Cincinnati Scholastic Chess

Inviting you to enjoy the king of games in the Queen City

CSC Series

The CSC Series — 14th Season

Because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020-21 Cincinnati Scholastic Chess Series will be played entirely online. Series events have been scheduled on the same dates that we have typically used for our past over-the-board tournaments. For more information, please visit our CSC Online page.

For those interested in seeing what the over-the-board Series is all about, the 2019-20 information has been retained below. This information will be updated when we are able safely to return to over-the-board chess.

In 2007 Cincinnati Scholastic Chess (CSC) launched the CSC Series of four-round, Swiss tournaments for players in grades K through 12. The six tournaments in the Series are rated tournaments sanctioned by the US Chess Federation. There is no requirement that players play in every tournament — they are free to choose how many and which tournaments to play in. Some prizes are awarded at each tournament; others are awarded based on cumulative performance in the entire Series. Players of all skill levels are welcome. In addition to knowing how to play the game, players are required only to be familiar with the basic rules of tournament chess. In addition to the information presented on this page, you can download two documents that provide more  information about the CSC Series and tournament chess generally:

  • Essential Information explains the rules and procedures that every player is expected to know before playing in any Series tournament. It comprises three parts: I Procedural Matters, II Rules of Tournament Chess, and III Chess Notation. If you are new to tournament chess, this ten-page document is a “must read” for you.
  • The CSC Participant Handbook for 2019-20 expands on the topics covered in Essential Information and explains many additional topics as well. It is intended to help the truly curious understand how our tournaments are run.

The 2019-20 Season

The 13th season of the CSC Series is a truly special season because on November 9, 2019 Cincinnati Scholastic Chess hosted the Ohio Grade Level Championships, which takes the place of our usual November tournament. Anyone who played in the Grade Level and also plays in the Series will be able to count his or her Grade Level score toward a Series trophy just as with any other Series tournament.

What Else is New for 2019-20

Click here for a quick look at the changes we have made for 2019-20. More information is provided in the CSC Participant Handbook for 2019-20.

Anchor Links

Use the links below to navigate immediately to a particular topic of interest on this page:

Dates and Venues
Tournament Format
About Ratings
US Chess Federation Membership
Entry and Entry Fees
About Event Summaries and Standings
Additional Information

Dates and Venues

Because the Ohio Grade Level Championships is taking the place of our usual November tournament, only five dates and venues are listed below. These will be the “regular” Series tournaments and are formatted just as they have been in past years. Although most of the venues are familiar ones (there is one new venue: Lakota East High School, which will look familiar anyway because it is a clone of Lakota West), we have switched a couple of them to new dates. Dates and venues are subject to confirmation when the new school year begins, but we do not expect there to be any changes. Click on on our Venue Information page for directions to any location and other venue-specific information.

Oct 12, 2019 Fairfield High School
8800 Holden Boulevard, Fairfield, OH 45014
Dec 7, 2019 Lakota West High School
8940 Union Centre Boulevard, West Chester, OH 45069
Jan 11, 2020 Walnut Hills High School
3250 Victory Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45207
Feb 1, 2020 Lakota East High School
6840 Lakota Lane, Liberty Township, OH 45044
Mar 7, 2020 Princeton High School
100 Viking Way, Cincinnati, OH 45246

Our continued use of these venues depends on using them respectfully and leaving them as clean as we find them. To help in this regard, we ask that players not have food or drinks other than water in the playing rooms, and we ask all participants (players and parents) to be conscientious about cleaning up after themselves in the skittles areas. Thank you for your understanding and assistance in this important matter.

Food is usually not available for purchase at the tournament site except that snacks might be available from vending machines in some venues. We suggest that participants not depend on using vending machines as they might not be accessible or stocked. Participants are welcome to bring whatever lunch, snacks and drinks they might want for consumption (in the skittles areas) during the tournament. Whatever information we have regarding the availability of food either onsite or nearby will be noted for each venue on our Venue Information page.

