2. Planning a Tournament

We organise the British Open and the British Championship cycle. All other British Go tournaments are the responsibility of clubs, or more rarely individuals. This section covers the advance planning needed to run a successful tournament .

2.1 Date and Venue

You should start planning a date and venue at least four months in advance. The tournament calendar lists dates of future tournaments, and it is best to avoid date clashes with other tournaments, particularly ones relatively close to yours. Our Tournament Coordinator can advise you on this, and help you to chose a date.

As soon as you have fixed a date, you should inform him, so that your date can be placed on the calendar. As well as informing potential players, this will deter others from arranging their events on the same date. It is reasonable to reserve a date for your event a year or more in advance, if you are this well organised. If you delay fixing a date for too long, some players who might have entered will already have other commitments; also, you risk making it difficult for our people who provide the sets to get them too you.

If you wish to advertise to a wider European audience then add you event to Sensei's Library calendar and for longer events it may be possible to get a listing on the EGF Calendar.

When deciding on a venue, there are several factors you should consider.

Hire cost
This is important, as it will typically be the largest cost of your event and will therefore have the greatest impact on your entry fee. Consider, given the hire cost, how many entries you will need to break even.
How many entrants are you expecting? Although it is not easy to know the answer, particularly for a new tournament, it is still good to have a target in mind in order to set a budget, and to ensure that you have an appropriately sized venue.
Will there be enough tables available at the venue, or will you need to hire extra? Will they be the right size for a go board, stones and a clock? Try to give people as much elbow room as possible – 75cm per person, say.
Tea and Coffee
Will tea, coffee and and other refreshments be available? If they are offered by a nearby commercial place which will be open throughout the tournament, that's fine; otherwise, you should arrange to supply them yourself (it is usual to include the costs in the entry fees). Note that go players will eat huge quantities of biscuits, so you should either provide none, or huge quantities which you make available gradually, throughout the event.
Will you provide lunch? Some tournaments provide a buffet, most do not. You should also consider how near the venue is to a restaurant, pub, or sandwich shop, and display a map at the tournament.
How easy is it to get to the venue by public transport? Is there car parking available? In particular, you should be sure that the cars bringing equipment can park nearby.
If the venue is multi-use, could there be problems form other users creating noise? Go players themselves can be noisy, and a separate area for players to discuss their games and socialise is beneficial.

You should check that the lighting and heating are adequate. Many lecture rooms and suchlike venues are only adequately lit at one end, and while it may be easy to obtain extra lights by asking for them in advance, it can be almost impossible to do so at 5 p.m. on a Sunday when the problem becomes apparent.

Once you have decided on a date and venue, you should send the details to our Tournament Coordinator, who will add this information to the calendar.

2.1.1 Saturday or Sunday?

Availability of the venue is likely to govern the choice between Saturday and Sunday, but travel logistics can be significant: travel is generally easier on a Saturday. Public transport is better, and while the roads are generally clear in the morning of a tournament, traffic can build up on a Sunday evening. You should ensure that it is feasible to travel to the venue by train, particularly from London or other local big cities. Parking can be easier on a Sunday.

2.1.2 Insurance?

The venue may require you to have public liability insurance; even if there is no requirement we advise you to have cover against the (unlikely) risk of doing something which will adversely affect one of the participants, or a member of the general public.

In order to avoid each tournament taking out its own policy, the BGA has taken out a Policy which covers all tournaments lasting for 3 day or less (although the insurance does cover the London Open and the Go Camp at Caythorpe): if your event exceeds 3 days then cover is negotiable for a supplementary premium. In order to take advantage of this there are a few simple steps that you need to take:

  • Ensure that the organiser of the event is a BGA member.
  • Ensure that your Tournament is registered with the BGA. A listing on the Tournament Calendar is sufficient.
  • Inform the BGA's Health and Safety Officer (HSE at britgo dot org) that you are taking up this offer of insurance cover.
  • Undertake a Risk Analysis. This involves considering what are the likely hazards that running your tournament may involve, and what steps you can take to mitigate them. Because these hazards are likely to be the same across all Tournaments, we have provided a Risk Assessment Template for you to complete in collaboration with the BGA's Health and Safety Officer.

