Lichess4545 League Player Handbook

Written by GnarlyGoat (Lichess Moderator)

Hello there, if you are reading this document it means that you've just become a member of the lichess 45+45 League, congratulations! No doubt you have a lot of questions about how the league works and what is going to happen next, this document aims to help answer some of those questions and provide everyone with the information they need to actively participate in this league. If you still have further questions after reading this guide, then don't worry! There is usually always someone in the Slack chat who is more than happy to help out a fellow player, no matter the question. So feel free to join in the fun and enjoy your time in this amazing league!

A Brief Overview of the League

For those of you who just want a quick run-down of the of how the league works, then this section is for you! If you have any further questions about the league there is a reasonable chance that it'll be answered elsewhere in this guide, but for now here is a list of the basic points you need to know:

  • At the start of the tournament you will be automatically assigned a team and board position based on your classical lichess rating. The strongest player on your team is placed on board #1, the second strongest on board #2 on so on.
  • Each week your team’s board #1 player will play against the opposing team’s board #1 player, your board #2 will play against their board #2 and so on. This ensures that you will be paired against a player with a rating fairly close to your own, you're pretty much always going to get a fair match.
  • The league operates in a Swiss-style format for eight rounds across eight consecutive weeks, the team with the most points at the end of the season become the league champions.
  • Each game must be rated and played with the 45+45 time control. Player colours are determined when the pairings are released.
  • You can find out what team you are on by checking the tournament website.
  • Each game is scheduled directly between the players, which means you can play your games at a time and date of your choosing. You can schedule your matches over Slack or on lichess and post the scheduled time in the #team-scheduling channel on slack.
  • If you have any trouble scheduling your match, contact your team captain for assistance as soon as problems arise.
  • Once the game with your opponent is finished, the game result will be picked up by the league bot @Chesster and updated on the website - be sure to let a moderator know if it isn't.
  • Before the tournament starts, you must choose a team captain and a team name.
  • Remember to have fun and enjoy the league!

If you have joined the league as an alternate player, please refer to the “Advice for Alternate Players” section of this guide.

Contacting a moderator

At any point before and during the league, you are encouraged to contact a moderator if you are facing any problem. If you have a problem scheduling with your opponent, you should contact your Captain (see "The Role of the Team Captain" below) but if your Captain isn't responding: contact a Mod. Do not contact mods DIRECTLY! You should post "@chesster summon mods" in the channel #general and wait for a mod to contact you. Never hesitate to contact us that way, it will ensure that any problem can be solved in a timely manner.

What to do at the Start of the League

Now that you've joined the league, you're probably wondering what happens next. This section explains the key things that you and your team need to do before the league officially kicks off and Round 1 begins.

Check the main tournament website. This website is the main information hub of the league and can be found by looking at the pinned items section of #general or the #announcements channel on Slack. You need to visit this site in order to find the team that you have been allocated to. This site is also the place where the pairings for each week are posted, so please bookmark the site as you'll be referring to it frequently over the course of the tournament.

Meet your team. Your team channel will be automatically created when teams are released, get to know your new team-mates!

Once the team channel is set up and everyone is gathered together, the next thing your team needs to do is...

Choose a team captain. The main role of the team captain is to ensure that everyone is scheduling their matches in a timely manner and to help resolve scheduling issues when they do arise. Anyone on the team can be elected as team captain, but the most important quality that a team captain needs to have is to be an active and reliable participant in the league. An ideal captain would be someone who visits lichess and the Slack-chat multiple times a day in order to be able to rapidly  respond to any issue that may arise. For more information about team captains and their duties please, refer to the "The Role of the Team Captain" section of this guide.

Choose a team name. One of the most fun parts of the league is getting to choose a name for your team! Most teams opt for a name that features a clever chess based pun such as "0-0 No You Didn't" or "Legalize Caruana". You need not restrict yourself to just chess-puns though, anything that you want as your team name such as "Kute Kittehs", "Dopey Doges" or "Kumiko x Reina OTP" will be fine. Your Team name must be decided before the pairings of Round 1 are announced.

In the Meantime, wait for the Round 1 pairings to be announced and enjoy the league!

 

The Structure of the Tournament

The lichess 45+45 league is a team-based Swiss tournament where teams of 6 players play against each other every week. The season lasts for eight weeks and the team with the most points at the end of the season will be crowned as league champions.

