How can I deal with two family members who are playing in the same section? For example, my brother and I both played in the same local tournament (one section) fairly frequently. Usually, we could avoid being paired (there were enough people, and the other players were willing to cut us some slack).

Occasionally, we would be leading the tournament and there was no way around pairing us. The most drastic case was when we both had perfect scores and were playing for first place (and potentially third for the loser). As a good big brother, I soundly trounced my younger brother.

Now it's not far-fetched to imagine a case where the game between family members impacted prizes/tournament standings at the end of a cash tournament. Is there a fair way to deal with the situation? Obviously any kind of collusion would be grounds for a double forfeit, but it would also be very hard to prove that it was a pre-arranged result.

An interesting side note - I seem to remember seeing that former World Champion Kosteniuk used to play in tournaments with her sister, and she said that they would be paired in round one to avoid any conflicts later. Is this a reasonable solution or is there a more equitable way to deal with things?

  • 1
    I hesitated because it's a bit localized, but +1 for soundly trouncing younger brothers :p Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 23:46

3 Answers 3


The situation is not very different to two training partners or two friends being paired. The dilemma between sportsmanship and friendship is the same. Are you allowed to "misuse" personal information about weaknesses of your opponent? Should you pre-arrange a result to fit the needs of each other?

The keyword is sportsmanship here. You are playing in a chess tournament because you like the thrill of a tournament, the competition and over everything else: the game. You both share this love. Why should you sacrifice the idea of the sport at all? Trying to win against an opponent is not a personal affair, but a trial of strength between the two players. That is why you joined the tournament in the first place! If someone beats me, he might still be my best friend (at least, after my embarrassment of having lost is gone). If you pre-arrange a game, you harm the idea of the tournament and you harm yourself, because you get less excitement and benefits from playing there.

There are several cases of successful siblings competing in the same sport at the highest level. In Formula 1, the Schumacher siblings Ralf and Michael were competing for several years at the same races. In woman chess, the Kosintseva siblings Tatiana and Nadezhda are both ranked among the 20 strongest women. I think they attend the same tournament together very often. I doubt any of them would sacrifice the sport, nor did I ever hear someone voicing that opinion.

Hence I would suggest, the more professional the level of play is, the less you have to worry about siblings being paired against each other. As a tournament director my fear about cheating players would not increase only because there are siblings playing.

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    Good points - the situation I was trying to describe is more on the scholastic level - when the parents get involved. Or alternatively, when there are enormous cash prizes - for example at the World Open. It's not out of the realm of possibility that one would throw a game if it meant a $10k pay day for a sibling. More important than the actual game is the perception of other players and the perception of how you as a TD run the tournament and keep it fair for all.
    – Andrew
    Commented May 16, 2012 at 13:00

When my club attended tournaments, we'd just ask the TD to not pair us if possible. We'd explain we played each other every week and would prefer new opponents. The TDs were always understanding and accommodating.

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    +1 This is exactly what my brother and I did too. The only time that it didn't work was when we were the two clear leaders - no choice then but to pair us.
    – Andrew
    Commented May 18, 2012 at 12:33
  • Agree. At some point, it becomes impossible to not pair brothers/club members while remaining within the pairing rules.
    – Tony Ennis
    Commented Sep 22, 2013 at 15:27

I don't really see the problem, and if I had a brother, I'd probably keen to compete. Just try to play your best game, and ask your brother to do the same.

Maybe you should try to play against the position on the board, not against the person. And in the end, chess is still "just a game". It would be sad if one of you couldn't deal with this.

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