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United States Chess Federation

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United States Chess Federation
Abbreviation USCF or US Chess[1]
Formation December 27, 1939; 76 years ago (1939-12-27)
Headquarters Crossville, Tennessee
Region served
United States
Gary Walters
Vice President
Randy Bauer
Executive Director
Jean Hoffman

The United States Chess Federation (USCF or US Chess[1]) is the governing body for chess competition in the United States and represents the U.S. in FIDE, the World Chess Federation. USCF administers the official national rating system, awards national titles, sanctions over twenty national championships annually, and publishes two magazines: Chess Life and Chess Life for Kids. USCF was founded and incorporated in Illinois in 1939, from the merger of two older chess organizations. It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization headquartered in Crossville, Tennessee. Its membership as of 2016 is over 85,000.[3]


In 1939, the United States of America Chess Federation was created in Illinois through the merger of the American Chess Federation and National Chess Federation. The former had held an annual open championship since 1900; that tournament, after the merger, became the U.S. Open. The latter had held the prestigious invitational U.S. Championship since 1936.

The combined membership at the time was around 1,000. Membership experienced consistent, modest growth until 1958, when Bobby Fischer won the U.S. Championship at the age of 14. This began the "Fischer era", during which USCF membership grew thirty-fold, to approximately 60,000 in 1974, when Fischer won the World Chess Championship.[4]

The Fischer era did not last long, but the USCF has grown substantially since then, largely because of the explosive growth of scholastic chess. Annual national championship tournaments are now held at different grade and age levels; none of these tournaments, which now attract thousands of players, even existed prior to 1969.

At its founding, the USCF had no employees and no headquarters, but in 1952, the USCF hired a Business Manager (the position eventually became Executive Director), headquartered in New York. In 1967, headquarters moved to Newburgh, New York;[5] in 1976, New Windsor, New York;[6] and in 2006, Crossville, Tennessee.[7]


USCF is a federation of state affiliates. Each state has an affiliate which selects delegates to represent that state affiliate in the governance of the organization. This Board of Delegates was the board of directors until changes to the USCF Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws were approved by the Delegates in 2012. The 2012 governance changes made the seven member Executive Board the corporate board of directors while reserving specific powers to the Board of Delegates. The Delegates retained control over the corporate bylaws, the USCF Official Rules of Chess, the sale, exchange or other transfer of real estate, the code of ethics, the appointment of selected committees, and approval of the budget. At the same time, the Delegates made the Articles of Incorporation much more difficult to change as a way to protect the reservation of those powers to the Delegates.

The election of what is now called the Executive Board has evolved over time. The changes have generally been to expand the number of voters. At one time this board was elected by the Board of Delegates, then the election base was expanded to some 500 voters. A significant change in the early 2000's was to adopt changes which allow any member age 16 and over to vote for the Executive Board. Members who wish to vote are required to register with the USCF office.


USCF rating classes
Category Rating range
Senior Master 2400 and up
Master 2200–2399
Expert 2000–2199
Class A 1800–1999
Class B 1600–1799
Class C 1400–1599
Class D 1200–1399
Class E 1000–1199
Class F 800–999
Class G 600–799
Class H 400–599
Class I 200–399
Class J 100–199

USCF implements rating systems for chess players. In each system, a player's rating is a calculated numerical estimate of his strength, based on his results in tournament play against other rated players. Tournament organizers submit results to the USCF, which carries out the calculations and publishes the results.

A player can have up to five ratings: for correspondence games, for over-the-board games at regular (slow), quick, or blitz time controls, and for online games. Ratings are posted online on the USCF Player Search web page.[8] Ratings for over-the-board play range from 100 to nearly 3000, with a higher rating indicating a stronger player. Ratings are often used by tournament organizers to determine eligibility for "class" prizes, and eligibility to enter "class" sections, in tournaments.

USCF first instituted a rating system for over-the-board play in 1950, using a calculation formula devised by Kenneth Harkness. In 1960, the USCF adopted a more reliable rating system invented by Arpad Elo, a college professor of physics who was a chess master. Elo worked with USCF for many years. The system he invented, or a variant of it, was later adopted by FIDE, and is utilized in other games and sports, including USA Today's college football and basketball rankings.[9] USCF has made further adjustments to the rating calculation over the years; the present calculation[10] was influenced by the "Glicko rating system"[11] developed by Prof. Mark Glickman, a significant refinement of Elo's system.


USCF norms-based titles
Title Rating Level
Life Senior Master 2400
Life Master 2200
Candidate Master 2000
1st Category 1800
2nd Category 1600
3rd Category 1400
4th Category 1200

USCF awards titles for lifetime achievement. These should not be confused with the titles awarded by FIDE, such as Grandmaster and International Master.[12]

The USCF awards a player who achieves a rating of 2200 or above the title of Master, and sends the player a certificate. Until 2008 the only other title awarded was that of Life Master, awarded to players who played 300 or more rated games while maintaining a rating above 2200.