The teams are drafted at the start of the league with the aim of creating a fair and balanced league where every player has a reasonable chance of being paired against another player of a similar skill level. The strongest player on your team will be placed on board #1, and every week that player will play against your opposing team's board #1 player. Your second strongest player will be placed on board #2, and every week that player will play against your opponent's board #2 player. This continues for every board on your team and ensures that you will be playing against opponents with a similar playing strength to your own.

If there are players on a team that experience a significant rating shift over the course of the tournament, the league admins will re-organise the board positions to reflect this change whenever necessary.

 

Lichess 45+45 League Rules

Every game that is played in the league must be done so according to the following rules:

  • Every game must be played on lichess under standard chess rules with a 45+45 time control. That means that each player starts with 45 minutes on their clock and is awarded an additional 45 seconds to their clock after every move that they play. The game must also be rated, do not play your games in casual mode.
  • Player colours are decided at the start of each round when the pairings are released. Depending on the circumstances, a game that starts with the wrong colours will have to be re-started.
  • If your opponent is more than 20 minutes late to your scheduled match, you have the right to claim victory. However, if you wish to reschedule the match with your opponent then you are very much encouraged to do so. If you wish to claim a victory in this way, you must communicate your intention to the league admins (via Slack) directly after the 20 minutes have elapsed.
  • The use of computerised chess engines is strictly forbidden. Those who use engine assistance will be caught and permanently banned from the league and from lichess.
  • The use of chess database's and endgame table-bases are also strictly forbidden. You can use these tools prior to your match to prepare for your games, and after your match to further improve your analysis, but not during game itself
  • As all games are played on lichess, all other lichess site-wide rules still apply to each game. Breaking the rules of lichess during a league match will result in the closure of your lichess account.

For a more details about the rules of the league, please refer to the official rulebook.

 

Scheduling your Matches

Once the pairings have been announced and you've found out who you will be playing, you are required to directly contact your opponent in the Direct Message set up by @Chesster and organise a time for your game to be played. You can contact your opponent via a private message on lichess or by Direct Message on Slack. When you do contact your opponent, please offer at least three reasonable windows of time in which your game can take place. You'll frequently be playing people in vastly different time-zones from your own, so try to be as flexible with your schedule as possible.

Here are a few tips to bear in mind when scheduling your matches:

  • Games played under the 45+45 time control are usually concluded after 1-2 hours of play, though longer games (with 60 moves or more) can last up to around 3 hours. Please expect your games to last around 3 hours when planning your match.
  • Time-zones can often be tricky, and mistakes are easy to make. Always ensure that the agreed upon start time is 100% confirmed by both players and that there is no ambiguity as to when your game starts. Using UTC as a common time-zone is a good way to do this.
  • Please let your opponent know the precise time-zone you are currently living in when you first start scheduling your match. The more information that both parties have, the easier it is to come to an agreeable start time.
  • When communicating with your opponent, try to use plain or simple sentences wherever possible. Not everyone in the league speaks English as their first language, so keeping your messages easy to read can be very helpful during the scheduling process.
  • Use the 24-hour time format (e.g. 22:15 instead of 10:15 PM) whenever you can, it avoids a lot of unnecessary AM/PM confusion.
  • There are plenty of third-party websites and resources available to you that can aid you in the process of navigating multiple time-zones, we think a few good ones are:

As an example, a typical message that you might send to your opponent might look a little something like this:

"Hello, I am in the UTC timezone and am available Friday at 1000, 1700 or Saturday at 1800. Are you available to play at any of these times?"

Of course, the more times you can offer, the higher your chances of successfully scheduling are. If you are unable to decide upon a mutually agreeable time for the start of your match you must contact your team captain as soon as possible. Your team captain will discuss your issue with the league admins and they will try to come to a reasonable resolution. Likewise, if you are away for week or are otherwise unable to compete, please let your team captain know as soon as possible in order for an alternative player to be found that can play in your stead. You can also update your own availability using @Chesster - just Direct Message "@chesster availability 45" and use the link provided.

Once your game has been scheduled, please post the scheduled time in the #team-scheduling channel in the Slack chat.

 

The Role of the Team Captain

Before the tournament begins, each team must choose from its members a team captain. The main roles of the team captain are to:

  • Ensure that everyone on the team is promptly scheduling their matches.
  • Resolve any scheduling issues that may arise with the other team.
  • Act as a liaison between the team and the moderators.

Ideally, the person who is chosen to be a team captain should be someone who visits lichess and Slack very frequently (multiple times a day), so keep that in mind when selecting your team captain at the start of the tournament.

