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Your First Chess Tournament: 24 Things to Keep in Mind (Preparation, Advice,…)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

For many, chess is a leisurely pastime, not something you would typically play in a tournament. But if you’ve taken this hobby one step further to compete against others, you will require extensive preparation. 

There are many things to consider during the build-up to your first chess tournament, like registration, game etiquette, strategies, and playing on a physical board while taking notes. These elements all contribute to your preparation for an upcoming contest.

You will want to prepare well enough in advance to ensure you can focus as much as possible on each game you play. 

These are 24 things to keep in mind for your first chess tournament:

1. Join A Chess Club As Soon As Possible

Joining a chess club will ensure you get ample practice before your first tournament. It allows you to meet more experienced players who can help you strengthen your game and get exposure to more matches and tournament-style play.

2. Get Comfortable Playing Chess In Person

Playing any game physically versus online or on a console will always be different. Get away from your screens and get used to playing against real players over a physical board. Practice handling the chess pieces and reading players’ body language to ensure you are comfortable playing a tournament in person.

3. Participate In As Many Chess Events As Possible

A chess club will update you on chess events in which you can participate. Playing in regular matches will help you get familiar with the rules and the setup of a tournament. It will also help you manage your nerves the more you’re exposed to opponents challenging you.

4. Practice Your Notations Before The Chess Tournament

Notations are the best way to record a chess game in case discrepancies arise. It also allows you to replay the game afterward to review mistakes you made or learn from strategic moves. Use competitive and casual games to practice recording notations well enough to do it at a tournament.

5. Confirm The Chess Tournament Details

If you have registered for a tournament, ensure you know all the details, like the time, date, and venue. If any information needs to be clarified, like the location of the tournament venue, allow yourself enough time to find out.

6. Register For Your Chess Tournament Online

Most tournaments have an online registration process that saves you time on tournament day. Make sure you know which websites to access to conduct this registration and do so in advance. Also, there are different age and skill groups: be sure to register for the correct section of the tournament.

7. Be Prepared To Travel To Attend A Chess Tournament

With playing multiple tournaments comes the need to travel since not all matches will be hosted at local venues. Traveling might require overnight necessities (e.g., toiletries, clothes, extra money, food, and water), so plan and take enough of what you need for the duration of the tournament.

The FIDE also has dress code regulations in place, so ensure to adhere to these guidelines by packing suitable attire.

8. Pack Appropriately For The Chess Tournament 

Pack your tournament bag the night before. 

Major competitions hosted by the FIDE typically provide chess sets and clocks. However, if your first tournament is a minor event, you might have to take your own chess set, clock, pen, and notepad. 

9. Rest Well Before The Chess Tournament

A good night’s rest should never be underestimated. Getting enough sleep the day before the tournament means that you will be fresh, sharp-minded, and ready for your chess matches. 

10. Do Not Be Late To Your Chess Tournament

Being punctual to your first tournament is crucial. Arriving late, especially if you have never been to a specific tournament venue, means you will have many things to familiarize yourself with quickly. 

Before your first chess match, tasks include registering or signing up, finding the pairings, and then identifying your correct table and board. Leaving yourself little time to do this is a surefire way to increase your nerves and potentially jeopardize your entire tournament. 

Plan your day to the finest detail, so you are not late!

11. Meet And Greet The Chess Tournament Officials

On tournament day, meeting at least one of the tournament’s officials is always a good idea. They should be easy to recognize and capable of helping you if you have any questions. Feel free to share that it is your first tournament.

12. Get To Know People At The Chess Tournament

Apart from the officials, try to meet some other players and people to help you feel at home.

13. Do Not Be Afraid To Ask Questions

After meeting a few people, be bold and ask them questions about the chess tournament. It will help to settle your nerves if you are well-informed.

14. Engage In Good Conduct At The Chess Tournament

Depending on health regulations, it is polite to shake the opponent’s hand before starting play. When the game has concluded, thank your opponent by shaking their hand again and wishing them well.

15. Learn To Judge The State Of A Chess Game

You are bound to receive an offer to draw a chess match or be tempted to offer one at some point. Knowing when the optimal time is to present or accept a draw is a valuable skill that comes with experience, so be present in the game and learn to assess your chances against the opponent. If you feel confident, decline a draw proposal.

16. Be Clear About The Touch-Move Rule In Chess

Remember the rules: if you touch a chess piece, you must move it. Once you lift your hand off a chess piece, the move is considered finished.

17. Even A Loss In Chess Is Still A Win

Playing in tournaments is more valuable than a win. So, if you lose some matches during your first tournament, remember that you will grow and develop over time and that even a loss is still a gain in experience. 

18. Trust Your Chess Tournament Training

Most of your preparation for a tournament will be playing games and studying move sets like openings. Trust that your training has prepared you well enough for your first tournament. If you still need to, ensure you prepare better for the next match.

19. Keep On Playing Chess Regardless Of Mistakes

Even if you make a mistake during a chess match, keep playing. Errors happen, even to experienced players. As a novice, nerves or a strong opponent might cause you to make a wrong move. It is vital to stay calm and not overreact – it will only affect your game negatively.

20. Be Open To Learning Something

Your first chess tournament is an excellent learning opportunity. Make the most of it by remaining humble and allowing the game (or even your opponent) to teach you something, regardless of the outcome.

21. Never Cheat In A Chess Tournament

As much as one might be tempted, especially if it’s your first tournament, it is not worth it. Do not cheat!

22. Go To The Postmortem Areas After Your Chess Match 

Find out where you can go after every match to review the chess game. Replaying a game is an excellent way to learn. Inviting your opponent along will also be beneficial to find out how they experienced the game at different points.

23. Stay For The Chess Tournament’s Prize-Giving

Your first chess tournament might not result in a victory where you lift the top prize. However, staying for the whole ceremony and meeting more people will be beneficial.

24. Commit To Playing In More Chess Tournaments

After your first chess tournament, commit to participating in more events. You will only benefit from the experience.

Last Words

Each consideration in this article will help you prepare for your first chess tournament, so start by making them habits. Still, the focus of any game should be to do your best.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.