Just the Rules: The Re-Entry Gambit

Tim Just, Chief Editor of the 5th, 6th, and brand new 7th edition of the rule book.

You worked hard for weeks. You understand your opening systems. Your middle game and end game are the sharpest they have ever been. Your attitude is upbeat. Then it happens—one little misstep in time pressure. Now you have lost your round 1 tournament game. Your entry fee seems like a waste. Your travel and lodging feel like money pits. Your hunt for prize money seems like a distant dream. What can you do? You might be able to re-enter the event! Some tournaments allow you to re-enter the event just as if you were a brand-new player. Now you are once again in the hunt for prize money! Your old score is usually discarded when it comes time to divvy up the prize money. Ask the TD if you can re-enter. Understanding the Re-Entry Gambit: An Example You enter a tournament and choose to play in the three-day schedule—one game on Friday, two games on Saturday, and two games on Sunday. You lose your first contest on Friday. You withdraw from the three-day game schedule and enter into the two-day schedule—three games on Saturday and two games on Sunday. You pay the reduced re-entry fee and get to start the tournament all over again with a new round 1—with a faster time control—on Saturday. The two playing schedules merge—or combine—all the players from both playing schedules starting with round 3 on Saturday night. You win all of your games and tie with no one for prizes. The first-place guaranteed prize is $2,000. You take home all of the top place gold. But remember, a re-entry simply gives you a second chance to pick up some pocket change along with some rating points—like in this example. It is not a guarantee of either one. Because There Are Two of You… When you re-enter a tournament, your old score and your old entry still appear on the wall chart, as if you played a round and then withdrew. That score is not used for pairings, and it is usually not used for calculating your final score. Your new entry (the new you) is used for pairings and prizes. On a wallchart it is easy to mix up your old withdrawn entry and your brand-new re-entry—after all they are both you. To help you, and others, to keep the two of you straight, many TDs indicate your new entry by adding something to your name, such as an asterisk or the letters RE. And when the new you gets paired, you usually are not paired against any opponent whom you faced as your old withdrawn self. And A Few More Things Some events, with only one playing schedule, only allow you to re-enter with an appropriate number of byes for the games you missed. Other events don’t allow re-entries at all. There is no chess law that forces tournaments to allow re-entries. Most re-entries require an additional, though discounted, entry fee. You are not limited to re-entering only after round 1. You can also re-enter after any other round—like after your round 2 game. This strategy works best in the early stages of the tournament. Sometimes, rarely, your original entry score trumps your re-entry score. Then the rule book allows you to switch back and use that original entry score for the start of the next round and the rest of the event—for pairings, prizes, etc.! One example: Your original entry score after the first two rounds is a mere one point. You re-enter into a different round schedule and score only a half-point for those two new rounds. You are allowed to go back and use the one-point score from your original entry for the rest of the event. Your re-entry score is frozen and not used any future games. A Super Swiss Myth? After failing to gain the game point in round 1 on the Friday of a four-day Super Swiss event, a player re-entered this big money tournament. He started all over again essaying a different round 1 game on the Saturday three-day schedule. He tripped all over himself and lost his starting contest again. So…he re-entered into the two-day schedule that started with a new round 1 on Sunday. The third time was a charm. He scored victory after victory and only lost his last round match after the three tournament playing schedules merged. His score got him a tie with several others for a share of third place gold. He took home enough cash to pay for his entry, two re-entries, travel, food, and lodging. Plus, he had a few $$$ profit left over. Did this really happen? Can anyone verify this? Becoming A Believer I was introduced to re-entries at my own Winter Open. I knew they existed but my attitude was “meh.” This event is two days and five rounds long. There is only one playing schedule. After losing the first round, one unhappy wood pusher wanted to re-enter. I pointed out there was no advertised re-entry. Besides, there was no other schedule for him to re-enter into. He plopped down half of his entry fee and asked to be re-entered into round 2—with a ½ point bye in his new re-entry schedule replacing the goose egg from round 1 (in his old schedule). Since the tournament was only breaking even $$$ wise, this re-entry was profit. I accepted his cash and paired him as per his request. The customer is always right. 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.  


In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

For all the tournaments I run, we allow re-entries but not for players rated 2300 or over. We feel it is too big of an advantage for such a skilled player. I believe other big events do this too. Do you agree with is policy or should we let anyone re-enter?

