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Updated on 2015.02.16 by John Rockefeller

Welcome to the 2014-2015 qualifying season for the 2015 Maryland Sweet 16 on 2015.03.07-08. Since 1995 this annual invitational tournament has featured 16 of the top K-12 Maryland residents competing in a separate section of the UMBC Open at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The MD-Sweet-16 Champion will receive a MD-Sweet-16 UMBC Chess Scholarship: a fixed-dollar scholarship valued at $41,536, spread over 4 years. (The scholarship covers tuition & fees, but not room & board.) (Additionally, there are 2 types of UMBC Chess Scholarships for which high-school seniors from any state are eligible.)

Of the 9 scheduled MD-Sweet-16 Qualifiers this season, the first scheduled one will be MCA Roland Park September on 2014.09.13 in Baltimore, & the final scheduled one will be MCA McDuffie Memorial on 2015.02.21 in Baltimore.

Click below for the Qualification Rules & Scoring Rules.

The top 16 players who compete in at least 1 of MCA’s 9 scheduled MD-Sweet-16 qualifying tournaments from September - February, will qualify for the MD Sweet 16. Players in the Varsity section at MCA's MD-Sweet-16 Qualifiers who are Maryland residents can earn MD-Sweet-16 Varsity Points to qualify for the MD Sweet 16. MCA schedules only 2 rounds of G/90, inc/30 games in the Varsity section at MD-Sweet-16 Qualifiers (a.k.a. Local Scholastic Tournaments), to give elite scholastic players the opportunity to compete in games with the same time control used at the MD Sweet 16, the Denker Tournament of High-School Champions (for which the MD High-School Chess Champion will receive an MCA stipend of up to $500), the Barber Tournament of K-8 Champions (for which the MD Middle-School Chess Champion will receive an MCA stipend of up to $500), & the National Girls Invitational Tournament (for which the MD Girl Chess Champion will receive an MCA stipend of up to $500). MCA sets the Varsity floor at MD-Sweet-16 Qualifiers at 1400 to keep the sections reasonably sized & competitive. (The MD-Sweet-16 Qualification Rules & Scoring Rules are below.)

The archive of MD-Sweet-16 articles is available vie the Maryland-Sweet-16 tab in the Main Menu sidebar of MCA’s home page. The crosstables of all previous MD Sweet 16s are below.