If you require more information about this insurance policy, here are:

2.2 Format and Class

The tournament format includes things like the number of rounds, time limits, and pairing method. These can affect the value of the results submitted to the EGF for ratings purposes.

2.2.1 Format

Most tournaments in the UK are run on the McMahon system, with three rounds. However, this does not mean you should have to follow this format – in fact, it suggests that you should try something different, as many people would prefer a variety of formats. Some other formats which have been tried include:

  • Four or five round McMahon, with faster time limits
  • Bar-Low tournaments, with a maximum entry grade
  • Handicap tournaments
  • Handicap tournament with a top group

You should decide the format well in advance, and inform our Tournament Coordinator so that he can include it with the tournament details. See Other Tournament Systems for a discussion of some tournament formats you might consider other than McMahon.

2.2.2 Time Limits / EGF Class

The results of British tournaments will in most circumstances count towards EGF ratings. Many players value these ratings, and some are more likely to attend an event which can contribute more to their ratings. Ratings are weighted according the tournament class, as explained in the European Go Federation's page under Tournament classes, and the format you choose for your tournament will determine its class.

Depending on whether your tournament is going to be using analogue or digital clocks, you will need to consider what format of time limits and overtime you will use. Tournaments using digital clocks are recommended to use Fischer Time, whilst those using analogue clocks are recommended to use Canadian Overtime.

Fischer Time

If your tournament is using Fischer Time, then you may want to consider one of the following time settings:

  • For a 3 round, single day tournament: 40 mins + 10 sec/move (Class B)
  • For a multi-day tournament with 3 rounds per day: 45 mins + 15 sec/move (Class A)
  • For a multi-day tournament with 2 rounds per day: 50 mins + 20 sec/move (Class A)

There are of course many other valid options. See our Fischer Time Options spreadsheet for more options and recommendations to consider.

Canadian Overtime

At the time of writing, the requirements for use of Canadian overtime are:

  • Class A, minimum 60 minutes main time, minimum 75 minutes adjusted time.
  • Class B, minimum 40 minutes main time, minimum 50 minutes adjusted time.
  • Class C, minimum 25 minutes main time, minimum 30 minutes adjusted time.
but you should check whether these have changed.

"Adjusted time" is the main time plus the time to make 60 moves in overtime. Other tournaments (such as lightning or small board tournaments) are unclassified and do not count towards ratings.

Note for the purposes of the rating list, the maximum number of rating points you can gain is the same in a three-round class A event, a four-round class B event, or a six-round class C event.

The tournament coordinator will add this information to the calendar, although the class of a tournament is in fact at the discretion of our Tournaments Committee and the EGF Ratings Committee.

You may apply for your tournament to be treated as having a lower class than it qualifies for. This can happen for example if the premises turn out to be unsatisfactory in some way.

2.3 Logistics

Part of your planning is arranging to get playing equipment delivered, borrowing our laptop for the draw and providing space for a bookshop if one will be present.

2.3.1 Equipment

We can provide up to 100 go sets and boards for your event to use. Some of these are superior sets which are normally only used for special events. The normal tournament sets come in multiples of 12. We also have electronic clocks that can be used.

In order to defray transport and maintenance costs, we apply a levy for the use of the equipment that we provide.

Usually volunteers carry sets from one event to the next. This is arranged through the Tournament Coordinator. Clearly it may be more reliable and helpful if you collect some sets from the previous event, although this is not a requirement. The Tournament Coordinator will contact you some time before your tournament to arrange equipment. You will need to estimate how many sets you will require (obviously this will be half as many as there are players). This is not always an easy thing to do for a new tournament, but the Tournament Coordinator will be able to help based on the number of entries you have had so far.

2.3.2 Mobile Phone

You should ensure that there is a mobile phone available that can be used on the day for players to ring in and inform you of late or cancelled entries. The phone number should be publicised on the information on the tournament web-site.

2.3.3 Bookshop

Our own book and equipment selling service stopped a few years ago. If you have a local games shop, they might like to run a stall selling Go equipment and books; they could perhaps even be persuaded to donate some prizes or provide them at a discount.

