Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Does the club provide coaching or instruction?
A: The club itself generally doesn’t provide coaching but occasionally we have special events that do. The club has a small library of chess books, many of which have good instructional material, that members can check out. The following club members do provide coaching (contact us if you are a club member and want to be added to this list; note that the club itself does not endorse any particular person):
Nick Raptis – FIDE Master, 5-time Oregon State Champion, 2017 Washington State Champion, coach for 20+ years. Coaches all levels based on old Russian training methods. Looking for students who are very passionate about the game and willing to improve through hard work combined with excellent guidance and coaching. email@example.com.
Q: Am I ready to play in a Portland Chess Club tournament?
A: We recommend that players be above the very beginning level (knowing a little more than just how the pieces move) and know how to notate before playing in a PCC tournament. We also recommend scholastic players be comfortable playing in a serious tournament and against adults. For players who meet these prerequisites, the Sunday Quads is an excellent way to get introduced to the club and PCC tournament play. This tournament groups the participants into a number of sections based on rating, often allowing players to compete against others who are at a similar level. It gives free entry to players who are unrated in US Chess so they only have to pay for US Chess membership. It’s also a tournament that doesn’t last all day. For the very beginning scholastic players, we recommend they check out many of the scholastic links given below.
Q: What is the strength of the players who attend the casual chess?
A: It attracts players with a wide range of abilities, usually with players just above the very beginning level (knowing a little more than just how the pieces move) to players around 1600 strength in the US Chess rating system.
Q: Which chess clock should a tournament player buy?
A: Most tournaments these days are played with one or two time controls and have an increment or delay of up to thirty seconds so you should get a clock that supports these features. For time controls with delay, it’s important for the clock to show the delay countdown in some form when you are low on time, either through it simply showing the delay countdown if the clock supports the countdown (also known as simple, US) form of delay and/or through the clock supporting the Bronstein form of delay, so you can always tell exactly how much time you have for a move if you are low on time. The clocks that support these features that are currently widely available in the US and that we recommend are the VTEK 300, Chronos GX, Chronos II (also known as simply Chronos), DGT 3000, DGT 2010, ZMart Fun (Also known as the ZMF II. Some people find the versions of this clock with the blue LED lights and to a lesser extent the green LED lights distracting so we recommend avoiding these two versions), and the Leap PQ9912/Wholesale Chess Advanced (these are essentially the same clock but sold under different names).
Q: How do US Chess ratings and titles work?
A: For an overview of how rating and titles work, click here. For a technical description that includes more of the mathematics on how ratings and titles are computed, click here and here.
Q: What’s the difference between official and unofficial US Chess ratings?
A: US Chess currently publishes “official” ratings once a month. A players rating on the third Wednesday in the month, if it’s based on at least four lifetime games, will be their official (or published) rating for events starting the following month. A rating based on less than four lifetime games remains unofficial. Using the official ratings allows one to know farther in advance what sections and prizes they will be eligible for at an upcoming tournament. However, using the latest “unofficial” (or “live”) ratings (which must be announced in advance) can put players in more appropriate sections, have them be eligible for more appropriate prizes, and lead to better pairings. The PCC generally use the official ratings for all its tournaments except the Sunday Quads, Rose City Sectionals, Penguin Extravaganza, and Portland Rapid and Blitz Championships which generally use the “live” ratings.
Q: How do the pairings work?
A: The two most common methods of pairing chess tournaments are the Swiss and round robin. All PCC tournaments are currently paired in Swiss, double Swiss, or round robin format. There are different methods to the Swiss system that sometimes produce slightly different pairings (for example, US Chess and FIDE Swiss pairing rules) but for a good overview of how the Swiss system works, click here. In a round robin, everyone in a section plays each other. A four player round robin is known as a quad. In a round robin, players are seeded randomly (“by lot”) with the exception that under US Chess rules, it’s preferred to seed quads by rating. Under US Chess rules the order of pairings and colors in each matchup are determined by the Crenshaw tables and under FIDE rules they are determined by the Berger tables. In a double Swiss or double round robin, you play each opponent twice, once as White and once as Black. In double round robin blitz tournaments, the rematches are almost always played immediately. In double round regular rated tournaments, you usually play everyone once before playing the rematches.
Q: Why is OCF, WCF, or ICA membership required to play in some PCC tournaments?
A: There is disagreement among the board members and other volunteers as to whether this membership should be required at any PCC tournament but the main reason it’s currently required at some PCC tournaments (for residents of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho) is to support the Northwest Chess magazine (see the links section below). Most of the membership fee goes to offsetting the printing and mailing costs associated with the magazine and having enough subscribers allows the magazine to qualify for a periodical mailing rate. The membership is not required at the Sunday Quads, Tuesday Quads, Unrated Rapid, Rose City Sectionals, Penguin Extravaganza, and Portland Rapid and Blitz Championships.
