Reduce Stress to Improve Your Chess Game: 3 Practical Tips

By Deb Porter, CEO of HOLD Hearing Out Life Drama

Getting psyched for a chess tournament – isn’t stress a natural

part of that?

Excessive stress can actually prove detrimental to your performance. Science has shown that heightened stress levels limit your access to the very higher-order cognitive functions crucial for excelling in chess. Let us take a look at three tips to help combat tournament jitters:


Stress often arises from the fear of the unknown. You can capture a sense of control by developing pre-tournament activities. Prepare ahead by studying openings, practicing the middlegame, and developing a solid plan for the endgame. This will allow you to gain the confidence you need prior to tournament day.

Establish a pre-game routine that fosters a sense of calm and readiness. You can try things such as listening to relaxing music, reviewing strategies, or giving yourself some positive self-talk. Or all three!

Stress can mount when players place excessive pressure on themselves to win every game. Develop a healthy mindset with realistic expectations. Every game is an opportunity to learn and improve, win or lose. Having your expectations set in your mind before the tournament begins will allow you to have fun, and ditch the stress.


During game play, time pressure is a common stressor. Managing your time helps alleviate that stress. Here are some common sense tips to help manage your time – and your stress!

  • If you have one legal move, do not overthink it!

  • Maintain a steady pace, allocating time for critical moves.

  • If you get below 5 minutes, stop notating, stay focused and stay calm.

Managing stress is a crucial determinant of success in chess tournaments. The scientific insight that excessive stress can impair thinking needed for strategic gameplay underscores the importance of stress reduction.

Eliminate tournament jitters. Establish a pre-tournament routine that imbues you with confidence through preparation and calming rituals. Cultivate a healthy mindset by embracing the value of learning from every game rather than fixating on winning. Finally, conquer time-related stress by employing simple strategies like maintaining a steady pace and adapting your approach as time dwindles. By mitigating stress’s grip, you unlock the potential for heightened performance and enjoyment in the world of competitive chess.


Hearing Out Life Drama is a confidential listening service.  When you’re overwhelmed and the people you know are too close to the problem or worse, ARE the problem, we listen so you can think clearly and feel a sense of relief.

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