria, VA 22315."

Paying for ACC Memberships

Acceptance Mark

About PayPal: On-line registration payments are collected through the very secure "PayPal" online payment site which has been widely used for years by on-line merchants. Your first registration will help you create an account through PayPal's simple and efficient process. It takes just a couple of minutes to set up new accounts if you have your payment information (credit or bank) ready before you start.

Finally, there will be no refunds for no-shows because they leave their first round opponents without a game to play in the first round - a VERY frustrating situation for players who did show up on time ready and eager to compete.

4) Check In at the Tournament

It is always a good idea for ALL players to double check wall charts, or with the TD at the Registration desk, when they first arrive to ensure they are registered for the event.

Also, please allow sufficient travel time to ensure that you arrive in time to register and check-in before registration ends. If you use Google Maps or MapQuest to generate your driving directions please realize that these directions are not always accurate. Allow an extra 15 minutes time for local events to ensure a timely arrival or you might arrive to find that your opponent has been allowed to start the clock in your absence. You can also save time by PRE-registering online or mailing in your entry fee in advance.

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REGISTRATION FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions):

What Do All Of The Tournament Terms Mean?

Some times registration will be restricted to some sub-group of players, such as a tournament that only allows players from that state ("Virginia Closed") or a tournament that is based on age ("Scholastic" for kids and "Senior Open" for those over age 50).

Tournaments with shorter time controls (the amount of time each player has to play the game) usually include certain designations in their title such as "Blitz" (a total of 5 minutes given to each player), "Action" (30 minutes) and "Action-Plus" (45 minutes). A "Swiss" (also "SS") tournament means players can expect to alternate between playing opponents above their rating and then below their rating until later rounds of the tournament. A "Quad" or "Round-Robin" (also "RR") tournament is a tournament where players are sub-divided into groups of 4 with relatively the same rating strength and they play each other once. Often, time controls include small additional time increments called "delay" provided on each move to allow for reaction time and the recording of moves. For "delay," a few seconds of time (usually 3-5 seconds each move) is provided on each move. For "increment," a set amount of time (usually 30 seconds) is added to the players' total time on each move in order to avoid frantic, clock smashing scrambles at the end of games.

Warning: If a tournament has an odd number of players, every round the LOWEST rated/unrated player with the LOWEST score for that tournament (win/loss record) will get a "forced bye" (no opponent). It only happens once to a player in any tournament but it can be a surprising disappointment for players and parents to be forced to sit out during a round while everyone else is playing. Also, before a tournament starts, players can elect take a "bye" where they get a half point for that round (like getting a draw). Note that if a player requests the bye they get a half point score for that round but if they are forced to take a bye they get a full point for that round. Either type of bye affects only the player's score for the tournament (win/loss record) - there is no effect on the player's rating.

Which Section Do I Enter?

FOR REGULAR TOURNAMENTS: These tournaments are open to any player that wants to register. They will mostly be comprised of adults but often you will see kids playing as well, particularly in the lower-rated sections.

Generally, a player may enter any section desired except that stronger players are prevented from entering sections below their rating level (to prevent sand-bagging). Also, unless it is a tournament with just one or two sections, it is generally expected that players do not enter a section where most of the players are higher rated by 400 or more points. Ideally, a player will improve most quickly when they are playing opponents at or just above (100-200 rating points) their own rating level, when possible. This is not always possible as most events have only 1 or 2 sections due to the number of entrants. A high number of entrants usually means the tournament will either have more sections or a wider variety of "class" prizes to offer to lower rated players.

Tournaments nearly always include an "Open" section. If it is the only section, then all players enter that section. If there are multiple sections then it usually contains the very highest rated players, typically players with ratings over 1800 or over 2000. Many tournaments also have multiple sections usually divided at ratings levels where the Tournament Director expects there to be natural breaks or groupings in player's ratings. Typically there are 2-4 sections in most tournaments where over 80 players are expected.

