Mentoring a young TD

Hi all - I have a young (late teen) player who has taken an interest in learning to direct. Besides having him serve as assistant TD at club events, giving him more responsibilities as time goes on, etc., are there any best practices for helping this person grow and learn? Can anyone recommend good resources to read / watch, or is it simply a matter of getting them practice and letting them try to figure out questions as they arise?


John Hartmann
(with TD hat on, not US Chess employee hat on)

I would suggest having him run some mock tournaments, either on paper or on your computer, preferably both, because pairing by hand teaches you what to do when you don’t like what the computer did for pairings.

He’ll have to take the SafeSport training by next April.

When I worked for US Chess and created the “US Chess TD Page” at Tournament Directors | US, I added a bunch of items to the Education section. Some of the items may be outdated, but I feel the US Chess TD Page should be the starting point for all our Tournament Directors.

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Google US Chess TD seminar.

The annual workshop at the US Open from 2022 is at

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Would suggest he read the various “Just Rules” that are online on the USCF website. I know I learned (way back when) by asking questions of more experience Tournament Directors. There is no such thing as a dumb question, just smart-as replies. Studying and rereading the rule book is of course a good thing as well. It is always best for any TD to have a copy of the rule book handy at a tournament. It can be used as a reference for any uncertainty, and pointing out a rule in the rule book often stops any arguments.

Make sure your young TD knows how to make pairings by hand. It is my pet peeve that many recently certified TDs don’t know how to pair because “the pairing software knows how to do it so I don’t need to know”.

Not long ago I was in a tournament where an 11-year-old girl complained to the TD that the pairings were wrong. The girl, though never having directed a tournament, had apparently read the rulebook, because she was absolutely correct. Nevertheless, the TD refused to change the pairings.

Bill Smythe

The flip side of that concerns dealing with players are don’t understand the pairings and think they are wrong even when they are not. If you don’t understand them either then your inability to explain them will increase tensions and interfere with the running of the event. Past decisions has shown that pairings can be appealed and creating an appeals committee or contacting a special referee can cause delays.

Also, as I’ve said in other threads, the pairing software is (at best) only as good as its settings. There was one time the back room person was the one that created one of the pairing programs and that person saw the final round pairings of a state championship section looking strange. After the chief TD manually corrected the pairings the backroom person looked at it and then changed a setting that allowed the pairing software to correctly match what the chief TD had done. If you don’t know how pairings work then you wouldn’t even realize that there is a problem.

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