Entry Fees

Author: Mark Kaprielian

January 1998

I.                    Entry Fees

A.         The approach taken to set the amount charged for entry fees for regular time control events.

1.             Entry fees shall be some multiple of five dollars to avoid simply the making of change when taking entry fees.

2.             To provide a clear benefit of membership, the member's fee shall be Five dollars less than the non-members fee.

3.             The entrance fee for a regular time control event shall be five dollars a round for non-members.  This is done for a number of reasons, namely:

a)             It eliminates people being concerned with the relative expense of a particular tournament versus another.  All our events are equally inexpensive/expensive.

b)             It facilitates budget forecasting and the determination of prize funds.

B.          Providing "Masters" Free Entry

1.             Background

The club until just recently has traditionally been comprised of mostly 1600, 1700, 1800 and 1900 players.  Prior to instituting the policy of granting masters free entry, the overall attendance of the club was in the low to mid twenties.  A number of opinions were voiced over time that it would be nice to have strong players once again attending the club.  With this in mind, the following reasoning was applied in instituting the program.

a)             Attracting masters would be a general benefit to the existing membership as it would provide essentially a "free lesson" so to speak to those paired against the masters.

b)             Having masters attend on a regular basis would attract other USCF players to the club, thereby strengthening the club by way of increased attendance.

c)             Would help create a reputation for the club of being a serious place for chess, again with the idea of attracting other USCF players.

d)             Would be a measure of support for area masters and chess in general.

2.             Logistics behind the program.

a)             The idea that a master would want to win a prize of about $100 to make it worth their while to participate in the event was taken as a vital cornerstone of designing the program.  This amount works out to $25 per round for our typical four round event.  It can even be rationalized that the person playing the master is generally going to lose and that it is essentially a lesson.  Hence, we are, at the same time, providing a benefit to our members.  Granted, our members are less likely to win 1st place but it is the opinion of many that it's the chess that is important to most of our membership, not the prize.

b)             Many tournaments have a policy of free entry but subtract entry fees from any winnings.  This was considered at first but was rejected due to the need to increase the prize fund to a level that could not be supported at the time by the club's attendance.

c)             Setting the rating level at 2200 or above for free entry was based on the following information.

(1)           Going back to the 1995 Yearly Rating Supplement Report, there is typically only about 105 players with a rating of 2200 or greater in all of New England.
(2)           Of this pool of masters, only about 65 reside in Massachusetts.
(3)           Of this pool of masters, only about 20 live in a short or reasonable driving distance of the club.
(4)           If the rating floor were 2400 there would be only 24 players eligible in the entire Northeast.
(5)           If the rating floor were 2300 there would be 43 players eligible in the entire Northeast.

3.             Consideration of changing the rating floor for this program from 2200 to a higher number.

a)             Of the area masters likely to attend, many have a rating that occasionally drops below the 2400 line.  In particular, club regular John Curdo is in this category.

b)             The titles associated with the various masters ratings and the number of masters in the category as of the February 98 Rating supplement are as follows:



Rating floor

Number of Players

2 Star Master



Star Master



Senior Life master



Advanced Life Master



Life Master



4.             Recent discussions voicing concerns

a)             That we should raise the floor from 2200 now before it becomes more difficult to do so later.

b)             That the club is subsidizing masters to take away the prize money.

c)             That the floor should be raised to at least 2350.  This allows room for those near the 2400 mark whom we want to allow in for free.

5.             Recommendations

a)             Until an open discussion among those concerned with the parameters of the program is held, the club should maintain the program in its current form so as not to disrupt its continuity and momentum.

C.            Program of Special Membership Rate and Entry Fee for New to USCF

1.             Background

When we first moved to the Natick Senior Center and began to publicize our existence, we started attracting people to the club who had never been USCF members.  Our retention rate of these people was very low.  The reason appeared to be the high cost of entry to playing at the club.  Due to the current and in fact historical nature of the club to attract people who primarily only attend to play rated chess, there were very few people around who were available to play with these potential casual players.  The only practical and obvious by the appearance of what was going on at the club choice, was to push newcomers into playing rated chess.  It proved to be not too difficult to convince people of the benefit of playing rated chess.  It did prove difficult to get people to expend the cash outlay to start rated play.  Most people liked the idea of joining the club and the discounted rate they would get as a member.  What prevented most from signing up was the total cost; $35 for USCF, $15 for a 4 round event and $30 for a years membership, coming to a total of $80.  The cost combined this with the general fear of playing in a tournament did not sell many on jumping in.  Granted there were a number of variations on the pricing such as half year membership, not joining the club, etc. but the basic hurdles still remained.  Over a period of months, consideration was given to different approaches of encouraging new people to play.  Some required cultural and program changes.  These did not seem practical to implement at the time as we were trying to build up USCF player attendance and strengthen the club in general.  A purely financial approach was created which took no additional staffing effort and traded short term limited income from new members against involving them in the long run.  Essentially it didn't really cost the club anything except a limited loss revenue from this small pool of people.

2.             Program

a)             People who join the USCF for the first time may, when they join, also purchase club membership and will be given free entry into a tournament.  If it is not round 1, they will in addition be given free entry into the existing tournament as well.

3.             Effectiveness of the Program

a)             The program appears to be very successful. Since instituting the program in late 1996, about two adults have not begun rated play.

4.             Key elements of why this is effective.

a)             Reduced cost of entry.  The initial outlay is $65.  They get a year of club membership and between 4 and 7 games at no cost.  I believe this can be seen as a relatively low risk investment for something they think they'd like to do.  If they don't like it, they still end up with Chess Life for a year.

b)             With a good sales job, you get them pretty convinced to try it out and then you get them playing without them getting out the door.

c)             They perceive that they are getting a lot of things free, and they are.   Free entry in the tournament, play in the remaining games of the current tournament for free,  $5 off each tournament because they join the club, this means they've earned back their membership by playing in only six tournaments in the next year and $5 off because they join the USCF through the club.

5.             What does the Club lose in this deal

a)             The club does not collect possibly two entry fees.

b)             The club does not collect $30 membership for the first year.

6.             What does the Club gain in this deal

a)             It gives the Club time to get new people acclimated and feeling like part of the club.  What probably locks people in is the first time they go over a game with someone and see that not only can they learn by coming to the club, people are more than happy to help them learn.

b)             It provides new people to constantly revitalize the club in particular and chess in general.