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Tournament Format

Each tournament is a four-round Swiss tournament with a time control of G/30; d5. Each player has 30 minutes for the entire game, with a 5-second delay at each move before a player’s clock starts to run. Each round could last up to about an hour. Tournaments have four rated sections, which are defined by rating to increase parity among players, and a K-6 Non-Rated section. The sections are described further below. Because of rating changes, it is sometimes necessary to move a player into a higher rated section and sometimes possible for a player to move into a lower rated section if he or she chooses to do so. Ratings are explained in the next section.

Players may play in any section described below for which they are eligible. Membership in the US Chess Federation (USCF) is required to play in any rated section, and unrated players who play in any rated section will earn a rating. Players in rated sections may change into another rated section provided that they satisfy the rating requirements of the section they wish to move into. Players who play in the K-6 Non-Rated section may move into a rated section upon joining the USCF; however, once a player has earned a USCF rating, he or she may not move back into the K-6 Non-Rated section.

  • Championship (Rated): All players in grades K through 12, rated or unrated, may play in this section. Scholastic players whose rating is 1000 or more must play in this section. Everyone who plays in this section must be a current US Chess Federation member. All players are required to take notation in this section.
    This is the section in which the strongest players play; except in very extraordinary circumstances, it is not the section for players who are playing in their first tournament.
  • U1000 (Rated): Only players in grades K through 12 who are rated less than 1000 or unrated may play in this section. Everyone who plays in this section must be a current US Chess Federation member. All players are required to take notation in this section.
    We recommend that only players who have tournament experience and a rating of 600 or more play in this section.
  • U700 (Rated): Only players in grades K through 12 who are rated less than 700 or unrated may play in this section. Everyone who plays in this section must be a current US Chess Federation member. All players are required to take notation in this section.
    We recommend that only players who have tournament experience and a rating of 300 or more play in this section; however, older players who are relatively new to chess might choose to play in this section even if they are rated under 300 or unrated.
  • 400 (Rated): Only players in grades K through 12 who are rated less than 400 or unrated may play in this section. Everyone who plays in this section must be a current US Chess Federation member. Players are not required to take notation in this section but are encouraged to do so if they know how.
    We generally recommend that players who are new to rated chess play in this section. Players who have tournament experience and are rated under 400 also play in this section.
  • K–6 Non-Rated: Only unrated players who are in grades K through 6 may play in this section. An unrated player is one who has not earned a rating by playing four or more rated games. Players will not earn a rating as a result of playing in this section. Membership in the US Chess Federation is not required to play in this section. Players are not required to take notation in this section but are encouraged to do so if they know how. A player who becomes officially rated will no longer be eligible to play in this section. (Unrated players in grades 7 through 12 must play in a rated section, but may play in any rated section.)

Players must use clocks in all sections.

CSC provides boards, pieces, clocks and scoresheets for all its tournaments. Players may use their own scoresheets, including approved electronic scoresheets, or scorebooks if they wish to do so. Players should bring their own writing implements.

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About Ratings

A rating is a numerical measure of a player’s playing strength. A player earns a rating by playing in a tournament or section for which the game results are reported to the US Chess Federation (USCF). Based on the results reported, the USCF calculates each player’s rating. It is not necessary that a player already have a rating in order to play in rated tournaments — in fact, it is necessary to play in at least one tournament as an unrated player because that is the only way to get a rating to begin with.

An unrated player will get a rating as soon as the result of his or her fourth rated game is reported to the USCF. Since most tournaments are four or more rounds, a player can usually get a rating after playing in only one tournament. A rating is indicated as provisional initially, which means only that it is a new rating and likely to fluctuate greatly as new results are reported; nevertheless, a rating is official even if it is provisional. A rating is provisional until the USCF has processed the results of 25 games for the player.

