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John Balch Memorial





The 2020 Vermont State Scholastic Chess Tournament has been POSTPONED.  A new date will be announced as soon as possible.  Due to the current pandemic, venues are unable to host events, or to make a commitment to hold events at a future date.  The tournament is not permanently canceled, and I fully intend to run the event when it is safe to do so.

--  Mike Stridsberg, Tournament Director

Please announce this tournament in your school and community.


Vermont students Kindergarten through Grade 12 compete for State Championship titles in the following divisions: Kindergarten, Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6, Middle School (Grades 7 & 8) and High School (Grades 9 through 12).  Team Championships will be awarded in the Middle School and High School divisions based on the top four scores from each school or club represented.  

All abilities are welcome and encouraged to participate; no prior tournament experience is necessary.  If this is your first tournament, please check out our Tournament Beginners Guide for tips and answers to frequently asked questions.

This tournament is named in honor of John Balch, a great promoter of scholastic chess in Vermont, who passed away in 2004. He taught chess to hundreds of Vermont youth.


The tournament is open to Vermont students in grade K through 12.  Participants must be Vermont residents, or be enrolled full time in a Vermont public or private school.  Home schooled students are eligible, as long as they are Vermont residents and under 19 years of age.  Home schooled students in a program that doesn't use traditional grade levels should enroll in a section appropriate to their age.


The 33rd Annual Vermont Scholastic Chess Championships will follow standard United States Chess Federation (USCF) rules for scholastic tournaments.

All players will play 4 or 5 rounds depending on the number of participants in each division - there are no eliminations.  The champion for each division will be determined by the best overall score after all rounds of play.  If there is a tie for the top position, a playoff game will be played between the tied players to determine the champion.  If that game ends in stalemate, additional games will played at successively reduced time controls until a winner is declared.  Ties in all other positions except the top position will be determined using the USCF recommended tie breaking procedures of Modified Median, Solkoff, and Cumulative, in that order.  For an explanation of the tie-breaking procedure, click here.

Please bring your own chess set(s) and chess clock(s) if you have them.  Please label your belongings so they can be returned to you if lost or misplaced.

For grades K through 8 this will be an unrated event, and USCF membership is not required.  First round pairing will be by random draw. Pairing for subsequent rounds will follow Swiss pairing rules, which matches players who have accumulated a similar score for the day's event. All games in each round are expected to be completed within one hour.  Any game lasting longer than 45 minutes will have a clock applied to assure timely completion.  Players are encouraged to Notate their games (i.e. write down each move as it is made) but it is not required.

The High School section will be USCF rated, and current USCF membership is required for participation.  Please make certain that your membership is current prior to the tournament, as memberships will not be sold at the event by the tournament organizer.  See the Registration section for details.  All High School games will use a chess clock.  Matches will be “Game 30, delay 0” meaning each player will have 30 minutes, for a total of 1 hour maximum, per game with no clock delay per move.  The director has several clocks, but please bring a chess clock if you have one.  Phone and tablet based chess clocks are allowed, but you must be able to demonstrate that the device is in "airplane mode" (i.e. all wireless communication turned off).  High School players are required to notate their games.  If unfamiliar with notation, just do your best.  Notation becomes optional for both players once there is 5 minutes or less left on the clock for either player.

A word about notation:  Notating chess games is not hard, it just takes a little practice to get into the habit of writing down your moves after you make them.  A printable notation sheet can be found here.  There are many places to learn notation online, and we believe that if you can play Battleship, you can notate chess!  Notation has many benefits including the ability to review your games after the event, as well as help to correct errors and resolve disputes.

Questions about tournament rules may be directed to
Mike Stridsberg, Tournament Director: or (802) 223-1948


Registration and Check-in opens at 8:30 am and closes at 9:30 am. All players (even if pre-registered) must check-in during this time.  Games will start at 10:00 am or when announced by the director, and will follow the schedule below to the extent possible. Each student will play at least four games, unless they receive a 'bye' due to an odd number of players in a division. A bye is worth one point (equivalent to a win.)  No player will receive more than one bye.  A player who arrives late and does not play in the first round due to their tardiness will not be awarded a bye, and receive no points for the missed round.  If a player needs to leave for any reason before the end of the event, the tournament director must be informed of the early withdrawal.

