The Quad Chess Tournament

What is a quad chess tournament, anyway?

Quad is short for quadrangular, a four-player chess tournament. Each player plays one or more games against the other three players. These are popular for good reason, but let’s get into some details first.


If 20 players enter a tournament before the start, the tournament director sorts the players by rating from highest to lowest. The four highest-rated players form Section 1, the next four highest-rated are put into Section 2, etc. If the number of entries is not divisible by four, the lowest section becomes a Swiss.

21 players: four quads, one five-player swiss (try to get an extra, “house,” player)

22 players: four quads, one six-player swiss (this is ideal if you don’t have even sections)

23 players: I would make four quads and have one seven-player swiss. You could make five quads and have a three-player round-robin, but each player would only get two games.


There are two ways you can pair the quad: force the colors for every round, or let the players toss (choose) for color in the third (final) round.

To force colors, give Player 1 white in the first two rounds (as larger round robins are done):

Round 1: Player 1 (white) vs. Player 4 (black); Player 2 (white) vs. Player 3 (black)

Round 2: Player 1 (white) vs. Player 3 (black); Player 4 (white) vs. Player 2 (black)

Round 3: Player 2 (white) vs. Player 1 (black); Player 3 (white) vs. Player 4 (black)

More common in the United States is to let players toss for color in the final round:

Round 1: Player 1 (white) vs. Player 4 (black); Player 2 (white) vs. Player 3 (black)

Round 2: Player 3 (white) vs. Player 1 (black); Player 4 (white) vs. Player 2 (black)

Round 3: Player 1 vs. Player 2 (toss); Player 3 vs. Player 4 (toss)

Quad chess tournament results sheet
The US Chess Federation‘s useful quad results sheet.

Pros and Cons of quad chess tournaments

The biggest advantage of quads is that mismatches are less common. Each group of four players is typically within 100-200 points of each other, making for a competitive event. It’s normal for a player with an 0-2 record to defeat the leader who has won their first two games!

On the other hand, the mismatches that characterize Swiss-system events create opportunities for big upsets — and big rating gains. With four closely-rated players, only a 3-0 score is likely to give you a large rating bounce. And you’ll likely be disappointed in your rating gain with a 2½-½ score.

Something else to consider is that in a quad you need every player to complete all three games. In a Swiss-system event players can withdraw at any time (if they alert the director beforehand).

I enjoy playing quads when I have the chance: every game is a challenge, and it feels good to come out on top among your “peers.”

Quads are great for teachers and tournament directors

If you have a small club or a kids’ chess class, quads are perhaps the best choice of tournament setup. They’re very easy to run, can accomodate a lot of players, and you don’t need to know how to pair a tournament. If you want to become a tournament director, running quads is a great way to get a feel for directing.

Author: Andre Harding

Since 2003 I've taught chess to thousands of students in public, private, and charter schools in the New York City area, and have given countless private lessons. I also direct USCF- and FIDE-rated chess tournaments.

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