For most part, being a team captain is fairly straight-forward. But in the case where one of your team-mates is unable to compete during a round, it becomes the captain’s responsibility to ensure an alternate search is started by marking the player as unavailable on the website. The search progress can be monitored on the alternates page (accessible from the season roster page). If the player does not show up for their match and an alternate player cannot be found, the game for that board will be forfeited.

Don't worry if you’re a captain and this sounds a little overwhelming, there is a separate user guide that explains in detail how a captain is supposed to fulfil their duties, and it will be linked to every captain at the start of the tournament. And of course, the league admins will be more than happy to assist any team captain with any issues that may arise.

 

Advice for Alternate Players

If you’ve joined the league after the team rosters have been announced, or have otherwise failed to qualify for the tournament on time, you still have a chance of participating in the league as an “Alternate Player”. Alternates are an important part of league activity and may become new members of established teams should an existing member of the league drop out. When an established team player is unable to play a game, we look for an alternate (either permanently or temporarily) to join the team.

Alternates are placed on their own roster and are organized by board/rating on the roster page of the tournament tournament website.  The league admins always start at the top of the list when looking for an alternate player, so players registered as an alternate earlier on during the tournament will be given priority to play first.

In the event that one of the established teams in the league does require a replacement player, an alternate player on the list will be contacted on Slack and Lichess and will be required to respond to these messages as soon as possible by clicking the appropriate response on the message from @Chesster. Even if the alternate player is unavailable to play, simply clicking the response to decline will be sufficient and the search will continue. Once an alternate player accepts an offer to join a team, they will be placed in contact with their opponent for that round and be required to schedule a game as soon as possible. Alternates often (though not always) become permanent team members as team players drop out or are removed from teams for missing too many games.  In the course of an eight week tournament, there are typically many changes and substitutions.

Team players often have to be replaced quickly, and it is important for alternates to reply in a timely fashion.  If no reply is received within a reasonable time-frame, a new alternate is contacted.

Naturally, alternate players are welcome to be part of all the channel discussions on Slack. We suggest you check in frequently and stay active with our community as much as possible. If you would still like to play some competitive chess in the mean-time, you should consider joining the Lonewolf 30+30 Tournament. Alternate players are encouraged to join in order to help pass the time it takes to be added to the league. For more information about the Lone Wolf Tournament and how to register, please refer to the “Lone Wolf Tournament” section further in this guide.

 

Communicating on Slack

The lichess 45+45 league uses Slack as its main communication platform, and every member is encouraged to check Slack as often as possible over the course of the tournament. Slack is a program that allows users to chat with each other, share files/links with each other, form sub-teams and otherwise collaborate with people around the world. You can access slack through both your web-browser or with the official multi-platform app, which you can download here.

To sign in to the lichess 45+45 Slack channel you must first be invited to the channel by one of the league admins, but don't worry, invitations are distributed to all participants (via email) before the league begins. Once you have an invite all you have to  do is simply log onto the lichess 45+45 league Slack domain (lichess4545.slack.com) and you should be ready to go.

As has been mentioned earlier, the majority of league communication is done over Slack, and you should try and check the Slack chat as often as possible to stay up-to-date with how the tournament is progressing. For more information about slack and how to use it, please check here.

An Overview of the 45+45 League Slack Channels

Once you've joined the Slack chat, you will be automatically added to a number of channels that are used by the league on a regular basis. These Slack channels are the main method through which the league admins communicate with the players, it is important you understand what each channel is used for if you wish stay up-to-date with the latest league developments. A description of each channel is provided below:

  • #general: Basically, anything generally related to the lichess 45+45 league belongs here. It's a fairly casual crowd so pretty much anything goes; questions about the league, discussions about lichess, lamentations of your games, words of encouragement and friendly banter between teams are all accepted in #general.
  • #team-games: This channel is where you can see the league games that are being played.
  • #team-scheduling: Once you have successfully scheduled a start time for your game, you should post that start time in this channel. Times posted in this channel get uploaded onto the main tournament website so that everyone in the league, especially your team-mates, can see when you game is scheduled. All times posted in this channel must be in the GMT time-zone.
  • #captains: The #captains channel is a private channel that is only available to team captains to join. Team captains should use this channel to discuss scheduling issues with the league admins and to organise alternative players.

There are a number of other channels that you can join, such as #random (an off topic channel) or #anime (an anime discussion channel), but the channels listed here are the most important channels that you will need to interact with over the course of the league.

