If casual play or simuls or problems are not to your liking, or if they are not enough, there's always serious competition to be had, either in some rated tournament or match.
Structured competition in the United States outside the club became quite big in the latter half of the twentieth century. This came with the introduction of the Swiss-system tournament, which allows every competitor to play five or six games in a weekend. In a Swiss-system tournament, you play somebody with the same or a similar score throughout the event.
This was always and still is the essence of chess. You and me: Let's find out who plays better chess.
A match between two strong players that is rated and sanctioned and followed by fans can be exhilarating. But you don't have to be a champion or even a very strong player to get a similar exhilaration. All you need is a willing opponent somewhere close to your own strength.
If you want an audience, set up your match for a mall or an outdoor festival. If you'd rather just slug it out in private, somebody's home or at the library are good enough. All you really need is an appropriate opponent who is willing to engage you in the match.
For any scheduled chess game, it is important to show up on time. Failure to do so is not only rude; it also could damage your chances in the game. In a timed encounter, your clock is set ticking when the game is scheduled. If you fail to show up in the next hour, you forfeit the game.
Formal tournaments come in various types, and most people are familiar with at least several of those types. Tournaments are held in many sports and games, including scrabble, bridge, and tennis.
The types of tournaments used for chess tournaments include:
The round-robin is a very basic device that can handle a few people in a short time or a lot of people over a long period of time. Every competitor plays every other competitor. If there are eight players, each one will play seven games.
Another version of the round-robin is the double round-robin. Each player gets a game with White and a game with Black with every other competitor. This way, nobody has any inherent advantage. The obvious disadvantage is that playing two games against each of your seven opponents means playing fourteen games. And that may take a long time.
The round-robin and especially the double round-robin has been the staple of professional chess for a long time. But such tournaments typically take a few weeks to a month to complete, especially when professionals insist on playing only one game a day.
Most people simply don't have the time or the resources or the energy to go through such a brutal schedule. So the alternate systems are much more appropriate for the casual player or even the serious amateur.
If you are familiar with the knockout system, this probably comes from watching tennis. You play until you lose. At the end, only one player remains as the champion. This is an exciting type of tournament, but hasn't really caught on in the chess community.
The tournament of choice for most chess players in the United States is the Swiss system, which is essentially a knockout format with nobody getting eliminated. When you lose, you simply play someone else who has lost. But it resembles a knockout for the winners.
Ranking is important for a Swiss-system tournament. For that, chess players use their ratings. The competitors are divided into two groups for the first round. The top player in the top group plays the top player in the bottom group, the second player in the first group plays the second player in the bottom group, etc. In subsequent rounds, the players are divided up by score group. In the third round, all those with three wins are in one group, those with two and a half comprise the next score group, those with two another, etc. Each score group is divided in two, with the top player from the top group playing the top player from the bottom group.