In an April 2012 thread posted on the premiere chess website, Chess.com, a commenter noted that it cost $350 to enter the World Open Chess Tournament, held every year in the US, usually in the state of Pennsylvania.

Besides noting that that post is more than nine years old - meaning that the cost of entering that tournament has likely gone up quite a bit, you might have choked on how steep the entry fee was.

The tournament organisers have a good reason for setting the cost of entry so high.

Note that it is an Open tournament, meaning any chess player, especially those with no chess federation affiliation may participate. The organisers are not trying to discriminate against less-financially-advantaged prospects; they're trying to weed out candidates who might not be as committed to chess as the rest of the participants are.

Admittedly, that is a rather high price to pay for a chess tournament entry fee but you can give up the idea that your goal of participating in a chess tournament is crushed by the prospect of paying to play.

There are plenty of tournaments around the UK that only cost a few pounds to enter; let Superprof point them out to you.

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Tournaments in Your Local Chess Club

Unless you were looking for a fun read while commuting or otherwise killing time, you're here because you're at least contemplating entering chess tournaments.

Congratulations for wanting to take your game to the next level! Superprof chess tutors are on standby to help you get there.

If you're contemplating entering tournaments, you must already have a level of skill at playing chess, and you are likely already preparing to enter your first chess tournament - studying openings and gambits, as well as the rules and customs of tournament chess. You may even be a member of your local chess club.

There's a good chance your chess club hosts tournaments
Community chess clubs around the world regularly host chess tournaments. Photo credit: Lester Public Library on Visualhunt

That being the case, you probably already know that there are many different types of tournaments:

  • Open tournaments for any chess player, regardless of any federation affiliation
  • Rated tournaments: these are rated and overseen by at least one chess federation
  • over-the-board tournaments take place in a venue, with players sitting across from one another
  • online tournaments take place online
  • Rapid Chess tournaments may or may not be rated
    • These tournaments cover bullet chess, blitz chess and speed chess
  • Junior tournaments are open only to players under a certain age
  • Senior tournaments only allow players above a certain age

Junior, Senior and Rated tournaments may be further subdivided into levels. For example, Junior tournaments may feature U12, U14 and U16 events; those are for players under 12 years of age, under 14 and under 16, respectively. You can imagine that Seniors' tournaments may be similarly organised.

And then, there are the rated tournaments.

To play in these, you must be a member of a chess federation and have an Elo rating; a numerical rating that corresponds to your loss/win record. These tournaments are subdivided by ratings; you might see listings for U1200, U1600 and others that mean that, if your Elo rating is less than the given number, that's the division you'll compete in.

All of these distinctions matter when it comes to setting tournament fees.

A U12 entrant will pay a slightly lower entry fee than a U16 candidate would and a player with a higher Elo rating would pay a bit more than one who fits into the lower division to enter a tournament.

Before circling back to playing in your local chess club's tournaments, we need to make clear that, in some cases, you can enter a rated tournament as an unrated player but you will have to pay a higher entry fee and you won't get to do it all the time.

Now, back to your local chess club.

It's common for rival chess clubs to organise friendly tournaments; events like those expand the pool of players club members are exposed to and, besides that, they're just good fun. As you are a member of such a chess club, you may get by with only paying a few pounds - seldom more than £30 to test your mettle against players you've never before encountered.

If you are not yet a dues-paying member of any chess club, Superprof recommends you find one to join. Not only will you have a guaranteed outlet to satisfy your cravings for chess but the club's officers will keep you apprised of upcoming tournaments and mentor you through the administrative aspects of becoming a bona fide chess player.

Besides, if you prove your potential as a developing chess player, your chess club might even help cover your entry costs to more prestigious tournaments.

Every country on the planet hosts national tournaments similar to this Greek one.
Virtually every country hosts national chess tournaments such as this one, held in Greece. Photo credit: karpidis on Visualhunt.com

National Chess Tournaments

Now that you've become a bona fide chess player - you've affiliated yourself with a federation and started building your Elo rating, you might cast about for tournaments to play in that will advance your rating and standing as a chess player.

