I'm currently a Class B (1600). I rarely play at chess tournaments, but this year I have been playing at a lot of tourneys. Will going to more chess tournaments help me gain experience and make me a stronger chess player, especially if I play stronger people?
Playing a lot of tournament games against slightly stronger opposition is one of the best ways to improve your chess. It is very hard to match the intensity of a tournament game in a training session.
Additionally, the experience from actually playing is necessary to learn how to bring all your knowledge and your abilities onto the board. In my experience, if you don't have at least 200-300 tournament games under your belt, you won't be able to play at your best in a tournament setting.
So in the beginning you will improve just from being able to handle the situation better, something that is very hard to learn in training sessions. (Handling the situation includes not just on-the-board play, also the circumstances of the tournament, physical reaction to the stress/bad air/low blood sugar ..., mastering psychological setbacks, how to react to draw offers, time trouble and a thousand other things.)
That being said, playing players more than 300 points stronger than you (or weaker than you) won't help you much, because there probably won't be much of fight. If you can get these players to analyse the game with you afterwards, it would still be worthwhile, but generally you should choose your tournament in such a way that you don't get completely crushed in every other game.
Also analysing your games afterwards and studying the opening before and after the game can increase your learning experience a lot. (Actually, preparing an opening for a specific game against a specific opponent is in my view one of the best and most motivating ways of learning openings. Unfortunately in the US that often doesn't seem to be possible, from what I've heard.)
No. Playing against those who can easily defeat you will not make you stronger. And it will hose the Open section, too, as you are effectively a "bye". If am referring to tournaments where there is a vigorous Open section, of course. When I played in the NY State championship, the Open section was all 2200+ and included IMs and GMs.
There are a few threads here on how players can improve. Search for them.
In a nut shell:
- Work tactical exercises
Attend your local chess club and
a. play in your section
b. ask better players (+400 rating over yours, if possible) for help with analysis, and
Find an instructor to help you with specific weak points.
Once you are established at the chess club, you and an opponent can play a rated match. That is, you and your opponent can play a rated best-of-5 match or whatever. Choose an opponent who is 100 or maybe 200 points over you for a real challenge. You'll need your club's TD's approval.
Yes because it will give you exposure to high class competitive chess.
No, because playing alone cannot help you get better at Chess. What you learn from a game is more important than the result. Just playing so many tournaments alone doesn't make you a strong player.
So, the best advice is a balance of strong games followed by analyzing them and improving your game before playing more strong tournaments.