"BLUNDERS"- Dec 1 - TOPIC # 3: Should chess organizers participate?


Pardon Our Blunders Show Review: Dec. 1, 2010

    Written by: ChessMarkstheSpot

   Welcome to the weekly review of Pardon Our Blunders. Every week our Hosts cover varied topics—all chess-related. As regular viewers know, their coverage normally leads to some very interesting and entertaining banter. Here’s a rundown of this week’s Topic #3:

 Should chess tournament organizers play in their own events? Pros and Cons??

   Danny kicked this off by saying this was a personal subject for him as he runs tournaments like the Copper State International. The first year of the tournament, he said he played badly because he wasn’t able to focus because he was responsible for the organization of the event.

    The second year he did not play, but felt regret because he had 15 very strong GMs come to this event in his hometown. He had this one great chance of playing these strong players and didn’t do it.

    David has run about 6 tournaments at this level and has another one planned in January. He mentioned he has played in all of the tournaments. He said you give up a few points when you play because you're often busy elsewhere. During one game, his clock was running down while he was busy taking care of a problem, meanwhile getting flagged down by someone in the playing hall. He said despite all of that, he always feels good when he plays.

    Danny says this year, his tournament will be Round Robin-based and the event will be held in the same hotel where the players sleep, to make it more convenient for them. Danny wants to make his event an Elite event to establish a strong reputation and foundation, and hopefully change the way professionals look at and relate to chess tournaments in America. Danny didsay he is going to play this year. Good luck “Pappa Bear”

    What does everyone think about this? Should organizers play in events they host?  Drop off your thoughts here.


Sure, why not?  Why shouldn't the organiser be able to play?

There may be some shallow n00bs who decide to accuse them of 'rigging', but they should just be ignored.


There's a few points I want to make. The first one I made during the broadcast, but can elaborate more on here:

To play or not to play isn't the first question you need to ask. The first question you need to ask yourself as a tournament director is where your priorities lie. If your top priority is to run a great tournament, or even to change the way professionals look at tournaments, then that's your starting point. I am going to assume for the moment that every tournament director has this view, or they wouldn't put in the work to run a tournament. 

The next question is: What do you want to get out of playing? Do you want to play to try for a GM norm? Do you want to play to have fun and create memorable sacrifices against the great chess players you have attending (David)? Are you playing to prove something? 

Once you have the second question answered, you can go on to the third one. It isn't "should I play?" but instead is "How can I achieve my goal without sacrificing the quality of the tournament?" 

David seems to place his TD duties first, and play for fun, not being too serious about the results. This works for him. If you want to play more seriously, figure out how to make sure the tournament runs smoothly even if you aren't spending time as a TD. This brings me to the comment of another user in the channel, quoted here:

madhattery: surround yourself with competent help...let them handle the particulars during play

Who ever said that the tournament organizer had to also be the tournament director? Can't you handle the organization, production, advertisement, etc, and appoint someone else (or a few someones) to be in change during the tournament? If you could, would this give you the freedom to play to your full strength? 
Maybe I'm way off here, but perhaps the above questions are at least some sort of help for this decision. 
Fezzik wrote:...the TD should drop out half-way through the tnmt in order not to influence the distribution of prizes...

How does that not effect the outcome?  Everyone scheduled to play the organiser after they drop out gets a free win.


In post one it clearly says round robin.

And, BS imo, even if it is a round robin I see no reason why the organiser can't participate.

If Magnus Carlsen organises an event, why the hell should he not be able to play in it and win?  I don't understand why people think otherwise.


Yeah, it would be pretty difficult for the TD to be playing!


I don't care if the TD plays as long as someone else can handle the problems and questions.  As long as the TD doesn't rig it in someway so they can play a higher rated player or rig it in general.  But other then I don't care much.

Fezzik wrote:

However, they should seriously consider disqualifying themselves from any prize fund.


I disagree. Why would they consider that? I don't see how being the organizer of an event affects the competition. If anything, it would put the organizer at a disadvantage because they cannot focus exclusively on chess.