Typical sections include OPEN, U2000 ("U" = "under" - only players with ratings under 2000 can play in this section), U1800, U1600 or U1300. Typically, sections are divided by choosing a "Class" as the dividing point. Classes are 200-point dividing sections for the player ratings. "Grandmasters" are rated 2400 and above, "Masters" are rated 2399-2200, "Experts" 2199-2000, "A Players" 1999-1800, "B" 1799-1600, "C" 1599-1400, and so on.

FOR SCHOLASTIC TOURNAMENTS: These tournaments are meant for children-ONLY. Such tournaments allow children to get acclimated to tournament playing conditions (how rounds and pairing sheets work, using clocks, taking notation, learning how to lose AND win graciously, etc.) before being subjected to adult playing conditions and adult opponents. They are usually organized into different sections to allow players to play against others of approximately the same age. Most tournaments include 3 sections: K–3 (Kindergarten through 3rd Grade), K–6 (4th through 6th grade) and K–12 (7th through 12th grade). Players will be placed in the lowest section in which they are eligible to play unless they request to “play up” to a higher section. For example, kindergarteners will be placed in the K–3 section, 4th graders in the K–5 section, etc.

What is "Membership" and Why Is It Needed?

To play in official "rated" games (to establish and build a players rating strength), players must first purchase a USCF membership. The USCF is the United States Chess Federation. This is the official, not-for-profit, membership organization for chess players of all ages and levels from beginners to grandmasters! Among other things, the USCF oversees and updates all official US chess rules and regulations, maintains the official rating system for all tournaments and requires that all participants in these tournaments maintain a current USCF membership so that it can continue to provide various services to all chess clubs, tournaments and players across the nation.

Yearly USCF membership provides players a USCF ID number which they can use to track their progress on the USCF website (look for "Players/Ratings" and then "Player/Rating Look-up" on the USCF website). USCF provides a wide variety of statistical information enabling players to track their progress and that of their friends, competitors and favorite players. ACC is an affiliate of the USCF, and all ACC tournaments are USCF rated events. Learn more about the USCF on their website.

Many non-profit, state chess associations and local chess clubs also require memberships/dues of players in their events. These are also yearly fees which help cover overhead costs for these clubs and allow players to compete in state and club events, usually for a discount (for instance, ACC usually provides $5-10 discounts to members on all tournaments and events held by the club).

How Does One Obtain a Membership?

USCF: Players may join the USCF through the USCF website. Membership information may be found by clicking on the link marked “Join or Renew” at the top of the USCF home page. Players can call the USCF (1-800-903-8723) from 8:00am–5:00pm, (Eastern Time) Monday–Friday and charge their membership; most major credit cards are accepted. Players may also join at most tournaments and clubs, but be sure join or renew at least several days before a tournament so that Tournament Directors will have time to verify membership information.

For ACC: Players may join the ACC at club meetings on any Friday evening or at any ACC tournament. Players can also join or renew their USCF memberships through the club. Both memberships can be paid for either at the club (cash or check, no credit/debit cards) or through the club website using PayPal. Please arrive by 7:30pm to allow time for registration before events start. ACC opens at 7:00pm on Fridays and events usually start at or just after 8:00pm.

How Much Do Tournaments and Memberships Cost?

USCF and club memberships are in addition to entry fees for tournaments. Many tournaments allow players to play for anywhere from $3-5 per game, large tournaments average $10-12 per game, and national tournaments can be $20 per game or higher (but they also provide many huge, guaranteed cash prizes). The USCF offers a range of membership levels. Prices for 1-year memberships range from $17-46 with lower rates for seniors and children. Adults are $40-49; Seniors are $40; “scholastic” (ages 12 & under) are $17-25; “youth” (ages 13-15) are $22-30; or “young adult” (ages 16-24) are $26-35. Please refer to the USCF website for more information on membership dues.

ACC memberships, for 1-year, are $75 for adults and $60 for seniors and kids aged 18 or younger. This translates to less than $1 per Ladder game if members play every Friday. In addition, members get $5-10 discounts on all ACC tournaments, lectures, and other club events.

How Does One Determine if They Have a Current Membership?