Recent History of the Tournament

MD-Sweet-16 Qualification Rules

      • Qualifiers for the MD Sweet 16 must be full-time students in grades K-12 who are currently enrolled in school or home-schooled.
      • Qualifiers must be residents of Maryland, or non-residents of Maryland who attend a school in Maryland.
      • Qualifiers must have competed in all scheduled rounds of at least 1 MD-Sweet-16 Qualifier (a Local Scholastic Tournament) during that qualifying season. There are 3 exceptions to this rule:
            • 1) If a player were to receive a 1-point bye because there were an odd number of players in a round at a MD-Sweet-16 Qualifier, then MCA would consider the player to have competed in that round & the player would receive Varsity Points, as if the player had competed in that round.
            • 2) In the event of an emergency, a player may be excused from competing in at most 1 round of a MD-Sweet-16 Qualifier. The emergency-exemption claim must be approved both on site by the Chief Tournament Director & subsequently by the MCA Scholastic Director. After the tournament the player must submit to the MCA Scholastic Director documentation (such as a medical doctor’s note, a relative’s obituary, etc.) that affirms the legitimacy of the emergency-exemption claim.
            • 3) If a player were to have registered for only the final scheduled MD-Sweet-16 Qualifier of a qualifying season, if that tournament were cancelled, & if that tournament could not be rescheduled before the MD Sweet 16, then the player would have fulfilled the MD-Sweet-16’s tournament-participation requirement by virtue of being considered to have competed in the cancelled MD-Sweet-16 Qualifier. However, the player would be considered to have competed in all scheduled rounds of that MD-Sweet-16 Qualifier for qualification purposes only; because the player will not receive any Varsity Points for having “competed” in the tournament, the player could qualify for the MD Sweet 16 only by rating.
      • The 16 MD-Sweet-16 Qualifiers will consist primarily of the top 8 players with the highest official/published USCF ratings (according to the USCF's March Ratings Supplement, regardless of whether the MD Sweet 16 will be held in late February or in early March) & secondarily of the top 8 players with the highest number of Varsity Points who are not among the top 8 players with the highest USCF ratings.
      • Starting with the 2016 MD Sweet 16, Qualifiers must have an established USCF rating by the cutoff day (the 3rd Wednesday of February) for the tournament results that will determine a player's official rating in the USCF's March Ratings Supplement. (This requirement will prevent players from qualifying by rating based only on a provisional rating—worst-case scenario: after having competed in only 4 Regular [≥ G/30] USCF-rated games.) (A provisional USCF rating becomes an established USCF rating immediately after the completion & submission of a player's 26th USCF-rated game.) (A foreign rating may NOT be used as a substitute for an established USCF rating.)
      • If there were a tie among the lowest-rated players with the 8 highest USCF ratings, such that the number of players in position to qualify for the top 8 spots by USCF rating were to exceed 8, then all of those tied players would be Qualifiers, & the number of Qualifiers by rating would exceed 8 accordingly. Consequently, the number of Qualifiers by Varsity Points would be reduced accordingly, such that the combined number of Qualifiers by rating & Qualifiers by Varsity Points would remain 16. (The resolution of this scenario would be consistent with MCA's prioritization of qualification by rating over qualification by Varsity Points.)
      • If there were a tie for the final (16th) Qualifying spot by Varsity Points, then the tiebreaker would be a player's official rating in the USCF's March Ratings Supplement—with the higher-/highest-rated player securing the final Qualifying spot. If a 2nd tiebreaker were required, then it would be the number of Varsity tournaments played—with the player who competed in the higher/highest number of MD-Sweet-16-qualifying tournaments securing the final Qualifying spot.
      • Any Qualifier who decides not to play will be replaced by the next highest-rated Alternate. That is, Varsity Points will NOT determine which Alternate will replace a withdrawn Qualifier. Regarding the replacement of a withdrawn Qualifier, it is immaterial whether the withdrawn Qualifier qualified by rating or by Varsity Points.
      • Qualifiers must commit to competing in all 4 rounds of the upcoming MD Sweet 16.
      • Qualifiers who do not intend to participate in all 4 rounds of the upcoming MD Sweet 16 are required to contact MCA in a sufficiently timely manner at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Failure to do so will result in the player being barred from participating in subsequent MD Sweet 16s—or from MCA’s open tournaments for 2 years, if the player is a high-school senior.
      • MD-Sweet-16 Champions are ineligible to compete in subsequent MD-Sweet-16s; however, they are welcome to compete in subsequent MD-Sweet-16 Qualifiers.

MD-Sweet-16 Scoring Rules

      • The number of MD-Sweet-16 Varsity Points at stake at each tournament is weighted by the strength of the field thusly:
              • 8 points: Expert+ (2000+)
              • 4 points: Class A (1800-1999)
              • 2 points: Class B (1600-1799)
              • 1 point: Class C (1400-1599)
              • 0 points: Class D- (<1400)

        A Class D- player will be permitted to play in Varsity under only 2 scenarios:

            • 1) The Class D- player's official USCF rating is 1350-1399 (≤ 50 points below Varsity's floor of 1400), and/or if the Class D- player's unofficial USCF rating either is 1350-1399 (≤ 50 points below Varsity's floor of 1400) or is 1400+.
            • 2) If an odd number of Varsity players were to have registered, then MCA would invite a Class D- player to play up in Varsity, because having an even number of Varsity players would prevent the lowest-rated Varsity player from not being paired (& having to receive a full-point bye) in Round 1.
      • Varsity Players who do not meet the residency requirement count toward determining Varsity Points, but they do not count in the Varsity-Points standings for MD-Sweet-16 qualification.