 

How to Report Players for Cheating

The admin team of the 45+45 League work closely with the lichess moderators to ensure that the league is kept as cheat free as possible, they keep a very close eye on suspicious play. If you suspect that your opponent is using engine assistance you should submit a user report using the report feature on lichess, or message one of the league admins by DM on Slack.

We take cheating accusations very seriously in this league and make every effort to ensure that the league is as cheat free as possible. Players that are caught cheating will have their accounts banned from lichess and any points that they have earned during the course of the tournament will be reverted.

 

Are There any Prizes?

The lichess 45+45 league is a free league and offers no cash prizes.

 

Who Runs the League?

The lichess 45+45 League is run by a group of passionate chess fans that volunteer their time to ensure that the league operates as smoothly as possible. Whilst the league admins do work closely with the lichess.org staff, the 45+45 league is run entirely independently of lichess.org, though many lichess staff members do participate as players. If you have any troubles or questions, please don't hesitate to ask these guys on Slack about your issue as they'll be more than happy to help you out.

 

The Lone Wolf League

For those of you who still crave even more weekly chess action, why not join the Lone Wolf Tournament! As the name suggests, the Lone Wolf Tournament is an individual weekly Swiss tournament where each week you are paired against another player with whom you must schedule and play your match. Unlike the main 45+45 league, each game in this tournament is played with a 30+30 time control. This tournament is run separately from the main league and can be joined at any time, even half-way through the season! It’s a great way to kill some time between rounds, so why not consider signing up?

If you do wish to join the Lone Wolf Tournament, join #lonewolf-general on Slack and one of the moderators will be happy to add you to the roster.

 

General Tips and Advice

If you are new to playing in a league, or playing long time control games in general, then there are a few things that you ought to consider that can greatly improve your league experience. Some of these tips have been outlined below:

Actively participate in your team's private Slack channel. Keeping in touch with your friends, congratulating them on their wins and supporting them in their losses is a great way of coming closer together as a team and boosting morale. Even just being present in the Slack chat, making jokes and messing around is a great way to keep the league fun.

Study your opponent’s games. It cannot be stressed how important it is to spend at least a little time looking at your opponents games before you play your match. The number of times you'll avoid walking into a dangerous opening trap, or dodge some pet line that your opponent has completely memorised just by spending only a few minutes with the Advanced Search feature and the games DB is too often to ignore. You don't need to memorise 20 move variations or anything like that, just having at least some idea of what to expect before your match starts will go a long way towards winning the game.

Play practise matches against your teammates. If you see that your opponent plays a certain line in the Sicilian and you want to try out a new line against it, why not try and get your team-mates to help you out? Playing practise games with your team mates not only helps to build camaraderie, but can also help you train against lines you are likely to come up against in your actual league games.

Take your time. Games played with the 45+45 time control are not like Bullet/Blitz games where you have to play a move and hope that it's tactically sound because you didn't have time to calculate the consequences. A normal game in this league lasts around 1-2 hours, you should have plenty of time to analyse your position and conclude whether the variations that you are calculating work or not. Also, try to avoid playing for tricks like you would in a bullet game, odds are good that your opponent will see your trick and play something to punish you instead.

Avoid unnecessary piece sacrifices. One of the most common mistakes that you'll see in this league is for a player to go for a flashy looking sacrifice that looks dangerous, and in a bullet game might even result in a win, but is often unsound. If you ever find yourself wondering whether you should sacrifice a piece or not, the answer is almost certainly no. The problem with playing these moves in a game with such a long time control is that it’s highly likely that your opponent will have the time to correctly defend the position. Just to be clear, if the sacrifice is sound then by all means play the sacrifice, but you need to be absolutely certain that it's a winning move. There's no worse feeling than losing a game that you could have won simply because you didn't take the time to calculate your sacrifice properly.

Greet your opponent at the start of the game. When you accept a challenge from your opponent the clocks don't start counting down until both players have made their first move, so take some time and talk to your opponent before the game properly starts. Ask if they are ready to continue and wish them well before the game commences fully.

Be Positive. Even after your team has received a terrible string of losses, try to remain positive and avoid blaming others for costing the team games. Playing in this league is supposed to be fun; there is nothing fun about being yelled at by your team-mates right after you've made a massive blunder. Nothing hurts morale faster than nasty blame games, so please remain positive and encourage others to do the best they can.