If a player has a USCF membership but has not attended a tournament recently, their membership may have expired unnoticed. Players may check the status of their membership by checking the USCF website. The membership expiration date will be listed next to the name on their ratings page.

How Does One Pay For Tournaments or Memberships?

The easiest method for paying is on-line through secure payment systems such as "PayPal," though not all affiliates, clubs or tournaments provide this option. See the USCF website or club/tournament websites for an on-line option. One either pays through a credit card or the online payment system has a very secure connection the player's banking institution to allow a quick, simple and very secure payment transfer. This option is usually administratively easier for clubs and Tournament Directors and they usually provide a discount for on-line and pre-registrations for tournaments (but not memberships).

Most tournaments also allow players/members to pre-pay by check via postal mail, but cut-off such options about a week before the event to circumvent administrative problems. Many clubs and affiliates DO NOT provide a postal option for memberships to avoid such administrative problems, preferring in person payment by cash or check so that members can be sure they play the first night they show up.

All tournaments allow players to register the day of the event for slightly increased registration fees. On-site payment is usually limited to cash or check.

When Does Registration Open for a Particular Tournament?

This varies based on the size of the tournament. Generally, smaller tournaments or club events have discounted pre-registration periods 2-3 week before the event. Larger tournaments may allow pre-registration for 2-3 months or more before the tournament. Then, the regular registration is open the first day of the tournament for about an hour or two before the first round. Most regular registration periods close 10 minutes before the first round (registering after that point can mean the player gets a "bye" for the first round). Some larger multi-day tournaments allow players to "re-enter" on the second day if they lost their first or earlier rounds (re-entered players usually pay ANOTHER entry fee usually at about 66-75% the regular entry fee rate).

How Does One Find Out About Tournaments and Other Clubs?

The USCF compiles a list of state affiliates (which organize within a given state) as well as a list of state tournaments. The USCF also runs regional tournament "Clearinghouses" which are used by state and local Tournament Directors to post, advertise and coordinate their events across a region, like the: VA/DC/MD Clearinghouse. While these may contain many of the same listings they are not redundant, so check each of them for potential tournaments to enter.

In addition, the state affiliates (like the Virginia Chess Federation, VCF) run state-wide tournaments and advertise a list of those larger tournaments. Smaller tournaments are run by local clubs and local Tournament Directors and each usually has a webpage on which they advertise their events. Some utilize public media options such as, Facebook and others to advertise their events. The smaller tournaments may not be advertised on the regional clearinghouse.

Choosing the Right Tournament - What tournament is best?

The USCF has developed a rating system that evaluates chess performance for players in USCF-sanctioned tournaments. A player receives a rating and ratings points for every USCF-rated game played. The player’s USCF rating that may be tracked at the USCF website ( The rating will go up with a win and down with a loss. The rating goes up more when beating higher rated players and down more when losing to lower rated players. One can track personal progress by checking their ratings graph on the USCF website. Some players, particularly kids, become obsessed with ratings. But, perspective is key. Players should not focus too much on outcomes to single games or events but the progress over a period of months or more. A downside of playing rated tournaments is that they tend to be more expensive due to prizes, administrative costs and because the USCF uses part of the entry fee to assist in the costs of maintaining the rating system. Tournaments that group players according to ratings afford the opportunity for players of all levels to win a prize. With less disparity in ratings, the brackets tend to be more competitive. Each player can compete at a level appropriate to their ability and experience. The top players may not win as many games as they would in an open style tournament, but their chess will benefit from the superior level of competition. The trick is finding the appropriate fit, where the player feels challenged but not overwhelmed by the level of competition. A key element is assessing the maturity of the player and his willingness to take on challenges. A less mature player may feel discouraged after playing and losing several rounds in an open style tournament, while a more mature player may be able to see the value in competing against stronger players. This is particularly true if the player notates his games and can analyze the notated game with a chess coach, teacher or parent with a higher level of chess knowledge.

How Do I Get Directions to a Club or Tournament?

Addresses and general driving directions for each tournament location can usually be found on a club website. Tournaments usually just list an address but sometimes provide other information such as directions, hotel information and details regarding local eateries. See the ACC Contact webpage for addresses and directions to the club. Players can also consult an online mapping service such as MapQuest or Google Maps for door-to-door driving directions.

