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Discover the Best Online Chess Tournaments: A Comprehensive Guide

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

If you're a chess enthusiast, you're probably always looking for new and exciting tournaments to compete in. But, from what I’ve seen recently, it’s kinda hard to find tournaments that are truly exciting.

That's where this blog post comes in. We're going to show you how to find the best online chess tournaments for your needs, whether you're a beginner or a grandmaster. We'll also provide a list of upcoming tournaments that are USCF-rated and unrated, so you can start planning your next tournament experience today, and finally, some tournaments that are for kids and community-based!

Want to skip the mumbo-jumbo? Here’s the table of contents:

What are USCF-rated and unrated tournaments?

The United States Chess Federation (USCF) is the national governing body for chess in the United States. It is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to promoting the game of chess and providing opportunities for players of all azges and skill levels to compete.

A USCF-rated tournament is a chess tournament that is sanctioned by the USCF and in which players' performances are used to calculate their USCF ratings. USCF ratings are a measure of a player's skill level, and they are used to seed players in tournaments and to determine who is eligible for certain prizes and awards.

To participate in a USCF-rated tournament, players must be members of the USCF. Memberships are available to players of all ages and skill levels.

What to keep in mind before joining an online chess tournament:

Tournament format:

There are many different types of online chess tournaments, such as Swiss tournaments, Round robins, and Knockout tournaments. Choose a format that you enjoy playing and that is a good fit for your skill level.

What are Swiss tournaments?

Format: Swiss tournaments are a type of chess tournament in which players are paired with opponents based on their current standings.

How it works: Players are typically paired with opponents who have the same or similar number of points. After each round, players are awarded points based on their results (a win is worth 1 point, a draw is worth 0.5 points, and a loss is worth 0 points). Players with more points are then paired against each other in the next round.

Pros: Swiss tournaments are a fair and efficient way to determine a winner. They also give all players a chance to play against a variety of opponents without being eliminated.

Cons: Swiss tournaments can be long, especially if there are a lot of players. They can also be unpredictable, as there is no guarantee that the top two players will meet in the final round.

What are Round Robin tournaments?

Format: Round robin tournaments are a type of chess tournament in which each player plays against every other player.

How it works: Players are typically drawn into groups of 4 or 6 players. Each player then plays against every other player in their group once. After all the games have been played, the player with the most points wins the group. The winners of each group then advance to a playoff bracket to determine the overall winner of the tournament.

Pros: Round robin tournaments are very fair and give all players an equal chance to win. They also provide players with the opportunity to play against a variety of opponents.

Cons: Round robin tournaments can be very time-consuming, especially if there are a lot of players. They can also be less predictable than other types of tournaments, as there is no guarantee that the top two players will meet in the final round.

What are Knockout tournaments?

Format: Knockout tournaments are a type of chess tournament in which players are eliminated after losing a single game.

How it works: Players are typically paired with opponents at random. The winners of each game advance to the next round, while the losers are eliminated. The tournament continues until there is only one player left, who is then declared the winner.

Pros: Knockout tournaments are very fast-paced and exciting. They also give players a chance to play against some of the best players in the tournament.

Cons: Knockout tournaments can be very unforgiving, as a single loss can eliminate a player from the tournament. They can also be less predictable than other types of tournaments, as there is no guarantee that the top two players will meet in the final round.

Here are a few key definitions:

Time control: Online chess tournaments can have a variety of different time controls, from rapid to ultra-bullet. Choose a time control that you are comfortable with and that will give you enough time to think about your moves.

Entry fee: Some online chess tournaments have an entry fee, while others are free to enter. For example, ours is free for enrolled students, but $5 for non-enrolled

Prizes: Some online chess tournaments offer prizes to the top finishers. If you're looking to win prizes, choose a tournament that offers a prize fund that is attractive to you.

Are chess tournaments important for learning chess?

Tournaments are an important part of any learning process, including chess. They provide a competitive environment where students can test their skills and learn from their mistakes. Tournaments also foster a sense of community and camaraderie among players, which can help to keep them engaged and motivated.

Just a little advice before you join a chess tournament

  • Don’t join if you’re completely new to chess. Getting your butt kicked is never welcome, and if you're totally that's what is most likely to happen, which can discourage you and stop trying

  • Start with online tournaments. It's better if you get used to tournaments in the confort o your home, and when you know all the details you go ahead and find the nearest chess club.

Here are some of the specific benefits of playing online chess tournaments:

  • They provide a clear goal to work towards since tournaemnts give students a specific target to aim for, which can help to motivate them to study and practice more effectively.

  • Tournaments offer a chance to measure progress provididing students with a way to track their progress over time and see how they are improving. This feedback can help them to stay motivated and make necessary adjustments to their learning strategy.

  • They provide a challenging environment to learn in: thinking critically and strategically is crucial in the game, and that's what you're going to train the most. This can help them to develop their problem-solving skills and learn new chess concepts.

  • They provide an opportunity to learn from others: Tournaments allow students to see how other players approach the game and to learn from their mistakes and successes. This can help them to improve their own game and develop new strategies.