“Unrated” and “non-rated” mean different things. “Unrated” refers to a player who has not yet earned an official rating. A player who has played fewer than four rated games is unrated.  “Non-rated” refers to a tournament or section and means that the results of its games are not reported to the USCF; therefore the USCF does not calculate a rating for players in a non-rated section. Players who are new to tournament chess often begin playing in a non-rated section as a way to check out tournament chess. Because USCF membership is not required to play in a non-rated section, the cost of the membership can therefore be avoided. An unrated player has the choice of playing in a rated section (if a USCF member), where he or she will earn a rating, or in a non-rated section, where he or she will not earn a rating. Once a player gets an official rating, he or she is no longer eligible to play in the Series non-rated section (but might be eligible to play in the non-rated section of another tournament depending on the requirements specified for that tournament).

For the rated sections of each Series tournament, a player’s beginning rating is his or her official regular rating published in the monthly USCF rating supplement for the month in which the tournament is played, except in the case of players who are still officially unrated, in which case the player’s most recent rating (if there is one) will be used. A player’s most recent rating is calculated from rated game results that are reported after the data cut-off date relevant to the pertinent rating supplement.

For further details please click here for a Q&A About Ratings document or see “Ratings” in the CSC Participant Handbook for 2019-20.

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Players must arrive no later than 8:45 am to be assured of playing in round 1. Round 1 begins at 9:00 am for all sections. Later rounds in each section start as soon as possible, usually within ten minutes, after the preceding round ends. Play in the Championship section normally ends no later than 1:30 pm; lower sections typically finish earlier than that. Awards ceremonies are held for each section as soon as possible, usually within ten minutes, after the end of the last round.

Onsite Check-In

Lists of players who are entered will be posted by section at each tournament. Upon arriving at the tournament, players should check off their names on these lists to indicate to the tournament directors that they are present. At 8:45 am these lists will be taken down, and those players whose names are checked off will be paired for the first round. Players who neglect to check off their name upon arrival, or arrive after the lists have been taken down, should not expect to be paired in round 1 and will be paired only at the chief tournament director’s discretion. Players who are not paired in round 1 because they did not check in on time will be given a half-point bye for round 1.

For further details please see “Tournament Check-In” in the CSC Participant Handbook for 2019-20.

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A bye is a round in which a player does not play a scheduled game. Players may choose to take one optional half-point bye in each tournament; however, a player who is not paired in round 1 as a consequence of arriving late or failing to check in will be given his or her half-point bye for round 1 (see “Onsite Check-In” above). Players may request byes on the entry form, by sending a request after entering to, or onsite by completing a bye request form up until pairings are posted for the round for which a bye is requested. Byes that have already been requested may be changed or cancelled in the same manner. A player who takes an optional bye scores one-half point for that round. (Most players do not take any optional byes.)

A player may get “paired out,” which happens when the section has an odd number of players to be paired for a round so that one player necessarily is left without an opponent. In this situation the player is given a full-point bye for that round and is not permitted to take an optional half-point bye for any later round. A player who is paired out scores one point for that round, just as if he or she played a game and won.

If a player chooses to take another bye in a tournament after already taking a half-point or full-point bye, the additional bye will be a zero-point bye (the player scores no point).

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US Chess Federation Membership

Players must be current members of the US Chess Federation (USCF) to play in any rated section of a Series tournament. USCF dues are additional to entry fees. Participants can purchase or renew a USCF membership directly online at or through CSC as part of entering any Series tournament.

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Series class trophies and the Cincinnati Scholastic Chess Series Champion trophy are awarded based on the number of points a player accumulates during the Series. A player scores one point for each win or full-point bye, one-half point for each draw or half-point bye, and no point for each loss, zero-point bye, or forfeit.