When Should I Arrive At a Club or Tournament?

Tournament registration desks usually open an hour before the first round of the day. All players should plan to be onsite to check their registration and players at least 15 minutes prior to the start of the round. Arriving late to find out there is a problem MAY leave the player with no one to play in that round. If players plan to walk-in and pay onsite the day of the event, they should arrive as early as possible because lines can be long and most Tournament Directors will not delay the start of a round for late registrants. Tournament Director's cannot guarantee that late players have an opponent (versus a "bye"). Absent players will have their clocks started at the beginning of each round. Players that are very late can expect a grace period of an hour after which Tournament Directors will most likely forfeit the player for that round. Also, if players are BOTH paying onsite AND also need to fill out USCF membership forms, they should arrive extra early. If players have mailed their fees by the deadline of Monday before the tournament, then they should expect to arrive a little early allowing time to check their registration was received and they are registered. If players are a new or renewing USCF member and need forms, they should pick those up at the registration desk when they arrive. Finally, please consider paying entry fees early by registering for a tournament and paying membership dues on-line or by postal mail, where possible, as this saves administrative headaches for the Tournament Directors.

What do I need at a tournament?

Players are expected to bring their own sets and boards for most open tournaments. Even when sets and boards are provided players may wish to bring their own for post-game analysis or playing with their friends. Players should set their chess clock for the appropriate time control and pack extra batteries in case their batteries run low. Players should bring their chess notation book and pencil. Parents may wish to bring a ball (usually for outdoors only) or tablet to ocupy kids between chess rounds.

How do players find their opponents?

“Pairing sheets” are typically posted on the wall near the tournament playing room a few minutes before the start of the round. Players should check and write down (in their notation book if they have one) their board number, their color (black or white), and their opponent’s name and rating. Most tournaments are organized according to the Swiss System, where players are matched each round according to the number of wins they have. In a rated tournament, players are seeded according to their rating, and are ranked from highest rated to lowest rated in each bracket. The normal pairing system matches the highest rated player in the top half of the bracket against the highest rated player from the second half of the bracket. Then the second highest player in the top half of the bracket plays the second highest player in the second half of the bracket and so on until all players are paired. (For example, in a 20-person section, #1 would play #11, #2 would play #12, and so on.) After the first round, the pairing system proceeds in the same manner but players are first grouped by their number of wins, and then by their ratings. In other words, players having one win will be grouped together and seeded according to rating, highest to lowest. The highest rated player in the top half of the bracket with one win will play the highest rated player with one win from the second half of the same bracket. If there is an uneven number of players in a particular group, such as 11 players with one win, the lowest rated player with one win will be paired against the highest rated player of the next win/loss group, either 0.5 wins if there were draws in the first round, or 0 wins if there were no draws in the first round.

What are “byes” and how are they used?

There are two kinds of “byes:” Requested and Not-requested. A player may request a bye for a given round if he knows in advance that he will be unavailable to play that round. Most tournaments provide a ½ point (0.5) for a requested bye, except when requested for the last round of the tournament, in which case a bye counts as a loss. Assigned byes may occur when there are an uneven number of players in a section. In this case, the player usually receives a full point for the round as if he has won. Most often, the lowest rated player with the fewest wins is assigned the bye. On the pairing sheet, the assigned bye is usually indicated with the words “Please Wait” or “See TD.” Often, the tournament director will find a "house player" or pair together players with byes from different sections. When this happens, the game will be rated but will not count for the tournament (the player already has the 1-point bye). Tournament directors have lots of discretion in these situations. Sometimes, the TD cannot find a game for the player with the assigned bye, and he is credited with a win for the tournament without actually playing a game.

What are tie-breakers and how are they used?

