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Tournaments: An Introduction

To see a list of all our upcoming tournaments: click here.

Join us in the evenings and on weekends at our Premium Center Classes!

The Basics

Tournaments are an important part of any student's chess experience. Without going to a tournament, students won't get a chance to experience the most rewarding part of being in a chess program. Tournaments give students a chance to display what they've learned while also getting practice against other opponents. Going to a tournament is a key part of encouraging a student's passion for chess.

The guide below is designed to help you and your child understand how tournaments work, identify when he/she is ready for a tournament, register correctly and come prepared. If you have further questions, don't hesitate to email us at or give us a call at 602-482-4867.

When is my student ready to join a tournament?
Some parents worry that their children aren't ready for a tournament yet. This may be a counterproductive view that will hold the student back. Tournaments provide a healthy practice forum with teammates. Competitive games distill and help focus a student's knowledge. Students are usually ready when they have: a basic understanding of how the pieces move, a knowledge of "checkmate" and a desire to play.

The students at a tournament are divided into groups based on age and skill level. At all of our large tournaments, there is a "beginner section". Various sections allow students to play in their grade and skill range. Additionally, no student is eliminated simply because they lose a game. As they play through the event, points are added to a school team total. Once the event is completed individual and team trophies are awarded.

What are these "section"? Which section do I put my child into? Sections are the different divisions that we put students in based on grade and skill level. The first restriction for a section is grade. You'll notice different sections are labeled K-3 or K-6. These are the grades allowed in that section. You should find the youngest group that your child is allowed in. For example, if you have a 2nd grader, and there is a K-3 and a K-6 section you may choose to enter her in either. However, most will register in the K-3 section as that is where most students her grade will be. If you have a student 7th grade or higher, they need to be registered in the "open" section.

The second distinction we make is by rating. For example, there often are two sections that are for the K-3 grade range. Sections with a 'U' in it are called an "under" (specific rating) section. An "under" section requires your "chess rating" to be under that rating. So, for example, a K-3u500 section indicates your student must be rated below 500 to enter. New students (unrated) should go into the lowest "under" section that are in the proper grade range. Below is a list of which sections new students should register for at our Saturday School Team Tournaments:

  • Kinder: The "Kindergarten" Section
  • 1st, 2nd, 3rd: The "K-3u500" Section
  • 4th, 5th, 6th: The "K-6u600" Section
  • 7th+: The "Open" Section

What are rounds? Do they play in all of them? What are byes?
Each tournament has a number of "rounds". Each round is one chess game that your child will play with another student. Who they play is determined by their ratings and how well they have done in the tournament thus far. At our Saturday School Team Tournaments rounds start at specific times. At other tournaments, rounds start as soon as the last one is done.

Students play in all of the rounds whether they win or lose. There is no elimination at our chess tournaments. After the initial rounds, they generally play others who are performing at the same level.

If a student cannot play a round for scheduling reasons, she can take a "BYE". A BYE is a round where you don't play. If a BYE is pre-scheduled, you recieve a half point (the same as a draw). BYES are a common tool used by parents (and orginizers) to allow flexibility in scheduling students to play with the team. BYES can be scheduled when you register, or requested at any time before the start of the event.

What should we bring to the tournament? What should we be prepared for?
Our School Team Tournaments are very big events, and most parents there with their students will wait outside while rounds are being played. It is best to come prepared for the tournament the same way you would come to a picnic. Foldable chairs, a book, laptop, food and a chessboard are some things we suggest. Students have 60 minutes to play their games. If they play too quickly, there may be some downtime between rounds. Be prepared for a relaxed, fun environment with lots of chess.

What is a chess rating? What is the ASCF?
A chess rating is derived via a standard algorithm used to estimate a student's chess skill based on the tournament games they have played. The higher the rating, the better the player. Most students start around 100-200. The world champion has a rating of 2800+. Students are often motivated by and love to track their improvement, which is reflected in their rating.

To track students' ratings, we use the American Scholastic Chess Federation, or ASCF. Students must have a membership with the ASCF to join in any of our rated tournaments. You can sign up for an ASCF membership when you sign up for any of our tournaments. Simply go to a tournament registration page, and when it asks you for a ASCF number, change the dropdown box to "New ASCF Membership".

About Us

The Chess Emporium was founded in 1993 in Phoenix, Arizona. Since that time, we have grown to become one of the nation's premier providers of scholastic chess tournaments and instruction. The Chess Emporium actively encourages the youth of the Phoenix area to play chess.

Our Locations

The Chess Emporium is pleased to offer four locations for your chess needs. We have a chess center located in Scottsdale at 70th St and Shea Blvd, one located in Tempe at Elliot Rd and McClintock Dr, and one located in Phoenix at Carefree and 27th Dr.