I'm going to my first USCF tournament this year in October. I'm guessing that OTB, I'm between 1000-1100. My goal is to be around 1200-1300 by the time I play. To that end, I'm relearning all the basic tactics and strategy.
Here's the flyer from the tournament http://www.daytonabchcc.org/daytonabchcc/ClubChship2010.htm
I have until then to learn the basics of what the heck I'm doing. Specifically, I'd like to get some insider tips about what to expect and perhaps some recommendations about equipment.
Good luck! I just finished my first ever USCF event this past weekend and it was both very educational and a total blast.
You may want to ask, but we were provided everything needed, save chess clocks, which people either brought with them or purchased on site. A lot of people bought Chronos clocks and, unfortunately, tried to use them in the tournament without clue #1 how to set them properly. Know thy clock.
Wow, G/45 x 5 rounds. That's a pretty speedy time control (for me, anyway). Maybe some sparring games with friends or computers at that time control to get used to the pace...
I have never brought a clock or board to a tournament. The embarrassment of it allows me to 'go within myself' But a couple of red bulls strategically consumed is a must!
Alright, so know how to work the equipment and be prepared to lose on time
Can I bring my own board if it's properly sized and has the regulation pieces?
I have always been terrified by stories about events where one is supposed to bring a board/clock with him/her. Especially in the US. I wonder why chess is in such a poor state there. Even in relatively poor Russia it would be considered a disgrace to ask a player to act that way.
Why don't the organizers have due respect for the participants?!
In small open tournaments, that is, where the number of players is less than 150, many organizers just cannot afford the extra expense, man/women hours of setting up the equipment, supplying equipment, resetting etc. These smaller tournaments basically are run on a shoe string. Larger tournaments as the Reno ones run by J. Weikel, US Opens and some others, can afford to spend the time and the money to supply equipment. It is not a matter of respect.
I dunno, perhaps the organisers just don't have enough sets.
The common scenario for rapid tourneys over here is that you bring a chess set per two people (rounded up, so if you're going alone, bring one), but there's the option to rent sets for a small fee. They are often organised by small clubs-they might not have 60 sets.
Serious tournaments are more expensive (a rapid is usually under 100 CZK-about $5, whereas these tournaments start at 600 CZK, with as much 2000 for the more prestigious ones), and hosted by larger clubs, so they have the means to provide sets for all of the players.
So I don't think it's about respect, it's just about the means.
NM Dan Heisman has a Novice Nook written about it.
Beyond this, I'd say with a G/45 Time control,Make sure you have a time-delay enabled clock. Those 5 second delays are all you need in easily winning situations so don't leave home without it.
Pay attention to time management. Realize that you're not going to find the best moves all the time ... play a move that feels right to you within a budget of time.
For example, I'd normally consider G/45 to be a "fast" time control so I'd really want to get out of the opening 5-10 moves in no more than 5-10 minutes.
One of the worst things a player starting out can do is to burn the clock trying to react to an opponent's opening that he's not played before. For your level, trust good opening guidelines (there are tons of information about these in these forums alone!) if you find yourself dwelling too much early on in the game.
On the flip side, do not EVER think about blitzing out the moves either. Even if you are supremely confident about a move, do a safety check, i.e. look at all your opponent's forcing responses (checks/captures/threats) to your move and THEN play the move. Most good players can do this sanity check in less than 10 seconds so it really doesn't hurt your time budget.
If you're the easily distracted type or prefer to "study/read" in a silent environment, you may want to bring whatever music you need to help isolate your thoughts to the game alone. Just make sure your buds don't blare too loudly to distract other players in the hall.
Another thing I'd be careful about is to shake off the previous game's emotional baggage. Trust me, you *WILL* feel burned about a loss. Step out, go to your happy place and treat the next game with fresh eyes.
Enjoy the experience!
Thanks, Shivsky; once again you're more than helpful.
Come now Natalia, 100 sets with pieces would cost $500. Why should the organizers absorb that cost .
It's funny but the smallest city event I play in, Rochester Summer Open, can provide sets, pieces, and clocks, while the events in Minneapolis and Chicago are bring your own.
You can't get a standardised set with pieces here for $5. Stauton pieces go for like 1000 CZK ($50) even without the board. And then you need a clock, so that's at least another $30.
If sets in the US are so cheap, it shouldn't be a problem for the player to bring the pieces anyway,
Another peice of advice that I've found useful: bring someting to drink. For me it's water, some people like juice of some sort. It has a calming effect, which one needs in those 5-minute endgames. Aditionally:
While this may seem like a lot, the important thing is to play good chess. Finally, just now that you're there to have fun and get better; post-mortem analysis with your opponents are helpful, and they help you make friends that will likely keep you company during other tournaments.
Most everything has been covered by the responses. The main thing is to be careful of the touch-move rule since you will be obligated to move whatever piece you touch (and likewise make sure your opponent does too).
Another thing to remember about those G/30 or G/45 swiss tournaments: You can stop writing down the moves once you OR your opponent are down to less than 5 mins left. I remember getting a couple of victories just based off my opponent wildy trying to scribble down moves in the last few seconds. Don't fall into that death trap. Just be aware of the clock but don't count on it to win you games. I have made that mistake where I could have drawn or won, but tried to blitz my opponent out of time and ended up losing.
