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Closed tournaments have explicit eligibility requirements detailing who can play at the tournament.

By definition, any tournament that is not an open tournament is a closed tournament. Tournaments that do not explicitly state that they are open are assumed to be closed, and thus the term is rarely used in practice.

Closed tournaments require that:

  1. Each team consists of players who attend the same school.
  2. Only teams of college students can attend college tournaments; similarly, only teams of high school students can attend high school tournaments and only teams of middle school students can attend middle school tournaments.

The only general exception to these rules is that many (but not all) closed tournaments allow players to "play up," that is, allowing middle school players to compete at high school tournaments or high school players to compete at college tournaments. There are a few specific situations (such as dual-enrollment) for which these rules are insufficient; those situations are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Non-students are not allowed to play in closed tournaments. The only exception is that a player who graduated in the same competition year as the tournament, but before the tournament itself, may be allowed to play for the school from which he or she graduated. (This allows schools that let out in May to still send senior-filled teams to HSNCT and NSC, for instance.)