In 2008 USCF implemented a system of "norms-based titles", patterned after the titles awarded by FIDE: if a person has (for example) five tournaments in which he demonstrates strength above 2400, and if in addition his rating at some time eventually reaches 2400, then he earns the Life Senior Master title. The system is somewhat more complicated than this simple example suggests.[13] The old Life Master title was renamed Original Life Master to avoid confusion with the new Life Master title; both are recognized and tracked by USCF. Titles are posted on the same Player Search web page as ratings.[8]

National Championships

USCF sanctions or runs over twenty national championship tournaments annually. The most significant, both required by the organization's Bylaws, are the U.S. Championship and the U.S. Open.[14] The U.S. Woman's Championship is now run simultaneously with the U.S. Championship. The Denker Tournament of High School Champions, Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions, and National Girls Tournament of Champions are held during the US Open. The largest national championships are the Elementary (K-6), Junior High (K-9), and High School (K-12) Championships which are held annually in the spring. Every four years the "Supernationals," an event combining all three in one tournament, is held. The last Supernationals in 2013 drew over 5,300 players to Nashville, Tennessee and was the largest chess tournament ever. Other national events include the National Open, U.S. Class Championships, U.S. Masters, U.S. Amateur Team Championships (North, South, East, West), U.S. Senior Open, Pan-American Intercollegiate Team Championship, U.S. Junior Closed, U.S. Junior Open, and Grade Level Nationals. USCF also helps sponsor the All-Girls Nationals run by the Kasparov Chess Foundation. It currently runs the U.S. Open, Denker, Barber, National Girls Tournament of Champions, Elementary (K-6), Junior High (K-9), High School (K-12), and Grade Level Championships and rotates them among different parts of the country. The other national events are usually bid out to interested affiliates.[15]


USCF publishes two magazines, the monthly Chess Life, and bi-monthly Chess Life for Kids, which is geared towards those under 14. It also sanctions the USCF rulebook which is published by Random House. It is currently in its 6th edition in both paperback and kindle forms.[16]


In 2002, USCF made a controversial decision to remove former world chess champion Bobby Fischer from its database and revoked his membership [17] based on his anti-American political statements. In 2006, that decision was vacated[18] by a successor board on a motion by board member Sam Sloan, in part due to concerns that the 2002 decision appeared to be retaliation against freedom of speech and counter to American ideals.[19]

In October 2007, a lawsuit was filed in federal court by former executive board member Samuel Sloan accusing USCF officers Susan Polgar and Paul Truong of misconduct which he alleged influenced the results of the July 2007 USCF Executive Board elections.[20] On August 28, 2008, US District Judge Denny Chin dismissed the suit with prejudice pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(6). That decision was modified by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit which changed the words "with prejudice" to "without prejudice".[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ a b In 2015 the U.S. Chess Federation announced a rebranding effort, calling itself US Chess rather than USCF (Chess Life, August 2015, p. 13). Wikipedia continues to use the older abbreviation USCF because it is more commonly used in secondary sources.
  2. ^ "USCF Employee Contact Information". The United States Chess Federation. Retrieved June 17, 2012.
  3. ^ "About". US Chess Federation. Retrieved 2 February 2016. 
  4. ^ USCF (2006), "2006 Yearbook" (Retrieved 2016-01-31), Chess Life, April 2007 
  5. ^ Chess Life, Nov. 1967, p. 327.
  6. ^ Chess Life, March 1976, p. 130.
  7. ^ Chess Life, September 2005, p.7
  8. ^ a b "Player Search". U.S. Chess Federation. Retrieved February 3, 2016. 
  9. ^ "Sagarin speaks: Playing chess and the BCS". Retrieved February 2, 2016. 
  10. ^ Glickman, Prof. Mark E.; Doan, Thomas (1 June 2015). "The USCF Rating System" (PDF). 
  11. ^ Glickman, Prof. Mark E. "The Glicko System" (PDF). Retrieved February 2, 2016. 
  12. ^ "FIDE Handbook". Retrieved February 4, 2016. 
  13. ^ USCF Ratings Committee (September 2015). "The USCF Title System" (PDF). Retrieved February 6, 2016. 
  15. ^ "How to Bid on a US Chess National Event" (PDF). October 2015. 
  16. ^ Just, Tim (2014). U.S. Chess Federation's Official Rules of Chess (6th ed.). ISBN 0-8129-3559-4. 
  17. ^ "Executive Board Actions (EB 02-40)" (PDF). USCF. 2002. 
  18. ^ "2006 Yearbook" (PDF). USCF. Dec 31, 2006. references to Fischer restored 
  19. ^ "Committee Reports" (PDF). USCF. 2002. p. 46. The Executive Board should stay away from this matter. If the USCF is asked for its views on his comments, the simplest possible response should be given: A great chessplayer who, as a U.S. citizen, has a right to his political opinions, which are purely his own 
  20. ^ McClain, Dylan Loes (October 8, 2007). "Chess Group Officials Accused of Using Internet to Hurt Rivals". NY Times. 
  • Official data in the USCF Yearbook 2006 PDF

External links