To TD Or Not TD? That Is The Question
“Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?” — Hamlet
Over the past couple of years I have been involved in a few different discussions about being a tournament director (TD). Sometimes, people just want to know how to run tournaments and how to become a TD. Other times, people wonder about the reasons someone may become a TD. I have heard claims that it is done to gain prestige/fame, boost ego, or for money as examples.
While I can’t speak for every person that decides to become a TD, I can provide my reasons. When I began playing chess again in 2007, I had no intention of running tournaments. My plan was to just play chess with a lot of different people. So I started going to the local club, playing chess, and entering local tournaments.
The tourneys held in town were great but in 2009, the director of the local affiliate moved. I was faced with a choice at that time; just play local games at the club and drive to other regional tourneys an hour plus away, or get certified as a TD and learn to run tournaments. I chose the latter, so at least some local tourneys would be held that the club players wouldn’t have to travel to.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” — Hamlet
My one and only intention in becoming a TD was to give local players events to attend. There were a few hiccups along the way in finding good formats, learning how to run tournaments, and consistently running events. I’m still working on those to this day.
My first goal, is to run an event that will appeal to the most area players. Part of that is trying to generate an event that can give a decent prize fund and minimize costs. In the early events, held by the Joplin affiliate, the entry fee was $10 with trophies and a small prize fund; the money that didn’t go to the prize fund or trophies went to the rating fees with some set aside to help pay the yearly affiliate fee.
When I started running events, I dropped the trophies and tried to maintain a low entry fee, paying a majority of entries toward the prize fund, usually keeping less than 20% to cover the rating and help with the affiliate fees. Due to the small number of local free venues, I later began charging a larger entry in order to set some money aside to assist with paying for sites and to limit the amount of loss any given event might encounter. Any money left after paying for prizes and expenses goes to club to hold future events and cover running costs (affiliate fees and advertisements).
While there is nothing against an affiliate or TD making money on running events, I have no current plans to do so and thus far have actually lost money running tournaments. My hope is to eventually have the events grow enough to become self-sustaining. Eventually, I would also like to see other local chess players take up the TD mantle to allow for more local events and increase the longevity of chess in the area.
I hope that gives some insights into why someone might become a TD. For those thinking there are riches or ego boosts to be gained or some kind of fame in running local events, I can say that my experience doesn’t bear that out; not that I was looking for anything like that to begin with.
Finally, for anyone wondering how to become a TD, it’s pretty easy.
- Be a current USCF member. You should also have tournament experience as a player, though you do not have to be rated to be a Club TD. To become a Local TD or higher, you must have an established rating.
- Buy a copy of the USCF Official Rule of Chess and download all the updates from the USCF site.
- Read the book and updates. Learn as much as you can of the rules.
- Fill out the TD form on the USCF site to become a Club TD and send it in to the USCF
There are some other things that will help being a TD but basically that is all you need.
The next step would be running events. If there is a TD in your area, asking to assist is a good way to learn the ropes. The full certification rules to become a TD and what kind of events different TD levels are allowed to run can be found here (PDF) on the USCF site.
Having a pairing program is also very useful; the most common ones in the US are WinTD and SwissSys. There are some open source programs out there that are usable and for smaller events you can even pair manually, if you understand the pairing rules sufficiently. The main benefits of the pairing programs are the speed of pairings and the creation of the rating reports to submit to the USCF. The reports can be created manually via the USCF site, but for a larger event that would be cumbersome.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below.