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John Balch Memorial




Please announce this tournament in your school and community.


All Vermont students from Kindergarten through Grade 12 are eligible to 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).  Trophies will be awarded to the top five finishers in each division.  Team Championships will be awarded in the Middle School and High School divisions based on the top four scores from each school represented.  

All abilities are welcome and encouraged to participate; no prior tournament experience is necessary.  If this is your first tournament, check out our Beginner's 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 was a teacher of hundreds of Vermont youth.


The 29th Annual Vermont Scholastic Chess Championships is a United States Chess Federation (USCF) rated event.  The tournament will follow standard USCF rules for scholastic tournaments.  Current USCF membership is required -- see the Registration section for details. 

The Swiss pairing system will be used, and 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 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.  With all other positions, ties will be determined using the USCF recommended systems (i.e. Modified Median, Solkoff, Cumulative.)  For an explanation of the tie-breaking procedure, click here.

Timing: 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 use of chess clocks is recommended for grades K-6, and required for grades 7-12. Also, clocks may be applied by tournament officials in younger grades to ensure a lengthy game completes on time.  The tournament has a supply of chess clocks, but please bring your own 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" (wireless communication off).
Notation: Players in grades 7-12 are expected, although not required, to notate their games (i.e. write down their moves.) Players who do not notate will incur a 5 minute time penalty.  Notation is recommended but not required at lower grades. Notation is not necessary in any section when there is 5 minutes or less left on the clock.

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 hope to have presentations on notation available for participants prior to the first round of play - check back for details.

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.

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


Registration begins 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 as soon as the first round pairings are complete. 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.  No player will receive more than one bye.  The tournament director must be informed of any early withdrawal.

Prizes will be awarded as each division finishes.  The tournament may be completed as early as 1:00 pm for the youngest division, and as late as 5:00 pm for upper divisions, 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.  Seating will be available in the gymnasium for players, families, and friends. Special arrangements must be made with the director before any child may be without adult supervision for any portion of the tournament.

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.


2016 Denker 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. 

2016 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.

2016 Barber Selection. The top finishing student in the Grade 7-8 division will be selected as the Vermont representative to the Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions, a national competition with a representative from each state. 

NOTE: Any player in grades K through 6 who is interested in competing for the opportunity to represent Vermont in the national K-8 tournament may declare their intent prior to the tournament and compete in the Grade 7-8 section instead of their actual grade level.

All three national tournaments correspond with the U.S. Chess Open and this year are being held in Indianapolis, IN from July 30 to August 2, 2016


Entry Fees:

  1. $12 for registration with payment by mail that is postmarked on or before March 28th.
  2. $12 for online registration with payment by PayPal or credit card before noon on April 1st.
  3. $20 for onsite registration the day of the tournament.

Registration Options: 

    To register by mail click here, print and complete the registration form and send with payment to the address indicated.  Make checks payable to "Vermont Scholastic Chess".

    To register online click here, complete and submit the online registration form. Payment instructions will be presented after successfully submitting the registration form.

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

USCF membership options:

Current USCF membership is required to participate in this tournament.

1. You may obtain or update a USCF membership online prior to the event at
2. You may purchase a USCF membership on site on the day of the tournament. 
We hope to be able to offer discounted memberships as we have at past tournaments  Please check back -- information will be posted as it comes available.
Please note: If you purchased a USCF membership at last year's tournament, that membership is still valid until April 30, 2016.

Important Note:

If registration and/or membership fees are a financial hardship, please contact the tournament director regarding scholarships.  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 29th Annual Vermont Scholastic Chess Championships will be held on Saturday, April 2, 2016 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. 

The tournament will be USCF rated and follow USCF rules.  Registration is from 8:30 AM until 9:30 AM. 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.