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Does FIDE or any national organization offer any guidelines on prize distribution for chess tournaments?

Are there specific patterns on how top-heavy the payout should be, or the balance between place and class prizes which have wide adoption?

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The US Chess Federation Official Rules of Chess 5th Edition has a section (section 33, if you have a copy) that has some guidelines about prizes. These are specifically described as recommendations and not rules.

A ratio of 10 to 1 between the top prize and the entry fee for serious tournaments is suggested (and perhaps even more if you want to attract top players.)

It suggests that class prizes be at least the amount of the entry fee, and also suggests that the place prizes all be higher than the class prizes.

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There are no official guidelines for how big the prizes should be or even if they should even be money.

As an example our club winter swiss starting in January is offering $500, $375, $250, $175, $100 in the open section and $150, $100, $50 in under 1850 section.

The amounts of the prizes for the different places is not something you should obsess about. Of far greater importance is how prizes are going to be awarded in case of ties. This must be decided in advance and announced before the tournament starts. Ideally it should appear in promotional literature produced before the event.

For reference our club offers cash prizes and trophies (not wishing to be too insulting, it's the thought that counts, but typically these cost < $5 down the local trophy making shop).

Cash prizes are split evenly between equal place finishers with no attempt at tie-breaks. This is the intelligent approach which avoids too much worrying or fighting over the calculation of numbers after the decimal point. Trophies are split using a tie-break system (Solomon-like solutions cutting up a trophy don't make sense) and are also spelt out in the pre-tournament conditions, usually median Buchholz followed by various flavours of Sonneborn-Berger.

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    Prize distributions vary widely and with just a few place prizes perhaps one doesn't need to be principled in how one makes the determination (e.g. why doesn't the top section have a 4th place prize of $125?). I'm curious about the reasoning used by organizers who have given it more consideration. – cohoz Dec 31 '14 at 12:52
  • +1 on tie breaks, because in a Swiss system there will be ties. Be sure the rules about prize allocation are posted in advance. – Tony Ennis Jan 30 '15 at 14:22

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