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?

  • If you're an adult, more likely you'll gain like 100 Elo then flat out for the rest of your life unless you do intensive training.
    – SmallChess
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 13:19
  • It definitely depends on the rating limits for the open section and the under sections. Playing people 200-300 points stronger than you can definitely help, because you'll be able to play a game and learn something. If you play someone 600 points above you, it's entirely possible you'll just lose right out of the opening, and you won't have a chance to do anything other than respond to your opponent's good play. It's important to at least give yourself a chance to win in tournaments.
    – Andrew
    Commented Dec 6, 2015 at 19:58

3 Answers 3


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.)

  • That's a lie. I've played opponents over 400+ points stronger than me and I've pulled some impressive upsets. I've also been upset by 1500's. Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 21:54
  • According to this winning probability calculator (wismuth.com/elo/calculator.html#rating1=2000&rating2=2400) the probability of actually winning a game against somebody 400 points stronger is 3%. To me that sounds like "there probably won't be much of a fight". Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 20:27
  • If you regularly win against people 400 points stronger and lose against players 400 points weaker in tournament games (i.e. 90+min), there is something severely wrong with you. Of course given that you insult people who give honest advice as liars, that might well be true. Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 20:30

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:

  1. Work tactical exercises
  2. 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

  3. Find an instructor to help you with specific weak points.

  4. 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.

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