      • After the weighting system has been applied & the total # of Varsity Points at stake has been tallied, the following formula will be used to determine the allocation of Varsity Points at a particular tournament:
        the # of Varsity Points allotted to each player who is not tied with other players = the total # of Varsity Points at stake + 1 - (the place the player finished).
      • Tied players share evenly the average of the total number of Varsity points they would earn cumulatively, if the scoring method were determined in a purely linear manner for each player—that is, if tied players were allotted Varsity Points purely according to their place, as determined by tiebreak. (If, for example, 2 players were tied for 3rd place, in a purely linear scoring system the 3rd-place finisher by tiebreak might receive 15 points, and the 4th-place finisher by tiebreak might receive 14 points. In MCA’s scoring system, however, each of the tied players would receive 14.5 points.)
      • Every MD-Sweet-16 Qualifier will be worth 10+ Varsity Points. That is, even if fewer than 10 Varsity points were at stake formulaically (that is, according purely to the cumulative allocation of points, based on the players’ various ratings classes), then the section would nonetheless be scored with 10 Varsity Points actually at stake. So, as long as the 1st-place finisher does not tie for 1st place, the 1st-place finisher at every MD-Sweet-16 Qualifier will earn a minimum of 10 Varsity Points; as long as the 2nd-place finisher does not tie for 2nd place, the 2nd-place finisher at every MD-Sweet-16 Qualifier will earn a minimum of 9 Varsity Points; etc. (This compensatory form of scoring distribution ensures that a significant number of Varsity Points will be at stake, even in the infrequent instance of a small Varsity section with few/no Class A+ players.)
      • If a player were to compete in only 1 round of a MD-Sweet-16 Qualifier because of an alleged emergency, & if the player’s emergency-exemption claim were not to be approved either on site by the Chief Tournament Director, or subsequently by the MCA Scholastic Director, then the player will earn Varsity Points for the single round in which the player competed, only if the player has already competed or subsequently competes in all scheduled rounds of the Varsity section of at least 1 MD-Sweet-16 Qualifier during that qualifying season.

Within 48 hours of being informed of their qualification for the MD Sweet 16, the INITIAL ROSTER of 16 Qualifiers & 2 Alternates must INFORM MCA by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. whether they intend to compete in the tournament. (There is no registration fee.) If a player accepts MCA’s invitation to compete in the MD Sweet 16, then the player must commit to playing all 4 rounds, because each game will affect tiebreaks & pairings. Absent a medical emergency or other extraordinary circumstance (such as a death in the family), a player who commits to participating in the MD Sweet 16 but fails to compete in all 4 rounds, will be banned from participating in future MD Sweet 16s. If 1+ of the 2 Alternates does not commit to being on site by 9:30 AM on Saturday, then that Alternate will be replaced by another Alternate. Absent a medical emergency or other extraordinary circumstance (such as a death in the family), if 1+ of the 2 Alternates who commits to being on site by 9:30 AM on Saturday fails to fulfill that commitment, then that Alternate will be banned from participating in future MD Sweet 16s. Any of the 16 Qualifiers or 2 Alternates who is unable and/or unwilling to participate, must inform MCA of the player's declination of MCA's invitation, so MCA can replace the player with an Alternate. Any Qualifier or Alternate who fails to inform MCA of the player's declination of MCA’s invitation within 48 hours of receiving the invitation, will be banned from participating in future MD Sweet 16s. MCA encourages the 2 Alternates to compete for free on Saturday & Sunday in the simultaneous UMBC Open down the hall, in case 1+ of the Qualifiers is unable to play on Saturday or Sunday. (MCA will cover the UMBC Open registration fee for the 2 Alternates. An Alternate's best opportunity to win a cash prize is in the Under 1800 section.) Qualifiers' & Alternates' replies to MCA via email should employ this format:

Player’s name
Player commits to playing all 4 rounds: YES or NO
Player’s grade
Player’s school (include ES, MS, or HS)
Player’s complete mailing address
Player's and/or parent's mobile phone #(s)
Player's and/or parent's email address(es)
(The Director of UMBC’s Chess Program, Alan T. Sherman, requires all of this information.)