Tie-breaker systems are not used for cash prizes which are split amongst players with the same score (though “play-offs” may be used if announced prior to the tournament). The tie breaking system is used for assigning trophies and determines the strength of the opposition faced by each player with an identical final score. If two players with the same record in the tournament tie according to the first tiebreak computation, then the computer will look to the second tiebreak calculation, and so forth, until the players can be ordered to determine trophy places. The USCF specifies the following tie breaking systems be used for scholastic tournaments, typically in this order: Modified Median – Solkoff – Cumulative – Cumulative of Opposition. Other tie-break systems are used after that and any alternative order can be used if announced before the tournament starts. If the first tie-breaking system is unable to break the tie, the second is used for the players that are still tied, and so on, until the order is decided. Tie breakers are only used between players that have the same score, not all players.

Modified Median. The Modified Median system works by comparing the scores of the opponents that the tied players faced during the tournament. The theory is to award the person who played the stronger opponents. The system works by adding the scores of each player’s opponents, disregarding the lowest score. The lowest scoring opponent is disregarded only for ties between players with more wins than losses. For players tied with more losses than wins, the highest scoring opponent is disregarded. For players tied with an even number of wins and losses, both the highest and lowest scoring opponents are dropped. Since the system is normally used to award trophies to top finishers, the generalization on page one is good enough for most cases.

Solkoff. The Solkoff system is similar to the Modified Median except that no opponent scores are disregarded.

Cumulative. The Cumulative system works by adding together the players’ score after each round to get a cumulative total. The system rewards players who win early rounds, but lose in later rounds against stronger opponents.

Cumulative of Opposition. The cumulative points of each of a player’s opponents is calculated and then added together.

Good behavior and good sportsmanship are expected at all times.

Manners matter in chess and in life. Players should shake hands before and after the match. The same hand that moves the piece should push the button on the chess clock. If the set is provided by the tournament organizer, both players should set up the pieces for the next round at the conclusion of their match. When castling, players are expected to move the king first, then the rook, using the same hand. When promoting a pawn, the player should move the pawn to the last rank, state which piece he would like it to become (usually a queen), then remove the pawn from the board and replace it with the promoted piece. A player may pause the clock to ask the TD for assistance in finding an extra queen if necessary. When placing an opponent’s king in check, the player is not required to say check, but if he does announce checks, he should do so quietly. When a checkmate is imminent and unavoidable, the losing player may not stall indefinitely to delay the inevitable. Good sportsmanship means making your move, even if it leads to a loss.

When is a child ready to play in a chess tournament?

Chess is a fun and challenging game. Once a player understands the basic rules of tournament chess (as well as how to take chess “notation” and use a chess clock), the parent or coach should evaluate their child’s readiness to compete. Can the child win or lose graciously or does he whine or gloat? Does the child enjoy the game regardless of winning or losing? Can the child sit quietly through a chess match of 4-5 games without talking or running around and wanting to go home? By emphasizing the positives, parents can help children see the value in improving, not just winning.

Are you ready as a parent?

Most scholastic tournaments consume an entire day (or two), for kids as well as parents. Be prepared to occupy your time while your child is in his game and be prepared to entertain your child between his games. There may not be a whole lot of time between games for grabbing a meal so plan ahead and figure when likely break times will occur and either bring lunch/snacks or know where you can get it quickly (or even make a run to sandwich shop). Many parents bring reading material, work, or a laptop. Do not expect the Tournament Director or other parents to have the time to watch after your child. Some parents split the chaperone time at the tournament with another parent.

Where do parents stay all day?

Most tournaments have a designated area where parents and players may hang out between chess rounds. In chess terms, this is called the “Skittles” area. Coaches also may arrange to reserve a room for their team, often at a price. It is a good idea to arrive at the tournament 30 to 45 minutes before the first round to get settled. Many players and coaches find that playing chess for fun or blitz games between rounds is not a good idea. Younger players may get caught up in the fast and silly nature of blitz, and play less carefully during their tournament rounds. More experienced players may find that the nonstop calculation of chess moves in tournament and “just for fun” games may cause them to perform less optimally during their competitive rounds. If time permits after the game is over, players may wish to briefly analyze the critical moments of their game; it is a great way to learn! Players may then wish to take a break from chess between rounds. For kids, physical activity is a great outlet.

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