  • Chess tournaments can be a lot of fun, especially when students are competing with friends.

Overall, tournaments are an important tool for engaging students and helping them to implement their learnings. By providing a competitive environment, measuring progress, and offering the opportunity to learn from others, tournaments can help students to become better chess players and learners.

Now to the good part:

Where can I find good online chess tournaments?

Though the answer might not be clear, we’ll do our best to categorize and recommend what we think are the best tournaments you will find online. So let’s start with

USCF-rated online tournaments: (Best for competitive tournaments)

They’re old school, but they’re one of the biggest and most renowned sites for USCF-rated tournaments since they offer tournaments almost every day, primarily using the Swiss System. Here are some of the tournaments that they offer weekly:

  • Mondays, at 7 PM ET, 7 round Swiss, with a 3 min 2 sec time control

  • Fridays, at 7 ET, 5 round Swiss, with a 15 min 5 sec time control

  • Saturdays, at 5 PM ET, 5 round Swiss, with a 12 min 3 sec time control

  • Sundays, at 2 PM ET, 7 round Swiss, with a 5 min 2 sec time control

Get more information and register to these tournaments here

Marshall Chess Club (Best for serious players)

The Marshall Chess Club is one of the most prestigious and renowned clubs in the world! Based in NYC, they offer a plethora of tournaments, mostly in-person, but some of them are online and we will tell you more about them:

  • Sunday's beginner tournaments (10 A.M. ET): This is open to players who are rated below 1200 USCF or who have not yet received a rating. This is a 4-round Swiss System tournament, with a 10min +5 time controll.

  • Special events: Once a while they will organize tournaments for a wider audience than the Sundays beginner tournament, but you will have to look for them by registering to their website and having a look at their event calendar

International Academy of Chess (Best for scholastic players)

If you’re looking for online scholastic tournaments, this is the right place to look for. Every month, the IAC organizes tournaments that offers hefty prizes and competitive challenges.

The most common section is K-12 and the tournaments work with a 10+5 time control and a 6-round Swiss System.

Since their tournaments are in constant change, instead of linking each one, it’s better if you take a look at their event calendar and find the most relevant for you.

USCF-unrated tournaments (Most popular) is the leading online chess platform, you probably have heard or will hear of them. They host tournaments for all skill levels and time controls, from standard to blitz. There are also tournaments for specific groups, communities, clubs and academies.

They also have an app you can download and join tournaments from your phone and get notified when it’s your turn.

Chesskid (Most popular for kids)

Here you’ll find monthly tournaments and events. They host a monthly championship tournament in which you can be part of and interact with GMs and IMs.

These tournaments are for kids under 15, check their calendar here (Best for casual players, free platform) is a free non-profit and open-source online chess server. It was founded in 2010 by French programmer Thibault Duplessis, and it has quickly become one of the most popular chess websites in the world.

The platform offers a wide range of features for chess players of all skill levels. Players can play live games against other players from around the world, participate in online tournaments, learn chess, solve chess puzzles, and analyze their games.

Have an app you can download and join tournaments and 1-to1 games anywhere with your phone.

MM Chess (Best for kids)

If you’re looking to find a friendly community of kid enthusiasts for your children to compete with in interactive tournaments, you found the right place.

Our tournaments are guided by NM Misha Vilenchuk live through Zoom, so come in and say hi!

We offer non-monetary prizes for our winners. If you’re an MM student, we will send you presents to add to your achievements! (Prized tournaments)

Filter tournaments by skill group, tie system, time and date, time, and more! Chessking offers daily tournaments and some of them offer prizes for the top players!

The community is primarily Eastern (Europe and Asia) but nevertheless this a good place to find exciting tournaments that you can take part in.

Where can I find good chess tournaments near me?

Great question. This is why we’re creating a guide called Chess in All 50 States! Complete with our recommendations and information about each tournament. Find your state in the following list:

  1. Alabama

  2. Alaska

  3. Arizona

  4. Arkansas

  5. California

  6. Colorado

  7. Connecticut

  8. Delaware

  9. Florida

  10. Georgia

  11. Hawaii

  12. Idaho

  13. Illinois

  14. Indiana

  15. Iowa

  16. Kansas

  17. Kentucky

  18. Louisiana

  19. Maine

  20. Maryland

  21. Massachusetts

  22. Michigan

  23. Minnesota

  24. Mississippi

  25. Missouri

  26. Montana

  27. Nebraska

  28. Nevada

  29. New Hampshire

  30. New Jersey

  31. New Mexico

  32. New York

  33. North Carolina

  34. North Dakota

  35. Ohio

  36. Oklahoma

  37. Oregon

  38. Pennsylvania

  39. Rhode Island

  40. South Carolina

  41. South Dakota

  42. Tennessee

  43. Texas

  44. Utah

  45. Vermont

  46. Virginia

  47. Washington

  48. West Virginia

  49. Wisconsin

  50. Wyoming

And expect more to come shortly!

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