By 11:59 PM on the Wednesday before the MD Sweet 16, the FINAL ROSTER of 16 Qualifiers & 2 Alternates must (RE)CONFIRM to MCA by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. their commitment to compete in all 4 rounds of the tournament. (If a player has already sent MCA the required information requested above, then a simple "Yes" will do. If not, then employ the format above.) The 2 Alternates must commit to being on site by 9:30 AM on Saturday. (If 1 of the Qualifiers withdraws or is a no-show on Saturday, then the top Alternate will replace that Qualifier. Any of the 2 Alternates who does not play in Round 1 of the MD Sweet 16 is encouraged to play for free in the simultaneous UMBC Open, in case 1+ of the Qualifiers is unable to play in 1+ of the latter rounds. MCA will cover the Alternate's UMBC Open registration fee. An Alternate's best opportunity to win a cash prize is in the Under 1800 section.) Qualifiers & Alternates who fail to (re)confirm their commitment by 11:59 PM on Wednesday will be disqualified, replaced by an Alternate, & banned from participating in future MD Sweet 16s.

MCA will provide boards, pieces, increment clocks, & scoresheets for all players in the MD Sweet 16. (Nonetheless, each player should bring a digital clock that supports increment as a backup, in case the batteries in 1 of MCA's clocks run out of power.) The MD-Sweet-16’s time control is G/90 inc/30, which differs from the UMBC Open’s time control. MCA thinks it’s valuable for players to play with an increment time control (rather than with a delay time control), as the Denker, Barber, & NGIT use the G/90 inc/30 time control. Furthermore, increment time controls are the international standard.

Increment Time Control for the Varsity/Championship Section

MD Sweet 16: Tournament Site
Room 317
The Commons
UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
1000 Hilltop Circle
Halethorpe, MD 21227

MD Sweet 16: Parking
Commons Drive Garage
UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)
1000 Hilltop Circle
Baltimore, MD 21250

(Free parking all weekend. 10-minute walk to the Tournament Room.)

MD Sweet 16: Campus Maps & Visitor Information
UMBC campus maps & visitor information
(Commons Drive Garage is located on the f7 square, & the entrance to The Commons is located on the f6 square.)

SATURDAY
9:30 AM—Room 317: Mandatory check in for all 16 Qualifiers & the 2 Alternates who have committed to being on site. A withdrawn or no-show Qualifier will be replaced by the top Alternate. If 1+ of the 2 Alternates will not be playing in the MD Sweet 16, then he/she should inform a UMBC Open Tournament Director whether he/she plans to compete in the UMBC Open. MCA encourages any of the 2 Alternates who will not be playing in the MD Sweet 16, to compete in the UMBC Open, in case 1+ of the Qualifiers is unable to play either on Saturday or on Sunday. MCA will cover the UMBC Open registration fee of any of the 2 Alternates who decides to compete in it. (An Alternate who plays in the UMBC Open should inform a TD whether he/she wants a bye for the UMBC Open’s Round 3 at 7:30 PM.)
9:45 AM—Photo taken of participants that will be posted on MCA's home page
9:55 AM—Announcements from a UMBC Open TD
10:00 AM—Round 1
3:00 PM—Round 2 (*)

SUNDAY
10:30 AM—Round 3 (**)
3:00 PM—Round 4 (***)(*)

* For Rounds 2 & 4 only, players may start their game up to 30 minutes before the scheduled start time, as long as all of the following conditions are met:

      • the previous round has been completed,
      • the next round’s pairings have been posted,
      • both players agree to start early.

** MD Sweet 16’s Round 3 at 10:30 AM on Sunday does NOT coincide with UMBC Open’s Round 3 at 7:30 PM on Saturday.

*** MD Sweet 16’s Round 4 starts 30 minutes before the UMBC Open’s Round 5, in case extra time is needed for a playoff to determine the MD-Sweet-16 Champion.

At 12 AM on Sunday the MD-Sweet-16 tournament-announcement page will disappear from under the category of Major Scholastic Tournaments at the top of MCA's home page; however, the page can still be accessed. On the left side of MCA's home page, click on the icon for the MCA Calendar; then locate & click on the MD-Sweet-16 tournament-announcement page. Furthermore, the information is available in the introductory article about the MD Sweet 16 stored throughout the year toward the bottom of MCA's home page.

