An Experts Guide To Choosing a Chess Tournament Part Deux

“A few weeks ago I published an article about how I choose the chess tournaments I play in. In that article I mentioned that I would be playing in the Columbus Open. This post picks up where the last one left off.”

The American chess world has a problem with design; A big problem. All to often content is obscured by codified language and abbreviations that make the pertinent information unintelligible.

This particular form (and every one like it) are pretty much the bane of my chess existence. It’s bad enough that we (the chess playing public) have to scour the internet to find these events; now we have to try and dissect this ridiculous form. It’s a design disaster. I’ll start from the top logo fine; include your logo sounds good. Title fine; include a title, that’s important. Grand Prix Points (GPP)? Who the hell is worried about Grand Prix Points? Oh, these guys… who get free entry to the tournament anyhow (because they are GM’s and IM’s which “encourages” them to play in these “local” events). For those of you who don’t recognize some of the names on the list I’ll break down the top 10: (because that’s how the prize structure works)

12807422 KEKELIDZE, MIKHEIL NY 401.517
14651144 GELASHVILI, TAMAZ NY 386.369
12513936 IVANOV, ALEXANDER MA 290.333
11257585 KUDRIN, SERGEY CT 270.099
12561884 SARKAR, JUSTIN NY 261.488
12650696 SEVILLANO, ENRICO CA 248.999
12796667 BRYANT, JOHN DANIEL CA 189.161
10098327 BONIN, JAY RICHARD NY 145.249

So, Kekelidze, Gelashvili, Ivanov (senior Champ), Kudrin, Shabalov (Former US Champ), Lenderman are all GM’s. The rest (with the exception of Bryant) are all IMs. So there is a 256 point difference between first and 10th place, which makes it incredibly unlikely that Bonin will be able to catch Kekelidze (assuming he keeps pace… which he probably will because he’s a professional chess player). Wait, how many GPP do I have? At last check I had: 0. In fact almost everyone has 0 points; one of the best players in Rochester has 16 points… which puts him ONLY 130 GPP points away from $200 10th place prize!

Moving down the form we have a “Convenient Downtown Playing Site” great; that’ll be really helpful for all the time I get to go out and explore downtown Columbus! I hope they have a Wendy’s because that’s about the only exploring I’m going to be able to do because I’ll be busy playing chess; inside what is likely to be a sterile conference room surrounded by the muffled sounds of throat clearing and clock punching. The point is that in these “Informational sheets” I would encourage them to leave out sales words and marketing jargon and stick to “just the facts”.

The next line pisses me off to no end; perhaps more than the GPP points, “OVER $7,000.00 in PRIZES, ALL UNCONDITIONALLY GUARANTEED”. Great! So the winner get’s $7,000? Well, no; not really. What they mean is that there is ~$7000 to be dispersed amongst 3 sections which means the winner of my section (the Open section) will receive $1,200. That’s cool; but what about the other prizes? Well let’s take a quick look, at the prize structure, “1200, 800, 500, 400, 300” What this means is that they are paying out 5 places in the open section plus 500 and 300 to the top players U2000 (which doesn’t pertain to me). Here is the prize payouts for last years tournament (which used the same prize structure). You’ll notice on the right hand side of their table is a 4 digit number which denotes the players USCF ELO rating of these there was nobody below 2200 and above 2000 because there isn’t a prize for that section. So why then would anyone rated 2000-2199 even play in such an event? For the love of the game obviously… because certainly the 7000 prize fund isn’t a real incentive because it’s unlikely that anyone within that rating group would win any part of that 7000 dollars.

The next portion of the form (where they don’t lie or mislead you about their tournament) is finally where the form becomes relevant and important. 5-SS means 5 rounds using the Standard Swiss Pairing system. 30/90 SD 60 is the time control; if you reach 30 moves in 90 minutes you get an additional hour for the remainder of the game. Now we get to more pertinent information $85 if rec’d by June 16, that’s how much it costs to play in this event. In this particular event they have a feature I quite like, “Free to Sr. Master/above who complete their schedule ($85 subtracted from prize winnings).” That’s a great feature, it encourages strong masters who may not be in their best form to play the full schedule; and as a reward they don’t have to pay an entry fee. The next information they give is about the timing of the tournament, this all makes sense and seems reasonable to me (they have a 2-day option unlike New Hampshire). They also have a re-entry option which is nice for players who want to “buy back in”. I’ve never personally done this but some have found it helpful in the past.

The next section is in regards to the hotel accommodations and what “great” deals they’ve arranged under the “chess rate”. For only 109/night you can reserve a room at the holiday inn. A quick check on hotwire will show that I can find multiple hotels that are offering rooms for <40 a night that are in Columbus and probably only a short drive away from the playing site.

The final bit of this form is how to go about sending some guy in Ohio money to play in a chess tournament and his contact information; and of course a little form you can fill in to register. I don’t have any real issues with this section so I’ll stop here.

I hope this has helped illuminate a process that I spend a lot of time researching. I believe we as a community can do better than this. I also believe the USCF should have more oversight over tournament prize structures for potential holes (such as the one I pointed out with the Columbus tournament). I decided ultimately that I will not be playing in the Columbus Open based on the factors I outlined above. I can’t justify driving 6+ hours to and spending >$200 dollars to play chess in Ohio.


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