The following prizes are awarded:

  • Individual Tournament Medals: At every regular tournament and in every section, place medals are awarded to those who finish in first through fifth place based on their game score only. Any player scoring 3.0 but not finishing among the top five places wins an honorable mention medal. Calculated tie-breaks will be used to determine the order of finish among players with the same score.
  • Series class trophies are awarded in rated sections only, based on players’ best five scores during the Series. A maximum of 21 points will count for purposes of Series class trophies. (The maximum is 21 points instead of 20 points because the Grade Level is five rounds. Thus anyone who plays in the Grade Level has the opportunity to score a “bonus” point.) A Series class trophy will be awarded to each player (other than the Cincinnati Scholastic Chess Series Champion) who scores a designated number of points as indicated below:
    • Gold-class trophy: 15.0 points or more
    • Silver-class trophy: 12.5 to 14.5 points
    • Bronze-class trophy: 10.0 to 12.0 points
    • Honorable mention trophy: 7.0 to 9.5 points
  • The Ron Giffin Trophy will be awarded to the player scoring the most points for the series exclusively in the Championship section, based on players’ total scores in the five regular Series tournaments (October, December, January, February and March). This player will be recognized as the Cincinnati Scholastic Chess Series ChampionThe maximum possible score for the Ron Giffin Trophy is 20 points.

Class trophies are not awarded in the K-6 Non-Rated section, although players who move from the K-6 Non-Rated section to a rated section will be eligible for class trophies. In certain circumstances some of the points scored by such players in the K-6 Non-Rated section can count for trophy purposes. See “Points” and “Prizes” in the CSC Participant Handbook for 2019-20 for more information.

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Entry and Entry Fees

Note: Entry for the March 7 tournament is now  closed.

Players must enter Series tournaments in advance. There is no onsite entry.

To enter by mail, complete the mail-in entry form (one per player). For payment of the entry fee and US Chess Federation dues (if applicable), include a check payable to Cincinnati Scholastic Chess. The entry fees (and any dues if applicable) for multiple players can be paid with a single check. Mail entries to Cincinnati Scholastic Chess, 9180 Pinewood Drive, Loveland, OH 45140-8234 early enough that they are received by Cincinnati Scholastic Chess no later than on the Thursday prior to the earliest of the tournaments being entered.

To enter online, complete the online entry form and pay the entry fee and US Chess Federation dues (if applicable) through PayPal using a PayPal account or a credit card. Online entries must be submitted no later than noon on the day before the earliest of the tournaments being entered. When entering online, it is necessary to complete the entry form and pay the entry fee (and dues, if applicable) individually in separate transactions for each player entered.

The entry fee is $15 per tournament.

See “Tournament Entry” in the CSC Participant Handbook for 2019-20 for our entry fee refund policy and other information.

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About Event Summaries and Standings

A crosstable is a table that shows all players’ results in a tournament by section. The crosstable can take different forms. We post two different versions on this website. Here is an explanation of how the two versions differ:

The Event Summary is created by the US Chess Federation from the rating report that we, the tournament directors, submit to the USCF to report the results of the tournament. The Event Summary includes only the rated sections, obviously because the Non-Rated section does not get submitted for rating. The Event Summary is important because it shows the new official rating for all players with the results of the tournament factored in. This is the place to go (in addition to the USCF website, to see how a player’s official rating changed as a result of the tournament. It is important to note that players are listed in the Event Summary in order by their new (“final”) rating, without taking tiebreaks into consideration. For that reason players are often listed in a different order than that in the Final Standings document.

The Final Standings document is created from the tournament software that we use to run the tournament. It shows all sections, including the Non-Rated section, and it lists players with the same score in order by tiebreaks. It does not include final (“post”) ratings for players in the rated sections because these would not be official ratings and in fact will usually differ from the official ratings calculated by the USCF. It does include final ratings for the players in the Non-Rated section, however. These are not official ratings, but we use them for pairing purposes in the next tournament because they are a useful and generally accurate estimate of a player’s strength.

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Additional Information

If you have questions or need additional information, we refer you to the CSC Participant Handbook for 2019-20. If you still have a question after reviewing the Handbook, contact Alan Hodge by phone/text at 513-600-9915 or by email to

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