2.4 Publicity

The two principal methods of publicising a tournament are through the our web site and the British Go Journal. When you have sent the details to the Tournament Coordinator, the information will be posted on the web site and added to the BGJ for you. However, there are some extra things you can do which make this more effective:

2.4.1 Tournament Website

It is useful to create a tournament website or page with further information about your event; the tournament coordinator will place a link to this on the calendar. This website or page should include the following information:

  • The location of tournament, including a map, and details of access by public transport and by car. See Club Organisers Handbook chapter 3 for more on maps.
  • The date.
  • The full schedule, including times for registration and for start and end of play, and the end of the prizegiving.
  • Entry fees, including any concessions; if there is a late entry fee, how much it is and when it takes effect. If you encourage advance payments, you should specify how these are to be made.
  • Details of meal arrangements, and accommodation.
  • Details of prizes.
  • Number of games, rules, especially any changes to the default rules.
  • Time limits. Please specify main time and Canadian overtime period.
  • Name, email address and phone number for enquiries.
  • Emergency (mobile) phone number for on-the-day messages.

In addition, it is good to have an online entry form, to make it as easy as possible to enter – we have a new registration system that might help with this. You should request at least: name, playing strength, club, whether they are a concession (e.g. student or unemployed) and whether they are a member of the Association (see details of the levy).

If you maintain on the website a list of those who have already registered, it will help by encouraging others, who see that their friends will be there, to enter. A few people will not want their names to be published on such a list, so you should allow for this. Using the BGA registration system may help you by setting up such a list.

Nowadays, most people will enter your tournament online, whether by email or through an online entry form. It is good practice to acknowledge receipt of each entry.

You will probably find, no matter how far in advance you announce your tournament, that most of the entries are received in the fortnight before the event. Therefore you should not be too worried if entries appear to be coming in slowly! You can encourage early entry by either having a good discount on the fee for early entry or a tough penalty for late entry.

2.4.2 Flyers/Entry Forms

It is no longer possible to include an entry form or tournament flyer with our newsletter, so producing a flyer may no longer be very useful. This could include the same information as on your website or just basic information pointing interested people to the website.

It may be worth taking some of your entry forms/flyers to other tournaments which take place shortly before your event.

2.4.3 Email Announcements

You may also announce your tournament on the gotalk email list. One announcement, about two or three weeks in advance of the tournament, is ample.

You can also contact secretaries of other local clubs to announce the tournament on their club email lists, since not all of their members will necessarily be Association members, or subscribed to the Gotalk email list. Again, one announcement is ample.

2.4.4 Other Forms Of Publicity

Word of mouth is always an effective form of publicity, particularly for new tournaments. It is worth visiting local clubs (if you have any) and encouraging people to enter. In particular, you are likely to find several double figure kyus who would like to enter but who think they are "not strong enough for a tournament". This is of course incorrect – it is helpful to explain that there are likely to be other double figure kyus entering, and that most tournament systems allow for games between players of greatly differing strength. You can also consider a novices' tournament as a side-event.

There is a Facebook Page which you can use to publicise your event directly.

If you live near a university, it may be worth contacting the editors of any student newpapers as universities are a fruitful source of new players, and many students do read these newspapers. Pictures of tournament scenes taken with a digital camera can be used to attract players

2.4.5 Sponsorship

We feel that it is important to provide recognition to people who sponsor Go tournaments. If your tournament is receiving sponsorship then please inform us so that it can be mentioned on the calendar.

2.4.6 Advance Registration

As of January 2014 we also provide a free facility for Tournament Organisers to take advance registration using a simple system on our website.

If you wish to take advantage of this, then you need to ask the webmaster to give you the Tournament Director role and then you can set it up and monitor it via the Registration Admin page.

This will also provide a download file ready for Godraw, so that you can produce the first round draw more easily.

Note: we don't have any provision for taking payments in advance.

2.5 Timetable

You should work out an approximate timetable for the rounds in advance. Make sure there is enough time between rounds – allow at least 20 minutes for any unexpectedly slow games or any difficulties with the draw.

