Just the Rules: Hotel Stories presents, "Lying Eyes Rob"

Just the Rules logo


Here is a story that just missed being part of My Opponent is Eating a Doughnut. Minor changes were made to protect the guilty.



Have you ever been to one of those Super Swiss events held at a hotel? The prizes are big. The crowd is big. The playing room is big. There are side events. There is a book dealer. There are GMs. All in all, it is an incredible experience. Before wood-pushers even hear about the event, the organizer has had a meeting or two — or even three or four — with the hotel. In other words: to make sure that you have a great experience, a lot of juggling takes place.

Hotels typically are not used to hosting chess tournaments. They have a standard model for weddings, business meetings, etc., but not for chess events. If an organizer is not careful when talking to the hotel, the tables might end up being not wide enough to even hold a chess board.

One of the standard practices used by the hotel industry does have an impact on you. Part of the hotel contract is to link the cost of the playing area to the number of hotel sleeping rooms rented by the tournament’s wood-pushers: the top priority for hotels is to sell sleeping rooms. If you stay at the event’s hotel, the cost of the site’s ballroom goes down. Room-sharing can bring down your cost and at the same time it helps out the organizer. Yes, there are probably less expensive sleeping rooms at a nearby motel. Sleeping there saves you pocket change. It also means that the organizer might need to consider adjusting future entry fees upward to help pay for the playing area.

Scholastic tournaments take up even more hotel space than a Super Swiss. One obvious difference is that scholastic events include a lot of adults that accompany our future grandmasters. An adult hanger-on — or several of them — have been known to camp out in the skittles area. They permanently capture a table or two for themselves and their team. Other teams opt to rent a team room — a hotel meeting room reserved only for that one team — from the organizer.

The hotel loves it when a chess weekend is finished and they can immediately start setting up for the next group coming in on Monday meeting. That scheme works well, until it doesn’t.



Rob was the hotel’s sales representative. His hotel checked all the boxes: the right dates, a large skittles area, multiple team rooms, reasonably priced sleeping rooms, TD work rooms, etc. The price was right. The contract was signed.

Another event was scheduled to follow the scholastic spectacle. That event indeed started on Monday. After the scholastic event ended on Sunday the hotel planned to get started on that group’s special set-up.

One of Rob’s staff contacted the chess organizer to mention that the tournament space would not be available for their scholastic weekender. The incoming Monday group needed a lot of time to do their set-up. Their contract — signed before the chess event contract — allowed them to set-up on that same weekend, as they had special security needs. Rob assured the organizer that his staffer was mistaken. Rob assured the organizer that the scholastic event was still a go. The other group was not going to need that same weekend.

A few weeks before the tournament was set to get underway, Rob informed the organizer that the other group would start their set-up on the Saturday and Sunday dates set aside for the scholastic tournament. It turned out that this other group decided to enforce their contractual agreement. Their needs did not include the entire hotel, just a huge part of it. The scholastic event still had use of the ballroom for their weekend tournament, but that was about all the kids could use. Some team rooms had to double as sleeping rooms. A skittles area was out of the question. The list of lost space went on and on.

Rob offered a shuttlebus to the organizer. That bus would take the scholastic people between the sleeping rooms at Rob’s hotel and a close-by sister hotel where the actual wood-pushing would then take place. There would even be a lot of extra room for the chaperones. The shuttle’s schedule was intermediate at best. That ferry idea, coupled with the tournament publicity listing Rob’s hotel as the wood-pushing site, was not acceptable to the organizer.

Instead, the hotel’s sales staff had to take turns keeping everyone associated with the scholastic event away from the other group’s secured set-up space. The scholastic players essayed games in the advertised hotel ballroom. The adults had to sit out in the hallway, closed restaurant, and lobby like sardines in a can. The TD work area was assigned to a sleeping room several floors above the event.

Why all the security fuss? The incoming Monday group was a weapons and equipment show for police SWAT teams.

Want more? Past columns can be found here or by searching the Chess Life Online archives.

Plus, listen to Tim when he was a guest on the US Chess podcast “One Move at a Time.”

The free, updated US Chess Rules are now downloadable and available online.

Tim Just is a National Tournament Director, FIDE National Arbiter, and editor of the 5th, 6th, and 7th editions of the US Chess Rulebook. He is also the author of My Opponent is Eating a Doughnut & Just Law, which are both available from US Chess Sales and Amazon/Kindle. Additionally, Tim revised The Guide To Scholastic Chess, a guide created to help teachers and scholastic organizers who wish to begin, improve, or strengthen their school chess program. US Chess awarded the 2022 Tournament Director Lifetime Achievement Award to Tim. He is also a member of the US Chess Rules Committee plus the Tournament Director Certification Committee (TDCC). His new column, exclusive to US Chess, “Just the Rules” will help clarify potentially confusing regulations.