Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Genesis of a tournament

  I wrote 2 months ago that I have hit my stride in running my monthly chess tournaments and I have the routine down so the process is almost effortless on tournament day. But in order to make a tournament run effortlessly, a lot of planning is required.

  I noticed at my youth chess tournament on May 14th that the players were getting cabin fever by the end of the day. I had taken a gamble and scheduled my June tournament in Pioneer Park in Des Moines on the 18th. The tournament will be outdoors but under a covered shelter near a playground. I easily have room for 70 players but can only guarantee the first 42 players a spot in case it rains. Based on the sparse amount of early entries too many players in case of rain won’t be a problem, but it is important to keep to a monthly tournament schedule for my core group of players and parents. Luckily, I scheduled only 3 rounds instead of the usual 5, so I already have enough players committed to have a fun tournament.

  Since the youth tournament will be over by 1:30 and I have the shelter rented until 9, I decided to have an adult tournament in the afternoon. The tournament starts at 2:30 and will consist of 4 rounds with 15 minutes per player per game, so I expect to be all done by 5:00 pm. I’m always conflicted in setting the prize fund and entry fee for an adult tournament. I like to play in tournaments with low entry fees that have fairly quick time limits and don’t really care about winning money. Most of the other chess players I know don’t mind paying a high entry fee if they a) get a lot of chess in for their cash and b) have a chance at winning some decent money.

  I’ve had a number of adult tournaments in Marshalltown. Last year I had the free tournament that drew 12 players in the open section with trophy prizes and 18 more players in the beginner section. In 2008 I had an adult tournament that had a $5 entry fee and guaranteed a $25 first prize and $105 in class prizes. I drew 20 paid players and lost about $60 since I covered the entry fees and IASCA memberships of 2 of the players. In 2007, I tried a big money tournament with a $350 prize fund based on 25 players and a $15 entry fee. I had 19 players which reduced the prize fund to around $270 and showed a small profit.

  All my adult tournaments in Marshalltown have shown me I don't really have a handle on what will maximize participation. So for this tournament, I decided to swipe an idea from Ben Ryan who ran tournaments in Nebraska the past few years before moving to Houston a few months ago. He ran tournaments with cash prizes according to what your score was. If a player wins all 4 games, they will receive 4 times the $15 entry fee or $60. A player with 3 wins and a draw (3.5 points) will receive $45, 3 points gets $30, and 2.5 points gets $15. Ben called it the Plus Score Swiss and paid more for a perfect score and less for a score just over even, but I only stole the concept and not the numbers or name. I’ve done the math and if I get 6 players I should be assured of breaking even. I’m even planning on playing myself and am brushing up on my openings and doing some tactic puzzles every morning and night. At our Thursday night blitz tournaments, I’ve been beating the people I’m supposed to, but not pulling any upsets. I’d like to be on my ‘A’ game on the 18th. Every win I get is not just money in my pocket; it’s also money I don’t have to put into someone else’s. The reverse is true of every loss, but that’s not something I choose to dwell on.

  I’m expecting a great day of chess on the 18th, rain or shine. I've done my due diligence and the attendance I get is out of my hands at this point, so I can just relax, get ready to play, and give the people who do show up to play the best chess experience I can provide. I have the shelter rented for a Saturday in July, but I want to see how the park works for a tournament before I commit myself. If ‘Boom-Box Benny’ or ‘Cell-Phone Carla’ shows up to hang around, it may prove to be an unsuitable venue, but everyone should understand the risks of playing outdoors before they start and since only the quick chess ratings of the participants will be affected, no one will stay away for fear of losing their regular rating points.