Let's say there are 4 categories playing Chess: U11, U17, Ladies & Open.
In India, I have witnessed 2 types of category based Swiss tournaments, which are non-rated.

  1. U11 players play each other; Similarly U17, Ladies & Open play only each other. No intermixing. The ranking is decided later based on the top performances.

  2. All categories are made to play each other under a single umbrella. After completion of all the rounds, in the final mixed rankings, the category-wise top scorers are sorted out for prizing & awards.

Have seen the 1st approach to be fair, but it's often an organizational nightmare for the tourney directors.

The 2nd approach is easy to implement and it gives chances to the lower categories to play the higher ones. But I am not sure if it's considered fair.

If someone wants to go for the 2nd approach, are there any general guidelines for such tournaments & its fairness in the result?

3 Answers 3


Can a non-rated tournament having all categories play in a single group and then the ranking decided based on overall performance?

Certainly and it is often the best option. Note that this is also often a perfectly good solution for rated tournaments.

The situation where it is the best option is where one or more of the categories has few players. Then including the small category in a much larger tournament allows the players in the small category to have more and better games.

I remember a European senior (both S50 and S65) team championships a few years ago where there was supposed to be a separate category for women in each of the two age groups. In the end there were fewer women's teams than rounds and the organisers made the quick decision to have one tournament for all S50 teams and one tournament for all S65 teams rather than 4 separate tournaments.

To give an example of a FIDE rated tournament with different category prizes here is the entry in the English Chess Federation calendar for our club's annual FIDE rated blitz:

9 round FIDE rated blitz, 5+2, prizes for first 3 players plus 2 grading prizes, junior and senior (S65), max one prize per person

The junior prize, if memory serves me, was for the best score by an U18 player. The ratings for the grading prizes are deliberately not mentioned because they are determined on the day according to entry. On the day there were 45 entries so the first grading prize was set between the ratings of the 15th and 16th players in the rating rank order of players and the second between 30th and 31st.

The way this works in practice is very simple. You run the tournament as normal and at the end give out the prizes according to who finishes in which position. If you are using Swiss Manager for the pairing then there are settings you can use which will identify the different category prizes very easily.

  • Note that this is also often a perfectly good solution for rated tournaments. Interesting. I wanted to know about this. Would you like to elaborate a little bit more, how intermixing age categories can work for rated tournaments? Any sources also will be helpful.
    – iammilind
    Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 13:18
  • 2
    @iammilind the prize structure doesn't matter for whether a tournament is rated or not. If you mix up the age categories you have an Open tournament with some special prizes to the best U11 and the best U17, so it can be rated just as any other open tournament.
    – David
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 8:59

I have seen both approaches. They're both fair enough to use, although it might be slightly fairer to separate them. Ideally you want the last round to have the two strongest players in a category playing against each other, instead of playing other people from other categories who may have very different strengths. But fairness is not the only consideration.

If you have a 5 round tournament and 7 people per category, it makes more sense to mix them; otherwise if you're unlucky you might not even be able to do proper pairings in later rounds. If you have a 5 round tournament and 50 people per category, it makes more sense to keep them separate; otherwise you might end up with 6 people in a category with a perfect score.

You also need to take into consideration what your players want. Are the people in U11 willing to play adults? Are the adults willing to play them? Do the ladies prefer playing amongst themselves, or would they rather play others?

  • Just for the clarity, do the rated tournaments allow the 2nd approach OR are there any such instances in past?
    – iammilind
    Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 5:08
  • If there are 7 participants and 5 rounds, then Swiss pairing doesn't make sense, but other pairings can make sense. Although, an even number of players is obviously preferable.
    – Stef
    Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 14:52

I've also played in tournaments with both formats you mentioned. Either can work well, though for the second option, keep in mind the ratio of number of players to number of rounds. It's preferable if this ratio isn't too high in swiss tournaments.

E.g., a few months ago I played in a swiss with over 100 people (one big section), but only 6 rounds. While this wasn't terrible, the problem was that many of the top players wouldn't play each other. I tied for first with another player on 5.5/6 points, but I never even played him in the tournament. On the last three rounds I had to face players who ended up finishing as top 3rd, 7th, and 6th.

Meanwhile, the person I tied with took a half point bye on the 4th round, and partly because of this the top 3 players he had to face were only the 7th, 12th, and 26th place finishers. Getting 5.5/6 in a tournament while having such pairings certainly seems a bit off.

  • All variants of the Swiss system currently in use are well-known to be problematic, but nobody seems to care. There is a very easy way to make the pairings to ensure a very accurate Swiss variant, but again nobody seems to care.
    – user21820
    Commented Nov 23, 2022 at 9:39

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