Long Island Division - USFA

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What To Expect at a Tournament

Most fencing tournaments are an entirely different format than high school competitions. Knowing what to expect can make a big difference in your child's performance that day, as well as your enjoyment as a spectator.


Most LI Division qualifiers are at one of three locations - Huntington Intermediate School, Island Fencing Academy or Mission Fencing Academy. You can find directions to them on the Division competition schedule. Know where you are going and leave sufficient travel time. You should plan on arriving at least 1/2 hour before the designated end of check in.


When you arrive, the fencers should check in as soon as possible. Parents cannot check in for their children. You should have exact change for the tournament fee ($20/event for LI Division competitions). At regional and national events, you might have pre-registered online or by mail and sent in the fees in advance. You still must check in for the event.

Anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes after check-in ends, the registration list will be posted. The fencers will be listed in order of ranking. Their competition club (or school) and division will also be listed. Any errors in rank should be brought to the attention of the bout committee immediately.

Equipment check

At Regional and National competitions you should leave extra time to arrive because there will be an equipment check as well. The armorours will check your body cords and masks. For foil they will also check your lame and foils; for Epee, your epee; for Sabre your lame and glove (or cuff). As the parent you should make sure your child's equipment is sound before arriving at the venue. Otherwise you may find yourself scrambling to have something repaired (or to buy new) right before a competition. A parent can get the weapons checked while the fencer is checking in or warming up.

Even if there is not an equipment check, it is your responsibility to have working equipment when you reach the strip. The director will penalize fencers who appear on strip with broken weapons and cords. There is no penalty if equipement breaks during the bout. The director will confiscate it until the end of the pool round or DE bout. It is your responsibility to remember to get it back from the director.

Competition Format

The format for most tournaments is one round of pools, followed by a direct elimination round.


For the pool round, the field is divided into groups of 6 to 8 fencers. When possible, pools should be equal sizes, so the the pool size for each event varies with the number of people competing and how that factors best. You may have a few pools with one less person than the others, but you should never see a pool with 2 less people than another. Once the sizes are determined, they are filled first by dividing the highest ranked fencers between pools, then by adding the next highest ranked fencers and so on. At some competitions, the club or school may be used to divide fencers as well.

About 15 minutes after the final registration is posted, the pools and strip assignments will be posted. Fencers should look up their strip and report to it as quickly as possible.

Each person fences a 5 touch bout against everyone else in the pool. The director will keep a score sheet and at the end of the pool, every competitor must sign it. Once you have signed the score sheet, even if it is wrong, there is nothing you can do about it. Please do not argue with the bout committee about it - you can only dispute the scoring before you sign the sheet.

To minimize the possibility of any problems, some fencers keep track of the scores themselves. Some keep a marble notebook in their fencing bag, some use score sheets like this. But, the fencer should really concentrate on watching the action and staying in the zone. Thus, scoring is an excellent task for parents. When your child has finished fencing in the pool, give them the sheet to look over. They can compare it to the director's tally and confirm it easily.

the waiting ...

After pools there will be a lull. For a small competition, it may only be 20 minutes to a half hour. For a large, national competition, it can sometimes be an hour and a half or longer. This is an excellent time for a light snack. Your best bet is to have it as quickly after the pool as possible. This gives you time to digest a little. You should discourage your teen-age son from eating a chili-dog.

Ranking after pools

When all pools are finished, the bout committee enters the scores and computes a ranking of how you have fenced today. (This is one of the reasons why it seems to take a long time between pools and eliminations.) Your rank is based on

  1. Your percentage of wins in the pool (4 of 5 is 80%)
  2. then, absolute number of wins
  3. then, indicator (touches scored minus touches received)
So, not only is it important to win, but you want to win well. Since there are only so many combinations of win/loss you can have out of 5 to 7 bouts, the indicator plays a huge factor in determining your ranking.

Direct Elimination (DE) Round

This called the direct elimination round for obvious reasons - if you lose a bout, you are out of the event. The last fencer standing is the champion for the day.

The Seeding

Fencers are seeded into a direct elimination tableaux directly from their ranking at the end of pools. For most local competitions, you will have either a tableaux of 32 fencers or one of 64 (always a power of 2). E.g. 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256. If there are 9 people, you work from a table of 16; if 17-32, you work from a table of 32; if there are 118 fencers, you work from a table of 128.

Who is your opponent?

The formula is really simple:

Add one to your ranking and subtract from the table number.
For example, if there are 19 fencers (table of 32) and you are fencer 16 you add 1 to 16 (17) and subtract from 32 which leaves 15. Your opponent will be the fencer ranked 15th. If you were ranked 10 , (+1=11; 32-11=23) you would fence #23. But there are only 19 fencers! Congratulations, you have a "bye" which means you are automatically promoted to the next round.

Or, you can just wait the 5 to 10 minutes after posting the ranking after poools, when the bout committee will post a table showing the order of bouts. It will also indicate the strip numbers where the bouts will be fenced. You should find your place in the table and report to that strip immediately.

The Fencing

DE bouts are to 15 touches. There are breaks at various times in the middle of the bout. Your job as a parent is to have a water bottle ready for you child during that break.

Epee and Foila one minute break after 3 minutes, a second one minute break after the next 3 minutes
Sabrea one minute break after the first fencer reaches 8 points.

At the conclusion of the bout, both fencers must shake hands, sign the score sheet and thank the director. The winner will take the score sheet to the bout committee, who will enter it into the computer. They will be told what strip to report to next (usually the same one), and may be given the score sheet for their next bout. They must give that to the director when they arrive back at the strip (but don't interrupt a bout to do that).


These events can last a very long time. For division and regional events, plan on a minimum of 4 to 5 hours after the scheduled close of registration. Don't bring little brothers and sisters and expect them to be content through what can be a long boring day for them. You might find you are bored yourself, especially if your child wants to socialize with the other fencers during downtime. Bring a book or magazine or, better yet, talk to the other parents. After all, you do have something in common with them - children who fence.

National Events

National events, like North American Cups or the Junior Olympics, are run as described above, but everything is on a larger scale. Small events (like Women's Sabre) might have 60-80 people. Large events (men's foil) can have close to 300. This means that everything takes longer. A 128 person event can easily take 6 hours from end of registration until completion.


National events (run by the USFA) always include equipment vendors. This is a great time to go shopping for new clothing and weapons.