Q: How can I check to see if I am a current member of the OCF, WCF, or ICA?
A: Currently, the best ways are to inquire via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or check the back of your Northwest Chess magazine. It should say something like “1234-1811A”. The “1811” means the membership expires at the end of November 2018 (the first four digits are a players Northwest Chess ID number and “A” means the person has an adult membership).
Q: When does the next round start?
A: At most PCC tournaments the starting time of the next round is shown on the clock above the pairings and/or on the pairings sheet.
Portland Chess Association (PCA)
Currently hosts casual chess
Hosts casual chess. Has a giant chess set.
Vancouver Chess Club
Hosts casual chess
Firstenburg Community Center Chess Club
Hosts casual chess for players age 50+
Oregon City/West Linn Chess Club
Currently hosts casual chess. The first four editions of the Oregon Senior Open were held at the Oregon City/West Linn chess club from 2011-2014.
Portland Area League
The Portland Area League has been operating for over twenty years. It’s a team vs team event with one round per week during the winter school season that is currently open to all students in grades 6-12 (including players without a team at their school and out-of-area players).
Oregon Chess Federation (OCF)
The US Chess and Northwest Chess state affiliate. Runs, sponsors, or sanctions the annual Oregon State Championship, Oregon Invitational Tournament, Oregon Open (usually the largest non-scholastic tournament in Oregon each year), Oregon Class Championships, Oregon Senior Open, Oregon Junior Closed, Oregon Junior Open, and Oregon State Girls Championship. All of these tournaments have often been held in the greater Portland area and the State Championship, Invitational, Class Championships, Junior Closed, and Girls Championship have been held at the PCC. The PCC often co-sponsors and helps run the Oregon Open. Most of the 2-day PCC tournaments are qualifiers for the Oregon Invitational Tournament.
Oregon Scholastic Chess Federation (OSCF)
Runs the annual OSCF State Championship in Seaside, OSCF All-Stars Invitational in Salem, scholastic side event at the Oregon Open, and promotes scholastic chess of all levels. See the OSCF website for many local scholastic clubs/organizations. Most tournaments in Oregon, including most PCC events, are qualifiers for the OSCF State Championship, the premier scholastic tournament in the state which crowns the High School, Middle School, Elementary, and Primary state champions and is currently the Oregon qualifier for the Denker Tournament of High School Champions and Barber tournament of K-8 Champions. The tournament is now usually the largest tournament in Oregon each year.
Oregon High School Chess Team Association (OHSCTA)
Runs the annual OHSCTA State Team Championship, which rotates among different areas of the state, for high school and middle school players
Washington Chess Federation (WCF)
The US Chess and Northwest Chess state affiliate. Most of the tournaments WCF sanctions are usually in the greater Seattle area but locally they run the annual Vancouver Open. Other tournaments WCF runs, sanctions, or sponsors are the Washington State Championship, Washington Open, Washington Class Championships, Washington Summer Chess Classic, Washington Winter Chess Classic, Seattle Chess Masters Series, Washington Challengers Cup, Washington Presidents Cup, Washington G/60 Championship, Washington Blitz Championship, Washington Senior Open, Washington Women’s Championship, Intermat and Intermat Candidates, Washington Junior Closed, Washington Junior Open, Washington High School State Individual Championship, Washington State Middle School Championship, Washington State Barber Qualifier, and Washington State Girls Championship. They also run the Clark Harmon Memorial Open, which rotates between Oregon and Washington, every other year. (Note: the link takes you to the Northwest Chess website where a lot of WCF information is posted. The WCF doesn’t currently have it’s own website.)
Washington State Elementary Chess Championship (WSECC)
Oversees the annual Washington State Elementary Chess Championship, usually the largest tournament in the Northwest each year by a large margin. The tournament rotates between different regions of the state. The Washington Middle School Championship is now usually run alongside the Elementary Championship.
Washington High School Chess Association (WHSCA)
Runs the annual Washington High School State Team Championship and Mini-Teams Championship, usually in the greater Seattle area. Along with the WCF, they give monetary support to the Washington representative of the Denker Tournament of High School Champions to attend that tournament.
Publishes the award-winning Northwest Chess magazine, currently the official monthly publication of the Oregon Chess Federation, Washington Chess Federation, and Idaho Chess Association. Brian Berger currently writes reports on many PCC tournaments for the magazine. The PCC gets several copies of the magazine each month and these are free for people to take. Northwest Chess also administers the Northwest Chess Grand Prix, which awards cash prizes to players who are active and perform well in Grand Prix events over the course of the year. Most PCC tournaments are Grand Prix events.
