How to get ready for your child’s Scholastic Chess Tournament

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* Pack a lunch, snacks and water for them and for yourself. 
A scholastic tournament is usually four or five rounds, half an hour per person per game, so you will be there for the day. You could also check out ahead of time whether there are nearby restaurants, if you are planning a take-out lunch. There is not much time between rounds, usually fifteen minutes. But that is plenty of time for a snack or PBJ lunch. 

* Be prepared for an 8 hour day, and an “awards ceremony” at the end of the day.
There are generally trophies for the top five players, which kids just love. (I am saving a box of my son’s scholastic trophies for him at his request. He is 30 now!) And at many scholastic tournaments, every child who does not win a trophy gets a medal on a ribbon for participating. Put these trophies and medals on display at home in the living room or in their room!

* Bring books or other activities for your child, for between rounds. 
There are usually 4 or 5 rounds per day. Games usually last 30 minutes per person. So it is a good idea to bring a book they like or other things for them to do to “decompress” between games. A few ideas: a chess puzzle book; a sudoku or crossword puzzle book; a hand held video game; a cell phone to play a game on (maybe your phone for a few minutes); a coloring book or sketch pad; crayons or colored pencils. 

* Bring your own laptop, book, cell phone, knitting, etc. 
It is good to camp out in the hall or a side room and be there for your child for the duration of the day, especially at their first tournament or if they are younger. This will all be new to them the first time, and maybe new to you too! They may feel a little shy or intimidated so I would not recommend just dropping them off. Especially at larger scholastic tournaments held in a hotel (sometimes 100 – 200 players), they may be confused about how to get to the bathroom, etc. If they are in the K – 3 grade level, it is a good idea to give them YOUR cell phone number to keep in a pocket. If they can’t find you between rounds, a tournament Volunteer can call you and help them get to you. 

* Be ready to give encouragement!
 “Congrats!” on a win or draw (tie), and possibly a shoulder to cry on after a loss. They may take a loss pretty hard, but children bounce back quickly. They will see that everyone else wins some, loses some, and gets some draws — and know that they are not alone. It is good to remind your child that we always LEARN when we lose to a stronger player. 

* Be aware that a tournament may be somewhat stressful for your child. 
Especially their first tournament… I usually get a case of nerves at the start of a tournament, even now! It’s good to discuss this with your child ahead of time, and throughout the day as needed. The more tournaments and games they play, the faster they will get used to it – and the stress level will lower or even disappear. A scholastic tournament is really a fun and exciting event for your child.

* Be aware that parents are not allowed in the tournament room while games are in progress.
This keeps the tournament room quiet for better concentration. Some parents can be distracting (waving, or taking pictures, etc.) or overbearing, or make their child MORE nervous by standing and watching the game. Explain ahead of time that you won’t be watching them play. Parents are allowed in the tournament room at the start of each round. So you can help your child look at the new pairings posted on the wall (a list of who plays whom, at which board, and who plays black/white) — and then help them find their seat at the right board. Then you can retire to a side room or hallway area reserved for parents/family during the games.

* Encourage your child to take their time before each move and really look at ALL the moves, before deciding which piece to move.
This takes time to learn. Young children will usually make their moves pretty fast, and therefore make a lot of mistakes. They may be playing on a clock for the first time. The clock will usually show 30 minutes for each player. Once they make a move they tap their side of the clock, and the other person’s clock starts running. It is possible to “lose on time”. That is, the 30 minutes runs out and the game is not finished, so you lose if your time ran out. But it is actually better to lose on time than to move fast without thinking, and get checkmated in ten moves! 

* Explain to your child that the Tournament Director (TD) will talk a little bit before each round and explain the rules.
The rules usually include the following:
If you touch a piece you have to move it; you have to write down your moves on a score sheet; you tap your clock after each move; you raise your hand if you have a question; you do not talk during the game except to say “check” or “checkmate” or “adjust” if you straighten a piece; you are to be respectful of your opponent. (At some tournaments the youngest players are NOT required to play on the clock or write their moves down. In this case, if a game goes on too long, the TD will place a clock on the table with 10 minutes left for each player.)

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