Tips on tournaments, leagues, clubs and ratings

Where to start…

Initially an interest in playing chess begins at home. The next step is usually to participate in after-school chess classes or chess classes in a local library.

Joining a chess club is a great way to meet players of your own age who enjoy the game. Clubs will usually provide classes followed by friendly games, and an opportunity to join junior teams and participate in one day tournaments.   see list on junior clubs page.

Chess camps during mid-term breaks and holidays are a great way to improve skills and meet other players.
School players participate in leagues see
A good example of these one day tournaments and chess camps are events run by Alexander Baburin, see details on the newsletter page.
Check out the junior events calendar on this site for regular updated on events.


Once you have joined a chess club you can participate in Team events and Leagues run by the Leinster Chess Union. Initially, you will play for the junior club in events such as the Mick Germiane Cup, O’Connell Cup and the Rising Stars, these are one day events, 6 rounds from 11am to 5pm. As you progress , you may enter the higher divisions of the Leinster Leagues playing for the O’Sullivan Cup or the Bodley. There are 7 divisions in the Leinster Leagues, right up to the Armstrong Cup, Division 1, in which the strongest players in Leinster fight it out over 12 rounds. It has surprised many experienced players to see the rapid rise of our young chess players to the top ranks in a very short period of time.  It is only a couple of years ago that they played their first division 6 match for their junior clubs. They, and many others,  have gained experience through participating in these leagues and tournaments and many have been selected for the international junior squads. see article ‘achievements’
Tournament Essentials
Not every chess tournament is the same, either in duration or format, they vary from one day events to 6 round weekend events, right up to a full 9-day FIDE Internationally rated tournament. So, chess enthusiasts can participate at any level that suits them.

One of the first individual tournaments that juniors attend is Alexander Baburin’s one day events which takes place once a month. Over 100 players regularly play in two sections.

As the experienced junior player progresses they need to playing longer, rated games. The next step is to join the ICU, Irish Chess Union, see
The difference with these tournaments is that they are rated, (explained under ratings) and are more that 1hour 30 minutes per player. A clock is also used. They generally take place over a weekend, one game on Friday, three on Saturday and Two on Sunday. A typical example would be the 7pm Friday, 10am, 2pm and 7pm Saturday , 9am 2pm on Sunday.

Generally these weekend events are designed for adults and children. However two big events which take place for juniors are the Irish Junior Chess Championships, (April) and the Leinster Junior Championships (Jan). These are divided into sections u8, u10, u12, u14, u16, u18. Details of these will be on the calendar.

The best place to find out about ICU rated tournaments is in the calendar section of the ICU website or the junior events calendar
Follow the details about registering for the event on line or by post.
The tournament format
In each section participants are graded and seeded. They are then drawn against each other with the top seed as number 1, down to100 (for this example presume there are 100
entries). Most tournaments will have 6 rounds, with each player playing 3 games as
white and three as black, if possible. In round one player 1 will play player 51 and
player 2 player 52 and so on. So a newcomers first match will most likely be
their toughest if they are a low seed, this is the time when you explain how much they
can learn from the experience. Make sure they analyse the game with their opponent
afterwards. It’s good to point out that you learn a lot more from a loss than a win, but
don’t presume they won’t or can’t win this game. When the game is over they must go
to the draw on the wall and mark up either 1, ½ or 0 against their name and that of their
opponent. A win is scored as 1 point, a draw as ½ and a loss as 0. When all games are complete the next draw is made, in this case all players scoring 1 are drawn against each
other, also anyone on ½ will be drawn against someone on ½ and so on, when possible. The same follows for rounds 3/4/5/6.

Rating System

When you join the Irish Chess Union as a beginner you are un-graded and you are given a provisional rating. The first 20 rated games you play will go towards deciding your rating. This is calculated by the ratings officer after each ICU tournament and added to the live ratings. A list of all rated ICU members is published approx. 3 times a year. This is the list that the ICU Selection committee use to select players for International events, both senior and Junior.
You don’t need to submit any results, they will be calculated automatically.



1. You can learn more from a loss, if you go over your games afterwards with your opponent. This also helps to develop friendships.

2.Aim to get a point or even half a point from the event, and then improve on this score at the next events. Try new openings and plans instead of just focusing on winning. Take your time and have fun!
3. Age has no bearing on an opponent’s ability.
4. Don’t be obsessed with ratings, they can cause you to be afraid to take risks and chances in case you lose a few points. If you gain or lose a large number in one event it
will usually balance out over the next few tournaments,
5. You can make wonderful friends through accompanying you kids to weekend
events and longer events abroad. These are often people you might not meet in the
normal course of life. We’ve been lucky in that we have made some very close
friends, with whom we often travel together and share accommodation. On a
cautionary note however, we would suggest that it is often not a good idea to try and
turn one of these events into a family holiday. They are enjoyable but can also be
hard work and stressful as you often need to be at hand to give moral support ,
especially to younger players. Regardless of the strength of your child, when they
lose, as we all must sometimes, there is the inevitable disappointment and having put
so much energy into a game they may need some time away from the crowd.

Benefits of Chess for Children

Chess is unique in that it is one of the few sports in which parents, can participate with their children, on an equal footing as age is no barrier.
1. Playing chess helps build a child’s confidence.
2. It also helps children express their opinions and to relate to adults.
3. Juniors learn about decision making and the importance of being able to make a choice, and then accept the outcome.
4. Playing chess emphasizes the importance of managing one’s time, an essential life
5. Chess helps build mental stamina and concentration.
6. Players see the results of their hard work and preparation being rewarded with progress and success. Winning a match or tournament is not the only benefit, sometimes just
knowing that you played well or had an exciting games is enough to reward your effort.
7. Chess teaches children not just how to win graciously and also how to accept defeat.
8. Chess is one of those rare sports that brings together people from all different backgrounds, cultures and ages, thanks to a common interest.