SwissSys 10: Essential for USCF Tournament Directors

The Mark of a Professional

Thad Suits’s software has been a key TD tool for over 30 years. Image:

I’ve talked in the past about becoming a USCF Tournament Director. At first you’ll be running small club or classroom tournaments, or assisting more experienced TDs at larger events.

If you decide to get into the TD game long-term, you’ll need the tools of the professional: laptop, laser printer, and SwissSys!


What Does SwissSys Do?

SwissSys is tournament management software created by Thad Suits that, as the name suggests, helps tournament directors run Swiss-System events smoothly. Often … very large events with multiple sections and hundreds of players! The computer TDs at the World Open, for example, use SwissSys.

Not only can it make pairings, it prints them neatly for posting as well as other items like standings, wallcharts, and so on.

[A brief rant: Experienced TDs hate the term “pairing software,” as it suggests we are not responsible for the pairings the computer spits out. On the contrary, we are responsible for understanding the pairings, being able to explain them, and overriding them if we think an error has been made.]

SwissSys can also handle round robins, such as quads, and team events.


Learning Curve?

Very small. The menus are intuitive and if you tinker with SwissSys for half an hour, you’ll get the hang of it. It’s very user-friendly and non-tech-savvy friendly.

The toughest part? Learning the process for downloading and installing new rating supplements. This is important in order to quickly enter players without having to go to the USCF website to look up every player individually.

It’s also possible to import tournament entries from an excel spreadsheet or other database.

You can use SwissSys for FIDE-rated events, too (remember to turn on FIDE pairings, and you cannot alter pairings once made in norm events!).


Don’t Go Without

pairing card
Yep, this used to all be done by hand! Image: Kansas Scholastic Chess Association

In the past, way before I began TDing in 2002, directors paired by hand using pairing cards and needed to handwrite pairings, standings, and so on! I can only imagine how time-consuming this would be.

Merely having a laptop, printer, and SwissSys can earn you directing gigs. Many organizers run small, almost-informal events in schools and just need someone to pair and print the charts. These tournaments aren’t always USCF-rated, either.

If you’re efficient, friendly and, most of all, reliable … you’ll keep getting invited back. Also, a good reputation spreads quickly in the TD World.



A new version of SwissSys 10 is $99.00. Best money you’ll ever spend as a TD … but don’t forget that laser printer! I care for my old HP 1020 like a newborn baby, even though it’s now well into adolescence …

You’re not a professional TD until you have your own software. So what are you waiting for?

Chess Tactics: Wang Chen — Wei Yi, 2016

Wei Yi
Wei Yi. Photo: FIDE

Wei Yi was born in Yancheng, China in 1999 and was one of the greatest child and teen chess prodigies.

He earned his Grandmaster title at the age of 13 years, 8 months, and 23 days in 2013. At the time, this made him the fourth-youngest GM in history.

Wei won the World Under-12 Championship in 2010 and became the youngest winner of the Chinese Championship in 2015, a title he defended in 2016 and 2017. He took the 2018 Asian Continental Championship as well.

In March 2015, at the age of 15, Wei Yi became the youngest 2700 player ever, a record previously held by Magnus Carlsen, and one Wei still holds.

In August 2017, at 18 years old, Wei Yi reached his peak rating of 2753 and peak ranking of World #14. Today he sits at 2729 and World #21 … he’s not 23 years old yet, but such a distant peak for a young player is concerning.

I’m rooting for Wei to hit new heights in the coming years.


In this game from the 2016 Chinese League, how did Wei Yi conclude a nice game against International Master Wang Chen?

Black to play.

21… ?


Direct beats Indirect

Italian Game: Which Defense?

Italian Game
The starting position of the Italian Game.

The Italian Game begins with the sequence 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4, and is extremely popular at all chess levels.

It is named for “Il Calabrese,” Gioachino Greco (c.1600-1634) who analyzed the opening in the early 17th century. I definitely recommend playing through Greco’s many instructive games and analyses.

Now, how should Black meet the Italian Game?

Like a lot of things in life — and chess — that depends on many factors.


Three Main Choices

We can meet the Italian Game with 3…Nf6, 3…Bc5, or 3…Be7. In 20 years of coaching, I have recommended all three moves based on the needs of the student I was working with.

Coaching is an individual endeavor. Never forget that. No cookie-cutting!

Now, I’ll give a breakdown of each defense to the Italian from a coaching perspective.

Two Knights Defense: 3…Nf6

After 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6

We get the most combative choice against the Italian.

As is often the case, “most combative” also means “most complicated!”

To play the Two Knights, you must be okay with a (possible) early tactical melee and be willing to memorize some lines. Otherwise, stay away!

If my student doesn’t show an appetite for learning how to deal with 4.Ng5, or keeps forgetting one of the key lines, the defense is not for them. And that’s not even getting into the Max Lange Attack (4.d4 exd4 5.0-0 Bc5 6.e5), etc.


With 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5

We get the big practical advantage of not allowing 4.Ng5. For many beginners, this is reason enough to recommend the move.

I believe most gambits are dubious, but after 3…Bc5 White has one of the very best in chess available to him: the Evans Gambit (4.b4).

In addition to having a plan against the Evans (there are a number of ways to deal with it, but you must study a little!); Black must also be ready to handle stuff like the Canal Variation (and Canal Trap), Møller Attack (4.c3 Nf6 5.d4 exd4 6.cxd4 Bb4+ 7.Nc3), etc.

Have you studied your lines?


Now we get to my controversial pick: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Be7:

I’m not a crusader for this line, but I think it has its place.

Not every student wants to study openings the way some need to be studied.

3…Be7 cuts out all the tricky lines White has against 3…Nf6 and 3…Bc5. The first player simply doesn’t have anything to aim at.

Higher-rated players understand that the Hungarian is dubious because of the space it cedes, but this isn’t a concern below 1400…and probably higher!

Once a player gains some experience, and confidence, you can consider switching them to other lines.


Players should not just choose the Giuoco Piano or Two Knights because “everyone else” does…or at least right away. Do those openings suit your needs?

I have students who do well with these lines; but they either have the temperament required to play them, or are willing to put in the work to get good at them.

Some kids just want to play chess a little, not study too much, and spend time on other activities. Don’t force them to be something they don’t want to be.

I’ve had many students do very well with the “passive” Hungarian Defense. Their opponents couldn’t use the aggressive schemes they were accustomed to against it, and got outplayed.

Know your student, and create an opening repertoire that suits them.