FWIW, the vast majority of my tournaments have had boards and pieces supplied, from the smaller club events to the large once-a-year state ones. Not clocks though--at least not enough for the tournament but there seems to always be a spare or few around if needed as provided by the organizer.
As I understand it, in Europe a vendor supplies sets in exchange for the right to sell during the tournament. In my limited experience the organizer provides the equipment (in my part of the US anyway) or it's not provided at all. One exception comes to mind: At the big state event >10 years ago the vendor put about $1000 of boards/pieces for each of the top 10 boards or so. Nice gear there.
I've never heard anyone complain about being abused if they have to bring their own. It's just a fairly happy standard for here...the local wisdom if you will.
In fact I'm happier if I am allowed to bring my own board and pieces as they are quite good equipment and better for playing on than what's provided, and better than what I've seen the plebians play on in European tournaments.
As has been noted in other comments, solid plastic sets are very cheap here and perfectly servicable and that goes for the vinyl boards as well. It's no hardship to purchase such a set if that's what the player wants and needs.
With all the wonderful advice, it's difficult to bring in the obvious "wild card". Which is, crying. It should only be used in the right position, meaning one that is unfavorable. It's a five round tournament so you will want to drink lots of liquids. There are many ways to go here: Cry early, stumble later. Or, stumble early and cry later. We'll examine the latter. When you stumble, you should be able to move the entire table. It's going to be a long table with at least three games going. You'll want to disrupt all of them. So, while getting up during the game, you'll want to "accidentally" trip and bash into the table. It appears you are a man, so clothing malfunctions won't be as impressive...unless you're bold. In any event, when the other players at your table start mumbling about what a cluts you are, say nothing. Sit back down, face flushed, and begin a small stream of tears that you appear to want to stop. You may, for the next ten moves at least, be on the verge of a full-blown crying episode. No matter what is happening in the game itself, you now have a very uncomfortable advantage that can be used for any sleight of hand that may be needed at the time
The one piece of advice I can add that nobody else has mentioned - practice playing at the time control of the tournament in your internet games, to get used to that speed. Also, email the TD (Tournament Director) now to find out if there's a 5 second delay, and if 5 minutes will be deducted because of it. At some tournaments, G/45 really means G/40 with a 5 second delay, unless you're using an analog clock that can't do delay, in which case you get the 45 minutes.
One other question: Is there a specific reason you're waiting until October to play in a tournament? I live in Florida, too, and I travel to Orlando for big tournaments fairly regularly, which would be a lot closer for you from Daytona than my 3 hour drive from the southern end of the state. There's the Southern Open (http://www.chesstour.com/so10.htm) coming up July 30-August 1, and the Florida State Championship will also be in Orlando this year, over Labor Day Weekend (Sept 4-6).
As for equipment, I've never been to a tournament that supplied equipment. Players are always expected to bring their own. That's just the standard, and everyone's used to it. Since so many people like to analyze their games or play skittles or blitz between rounds, it's handy to have your own equipment with you, anyway. You can get a set with plastic pieces, a vinyl board, and decent carrying case for under $20. Clocks are a bit pricier, but I think it's worth it to own a digital clock that can do delay, just in case you're stuck facing an old timer who still has an analog clock.
If you really don't want to bring your own set, or don't own a tournament standard set yet that you can bring to your first tourney, you can usually get away with not bringing one, and just assuming that your opponents in every round will have one.
To be honest with you, I just don't want to embarrass myself. I figure I should get the basic tactics and patterns down again before I jump into the tournament scene. In the future I plan to attend as many events as possible.
Thank you everyone for the invaluable advice!
I remember that feeling. When I first started playing, there was no local club for me to play at (actually, there was, but they didn't advertise very well so I didn't realize), and I wasn't prepared to drive 3 hours to Orlando and spend a weekend in a hotel just to lose every game. So I waited until I thought I was strong enough to win at least one game before diving into my first tourney. My first tourney was an open Swiss, meaning 20 or so players all in the same section, not divided by playing strength. I beat a 1400 player and lost to guys rated 1700, 1600, and 1300.
But in the case of big tournaments like the ones I mentioned, they're divided into sections, so as a beginner, you'll only be playing other beginners. Which means a lot of kids, by the way, many of whom will still be able to beat you. You'll have to get over the fact that you'll lose to 7 year olds if you're going to play tournament chess. But the Southern Open has an "Under 1200" section, and the details of the Florida State Championship haven't been posted yet, but there's usually a similar section there. Even if you can't beat the top players in that section, by the third round, you'll be playing other people who lost their first two games, and you'll find someone you can beat.
So don't worry too much about looking bad. Just play lots of practice games at slow time controls for now, and get used to asking "Is it safe?" before making any move. And remember, everyone at the tournaments you'll attend was a beginner once. Most people you meet will be sympathetic and offer good advice.
I guess I just need to get out there and play. It's just a lot to take in all at once. I looked at the Orlando tournament flyer and I have to say that I'm not quite sure what this means:
5SS, 40/2, SD/1 (2-day option, rds 1-2 G/75)
Does it mean 5 swiss rounds with 40min/2sec delay for the 3 day tourney and G/75 for the first 2 rounds of the 2 day tourney? What does SD/1 mean?