Reasons to Play Tournaments

By CEO National Master Evan Rabin

Tournaments are an integral part of chess improvement. One can take all the lessons he wants but will not get better if he is not playing tournaments regularly. Participating in tournaments is essential to have good games to review, learn competitive mindset and make new friends.

I have read very few chess books, compared to most chess masters, less than five cover to cover. However, I have played in 950+ tournaments and have analyzed all of my games. I determine my mistakes and how I could avoid them in future. It is important to take accurate notation and review one’s games, ideally individually and with a coach.

Amateur players often ask me “My rating is X on What do you think my over-the-board rating would be?”. I always respond “I have no idea. We will know after you play your first over-the-board tournament”. Online chess and over-the-board chess are two different animals. Online, players often focus on other activities, e.g, the phone, email, chores, etc. Over-the-board, players are 100% dedicated to the game. Online, if one loses a tough game or is tired, he can stop playing. Contrarily, when playing over-the-board tournament, one needs to play the next round whenever it it scheduled. Furthermore, playing online, players never have to deal with psychologically difficult situations that frequently occur during tournaments, such as last round situations when a win means a big prize and a draw or loss means walking away with little-to-nothing. It is important to get tournament experience to practice a consistent competitive mindset under any circumstance.

I have met many of my closest friends, including several of our instructors and podcast guests, playing tournaments over the years. In between rounds, players will often do

post mortems, have meals together and converse. After losing to the legendary Vasyl Ivanchuk in the Saint Vincent Semana 2024 tournament, our 220th podcast guest Grandmaster Keith Arkell wrote on Facebook “In the end, I took Chucky on in a complex Benoni and the game went to the wire, with us both very short of time. I lost and we had a fantastic 90-minute post mortem”. Growing up in new York, I have had the pleasure of making friends by doing post mortems and having meals with many legendary players, including the late Grandmaster Bill Lombardy and the ‘chess gladiator’ FIDE Master Asa Hoffman.

Now is the right time to go out and play a tournament. If one does not think he is ready to play a tournament, he never will be. Realize there are tournaments for everyone and most have several section so players can play opponents of a similar level. For instance, at our bi-monthly Grand Prix tournaments, we have an unrated ‘rookie section’ for beginners with little-to-no tournament experience, a reserve section for players unrated or under 600, a challenger section for students rated 600-1000 and a championship section for players rated over 1000. Whether it is a local tournament or a big one like the nationals, sign up today for your next tournament to get some good games to review, learn competitive mindset and make new friends.

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