Although the ratings in USCF’s March Supplement will be used to determine the top 8 Qualifiers & the 2 Alternates, the UMBC Open's BackRoom TD will use the USCF Supplement of whatever month in which the tournament will be held (February or March) for MD-Sweet-16 pairings.

Clocks must be arranged to face in the same direction, in case multiple games are in time trouble and a TD wants to watch the clocks. Therefore, if Black does not wish for the clock to be on Black's right, then rotate the board accordingly.

Spectators (parents & UMBC Open players) will be allowed in the Tournament Room to observe games. However, parents will NOT be allowed to camp out (remain in 1 space) in the Tournament Room for the vast majority of a round, as the room is small and there is limited spectator space. USCF rules prohibit spectators from making any comments or from distracting any player during a game. If a player considers a spectator to be distracting, then the player should pause the clock and find a TD to handle the situation. If a spectator’s mobile phone makes a disturbing noise in the Tournament Room, then the spectator will be expelled from the Tournament Room for the remainder of the tournament.

16 Awards: 1 Trophy & 15 Plaques

Procedures, Rules, and Etiquette for Players and Spectators at an MCA Scholastic Tournament
P20. If there is a tie for first place, and if the prize can be divided and shared, then it will be. (For example, a title like MD Scholastic Chess Champion or a stipend for travel to a national tournament can be divided and shared.) If there is a tie for first place, and if the prize cannot be divided and shared, then a tiebreak procedure will determine the winner. (For example, trophies, the Maryland-Sweet-16 Scholarship to UMBC, and the opportunity to be Maryland’s sole representative to the Denker Invitational cannot be divided and shared.)

P20A. Format for Determining a Champion, when there is a Tie for First Place at the Maryland Sweet 16

If there is a tie for first place, then the Maryland Sweet 16 Scholarship to UMBC will not be divided and shared between those tied for first place, because there is only 1 scholarship.

If there is a tie for first place between 2 players, then 1 Armageddon Quick game will determine the champion. The player who is ahead on tiebreaks after the tournament’s scheduled final round, chooses color. If the player chooses White, then he plays G/15 inc/5 (where Black plays with 5 fewer minutes: G/10 inc/5) and can win only by the standard means of winning: checkmate, winning on time, etc. If Black draws White, however, then White loses, because Black has draw odds as compensation for playing with 5 fewer minutes. If the player chooses Black, then he plays G/10 inc/5 (where White plays with 5 more minutes: G/15 inc/5) and can win with a draw against White, because Black has draw odds as compensation for playing with 5 fewer minutes.

P20B. If there is a tie for first place among 3+ players, then a double round robin of a G/5 inc/3 Blitz playoff will determine the champion. (In a single round robin, each player plays 1 game against each opponent; conversely, in a double round robin, each player plays 2 games [both as White and as Black] against each opponent.)

      • After the double round robin of a G/5 inc/3 Blitz playoff, if there is a tie for first place between 2 players, then they play 1 round of a G/5 inc/3 Blitz playoff. After the 1 round of a G/5 inc/3 Blitz playoff, if there is still a tie between the 2 players, then 1 Armageddon Quick game will determine the champion.
      • After the double round robin of a G/5 inc/3 Blitz playoff, if there is still a tie for first place among 3+ players, then the 2 players who finished ahead on tiebreaks after the tournament’s initially scheduled final round, play 1 round of a G/5 inc/3 Blitz playoff. After the 1 round of a G/5 inc/3 Blitz playoff, if there is still a tie between the 2 players, then 1 Armageddon Quick game will determine the champion.

[The USCF requires Blitz games to be at least G/5 and no more than G/10. But that applies to a Blitz tournament or a tournament with a Blitz section, not to a Blitz playoff at the end of a tournament with longer time controls. So, if there’s a tie for first place after the final round at the Maryland Scholastic Chess Championships, then even a standard FIDE Blitz game (G/3 inc/2) would be a viable option for determining the Maryland Scholastic Chess Champions.]

How MCA Determines the Individual Winner of a Section when There’s a Tie for First Place

For further information, contact the Maryland Chess Association at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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