As you might still be wary of face-to-face interactions with a total stranger, you could pivot to online chess tournaments hosted by the English Federation of Correspondence Chess.

Historical footnote: before the wonders of technology, chess enthusiasts played long-distance chess by mailing postcards back and forth. On these cards, they would record their moves and each player would then move the pieces on their boards accordingly. It could take months to play a single game of correspondence chess.

These days, we're gifted with instant communication and lots of software, including platforms for chess-playing. This opened up a whole new realm for chess tournaments; it didn't take long for forward-thinking tournament organisers to adapt.

The English Federation for Correspondence Chess, a subsidiary of the International Correspondence Chess Federation is one of the bodies that oversee online chess tournaments in the UK.

While it's not mandatory to join this federation to compete in their tournaments, they strongly encourage patronage of £12 per year or a lifetime membership of £120. Beyond that relatively low fee, you can expect to pay the same amount to enter their British Championship or English Championship events for the same price, with English veterans paying £2 less per tournament registration.

By contrast, should you wish to participate in the English Chess Federation online tournament, you can expect to pay £25 to play in a single event and £10 more for an all-events access. Note that you must belong to a national chess federation to enter this tournament.

Unfortunately, the British Chess Federation has decided that, thanks to COVID's Delta variant, putting on their annual tournament would be far too risky. It's a wise decision on their part but devastating to all the chess players who couldn't wait for the return of their beloved event.

After all, it's one of the UK's highest-anticipated chess tournaments...

Tata Steel is the most important chess tournament
The Tata Steel is the most prestigious international chess tournament. Photo credit: pmhudepo on Visualhunt.com

International Chess Tournaments

Just about every country has their own chess federation and all of them are overseen by the International Chess Federation, or FIDE.

Individual chess players cannot become members of FIDE by paying any fees. That organisation only addresses national chess federations so you have to be a member of your country's chess federation to gain any standing in FIDE.

As a member of your national chess federation, you will be eligible to enter FIDE-rated events, through which you will become 'registered' - meaning that your name and Elo rating will appear in FIDE rankings.

One way to boost your FIDE ratings is to compete in international chess tournaments. The most prestigious ones, the Dortmund Sparkasse and, most especially the Tata Steel tournaments may yet be too lofty for your beginner chess skills but nothing says you can't enter national tournaments in distant lands.

Beware, though, that you will have to absorb those travel costs and that entry fees range from just a few quid to the hundreds of dollars, as cited in this article's introduction.

Still, pandemic considerations factored in, there's nothing wrong with planning a holiday around a chess event in another country. Your chess club officials likely have the latest information on how to participate in those chess tournaments.

Paying Chess Federation Dues

As seen throughout this article, becoming a member of your country's chess federation offers chess players substantial advantages - everything from greater tournament access to reduced tournament registration fees. Still, you might be thinking...

Local club membership fees, federation fees, tournament fees... and all I want to do is play chess!

If you never had any intention of becoming a serious chess contender; if you only ever wanted to build your chess skills as a way of training your brain to focus or otherwise build problem-solving and cognitive skills, you don't need to worry about paying anything other than your chess club's dues.

And, if you occasionally wish to enter a tournament as an unrated player, you might liberate a few pounds for those events.

However, if you intended all along to make a name for yourself in the chess world, it would be best to pony up for a yearly membership in a chess federation.

The English Chess Federation has a cap of £75 on their membership menu. This platinum access comes with a host of benefits while the easier-on-the-pocketbook Supporter membership costs only £10 but limits you to online access and benefits.

The middle ground must be the Gold membership. At £39 per year (£19.50 for Juniors), it provides the most salient benefits while not going overboard with the extras and accoutrements.

Note that the federation's year runs from September 1 through August 31.

If you're questioning the cost of the UK's major chess tournaments, you must have in mind to get serious about playing chess. That being the case, you should plan to lay out a bit of cash... but, if you do it wisely, you might not have to lay out that much.

Good luck!

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Sophia

A vagabond traveler whose first love is the written word, I advocate for continuous learning, cycling, and the joy only a beloved pet can bring. There is plenty else I am passionate about, but those three should do it, for now.