**Written by Robert N. Bernard for Wholesale Chess**

This is the fourth posting in a series of 4 articles comprising **A Parent's Guide to Tournament Chess**.

Here's a short description of the Swiss System of pairing opponents in chess tournaments. Refer also to the diagram provided.

**Step 1: **At the beginning of the tournament, rank all the players from highest rating to lowest rating. Unrated players should be ranked lowest. The number given is called the "pairing number". In the example, Helen has pairing number 1 and David has pairing number 4.

**Step 2:** Split the list of players into two equally sized groups, where the split occurs between the two middle pairing numbers. If there are an odd number of players, one player is given a ""bye"", which means that they get a full point for the round, but they do not have an opponent.

**Step 3:** Pair the top half of the group with the bottom half of the group, but maintain the rankings in the top and bottom halves. You might expect that for 8 players, 1 would play 8, 2 would play 7, and so forth, but in a Swiss, 1 plays 5, 2 plays 6, etc. Alternate colors so that if 1 gets white, 2 gets black, and so on. Post these pairings on the pairing sheet.

**Step 4:** Once the round is complete, record the results. 1-0 means white won, 0-1 means black won, and 0.5-0.5 is a draw. In the example, Helen beat Sadie, Mateo beat Dhiren, Julie beat Ming, and Chris beat David.

**Step 5:** In the next round (and all subsequent rounds), group players again, but this time by their total score. In the example, there are four players with 1 point, and four players with 0 points. Each of these is called a "score group". Within each score group, use the players' ranking numbers, and split them again.

**Step 6: **For each score group, pair the top half of that score group with the bottom half of that score group. In this way, players with the same score will play each other. Try and maintain alternation of colors for each player (so they get white, black, white, black, etc., in each round).

**Step 7:** Post the pairing sheet with the new pairings. In the example, Chris has white against Helen with black. Notice that both Chris and Helen have the same score (1 point) and that Helen was ""due"" black this round.

(Click on the image below for full sized image)

*Robert N. Bernard is the manager of the New Jersey Knockouts of the United States Chess League, where he started three years ago as the Knockouts' blogger. For the USCL, he also compiles an unofficial rating list and weekly power rankings. Frequently, he can be found on the Internet Chess Club, where he has a weird tendency to win a lot of their trivia contests. He is also a member of the United State Chess Federation's Ratings Committee and coaches his son's chess team. He has a very nice plaque from the 1982 US Amateur Team Championship, where he captained the team that won the Under 1400 prize.*

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**Written by Robert N. Bernard for Wholesale Chess**

This is the third posting in a series of 4 articles comprising **A Parent's Guide to Tournament Chess**.

Inevitably, your child will be asked *"What's your rating?"* and the child will then ask you about ratings. Chess ratings are a statistical measure of a player's approximate skill level, and in the USA, chess ratings range from a low of 100 to 2800 or more. (Note that it is improper to use the term "chess ranking" when you mean a chess rating instead. When you rank something, a low number (i.e. 1) indicates that it is the best. Higher numbers are better in a rating scale.) A player receives a rating if they play in a rated tournament.

For the first 25 games or so, ratings are determined by averaging each opponent's rating plus 400 if you beat that opponent, each opponent's rating if you drew that opponent, and each opponent's rating minus 400 if you lost to that opponent. For example, in your first tournament you beat opponents of ratings 800 and 900, draw an opponent rated 600, and lose to an opponent rated 700; your first rating would be (800+400) plus (900+400) plus (600+-0), plus (700-400), or 1200+1300+600+300 all divided by 4, which is 850.

There are some complications if your opponent's ratings are very low, or if you win or lose all your games, but this is a rough estimate. Once your rating becomes established (i.e., you have played more than 25 games), the general guideline is that you will gain many rating points if you beat someone higher rated than you, lose many rating points if you lose to someone lower rated than you, gain only a few rating points if you beat someone lower rated than you, and lose only a few rating points if you lose to someone higher rated than you. If you are curious about the math behind all of this, the United States Chess Federation's rating system is explained here.

Finally, after the tournament is over, be prepared for some sort of catharsis in the car, no matter the age of the child. Your child may talk excitedly for the next hour and not be able to sleep at night. Your child may weep inconsolably because every game was a loss. Both outpourings of emotion are healthy, and indicate that the tournament really meant something to the child. After the emotions are drained out of the child, joy or despair, keep your ears open, as you may very well hear "When's the next chess tournament?"

*Robert N. Bernard is the manager of the New Jersey Knockouts of the United States Chess League, where he started three years ago as the Knockouts' blogger. For the USCL, he also compiles an unofficial rating list and weekly power rankings. Frequently, he can be found on the Internet Chess Club, where he has a weird tendency to win a lot of their trivia contests. He is also a member of the United State Chess Federation's Ratings Committee and coaches his son's chess team. He has a very nice plaque from the 1982 US Amateur Team Championship, where he captained the team that won the Under 1400 prize.*

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