Remember to take overtime periods into account; some players regularly play through several overtime periods of 30 stones in 5 minutes, and this could disrupt your schedule if you have tight time constraints. One way to prevent this is to use an accelerated overtime system e.g. 10/5 then 20/5 then 30/5, and so on, increasing the number of stones by 10 in each 5 minutes. If your main time is 60 minutes, then this gives you a class A tournament - very efficiently run!

Allow enough time for a lunch break (around an hour). If you are playing more than four rounds in a day, you might also consider a short break (say 30 minutes) during the afternoon to give people a chance to recover before the final rounds.

Some people will have trains or buses to catch, therefore you should publish an expected latest time for the prize-giving so that they can make plans. Make sure that you include enough slack in your timetable so that it is almost impossible to exceed this time!

You should try your utmost to start the first round on time, especially if you have severe time constraints in the hall booking. This usually means closing the register when you said you were going to close it, and get on with the draw. Late arrivals can play each other!

A schedule lasting from about 10.00 to 18.00 is common, and makes sense if either someone else will be needing the venue in the evening, or your event is on a Sunday so that people living far away can arrive the previous day and lodge somewhere overnight. But if your event is on a Saturday, it may make more sense to schedule your event for something like 11:30 to 20:00.

2.6 Prizes

The usual way of allocating prizes for a McMahon event is to give the biggest prize for the best (as defined by the tiebreak system) score, and further prizes for all those with at least some number of wins. You need not specify this number in advance, but can select it so as to ensure that you have enough prizes (you will have a bit more flexibility here if you set the komi to be odd integral so that jigo is possible). Even so, you cannot expect to predict exactly how many prizes will be needed, so you should arrange to have enough prizes to cater for the worst case. This means that you are likely to being taking some home again at the end of the event; so you should choose prize material that you wil be willing to buy back from the event and consume yourself – this is why bottles of wine are often used. Alternatively have something that can be used in subsequent years. When you have a rough idea of numbers, you can contact the Tournaments Committee who will be able to supply a plausible prediction.

Special prizes can also be awarded to people who have done well without winning any of the other prizes, or to juniors. Some tournaments also have a team competition, and award prizes to the team with the best combined results in the main tournament; this can tend to make newcomers feel excluded, as they will see other players win a prize which they were not able to enter for.

Commonly awarded prizes are wine, chocolate or books (but do be careful not to award alcoholic prizes to children!). You may also want to buy a trophy (although many tournaments do not; it is difficult to get a Go themed trophy) or award a cash prize, if your budget allows it.

2.7 Entry Fee

When deciding upon an entry fee, remember that the following expenses will have to be covered:

  • Administrative expenses: printing entry forms, postage, telephone, miscellaneous stationery
  • Hire of rooms
  • Prizes
  • Cost of meals (if relevant), tea and coffee
  • Publicity
  • Levy

You should aim to make a small surplus on the tournament, which can go towards purchasing new books or equipment for your club. Note that there are usually several people who enter in the day or two before the tournament, or even who just turn up on the day. If you need to know numbers in advance (e.g. to make catering arrangements), it is therefore wise to set a closing date for entries and include a late entry fee, payable by those entering after the closing date.

Many events set their charges using

  • a surcharge for those who first register after some specified date
  • a surcharge for players who are not Association members, but are British (as the organisers will have to pay more of our Levy for them) and not at their first event
  • a discount for pensioners and students
the second reflecting what will have to be paid as the Levy.

Look at other events to get an idea of the going rates. Obviously, it is reasonable to charge more for a two day event (to cover room hire and the Levy), or if you are providing food.

2.8 The Levy

The Levy is a fee charged by us to cover services provided by us to your tournament. This includes public liability insurance, advertising, equipment hire and optionally online registrations in advance. You should check the current rates.

For new events with uncertainty over the number of entrants, the Treasurer may consider reducing or waiving the levy in case of loss. Also if your event is longer than two days or experimental in some way, please contact the treasurer to request a discount.

The levies as listed are what the tournament organisers are obliged to pay to us, in return for providing equipment and services. You are not obliged to base your own entry fees on them. You may, for example, choose to admit non-Association members at the same rate as members, or to surcharge them £10; it is your decision, your only obligation is to send the listed amounts to the Treasurer.

If you think you may have problems in affording the Levy, you should discuss it with the Treasurer in advance of the tournament. He has the discretion to allow discounts in some circumstances.

