Can I just show up and play?

Our club does not have membership fees, and it is open to all. However, our regular schedule involves rated tournaments, and this requires that all participants be current members of the United States Chess Federation (USCF). You can obtain membership directly through the USCF website, or you can provide the dues to the tournament director and he can process the application when he submits the tournament results (allowing you to play right away).  Occasionally, the TD or a parent may be free for informal games in our skittles room, adjacent to the tournament hall in most cases.

Why are our entry fees so low?

Entry fees (if applicable) are due at the time of registration.  Our tournaments are very inexpensive (less than $10 in all cases), and are free to Vassar and Marist students, masters and titled players, and mostly free to juniors under 18.  We are eternally thankful to Vassar and Marist Colleges for providing us with free playing spaces throughout the year, and we pass the cost savings on to you.  Our entry fees are mostly used to purchase prizes, rate the tournaments for the USCF, and to subsidize the cost of our annual simultaneous exhibitions given by GM’s or IM’s.  Because Vassar and Marist are nonprofit entities, we in turn do not offer cash prizes for any tournaments sanctioned or advertised by our club.

What should I bring?

Each tournament player is expected to have a standard chess board and pieces, clock (digital preferred and delay ready), and a pen/pencil and score sheet in order to write down moves. Of course since a game requires 2 players but only one board and clock, it may be possible to rely on your opponent to provide the necessary equipment. But relying on someone else is not the same as being assured of having what you need, and it is strongly suggested that anyone who intends to play regular tournament games equip themselves as needed.  Please learn how to operate your own chess clock, the TD may be of assistance, but it is not their responsibility to set your clock each round.

Where can I obtain tournament chess equipment?

The USCF has an online store, but there are many other options. Some members have had luck at the local game shop, The Dragon’s Den.

Why is a digital clock preferred?

All games have a time control, and it has become standard for the time control to include delay. A delay means that the player’s clock does not start for a set amount of time at the start of their move. This has helped prevent time scramble scenarios where a player loses on time even if they have an overwhelming advantage on the board, while still keeping each round within a reasonable duration. An analog clock is not capable of implementing delay. If a delay-capable clock is available then it must be used, but if one is not available then the regular time control is applied without any delay. For example, a tournament with a time control of G/30 + 5d (30 minutes for the game with a 5 second delay for every move) would be played at G/30 with an analog clock.

How is a tournament different from playing an informal game of chess?

The current USCF rulebook is over 300 pages, but there are some general rules that are important to remember:

1. Touch move. If you intentionally touch a piece, you are obligated to move it. While maintaining contact with the piece you can move it to a square, change your mind, and move it to another legal square, but once you let go you cannot take the move back.

2. Record moves. So long as both players have at least 5 minutes of time remaining, each player is required to write down the moves (theirs and their opponents). Once one player has less than 5 minutes left, neither player is required to keep track of moves.

3. Silence. Except to offer a draw, or announce resignation, it is expected that players refrain from talking or otherwise making noise, to avoid disturbing the concentration of others. When your game has completed, and you and your opponent would like to go over the game (which often happens), you should move to another room away from the games currently in progress.

4. Good sportsmanship. Shaking hands and wishing the opponent good luck at the start of the game, as well as shaking hands at the end of the game, is not codified in the rules, but is always a good idea.

For more information on tournament chess 101, visit the USCF FAQ and Tournament rules pages.