National Scholastic Tournaments: Cost vs. Benefits

With the annual K-12 National Scholastic Chess Championships ending less than a week ago, I felt that it was a relevant time to write about national tournaments in general.  The National Scholastic Chess Championships have been around for a long time.  In its younger days, these tournaments were full of strong players and were a must-attend.  However, in more recent years, the overall strength of these tournaments has decreased.  Why that has been the case?  I can’t know for sure.  Travel costs haven’t increased; if anything, they’ve been decreasing.  The number of players in the US has been on the rise every year.  In that case, what is the reason for the decrease in interest in these tournaments?  Perhaps it has to do with age.  Every section tends to have fewer players as the grade level increases.  That could be due to the fact that high school workload is exponentially greater than that of an elementary schooler; in addition, these tournaments require missing a day of school.  Another possible reason to abstain from playing in these tournaments is rating.  This is especially apparent in the higher rated players.  The circumstances of the tournament make it a very probable that high rated players will lose rating by the end; these include the relatively high number of rounds per day, short time controls, and facing opponents who only play in scholastic tournaments.  Now, I’ll admit, I have lost rating in most of these tournaments, with the exception of a few.  Despite the change in rating, though, I was still able to receive place trophies for the performances.  Though I understand why these reasons might deter kids and/or parents from participating in these tournaments, I have a strong belief that the benefits of these tournaments outweigh the costs.  There is much experience to be gained from playing in these scholastic tournaments, especially of one’s goal is to play in national open tournaments at a later point in time.  Schedules would be awfully similar, with multiple rounds per day, and traveling being tiring as always.  These tournaments also provide kids with the ability to spend a weekend away from work and being able to play the game they love.  They are able to meet kids from around the country and just have a good time altogether.  I’ve made a point to attend every single K-12 tournament since I began playing chess almost seven years ago.  This past tournament, however, I had to miss, but it was not for any of the aforementioned reasons.  The tournament had to be inconveniently scheduled the week following my week-long marine science field trip to the Bahamas.  Missing an entire week of school proved to be too much to handle, and the workload would have been unmanageable if I missed yet another day of school, especially since I had two tests from two AP classes on that Friday.  However, I am 110% sure that I would have gone if the field trip and the tests were scheduled earlier or before the actual timing.  Since I missed this one, though, I do not plan on missing the next national tournament May of 2017, which happens to be the Supernationals.  These national tournaments typically boast a much stronger field due to their rarity – it’s a quadrennial event.  If you have not played in a national tournament yet or have not played recently, I highly suggest you try to make this trip out to Nashville.  Similarly, if you are an adult and are unable to play yourself, try to convince as many kids as possible to play.  It will truly be an unforgettable experience and worth the costs.  Although it’s still approximately six months away, the sooner you begin to plan for the trip, the better.  So, I hope to see as many of you as possible over there!  And, as always, see you next time!

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