How to Run a Small Go Tournament

Feb 2, 2015 10:46:52 PM / by Brian Lee


Have you ever wondered what it takes to run a small Go tournament? Running a Go tournament can be a lot of fun for everyone involved - both you, the organizer, and for the players. They're a great way to energize your club and entice strong players to come and play at your club.

I've run several tournaments with the MIT Go Club. I've found that the big difficulty in running a tournament is the constant worry that you are either forgetting something or messing something up. 

In this post, I'll take you through the steps involved in planning, advertising, and actually running a tournament. With this step-by-step guide, you can rest assured that your tournament will be a blast!

Step 1: Planning Your Tournament

  • Equipment. First, figure out what other Go clubs are in the area. Running a tournament can take a lot more equipment than you're used to having on hand, so knowing where to turn for extra boards, stones, and game clocks will be very useful. If you're the only Go club in the area, you might have to rely on your players to bring in their boards and stones.
  • Date and Time. Weekends are best. For a typical 4-round tournament, you'll want to grab to reserve a time from 9 in the morning till 7 in the evening. (The tournament will probably be over by 5, but there's always the slow player, and cleanup will take time too.) Date and time goes together with location - some places will only be available certain days / weekends. Pick a date at least one month in the future, to give yourself enough time to advertise properly. 
  • Location. As a college Go club, you probably have free access to student activity centers and large classrooms. Reserve one of these rooms. Ideally, pick a place that won't break your arms to carry 16 peoples' worth of Go equipment to and from ;)
  • Funding. Your school's student activities association might offer free food, free advertising, and free prize money. It doesn't hurt to ask. If that comes up dry - the ACGA is happy to help you however it can.

Step 2: Nail Down the Details

  • Reserve your room. Double check that the room will have tables that are a suitable size for playing Go on (i.e., long tables that are not too wide).
  • Number of Rounds: Probably 4.
  • Length of each round: Probably about 1:45 each.
  • Lunchtime: In between rounds 2 and 3 will usually work well. For this to happen, Round 1 should start at 9am; round 2 should start at 10:45 am; lunch from [whenever you're done] - 1pm; round 3 should start at 1; round 4 should start at 2:45. That'll bring you to end at 5pm. Of course, your tournament won't actually run on time. That's why you'll have budgeted extra time.
  • Time settings: Games will take [main time] X 2 + 30 minutes, depending on how quick your overtime settings are. Canadian byo-yomi works well with chess clocks, which may be a consideration if you have trouble obtaining clocks. So if you'd like a round to take 1:45, you'll want 30 minutes main time, with 25 stones in 5 minute overtime.
  • Tournament format: You'll want everyone to play all four rounds - in general, a system pairing winners with winners and losers with losers will do a good job. Tiebreakers can be made either by rating or by SOS. No need to get fancy here for a small tournament. For a medium size tournament, splitting up your players into a SDK+ and a DDK section works well.
  • Handicap: A full handicap will attract weaker players; no handicap will attract stronger players; something in between will give everyone a fun game. The rules that the CGL uses are "Regular handicap, minus one, up to a cap of 5 stones" - and we've found that it works quite well.
  • Prizes and registration fee: These two will go hand-in hand. Depending on how much outside sponsorship you've managed to obtain, having a nominal ($10-$20) registration fee which is waived for students works well. A first prize of $50-$100 will attract stronger players. Instead of cash prizes, book prizes / other Go-related items may also work well.
  • Equipment: Make sure you have access to 6-10 sets of boards and stones and clocks. The local chess club might pitch in a few clocks. There are also many phone apps that will do simple game clocks. You can worry about needing more equipment as the preregistrations roll in.
  • Set up a registration website! Google forms is surprisingly easy and effective here. Make sure to catch name, email address, estimated strength, university affiliation, and phone number. 

Step 3: Advertise!

  • Make a flyer. This flyer does NOT have to be beautiful. It needs to contain: Date. Starting time. Location. Registration fee, if any. Prizes. A contact email. A QR code linking to your registration URL. Thank you mentions to all sponsors. A cool picture. That's it!
  • Double check the flyer. In particular, you should print out the flyer and try to scan the QR code yours. If you made a mistake somewhere, you will make yourself very sad.
  • Distribute the flyer. Print it out, post it in the hallways, post it in department centers and student centers. Email the flyer it to your local club mailing list. Send your flyer to the AGA E-Journal. Notify your local school newspaper, see if they're willing to announce it for free. (Newspaper ads can get pricy, but it doesn't hurt to inquire.)
  • Wait. This is definitely the most nail-biting part of the whole process. Ideally, you should personally follow up with each person confirming that they're preregistered.
  • Don't Panic. You should make a second run of advertising / announcements. But you should not make a third run. After a certain point, people will be annoyed that you're spamming them. 
  • 3-7 days before Tournament Day, send out a reminder email to everyone who's preregistered. Remind them to be there on time (and tell them you'll start their clocks if they're late).
  • 3-7 days before Tournament Day, make sure you've got enough boards and stones for everyone who's preregistered.

Step 4: Tournament Day

Phew. You're finally here! Give yourself a pat on the back.

  • Arrive an hour early to set up tables, chairs, and equipment. Bring a friend along to help carry all those heavy boards and stones!
  • Bring lots of blank paper, a sharpie pen, and some tape. These will be your best friend throughout the tournament. 
  • Post direction signs for out-of-townies / players who might not be familiar with your college building.
  • Make and announce pairings! 
  • Relax and watch people play! If there's an odd man out, you can keep him company. Record results, make next round's pairings, announce the winners!
  • Bring a camera! Photos are definitely appreciated by participants, and it'll prove useful for your club's website.

Phew. Wasn't that fun? (And exhausting, for sure.) Hopefully you've met a lot of interesting people who play Go. Remember to tell them about your Go club and encourage them to swing by every so often!

Running a tournament may seem difficult, but once you get down to it, it's not that bad. 
Do you have tips you'd like to share with us about running Go tournaments? Let us know in the comments! 


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Topics: running a go club

Brian Lee

Written by Brian Lee