2.9 Hosting

The club that runs the tournament is the host and this section suggests some things that one may do as a good host to be welcoming to your entrants.

2.9.1 Social Event

Many people travel to tournaments not just for the Go, but in order to meet and talk to other Go players. Also remember that some people may have travelled a long way to come to your event. A social event, for example going for a meal after the tournament, is one way to make your tournament more enjoyable and memorable for these people, and may help attract them back in future years.

2.9.2 Accommodation

Even for a one day event, there may be people who would like to travel and will require accommodation, particularly those in remote parts of the country which do not hold many local tournaments. Sometimes, local people are willing to offer accommodation (e.g. a spare room or a sofa) to those who would not otherwise be able to afford to attend (particularly students). However, people do not like to ask, so you should make it known (for example on the gotalk mailing list) if such accommodation is available. Note that it is better to give priority to students and unemployed.

2.10 Longer Events

If you are organising a two day event (such as the Scottish Open or Welsh Open) there are some extra things you can do both to encourage people to come to the tournament, and to make the tournament more enjoyable. There are also some further organisational things you need to consider.

  • It will be more difficult to find a suitable venue for a two day event at a weekend. In particular, you are unlikely to get a Church Hall on a Sunday, and many other venues are closed on Sundays. Some places to try are hotels or pubs with function rooms (although you may have to pay a little more for these), local schools (they may not necessarily advertise that they have rooms for hire, but it is worth asking) or universities (if you have a contact at a local university, you may find that they can hire a room for free or very cheaply).
  • You may attract people from further afield for a two day event, and they will require overnight accommodation. You should at least do some research into local accommodation, and give information on your website. You should also be prepared to answer any queries from potential attendees about accommodation.
  • Consider when people might be travelling; if you start later on Saturday (e.g. around lunch time) this allows people time to travel on Saturday and save the cost of one night's accommodation.
  • Organising some kind of social event is particularly important for longer events. Advertising a place to meet on Friday evening and booking a restaurant on Saturday evening is a good and simple way to do this. When booking a restaurant, it is difficult to have any idea of numbers, so asking people to sign up by, say, mid-afternoon if they want to come is a good idea.

2.11 British Go Congress

Apart from the three-stage British Championship and the London Open, which are run by the BGA, tournaments are run by clubs. The British Go Congress is run by a club on behalf of the BGA. The organiser is usually agreed a year in advance, and offers from clubs are always welcome.

The British Go Congress is a weekend event, including possibly a teaching session, the British Lightning championship on Friday evening, and the British Open. The British Open is a six round McMahon tournament, normally with one hour each on the clock. It is usually residential, with accommodation typically in halls of residence or a hotel. You may also let people find their own accommodation. Full board should normally be offered. As a rough guide, the 2007 British Go Congress in Cambridge attracted 98 entries, the 2008 in Hastings 50, and the 2009 in Chester 61.

A congress bank account should be opened, with two signatures required for withdrawals, as the amount of money handled can exceed £5000 if collecting money for accommodation. The work can conveniently be split between one person responsible for accommodation and money, and one responsible for the tournament itself.

Since this is a large event, there is an associated financial risk. The club organising a Congress has two options: they can either take all the risk, and do whatever they wish with any profit; or have us underwrite the risk (against a documented budget approved by Council) in which case any profit is shared 50-50 between us and the organising club.

2.12 Encouraging Children to Participate

We want to encourage children and young people to take part in tournaments. When planning your tournament consider the following:

  1. At the registration stage, ask entrants if they plan to bring children or young people with them, and if so their ages.
  2. If you have children or young people registered, try to arrange the draw so that they win at least one game. Youngsters are usually relatively weak players compared to adults, and can find it very discouraging to lose all their games.
  3. Try to have some prizes appropriate for younger players, and hold them back so that they don’t get chosen by the adult winners! Try to make sure the child or young person actually wins a prize! Tournament organisers have a lot of discretion and it is always possible to award a prize for “best defence in a lost game” or some other invented category.

Last updated Wed Feb 14 2024.
If you have any comments, please email the webmaster on web-master AT britgo DOT org.