Moreover, if we are talking about a round robin, the case if even clearer. If it's a Swiss tournament, as long as there is an impartial party in charge of overseeing the pairings, it shouldn't be an issue either.


michaelslosson and madhattery make a good point about getting solid help for your event, then you can focus more on the chess. however, i suspect you could never quite play at your normal strength. you'll always be wondering about how the tournament is going (after all, it's a good time to gather data about that question). your mind will wander: did the snacks arrive in time, is there someone who needs a ride back to their room after the round... even if you have great people taking care of this stuff for you... it's hard to imagine Danny ever *not* worrying about his copperstate baby.

as to tds playing in their own events-- i agree that at a professional level it could create problems. you don't want them setting pairings or arbitrating rules disputes if they are competing against other professionals for top prizes. but even then it's mostly about appearances-- it would be hard to truly compete with other strong strong players while doing td duties.

andy lee, vinay bhat, and myself used to run a real life chess club. we would td and play in those events on a daily basis (we were running ~3-4 tournaments per week). well, the club members dearly wanted to get to play with us, and not a single person ever evinced a fear that we were falsely arbitrating in our own favor. i'm extremely confident that it was in the best interests of chess players and chess for us to have played in those events while we td'ed.


Who would adjudicate in a dispute between the TD and his/her opponent ? It would be awkward for all concerned.


  Aren't there assistant/associate directors or some kind of arbiter a little further down in the food chain than can help out these kinds of duties or am I just mistaken?  Undecided



nick, if the td is the only td, then they would adjudicate themselves.

yes, there are directors out there. but in the case of the club we were running, we were the directors. so we ran the tournaments. we weren't going to pay someone else to come run our tournament bc the participants asked us to play. i donated plenty of money to the chess community as it was, without hiring out for more tds. (not like i wanted to play in our events to begin with).


That would create at least the appearance of impropriety IMO.


  True. That's just more money out of your pocket. And having someone to deal with these things may not be the way you deal with them, so that is an added hassle too.


This is why I wonder if I should try and start a chess club in my area. I have no problem doing all the work and certification necessary to be a TD, but it would stink to only be able to play in the 2 or 3 events a year that occur within driving distance of me.



Eniamar, at a small local club with prize funds less than 500$ for events, i don't see why you shouldn't play in everything you organize if you want to play in it. in general you'll be building something that 2 dozen local players will find positive. if there's one guy who meets you, hangs out at your club, and then thinks he doesn't trust you... (and id be surprised by this) then it'll be his loss.

building something real and positive is more important than the possibility of someone detecting a possible impropriety. the people who do attend your club will be very thankful for your efforts.


  Eniamar - I myself want to have a chess club at some point in my life. It's one of the big dreams that I have and I really want to get it done in my life before I forget what chess actually is LOL.  I actually haven't played much OTB at all lately, just do some opening study, endgame puzzle things on my sets.

   But I am split on the organizers participating. It's great for the events that they host so people can see them OTB, but if you have situations that arise and you wind up flagging a game you might've been winning, then I guess you just have to take your medicine and deal with it.  Undecided



The only thing holding me back from starting a club and/or doing some version of scholastic chess(I think it'd be a hoot) is that I'm such a weak player. I don't want to run things or have to adjudicate situations if I don't understand what's going on.

Who knows, maybe I'll make the 45 minute drive to the closest club and see how they do things there.

On the topic at hand, so long as there's always an objective 3rd party around, I see no problem with a TD playing in his/her own tournament.


In a professional event, the issues are different than those in a smaller club ran event. In my area, we used to have a TD that would organize and TD the events. However, he had to move and I took up that responsibility instead. Here is what I have been doing (with the exception of my first event).

1. I only play if there are an odd # of players
2. I don't pay an entry fee and I am not eligible for prizes (so, I'm essentially a house player)
3. I enlist the help of a stronger player in the club if there ever would be a question on any of my games that needed adjudicated.

In smaller areas like mine, if the TD couldn't play then they would have very few chances to play in any events, unless they traveled. I'm lucky now, we have another player that has stepped up to be a club level TD. Initially he will help run events but eventually he will be able to run events himself (his choice).

The USCF rules specifically allow for a playing TD, even if it is discouraged. There is even a rule that a TD can stop his clock if he/she has to leave the game in an official capacity.

I hold my stance on prizes in order to hopefully eliminate any chance of problems or claims of unfairness, event though it isn't required by the rules. However, I also want to be able to play and I want to be sure that no one has to sit out a round, if at all possible.


sounds like a really well-thought-out way of doing things. i'm interested in your club; do you write about it anywhere online?