Step by step instructions on having your kids start playing in rated chess scholastic tournaments in the US Part I

Disclaimer and Introduction

This writing is based on the experience of a parent of a scholastic chess player and is not an expert’s extensive list. When my son just start playing in rated scholastic tournament last year, we got many help tips from the chess parents and organizers. I appreciate all the helps we received and want to make some contribution toward the chess community. I wrote this post to help readers, especially the future chess parents, to jump onto this exciting train, chess for kids to reach excellence in future. Please leave your comments if you think I missed anything or made any mistakes.

The biggest hurdle for parents is to think your kids are not good enough to attend the tournaments. In fact, quite the opposite, if you hope you kids becoming better in chess, attend the tournaments. No matter what are the levels of you kids, there is a good possibility that there are kids of both higher and lower levels. Attending the tournament is just the start of the long chess journey. Don’t wait but enjoy it.

But what is a rated tournament? Rating is a measure of how strong the player is at the tournament. This rating, done by USCF (United State Chess Federation) for each USCF member is considered an official measurement in the US, it is updated by USCF after each rated tournament, if you just start playing tournaments, you will get a provisional rating for the first 20 games. So playing in rated tournaments will give you such ratings, it is believed that such ratings, over the long run, are pretty accurate to measure the player’s strength.


1) Join the USCF (United State Chess Federation) at here, pay for your kids, get the member ID. At the time of this writing (11/09), the Premium Scholastic Membership costs $23 a year. If you want to register for multiple kids and/or adults in one family, you may want to consider the family membership.

2) Check local tournaments at here, or a better method is to check your state chess association’s website for more updated lists. For example, in Illinois, you may check here.

Get all details of the tournament your kids would attend. Some important information includes date, location, rounds time, sections, time control, payment method (online or at the door, of course, at the door usually costs more) and the contact information of the organizer (just in case you have questions to ask).

Some tournaments or sections of the tournaments are not rated, playing those tournaments will not get a rating from USCF, select a different one if you want to get an official rating after the tournament (within several days after the tournament, you would normally be able to know this new rating by checking here).

3) Register the tournament. For online registering, select the right rated section and input the USCF member, if you have questions e.g. which section is right, write an email to the organizer. If you want to register at the door (may or may not be allowed for the tournament of your choice), normally you need to email the organizer the name, USCF member ID of the player and your phone number to pre-register the event.

You and your kids are now ready to go to the tournaments, tell your kids “try your best and good luck”.


6 Comments to “Step by step instructions on having your kids start playing in rated chess scholastic tournaments in the US Part I”

  1. By Rufeng, November 16, 2009 @ 9:44 am

    Thanks for the detailed instruction and your time. I'd like my son to start playing chess. I went to his school's Fun Fest yesterday, and he chose to play chess showed a lot of interest.

  2. By The Chess Dad, November 16, 2009 @ 10:30 am

    You are very welcome. Interest is very important to anything. How about having your son join USCF and start to play the tournaments?

  3. By Rufeng, November 16, 2009 @ 1:05 pm

    Would it be better for him to take some chess lessons before the tournaments?

  4. By The Chess Dad, November 16, 2009 @ 1:30 pm

    I would say "No" since tournaments are the best lessons. Playing tournaments without taking any lessons is not a waste of money. Once you starts, the rest is relatively easy, at least you have some idea about what to do such as "take chess lessons".

    Start now. Give a lot of encouragement and support to your son at this beginning phase.

  5. By Monica, December 2, 2012 @ 12:28 am

    Fantastic web site. A lot of useful info here.
    I’m sending it to some pals ans also sharing in delicious. And of course, thanks for your sweat!

  6. By, June 25, 2013 @ 2:35 pm

    I really like what you guys are usually up too. This kind of clever work and reporting!
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