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How to Register Online for an MCA Scholastic Tournament

1. Find out about upcoming MCA scholastic tournaments at the Maryland Chess Association’s home page: www.mdchess.org.  At the top of the page, look beneath “Major Scholastic Tournaments” or “Local Scholastic Tournaments”.  Sign up for MCA’s monthly Scholastic Email Newsletter on the left-hand side of the middle of the page.

2.  If your son or daughter has not yet competed in a chess tournament, then make sure he or she is sufficiently mature, before you register him or her.  Some players are ready as soon as they are 5—others, not until they are 7.  When a parent asks us whether we think a player is ready to compete in his or her first tournament, we focus less on skill level and more on temperament.  As long as the player has a solid command of the basics (how the pieces move, how to castle kingside and queenside, etc.), the salient criterion is not how good the player is at chess; it’s whether the player has developed the ability to handle the waves of emotions that can follow in the wake of losing—perhaps all 5 games.  So, we like to answer the parent’s question with a question: How does your player react after losing to a parent, sibling, and/or peer?  And not just at chess—at any game!

3.  If you’d like to get a general (albeit exaggerated) sense of what it is like to participate in and attend a scholastic chess tournament, then consider watching the following films: Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993) and Knights of the South Bronx (2005).  Rest assured, though: by excluding spectators from the Tournament Room while games are in progress, we prevent the kind of scene in which parents become inappropriately involved in players’ games.

4A.  If this will be the player’s first USCF-rated tournament, then register him not only for MCA’s tournament, but also with the U.S. Chess Federation.  All MCA tournaments are USCF-rated tournaments, and a player must have a current USCF membership to compete in a USCF-rated tournament. 

4B.  How to purchase the player’s first USCF membership:

1.  The simple way is to add a 1-year USCF membership to your order, when you register her for the tournament.  To do so, skip below to #6.

2.  But if (for some reason) you would prefer to complicate the process of registration, by purchasing her first USCF membership separately from her tournament registration, then:

A.  Go to www.uschess.org. 

B.  Click on “USCF” on the left, not “USCF Sales” on the right.

C.  In the upper-right-hand corner, click on “Join/Renew”. 

D.  After “Have you ever been a USCF member before?”, click on “No”. 

E.  Select an age-appropriate membership type. 

F.  After “If you want to skip the questions and go straight to the membership webstore”, click on “click here”.

[Alternatively, go to https://secure2.uschess.org/webstore/member.php?mode.x=16&mode.y=16.]

G. Select an age-appropriate Individual Membership or Family Membership.

H.  Fill in the requisite information. 

I.  Immediately after you register the player, she will receive a temporary USCF ID card online.  Print it out and keep it, until her official USCF card arrives in the mail.  Please bring either version with you to every MCA scholastic tournament.

5A.  If the player has had a USCF membership at any point in the past, then confirm that her USCF membership neither has expired, nor will expire before the day of the tournament:

1.  Go to www.uschess.org. 

2.  Click on “USCF” on the left, not “USCF Sales” on the right.

3.  In the upper-left-hand corner, click on “Players & Ratings”. 

4.  Click on “Player/Rating Lookup”. 

[Alternatively, go to http://main.uschess.org/assets/msa_joomla/MbrLst.php.]

5.  Use the following format when typing in her name: “last name, first name”. 

6.  Her USCF ID # and membership expiration date will be listed.

5B.  If the player’s USCF membership has expired or will expire before the day of the tournament, then renew it:

1.  The simple way: while registering her for the tournament.  To do so, skip below to #6.

2.  Or, the hard way: by renewing her USCF membership, before registering her for the tournament.  To do so:

A.  Go to www.uschess.org. 

B.  Click on “USCF” on the left, not “USCF Sales” on the right.

C.  In the upper-right-hand corner, click on “Join/Renew”. 

                                                D.  After “Have you ever been a USCF member before?”, click on “Yes”. 

E.  Enter her USCF ID number, or click on “Search”. 

If you click on “Search”:

1.  After “To search for your USCF ID”, click on “click here”.

2.  After being taken to a second web page, use the following format when typing in her name: “last name, first name”. 

3.  When you locate her USCF ID, return to the first web page. 

4.  After “When you have looked up your USCF ID”, click on “click here”.

[Alternatively, go to https://secure2.uschess.org/webstore/member.php?mode.x=16&mode.y=16.]

