I always get nervous during a chess match and that really affects my performance. I can easily beat a 1400-1500 in a friendly match but when it comes to a tournament, I can't even win against 1300s. I also lose against people with whom I have won hundreds of times in friendly games.

Any tips or suggestions?


First of all, as @Jimmy360 stated, you should practice with tournament-like conditions. Apply the similar time controls, touch-move rule, threefold repetition, and all those 'boring' rules if you need to. This will surely make you nervous, however, it is a good practice, since tournaments will make you nervous anyway. When you get used to it, you will know how to relax, and furthermore, treat tournaments as friendlies!

Another suggestion I can give is that play in lots of tournaments. I know it isn't possible with limited time and money, however, chess.com and other chess websites have made things easier. Just play in lots of online tournaments, and you will feel that things will get easier, and you'll get used to playing under tournament atmosphere.

Finally, I suggest you to always think twice before making a move. This is what players of your level usually fail to do. Try inspecting your games; how often do you hang pieces, or fall to forks and pins? Well, the problem is, with the added stress due to it being a tournament, we tend to forget these 'little things' more easily. Therefore, every time you play in a tournament, try to sit back, relax, take a deep breath, double-check every move, and most importantly:

Enjoy the game!

  • I like this. Doing things like using a clock and taking notation in practice games will help normalize your tournament games, and perhaps make you less nervous.
    – D M
    Jul 12 '17 at 20:45

I've had similar problems. When I analyzed the situation, I concluded that I was giving the result too much importance, tying my worth as an individual to it for example. I've been able to largely overcome this by realizing that it doesn't have that much significance in the infinite scheme of things. It's only a game, and our skill at it will be determined by how much we learn. That can be a lengthy process. Losing in fact is a learning experience that will over the long term help us improve, so look at defeats in that context. Look at each game as a chance to learn something new. Chess is not a quick study for most people. The great Capablanca said that you have to lose 1000 games to become good, if that helps keep it in perspective. In other words, try to make playing a positive experience in itself and don't let the outcome be the most important part of playing. You can have winning as the goal, but not to the extent that it destroys your joy in playing. Enjoy the process rather than the outcome. Progress will inevitably come with time regardless.


OK, so here is an environment-related situation. What happens is your nerves crumble in the tournament hall. It is a respective scenario people face in public speaking or when children are trying to clear a mathematics paper in their school.

But there can be another way around also. Maybe against the people you play, they do not take the games seriously, and they play in a juvenile spirit, and in tournaments they focus more, and you focus less. It would be wise if you play the friendly games with a similar feeling of the tournament with equal time controls. The second thing please leave the rating aside. OK, I understand that rating is something you cannot ignore, but taking someone lightly will cost you One of the most harmful things in Sports/Chess that when you practice casually and take tournaments seriously which should be discarded. Practice seriously and then you would see the tournaments will give the best results.

There was an instance I had read, and would like to share from Bobby Fischer's play. During the 1960's in one of the playing halls, Bobby was playing a match and suddenly the lights went off. The entire hall was in chaos but Bobby was sitting there trying to find the best move even in the dark situation. He did not join the other players, and everyone was amazed at Fischer's utmost concentration. These small things make a player better than the best among us all.

  • "Rating is something you cannot ignore but taking someone lightly will cost you." Indeed! I once took down a player rated 500 points higher than me by playing my best ... only to lose a couple rounds later to a previously unrated player who started the game by pleading with me to "be nice & don't beat me too badly". Then she checkmated me with a scholar's mate-like position in 14 moves because I didn't take her seriously and wan't paying attention to what she was doing.
    – GreenMatt
    Jul 12 '19 at 20:47

Try playing your casual games in tournament-like setting. Use the same time control, etc.


If you are losing to 1300's then you are clearly not blunder-checking your moves, perhaps because of nerves. Make that your first priority in your next tournament and your results are bound to improve.

So, "If I do that move what is my opponent's best reply?"

  • 2
    Well, can't nerves lead to blunders? I mean, for a 1400-rated, when they feel nervous, they might panic and hang pieces. Jul 13 '17 at 3:21

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