Northwest Scholastic Rating System (NWSRS)
Most scholastic tournaments in Oregon and Washington (and a few in Idaho and British Columbia) are rated in this system. The idea behind rating scholastic tournaments in the NWSRS instead of US Chess is that it prevents new and lower level players from having to pay for US Chess membership and the organizers from paying a US Chess rating fee. Many scholastic tournaments that have multiple sections based on skill level also rate the higher level sections in US Chess since these players are generally more experienced and serious about chess and have no problem in paying the US Chess membership fee. The PCC currently rates the Sunday Quads, Rose City Sectionals, and Penguin Extravaganza in the NWSRS (in addition to rating them in US Chess) mainly as an extra incentive for scholastic players to play in these events. These are some of our events that include sections that are good for somewhat lower level scholastic players. These are three of the small number of open (“adult”) tournaments that are currently rated in the NWSRS. The calendar located on the NWSRS site is usually the best place to find information about scholastic events in Oregon and Washington.
US Chess Federation (US Chess-formerly known as USCF)
The official national chess organization in the United States. Among other things, US Chess administers the official national rating system, awards national titles, sanctions over twenty national championships annually, publishes the Chess Life (monthly) and Chess Life for Kids (bi-monthly) magazines, and represents the US in FIDE. For various reasons, the PCC receives several copies of each edition of the magazines and these are free for people to take (some US Chess membership options come with a printed copy of at least one of the magazines and all members get online access to the magazines). Annual tournaments US Chess sanctions or runs include the US Championship, US Open, National Open, US Class Championships, US Masters, US Amateur Team Championships (North, South, East, West), US Senior Open, National Senior Tournament of Champions, US Women’s Championship, Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Championship, US Junior Closed, US Cadet Championship, US Junior Open, Denker Tournament of High School Champions, Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions, National Girls Tournament of Champions, National High School Championship, National Junior High Championship, National Elementary Championship, National K-12 Championships (grade level nationals), and US Girls Junior Closed Championship. US Chess also helps sponsor the All-Girls Nationals run by the Kasparov Chess Foundation. Once every four years the SuperNationals, which puts the National High School, Junior High, and Elementary Championships at the same time and location, is held. The Portland Chess Club is a US Chess affiliate. The PCC helped bring the 1987 US Open and 2002 National Elementary Championship to Portland. The 2012 US Open was held in Vancouver. The Players & Ratings section of the US Chess website allows you to see, among other things, a players US Chess ratings, titles, rankings, and tournament history. It also allows you to estimate your new rating after a tournament. All PCC tournaments, except for rapid and blitz, are currently US Chess rated.
Continental Chess Association (CCA)
Runs tournaments throughout the US, most of which are big tournaments with substantial cash prize funds. In addition, some of the tournaments give players the possibility of earning IM and GM norms. Tournaments CCA runs include the annual World Open, North American Open, Chicago Open, and Philadelphia Open.
World Chess Federation (FIDE)
The official international chess organization. FIDE (French acronym for World Chess Federation; the organization was founded in France) organizes the various world championships (overall, rapid, blitz, olympiad, team, senior, junior, youth, women, etc.). FIDE also administers the official international rating system and awards the Grandmaster (GM), International Master (IM), FIDE Master (FM), Candidate Master (CM), Woman Grandmaster (WGM), Woman International Master (WIM), Woman FIDE Master (WFM), and Woman Candidate Master (WCM) titles. A few tournaments in the Northwest are FIDE rated.
Professional Rapid Online (PRO) Chess League (formerly United States Chess League, USCL)
After eleven seasons as the USCL, the USCL became the PRO Chess League in 2017. The PRO Chess League is a team vs. team event played online. Each week during the season, each team chooses four of its players and they each play a rapid game at G/15;inc2 against each of the four players chosen from another team. Any city in the world can apply to join the PRO Chess League and you will likely be approved if you are a good fit for the league. Most of the players that play are at least a National Master and some of the best players in the world compete in it. Thousands of dollars are awarded in prizes. The PCC created a team in Portland for the inaugural edition of the PRO Chess League in 2017 called the Portland Rain and they played their matches at the PCC on chess.com. Check out the Portland Rain fan club page here.
There are numerous places to play chess online and some of the most popular sites are currently Chess.com, Chess24, ChessAnyTime, ChessCube, ChessFriends.com, ChessOK Playing Zone, FIDE Online Arena, Free Internet Chess Server (FICS), Internet Chess Club (ICC), lichess, and Playchess. ICC hosted a match in 2012 between the PCC and the Mechanics Institute Chess Club located in San Francisco.