I am a chess instructor teaching a summer camp class of 20-ish kids at the 2nd-6th grade.

I want to hold a tournament on the last day of the camp. Any ideas on how to carry this out are appreciated. Here are my concerns:

  • The session is only 2 hours long. Therefore I can arrange between 5 and 6 rounds, max.
  • I don't want to have an elimination style because I want everyone to feel like their games still matter towards the end.
  • I don't have the kids' ratings but I do have them seeded based on observing their play for the last three weeks.
  • I anticipate most of the games ending in a draw, therefore I would like to incorporate points (captured material) as a method for tie breaking.

Thanks in advance.

  • Do you want it rated?
    – Jimmy360
    Jul 8 '16 at 23:22
  • Running a tournament is not easy and you'll be herding cats. You'll be lucky to get 4 rounds in 2 hours.
    – Tony Ennis
    Jul 9 '16 at 2:00
  • I anticipate most of the games ending in a draw, therefore I would like to incorporate points (captured material) as a method for tie breaking. Does this mean the kids will agree to a draw? This is really unclear.
    – limits
    Jul 9 '16 at 3:59
  • No, do not use that for tie breaking, that discourages early attack as early attacks normally includes sacrifices when many pieces are on the board, players will get tempted to play something like KvP endgame or promote pawns to get all the pieces instead aiming for checkmate. You could use armageddon rounds for tiebreak, like a 2.25 v 2 armageddon
    – Ariana
    Jul 9 '16 at 6:44

(I work for an after school chess program... I've run 100ish end-of-session tournaments for K-6 kids).

Not sure why you anticipate so many draws... I see maybe 95% checkmates, 4% stalemates and the occasional insufficient material or "failure to make progress" (TD discretion in lieu of 50-move rule).

My goal is to keep kids playing: finished games get new pairings as soon as opponents are available. I don't use clocks, might for older kids if I had them available. I don't track losses. I don't allow resignations. I do track the order they arrive at a given checkmate total. So if I have two kids with three checkmates the one who got to three first prevails.

Yes, there's inherent unfairness in this format. Speed matters. Getting in a tight, slow game can be fatal to kids who should've been contenders. Less offensive to me than having a bunch of kids in an extended wait for the next round. I only have an hour, I really need to be efficient.

I LOATHE piece-value based scoring. I had to do it a couple of times when I was an assistant and it wasn't my decision. It's kind of the only option if you've got kids that can't get checkmates though. But even K/1 groups, if you don't have at least half capable of winning a game after 8 sessions their instructor is a problem.

I don't do a lot of seeding, but I try to keep the contenders away from each other on the initial pairings.


First of all, allow draws and don’t use tie-breakers.

Then, theoretically the best solution is a swiss-system blitz tournament, but in your set up it has major flaws. Due to low total time and young players, wasting time for waiting for last match of every turn (while others may be ended in a few minutes), and then sort players, and then do pairings, and then rearrange players, and then again, well, it’s not the best way to use two hours.

You should use a ‘free’ paring system (just start a new match as soon as a new opponent is available, and only check and pair similar scores if you have the opportunity to choose) together with a easy-to-use rating system (Elo, or Glicko, or our rankade), setting blitz time (or avoiding clocks) and using your seeding. Rating system provides a ranking, and this set up rewards fastest players (that can play more matches) and so it push everyone to end matches in a reasonable time (maybe less that clock time - so it works for your task to have significant outputs in two hours), and it assure - if well driven by the master - a fun experience for everyone (multi-losers included).


5 to 6 rounds could be done if they play blitz. If you were to set time controls of game/10 or game/15, you might be able to put the kids in groups of 4 and run quads.

I would recommend pairing them up and having them play 2 games at game/30 time control, or perhaps finding a strong local expert or master to give a simul.

Your suggestion for tie breaking isn't really feasible. That's not how it's done in rated tournaments, and could be confusing if you give them that impression. Draws happen in chess. There's really nothing you can do to avoid them, or change how they are scored.


Is it possible on lichess to host a private tournament? (I don't know - and if not, this answer isn't going to work.) It would handle pairings (including trying to pair as soon as reasonably possible), as well as all normal "rules" issues (e.g., draw by repetition or insufficient material).

For those not familiar, lichess tournaments score 2 points for a win, 1 for a draw, 0 for a loss (ignoring berserking/on fire for answer purposes). Playing more games gives more opportunity for more points, therefore - and it is not unusual to have a relatively high disparity in number of games played. It does tend to minimize "down time," however, which is probably a good thing for younger players.

Of course, this assumes you have access to computers (but negates the need for physical boards/pieces).

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