Yesterday I got a notification that I passed the United States Chess Federation's Local Tournament Director examination, with a score of 92.5%. This proved to be a feat less because of the examination--which was, after all, open book--than because my exam form was misplaced for some months through the miraculous intervention of the person who sometimes comes to clean our home. She finds creative, well-organized and unfathomable places to "put things away", including this exam. Fortunately, the USCF did not hold me to a deadline for exam completion in the rules, and I did not have to re-take the test. Now I have ascended from the "club" level of tournament director to the "local" level, an ascent I believe I made once before in my 20s. As a "local" director, I can run tournaments pretty much up to 99 participants. I tend, though, to run tournaments a bit smaller than that.
The tournament director's card places me back into position to run more chess tournaments with my micro-club, the North Texas Blitz Hegemony. My efforts in 2003 and 2004 amounted to two tournaments, each drawing only four entrants (which is actually not a bad number for running a one-day tournament, but it economically unfeasible unless one has a free room, which I did not have). I want to run more small tournaments, but I want to figure out a way to get attendance just high enough to break even on the tournaments while paying out a modest but workable prize fund. I've already begun penciling out the idea of running something in October or November, which would give me time to promote a tournament, and to run something with prizes more impressive than the kazoo first prize of my Plano Kazoo Quad.
My ideal tournament would require one day to complete, involve 8 to 20 participants, and break even.
I think that the largest tournament I ever directed had but 24 participants, and 24 is on the borders of "too large". I like tournaments to be collegial affairs, and among 24 people there is often at least one distraction.
I must look into, I suppose, "tournament director software", which automatically does pairing using the Swiss system pairing system, and then prints out cool cross-tables of the results. Although Swiss System pairing algorithms can be a bit complex (a fact I remembered when doing some pairings on the exam last month), the TD software I have seen is quite expensive for what is, after all, not a complex set of things for a program to do. I will see if something affordable exists now, as this should definitely be 30 dollar software and not 99 dollar software. It would be nice, though, not to have to do the pairings by hand, with those little index pairing cards. On the other hand, I rather enjoy shuffling the pairing cards, trying to make the perfect Swiss system pairing.
The economics of chess tournaments require a bit of risk. Although it always seems to me that almost-free-space-not-in-one's-home should be available for 0 to 50 dollars, in fact I end up having to pay some 100 to 150 dollars for a meeting space. If I have 20 entrants at 20 dollars an entrant, then
I can have a cash fund of 400 dollars. I can then pay 200 dollars out as prizes, 150 dollars for a room, and then break even after paying the other 50 dollars out in rating fees and modest advertising. But if only 4 people show, then my entry fee pool is only 80 dollars, and I am in the red. If I could drive my room cost downward substantially, then each chess tournament would be guaranteed to finish in the black.
Perhaps I should go in "the other direction". Although my original theory was that most people, like me, do not really care about prizes but only want to play chess, my little tournaments suggested this theory is flawed. I may need to increase the prize fund to draw the entrants to make the tournament work. If my prize fund were, say, four hundred dollars (200 to first, 100 to second, 50 to 1st person rated under 1600, 50 to 1st person rated under 1400), then my budget would look like this: Room: 150, rating fees: 20, advertising: 50, prize fund: 400, total: 620. The number of entrants I would need at 20 dollars per entry would be 620/20, or 31. Perhaps if I raised the entry fee to 25 dollars, rendering my critical mass 25 players, it would work. I continue to tinker with how to do this right. Maybe if I instead had 1st place: 120, 2d place: 60, 1st U1600: 40, 1st U1400: 40, then I'd be able to make it all work. That's a prize fun of 260, plus room rental of 150, plus advertising/rating fees of 50, for a total of 460. That would require a "critical mass" of 23 players, which is achievable. At prizes of 80/40/40/40, then the "critical mass" drops to 20 players. The key, it seems to me, is to lower my fixed room costs. I will solve this problem eventually, but it may take more trial and error to do it.
Trial and error struck my poetry endeavors, as I got notification that I did not win the chapbook contest into which I entered. Although I'd like to have won (much as I'd like to win a lottery or be able to eat cinnamon rolls without them affecting my waistline), I'm not at all disappointed. The odds in such things are rather long, and actually, one wants them to be long, so that the contest succeeds. The "winner is announced" e mail ominously promised all that we would all get some sort of feedback.
That's always fun, though a part of me wants my feedback to come in the form of unsullied return of the submitted poetry, with the appropriate postage I affixed to my return envelope attached. I have a set of poems I have been meaning to submit for a number of weeks now, and perhaps the agony of defeat will get me to the computer this weekend to get them sent off.
I've been settling back into work after my three days off, and I'm grateful I have so much to do. I learned this morning that next month I have two more appeals to argue roughly back to back. In some ways, it's easier to prepare for two appeals at once.
I'm excited because tomorrow my sister brings a niece and a nephew or two for a visit for a part of the weekend. She's off to Fort Worth to hear a minister preach or some such, and we get to spend time with the kids. I hope the weather is good for fishing, as one of my nephews loves to go fishing. If it's not, though, we'll go swimming or to movies or other fun things.
I've also been scheming a bit over where to take my 13 year old nephew for a chess tournament next month. I need to nail this down soon, but there are many good choices to choose among. I feel as though we ought to "road trip" a bit, though, and that makes the choices wide and fun.
I think that I'll also get out my New Year's resolutions from January, which took the form of a "to do" list. I know I have done a number of things on the list, but I want to do as many of them as possible. I might as well while I am at it.
It's so good for us to be home. Perhaps that's the best part of vacation, that waking up in one's personal Kansas.