25 November 2023

Organizing an OTB Chess960 Tournament

A couple of months ago, in What about Biel? (September 2023), I wrote,
Before I discovered this video, my objective in the search was to learn about best practices for organizing and directing an OTB (i.e. not online) chess960 tournament. The year 2023 saw both a round-robin and a Swiss chess960 event in Biel. What can be learned from them?

I posted a few more times about Biel, where the most recent was Live Coverage from Biel (November 2023). I didn't learn much about Biel 'best practices', but I did have the time to create my own list of points to consider.

Note that I've never participated in an OTB chess960 tournament, so I have no direct experience here. I've discussed the main points with a few people, always informally. If you have something to say about the subject, you can leave a comment at the end of this post. Here's my list of considerations (SP = Start Position):-

  • Allow SP518 RNBQKBNR?
  • Play same position on each board?
  • Play two games with each SP?
  • Use what time control?
  • Use what ratings for seeding / pairings?

  • Choose SPs how? [A]
  • Announce chosen SP how?
  • Announce SP how long before game starts? [B]

The first five questions can be decided beforehand. The last three are more operational. The comments in brackets ('[]') have further considerations below.

[A]: There are a number of pitfalls to avoid. The first pitfall involves the SP generator on Chessgames.com, which uses nonstandard numbering. I've posted a few times about this:-

The second pitfall is that there are a number of bad algorithms in use. They are bad because they overlook the requirement that all SPs should have an equal possibility of being chosen. See, for example:-

For some novel selection methods -- not necessarily good -- see:-

[B]: One idea is to distribute a short list of SPs before the event starts, then choose one SP from the list before each round. This allows for some brief home preparation. The short list can be longer than the number of rounds, e.g. twice the number, to satisfy purists who want to keep home preparation to a minimum.

While preparing this post, I found an interesting description for the NZ Fischer-Random Championship 2023 (newzealandchess.nz; New Zealand Chess News). The announcement ('Format') said,

There will be two six-round Swisses. The A-grade is restricted to players familiar with Fischer-Random (Chess 960) rules; the B-grade is open to less experienced players (the Organisers reserve the right to move a player to an appropriate section).

We are using FIDE rapid ratings for seeding, and will apply FIDE rapid chess rules (eg 2nd illegal move loses the game). The time control is 25 minutes for the game with 5 seconds increment per move from move one.

Positions will be drawn at random and displayed. Players will be expected to set up the boards themselves, and there will be 10 minutes between the start of the round and the start of the clocks, for players to study the position (without moving any pieces).

One of the problems in researching 'best practices' is the large number of synonyms for chess960, like 'FRC', etc. Add that to the large choice of relevant keywords and I was never sure if I was overlooking good announcements.

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