What is the JTP program?

The USCF recognizes that parents have many choices when it comes to activities for their kids. The USCF offers a special ‘try before you buy’ program for players in 3rd grade and younger called the Junior Tournament Player (JTP) program. This is not a membership. Instead, the tournament organizer will obtain a USCF ID for your player. (Birth date and grade level are required in order to verify qualification for the program.) With this ID a player can participate as a non-member in sections that include no players older than 3rd grade. Once you have a JTP ID, you do not need to request another. You keep the same ID for all events….for the player’s entire lifetime! At any point the ID may be ‘renewed’ to full membership. Any rating and ratings-history accrued as a non-member are retained. Organizers are not required to provide this option.

What is a Time Control? What does G/30 mean? What about G/15 + 5?

In any chess tournament, we have to have a way to limit how long each round will take. The time control is this limit. If your time control is G/30, that means that each chess player has 30 minutes to complete his or her portion of the game. The game could then last a full 60 minutes (30 minutes for each player). Our local scholastic in person events usually have a time control with a 5 second delay. That means, if a delay-capable clock is brought to the game by one of the players and used, each time a player takes a turn, the clock waits 5 seconds before subtracting any time from that player’s allotment. In a 60 move game, using 5 second delay could then mean that the game might take an additional 10 minutes to complete.

Online games are usually a bit quicker. A time control of G/15 +5 would mean a base of 15 minutes for each player’s portion of the game. However, each time a player completes a move, 5 seconds is added to his time. So each 12 moves gets the player an additional minute of time. It’s much harder to run out of time with a 5 second increment.

What are tie-breaks?

In any chess tournament, more than one player can end up with the same score. In the case of tournaments with money-prizes, the prize money is divided evenly between participants who have tied. Trophies cannot be divided. Therefore, we use various tie-break systems to determine places, though all players in that grouping can rightfully say they tied for x-place. Tie-break systems used locally include: Modified Median, Solkoff, Cumulative, & CumOp.

Sonneborg-Berger is the primary tie-break used by ChessKid.com.

What are the benefits of playing with a team?

At in person events, teammates are not paired against one another, if possible. (Per TCA guidelines, players who train with a school chess club but do not attend that school cannot be considered team members in TCA sponsored events.) In most tournaments, teams are defined also by the section in which the team is participating, e.g. the same school could field two teams at the same tournament – one in a K-3 section and one in a K-6 section. The top 4 players in a section are used for determining a team’s total points, but all team members are considered ‘part of the team.’ At some tournaments the organizer might allow a school to break it’s players into multiple teams within the same section, but those different teams could possibly be paired against one another.


Online events are a bit different. Some systems allow for teams to be declared, and some do not. Please review the tournament description in question to see if teams will receive awards and whether teammates will be paired against one another.

Can I watch the chess games?

In general, during local in person scholastic events parents and coaches are required to stay out of the room where the children are playing while the games are in progress. At some events parents may escort a player into the playing hall, but should leave quietly when requested to do so. Keeping adults out of the playing hall helps the chess players to focus on their games and keeps parents from trying to ‘help’ out of enthusiasm – or despair.


Online events can be a bit different. Parents will be able to watch their child’s game on another computer/device in a different room.  They will need to create a Parent Account on ChessKid (which is free).  They should then go to www.chesskid.com/play/fastchess, click on the globe, enter in their child’s tournament usernaname in the search box, and click on the binoculars.

What is notation?

Chess notation is simply a form of shorthand for writing down the moves of a chess game. In order to improve in chess, it is important to be able to review games. This is a great way of accessing previously played games. In addition, completed notation is required to enforce many chess rules. Algebraic notation is standard in the US. There are many online resources available for learning notation.

At in person events ALL players are highly encouraged to take notation, and it is a requirement in most in person tournament sections when the time control is G/30 or longer. Bring two sharpened pencils and a notation book if possible. At many events, notation sheets will be provided. Pencils and pens are the responsibility of the chess player, and necessary for filling out results slips as well as notation sheets.

Online events do not require hand written notation, as the system records the moves for you. For online tournaments on ChessKid.com players can access their game history to analyze their previous games at www.chesskid.com/me/game-history.

What is a Swiss System?

A Swiss System is simply a chess tournament pairing system which allows players to play all rounds regardless of whether they are winning or losing. No one is ‘eliminated’ because of a loss. Instead, players will be paired based upon how well they are are doing in the tournament. Barring unusual circumstances, a player with x points, however obtained, would play another player with the same number of points.

What do we do about lunch?

In person events
Chess players will naturally get hungry during the day. Playing chess requires fuel to keep those brain cells firing! At each Rocks & Rooks in person tournament concessions are offered for sale. At a minimum pizza and drinks are served at lunchtime. Oftentimes the fare is much more varied, and sometimes breakfast is offered as well. You are, of course, welcome to bring a cooler for you family, or ‘pack a lunch’. However, concessions are offered in most cases by the host school’s chess club as a type of fund raiser. It’s for a good cause!

Do parents have to stay? Who is responsible for the players?

In person events
We have a limited staff at each in person tournament. The organizers and TD’s will be responsible for the players while they are playing their rounds within the tournament hall. However, once the player leaves the playing hall, parents and coaches must take over that responsibility. Parents and/or coaches, please provide age- appropriate activities during the time between rounds. You are responsible for your players between games! If it is discovered that a child has been left unattended and no responsible party has remained on-site, that child will be withdrawn from the tournament and the parents contacted for immediate pick-up.

Parents, another reason to be onsite involves your child’s emotional well-being. Occasionally losses are very traumatic. If you are available for your child immediately after a tough loss, recovery time is much quicker. “We can’t win them all” is a difficult concept for kids!

When you register a youth for a scholastic tournament you are agreeing a list of Parental/Coach Responsibilities!

How long does the tournament last?

Our local in person scholastic tournaments are all day events. Please plan to arrive a minimum of 30 minutes before round 1 begins, and stay thru the awards ceremony. Five rounds of G/30 typically takes 6 to 7 hours.

In many of our smaller local events, the rounds are schedule on an ‘as soon as possible’ basis. In this case, and round schedule posted is APPROXIMATE. If a game requires TD intervention or perhaps runs long, or we have technical difficulties with computer or printer, the schedule might run late. If the games finish more quickly than anticipated, we might run ahead of schedule.

Regardless, please know we will encourage the schedule to progress as quickly as is humanly possible, but only in as much as it benefits the chess players.


Local online events move much more quickly. At the upcoming 2021 Region VI Championships, there will be 5 minutes between the end of the last game of a section and the beginning of the next round in that section.  If you finish your game early, you might be tempted to leave the tournament screen. Do not exit out of the tournament until the completion of all rounds! Do not leave the tournament lobby, play puzzles, or play other Fast Chess games, or you risk not being paired for the next round, or automatic tournament removal. When your game is over, you may watch other players’ games. To do this, go into observation mode (binoculars icon) and watch any remaining games so that you’ll have a good idea of when the next round is about to start.

This tournament lobby also shows the number of games remaining, which should give you a good idea how long until the next round begins. There will be a 5 minute break between the last game of your section completing and the beginning of your next round. Do not match other opponents. there is also a 5-second audible countdown right before the game is about to start. – turn your speakers up! Your game will start automatically.

When your last game is completed, you may leave ChessKid. Final results will be shared after all full play is reviewed for fair play.