In reply to by Chuck Ensey (not verified)

I think each organizer needs to consider what they feel is important. If a GM has a free entry does that mean they also get a free re-entry? Some say "yes" while others disagree. Once at an Illinois Open that I directed the playing schedule with a shorter time control for the first few games created a section that had some re-entries and some wood pushers that chose to play that schedule. The average rating of that section, as I recall, was near 2300?! Many of our top players were facing off against each other in rounds one and two rather than at the end of the event.

In reply to by Tim Just (not verified)

I've seen five round multi=section, multi-schedule tournaments with four GMs among the five players in the top section of the two-day schedule - with a GM getting a full-point bye in round two after losing or drawing in the round one game against another GM. That kind of reinforces that re-entering is not a road to easy early pairings even for a top-rated player.

In reply to by Jeff Wiewel (not verified)

The most interesting example I saw of this was at a CCA event in the premier section. Re-entries weren't allowed for this section, though. Most players opted for the 3 day schedule as is typical for that high end section. However all but one of the GMs entered the 2 day schedule. There were 7 players in that section and 6 of them were GMs. This guaranteed that a GM got a round 2 bye.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The first tournament I played in that allowed a re-entry was a Master Challenge in suburban Chicago, a 5-rounder where the first round could be played either Friday night or Saturday morning. This was before the re-entry concept had been added to the rulebook. On that occasion it was invented by a strong player who had lost his Friday game. The organizers hemmed and hawed, but finally decided to allow it provided that the player paid an additional full entry fee. Many of us felt that justice had triumphed when the re-entered player suffered a couple of early draws and dropped out again.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Apparently the pairing programs optionally can block a re-entered player from being paired against an opponent he has already faced in his original incarnation, unless that opponent is also a re-entry, in which case (the logic presumably runs) those two players deserve each other again. As for disallowing re-entries in the top section of big-money multi-section events, some organizers have adopted that policy, presumably based not on logic but rather on majority opinion among strong players. "Hey, I just beat that guy in the first round, he shouldn't still be in contention for first!" I guess some masters like to re-enter, but they don't like it when OTHER masters re-enter.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I never allowed re-entry in any tournament I directed; the concept irritates me intensely. For those of you wishing to accommodate players buying an opportunity to deny they lost a game, why sell just opportunity? Sell points - guaranteed. The price should rise as the tournament progresses. Imagine Player Z buying 2 points before the last round to take the lead. Player Y, unhappy to now trail the opponent he just beat, feels obliged to buy 1 point to restore his chance to win the tournament. Profits over sportsmanship.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The customer is always right? How can that justify letting a player re-enter when there is no provision for re-entry in the announced tournament rules? That is completely unfair to the other players, both those that didn't get to re-enter because it hadn't been announced, and to all the players in the tournament, who were disadvantaged vis-a-vis the re-entrant. When re-entries are announced in the tournament advertising, it is fair (though I personally don't like it) because other players know they may have to face a re-entrant, but I am shocked you allowed re-entry when it hadn't been announced.

In reply to by Kenneth Thomas (not verified)

I agree! I cringed when I read that. So any time a player asks for something and offers to pay for it, a TD should consider it? Sounds like bribery to me. Money trumps the rules?

In reply to by Nick Garcia (not verified)

At the time that would have first occurred re-entries had already been used in a number of other tournaments in the area (starting with somebody withdrawing from the Master Challenge 3-day schedule and paying a full entry fee for the two-day schedule and later having it be customary to have re-entries at 50% of the standard entry fee) and they were generally considered a "sucker bet" because none of the re-entry players had actually won any significant money (maybe not any money) with the result that many players were fine with a "sucker bet" re-entry increasing the based-on prize fund.

In reply to by Jeff Wiewel (not verified)

Yep, a "sucker's bet" indeed! Once when I was in charge of taking re-entries (among other administrative things)at a Super Swiss, I totaled the $$$ for all the re-entries---the total paid for the TD staff. The re-entries won squat.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I will not compete in any tournament that allows re-entries. The whole concept is inherently unfair. It's the equivalent of "buying" a good result.

In reply to by Doug Reist (not verified)

If ALL the players have the same opportunity how is that unfair? Help me understand.

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