F.  Select an age-appropriate Individual Membership or Family Membership.

G. Fill in the requisite information.

6.  How to register online for an MCA scholastic tournament:

A.  Go to www.mdchess.org.

B.  Beneath “Major Scholastic Tournaments” or “Local Scholastic Tournaments”, click on a specific tournament. 

C.  If you are interested, browse through the list of players who have already registered for the tournament, by clicking on “HERE’S THE LIST OF PLAYERS (Attendees) CURRENTLY REGISTERED FOR THIS TOURNAMENT”, beneath “Register Now!”.

D.  Click on “Register Now!”.

E.  You’ll automatically be assigned the least expensive Registration option available: Early, Regular, or Last-Minute.

F.  Select the appropriate section in which the player will compete.  For advice on how to decide which section to register the player for, see below #7, #8, and #9.

G.  If necessary, also select an age-appropriate option either for purchasing the player’s first USCF membership, or for renewing an expired or soon-to-expire USCF membership.  (If you renew her USCF membership before it expires, the renewal will not begin until after the expiration date.)

H. You will receive the player’s official USCF ID card in the mail after the tournament, because we won’t process the membership until we submit to US Chess the results of the tournament the day after the tournament.  Please bring the card with you to every future MCA scholastic tournament.

7.  How to decide which section to register the player for

99% of players with little or no tournament experience should be registered for the lowest section for which they qualify.  If you are uncertain about which section to register the player for, then err on the side of caution by registering him in the lowest section for which he qualifies, rather than having him play up in a higher section.

When a player is deciding which section to register for, he needs to pay attention to a section’s grade restrictions (K-5, 6-8, K-12, etc.) and USCF rating restrictions (U400, U800, 700-1199, at least 1100, etc.).  When a player is ascertaining, first, whether his USCF rating is on or above a section’s floor and, second, whether his USCF rating is below a section’s ceiling, the player should consider only his current published (“official”) USCF rating, which is listed at www.USChess.org in the rating supplement for the month in which the tournament will be held.  A player's published rating is the rating that determines whether he is qualified to compete in a particular section, and it is static for a month.  Disregard the player’s unpublished (“unofficial”, or most recent) USCF rating, which changes after every tournament in which he competes.

However, if a player wants to play up in a higher section for which her published rating does not qualify her, but for which her higher unpublished rating does qualify her, the Chief Tournament Director will likely permit her to play up.  If you would like to request that MCA make this minor exception for your player, then contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

But the Chief TD will never permit the reverse: that is, he will never permit a player to compete in a lower section for which her unpublished rating qualifies her, but for which her higher published rating disqualifies her.  In other words, MCA’s section ceilings are inflexible (hard), but MCA’s section floors are occasionally flexible.

If a player does not have a published rating in a certain month because he competed at his first tournament after the 3rd Friday of the previous month, then MCA is willing to consider him as having a published rating, even though he actually has only an unpublished rating.  As long as the player has an unpublished rating, we won’t consider him an unrated player.  If you would like to request that MCA make this minor exception for your player, then contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

8.  How to find out what the player’s current published (“official”) USCF rating is:

A.  Go to www.uschess.org.

B.  Click on “USCF” on the left, not “USCF Sales” on the right.

C.  In the upper-left-hand corner, click on “Players & Ratings”.

D.  Click on “Player/Rating Lookup”. 

[Alternatively, go to http://main.uschess.org/assets/msa_joomla/MbrLst.php.]