Group Round Target Time
Grades K, 1, 2, 3 1 10:00
Grades 4, 5, 6 1 10:15
Grades 7-12 (MS, HS) 1 10:30
Grades K, 1, 2, 3 2 11:10
Grades 4, 5, 6 2 11:30
Grades 7-12 (MS, HS) 2 11:50
Grades K, 1, 2, 3 3 12:20
Grades 4, 5, 6 3 12:45
Grades 7-12 (MS, HS) 3 1:10
Grades K, 1, 2, 3 4 1:30
Grades 4, 5, 6 4 2:00
Grades 7-12 (MS, HS) 4 2:30
Grades K, 1, 2, 3 5* 2:40
Grades 4, 5, 6 5* 3:15
Grades 7-12 (MS, HS) 5* 3:50
*=If Necessary

Prizes will be awarded to each division shortly after that division finishes.  The tournament may be completed as early as 2:00 pm or as late as 5:00 pm depending on the division and number of rounds needed, so please plan accordingly.  

Parents and spectators are allowed to accompany their children to the playing rooms prior to each match, but only players and room monitors are allowed inside the Kindergarten through 8th grade rooms while games are in session.  Viewing of play will be allowed at a discrete distance in the High School section.  Spectators may not interact in any way with the High School players while games are in session.

Space will be available in the gymnasium for players, families, and friends between and during rounds.  All children must have adult supervision.

Due to severe allergies, Berlin Elementary is a NUT FREE ZONE.  Please do not bring any food containing nuts or nut oils into the building,

Chess equipment, books, and souvenirs will be available for sale.  Tournament souvenir T-shirts will be sold on a first come basis.



2020 Denker National High School Selection. The top finishing student in the High School division will be selected as the Vermont representative to the Denker Tournament of High School Champions, a national competition with a representative from each state. 

2020 National Girls Tournament Selection. The top finishing female student in the High School division will be selected as the Vermont representative to the USCF National Girls Tournament of Champions, a national competition with a representative from each state.

2020 Elementary and Middle School Selections. The national divisions have changed in 2020, and there are now separate national tournaments for children in grades K-5 and grades 6-8.  The Vermont Scholastic Chess Championships will not be used to determine the Vermont representatives for these tournaments.  A separate event will be held later this year for that purpose -- watch your email and this web site for details.

NOTE: Any player in grades K through 8 who is interested in competing for the opportunity to represent Vermont in the national High School tournament may declare their intent prior to the tournament and compete in the High School division instead of their actual grade level.

All national tournaments correspond with the U.S. Chess Open and this year are being held in St. Charles, Missouri from August 8 to August 11, 2020



Entry Fee Options: 

  1. $12 for registration with payment by mail that is postmarked on or before March 27, 2020.

  2. $12 for online registration with payment by PayPal or credit card before noon on April 3, 2020.

  3. $20 for onsite registration the day of the tournament.

USCF membership:

Current USCF membership is required for players in the High School division in order to participate in this tournament.

You may obtain or update a USCF membership online prior to the event at will not be sold at the event by the tournament organizer.  Please make sure your USCF membership is current prior to registering.

Registration Options: 

Early registration helps us to plan and to start on time!
(Sorry, full refunds may not be possible.)

Important Note:

If registration and/or membership fees are a financial hardship, please contact the tournament director.  Scholarships are available, and no one should fail to participate for lack of funds. 

DIRECTIONS to the Vermont State Scholastic Chess Championship:
Berlin Elementary School is located in central Vermont outside the city of Montpelier. It is approximately 38 miles southeast of Burlington, and 50 miles north of White River Junction.

Driving directions: Take Interstate 89 exit 7, turn left at the first light, and turn right into Berlin Elementary School.

Physical (GPS) address: 372 Paine Turnpike North, Berlin, VT.



The following notices or their likenesses may be used for advertisements, newsletters, or other promotional material.

The 33rd Annual Vermont Scholastic Chess Championships will be held on Saturday, April 4, 2020 at Berlin Elementary School in Berlin, VT, conveniently located in central Vermont just off Interstate-89 exit 7.

All Vermont students from Kindergarten through Grade 12 are eligible to compete for State Championships in nine divisions -- each grade Kindergarten through Grade 6, Middle School (Grades 7 & 8) and High School (Grades 9 through 12).  All abilities are welcome and encouraged to participate. 

Early registration is encouraged.  Check-in is from 8:30 AM until 9:30 AM, and games will start at 10:00 AM.  Complete rules and registration information can be found at or by contacting Mike Stridsberg, Tournament Director, at or (802) 223-1948.

For a copy of a printable poster, click here.