Dana Mackenzie asked, after holding a non-rated tournament, “Should I be happy with running the one tournament a year and seeing the kids have a good time? Should I aim higher? Should I steer them into rated tournament chess, and if so, how?” I run one non-rated tournament a year too, the Denton ISD (Independent School District) Middle School Tournament.
The information is posted here. Since only eight designated players from each middle school count for team scores, those schools have an incentive to run their own tournaments or ladders to select team members throughout the school year. Not everyone that qualifies for the annual tournament, held near the end of the school year, decides to play in it. And those that do play may or may not end up as rated chess players. The transition from non-rated to rated chess may happen with increasing comfort and familiarity with the people and sites of rated chess. Once a month, the Denton Chess Club, held in the local public library, offers a rated tournament with an entry fee. The tournaments appeal to the handful of my middle school students who are familiar with the site/players from attending Denton Chess Club on Monday nights. Our library allows entry fees to be charged for the tournament. As our Denton tournament director Rob Jones said, “Parents pay for soccer and piano. Asking for an entry fee for a chess tournament is also reasonable.” So, in my experience, a student may progress from school chess clubs to inter-school tournaments to city chess clubs, and then to rated tournaments. Or a chess player's progression might be from a non-rated library club to rated tournaments, or even from Internet play to over-the-board tournaments. In each case, progression to rated tournaments is not the only way to judge success. For example, if school chess lessons are tied to educational goals, look instead for students to achieve those objectives. Likewise, library and Internet players may meet goals of socializing just as well with non-rated as with rated events.