5 Tips to Improve Tournament Play

The article below is a guest post by Jorn, a USCF chess expert. I reached out to him to see if he could write an article for the blog, because he has improved at a tremendous rate lately. In the last two years, he raised his USCF rating by about 400 points and crossed the USCF chess expert milestone.

Jorn also has a YouTube channel, which you can visit here. Without further ado, here is how to improve chess tournament play.

Have you ever gone to a tournament as a favorite expecting a dominant performance, only to then terribly underperform? Do you ever get so nervous during a game that you can’t play your best chess? Has the accumulation of fatigue during a long game or tournament caused you to blunder in a promising position? The truth is that these things have happened to almost all of us. However, there is hope. Here are five tips for tournament play that will allow you to play your best chess.

1. In the days leading up to the tournament, only work on chess lightly.

Examples of great pre-tournament activities include solving a few tactical puzzles or playing a couple of training games with a friend. One of the biggest mistakes many players make is that they put in a lot of work in the days leading up to the tournament with time-consuming activities such as heavy opening analysis or working through an endgame book. Remember, in order to be as fresh as possible for a tournament, keep your chess intake fairly light as the tournament approaches. The heavy lifting can be done in the large gaps of time between tournaments.


2. Stay in good physical shape.

Good physical shape translates to better endurance and concentration over the board. While your opponents might begin to feel fatigue and experience lapses in concentration in the final rounds of a tournament or at the end of the long game, you will still be fully focused and ready to exploit any mistakes!


3. Eat and sleep well.

Keep good nutrition and rest in mind during tournaments. By eating foods that sustain energy such as nuts and fruits, you will have better focus during your games.


4. Distract your mind.

During a long tournament it is incredibly important to distract your mind from chess from time to time. For example, during a game it is a good idea to get up from the board occasionally to look at the games of other players or just relax your mind. In between rounds, take a break from chess. Finding time for some physical activity between rounds will allow you to come to the board refreshed.


5. Don’t focus on the result!

It is natural to have the result in the back of your mind during a tournament game as it shows that you want to win! However, it is important not to let your thoughts about the result of the game get in the way of your play. For example, if you see a piece sacrifice that leads to a very promising attack, go for it! Don’t let worries such as “it might not work” or “what if I missed something” deter you. Always trust your calculations and intuition.


I can guarantee that if you follow the five tips above, you will notice a clear improvement in your tournament play. Until next time!

If you liked this guest post, feel free to leave a comment below. Also, I highly recommend that you visit Jorn’s YouTube Channel for high-quality chess content! See you all next time!

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