Just the Rules: Leftover Loot

Tim Just, CLO columnist

What is leftover loot? That is the prize money that no one qualifies for at a tournament. It does not matter if the event is US Chess rated on-line, a Super Swiss, a small round robin, etc.

“Guaranteed” prizes are just that—a guarantee that all the promised gold will be divvied up and passed out to the best of the best.

“Based on” prize funds have almost the same commitment to pay out their cash on a graduated scale. The rulebook provides a formula that generates that percentage pay out number.

But sometimes no one is eligible to get a prize—players that don’t cash their prize checks is another column for another time.

  1. Only one player with a rating of 1297 qualifies for the U1400 top prize. After round 3, of a five-round event, he withdraws. Greenbacks don’t get paid out to withdrawals—it is in the rules. That prize money is leftover loot.
  2. No one rated below 1200 enters the tournament. The U1200 top award is $30. That thirty bucks is leftover loot.
  3. In a weekend contest there are two prizes for the top U1500 chess warriors: first = $50 and second = $25. Only one player rated 1489—the lowest rated chess warrior in the event—qualifies for those two prizes. Hmmm…one player, two prizes. Second place cash becomes leftover loot.
  4. What happens if that same 1489 competitor has the event of their life and takes home $100 from the U1600 prize pot? Now no one qualifies for either of the U1500 prizes ($50-$25)—leftover loot.
  5. The only Class E player at the start of round 1 pre-registered in the tournament and decided at that time to play up into the Class C, section—despite the extra “play up” entry fee. That means there are zero wood pushers in Class E that qualify for any of that prize money—more leftover loot.

There is a rule in the 7th edition that allows the organizer to keep any leftover loot that no one qualifies for; however, organizers often ignore that rule and find ways to dole out that extra cash anyhow. But just who gets that money? Our rulebook gives little in the way of guidance—maybe it should, maybe it shouldn’t. The upside is that sometimes a player (perhaps you?) unexpectedly pick up some coin that they did not expect.

Here are a few ways some organizers have creatively distributed that leftover cash:  

  1. All the other prizes get a boost when the extra gold is divided up equally among them. For example: A prize winner that expects a $500 first place payday instead gets $501.13. That extra $1.13 comes from the equal distribution of the leftover loot among all the other event prizes. It is not exactly a windfall—and it looks unusual—but it is nicer than $500.
  2. Or, a new unannounced extra top prize is created with those surplus coins. If there are only three top place prizes, then a fourth-place prize magically appears.
  3. Or, an extra prize can be created in another class; i.e., if there is no “D” player qualifying for the “D” gold, then an extra “C” prize is added to the available cash awards. This newly created extra prize can bring a bit of unexpected wonderment—along with a big smile—to a player’s life when they open that USPS envelope with their surprise check in it.

Do you have any ideas on how to deal with leftover loot?

The free, updated as of 1-1-20, US Chess Rules (Chapters 1+2+11 from the 7th edition rulebook) are now downloadable and available on-line. Past “Just the Rules” columns can be viewed here.

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 recently 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. Tim is also a member of the US Chess Rules Committee. His new column, exclusive to US Chess, “Just the Rules” will help clarify potentially confusing regulations.