E.  Use the following format when typing in his name: “last name, first name”. 

F.  His current published (“official”) rating is listed beneath “Reg” (short for “Regular Rating”). 

G.  Note that his published published rating for next month is listed in the column to the right.

H.  To find out what his unpublished (“unofficial”, or most recent) rating is, click on the red tab “Tnmt. Hst”; it’s the second number listed below “Reg Rtg Before/After”.

A player is considered unrated until he has a rating that has been published in the USCF’s monthly ratings list.  To have a published rating, a player must have played at least 4 USCF-rated games.

For a player’s first 25 games, his rating is considered provisional.  A provisional rating is indicated by a “P” after the player’s rating, listed beneath “Reg” (short for “Regular Rating”).  A player’s rating is considered established after the completion of his 26th rated game.

9.  If you want to register a player for a tournament in an upcoming month, but you are not sure which section to register her for, because you are not sure what her new published USCF rating will be on the day of the tournament, then you should keep in mind 3 quirks about a player’s published USCF rating:

1.  There can be nearly a month-long lag between a player’s previous tournament results and the impact of those results on her published USCF rating.  That’s because…

2.  A player’s published USCF rating is static within a month—even if she participates in several tournaments that month and achieves results that change her unpublished rating dramatically.  And that’s because…

3.  A player’s published USCF rating in a certain month is determined by the results of tournaments in which she competed by the 3rd Friday of the previous month.

So, for example, if it is month X and you are registering the player for a tournament several weeks away in month X+1, then her published USCF rating during the entirety of month X+1 has already been (or will have been) determined by her performance at tournaments whose results were submitted by the 3rd Friday of month X.  Let’s say, then, it’s Saturday, October 16 (a day after the 3rd Friday of the month), and you want to register your daughter for a tournament on Saturday, November 27.  You might be thinking, “How can I possibly know what section to register Michelle for, since the tournament is 6 weeks (42 days) from today?  She’ll be playing in 2 more tournaments in October before the tournament on November 27, so her rating might be dramatically different from what it is today”.  Well, in fact, Michelle’s published USCF rating for the entirety of November has already been determined, and you can find out today what it will be now—because the 2 tournaments in which she will be competing after the 3rd Friday in October have absolutely no bearing on what her published USCF rating will be in November, even though both of those tournaments were in October.  Throughout all of November, Michelle’s published USCF rating will be whatever her unpublished rating was at the end of the 3rd Friday in October­.  (To find out what Michelle’s published USCF rating will be in November, return to #8G above.)

What to do if you registered the player several months in advance and she subsequently earned a new published USCF rating high enough to disqualify her from competing in the section for which you registered her?  If you notice it, please inform the MCA at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as soon as possibleof the need to switch the player to a higher section.  If you don’t inform the MCA, however, the Scholastic Tournament Administrator or Chief Tournament Director will independently move the player up to the appropriate section. 

What to do if you registered the player several months in advance and she subsequently achieved a new published USCF rating low enough to qualify her to compete in a lower section than the one for which you registered her?  If she would prefer to compete in a lower section, then you must contact the MCA at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as soon as possible to request the section change.  Neither the Scholastic Tournament Administrator, nor the Chief Tournament Director will not proactively make the section change.

For more information re: Frequently Asked Questions about USCF ratings, see www.uschess.org/msa/FAQ.php.

10.  After you have registered the player online, confirm that her registration information is accurate, by reviewing her entry in the list of registered players.  Return to the tournament announcement page and click on “HERE’S THE LIST OF PLAYERS (Attendees) CURRENTLY REGISTERED FOR THIS TOURNAMENT”, beneath “Register Now!”.  If you see an error, then inform the MCA at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as soon as possible.

© 2010 John D. Rockefeller V

MCA Scholastic Director

Maryland Chess Association

[last updated: 2/9/2013]

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