I have an upcoming tournament and I already started to prepare, but I have some questions about tournament play:

  • How to do better in tournament games
  • Should I adjust to my opponents' play
  • Do I need to study every player or just work on things ( opening repertoire, tactics,... )
  • 3
    What is your rating?
    – Akavall
    Feb 9, 2020 at 16:38
  • 2
    I agree with PhishMaster that tactics will be the most important aspect of your play to improve considering your level of play at the moment, since you still seem quite new to competitive chess in general. One thing I would like to add that I don't feel warrants an entire answer is that you ought to try to form the habit of forming a plan to follow when playing. This is a crucial skill that you will need to learn eventually, and the sooner the better. But tactics is the cornerstone that lets you find good plans, so I'd focus on that for now.
    – Scounged
    Feb 9, 2020 at 19:36

5 Answers 5


If you are this Janjic, Slobodan P, I would say that you need to do tactics, tactics, and more tactics. Try to do 50 per day, spending no more than 2 minutes per tactic. At the lower mid-levels, it really comes down to who loses a piece first most of the time.

I want to suggest that as you do the tactics, REALLY try to concentrate as you do them, and do not just play a move that looks good, and hope that you are right....REALLY see it through to the end, and try to visualize what it going on...don't play "hope chess" (I HOPE this works).

I covered this in depth for all rating levels here.

  • 3
    Yeah, that's me. Feb 9, 2020 at 18:24
  • 1
    Well, I do the tactics, just now I am reading a tactics book. Did you look at my games? If you did, can you advise or at least rate my endgames? Feb 9, 2020 at 18:31
  • 1
    That does not give me access to your games, sorry. Feb 9, 2020 at 19:13
  • Try on chess-db.com Feb 10, 2020 at 16:30
  • 1
    The "Puzzle Rush" feature on chess.com is pretty good at teaching you to find a tactic once you're told there is one. Although turning it round to avoid giving your opponent a tactic is at least as important. Feb 11, 2020 at 7:23

As a beginner, you should focus on the basics of chess to help improve your overall chess. I'm amazed at the number of hanging queens at the lower level. As you improve, the tactics become harder and the strategy deeper.

It's often suggested that the purpose of an opening is to get you to a playable middlegame. Once you become 2000+ (USCF), you can study openings to try for an early advantage.

Of course, you have to react to you opponents' play OTB, but studying their games for some weakness is normally useless below the GM level.


An oft neglected aspect of tournament play is time management. Have a plan for time management and practice it. You should be using most of your time available most of your games. There are many other things to consider like honing your thought process but I find that time management is often forgotten.

Here is an article on time management

  • 1
    Important but there is so much more. Feb 9, 2020 at 18:09

As far as tournament-specific stuff goes (that is: things that are not equivalent to "just playing chess better"), I see a lot of people getting flustered and trying to change how they're playing during the tournament (say, they'll lose to a particular opening, then try to play that same opening in their next game, and lose due to lack of familiarity with said opening). The solution here is to resist that urge, and just play the chess that you can play well, and try to ignore the pressure from factors external to the game you're currently playing.


First learn the rules, ALL the rules, for the tournament, organization, and local sponsors holding the event. Use them to protect yourself and avoid being taken advantage of off the board.

Never play blitz. Do play faster chess but with minimum time for each move and also a cap on the move TIME that forces you to think first but not dawdle. The old exactly ten seconds per move like the Washington Chess Divan and other clubs used is perfect to be confident if you should get into time trouble.

Clock management. You can NOT afford to just sit and think excessively on A few moves so you get into time trouble. Use the time you need but do not overdo it so that you do not have time you need for other moves. Learn to make a decision. The faster play with fixed max/min per move, not blitz, is a good way to make this second nature.

Think on your opponent's time. You should not need a lot of your time if you do that and then the opponent will be having time trouble and more likely to blunder. If you can get 15 minutes left to 5 in an even position, it is like adding 200 points to your rating.

Learn one opening well. Learn end games well. Learn tactics. The other stuff will come with experience.

For most tournaments you will just play some stranger. You can't prepare for them. If it is a club tournament you should already know the players and there is no need to do more preparation.

Play your game. You have to adjust to whatever type position you have but you have a say in the way the opening goes and the type position that will result in the middle game. Knowing your one opening well will allow you to ensure you get the type position you want in the majority of cases. If you do not like wide open slash and burn tactics you may have to accept that style or else have some prepared defenses that would blunt that approach and give you a game you like. Knowing the typical crap that beginners like shows you the openings you need to also know enough so they don't win early because you made a mistake. E.g. Evans Gambit, Scotch Game, Max Lange, and the like you also need to know cold for black. You will not play those as white.

Your first tournament, when you are ready, should be the biggest and strongest one you can play in. That will maximize your initial rating from which all you later ratings stem from. Play for wins do not give draws willy-nilly because you are afraid of losing. Of course, if you can't win, then a draw is better than a loss.

  • I did play on a big tournament to get a rating, showed well, 1572 I got from there and now I'm 1542. Feb 9, 2020 at 18:27
  • You are ahead of the guy here recently who complained he was only about 1150 after his first tournament and blamed taking draws against low rated players. DONT DO THAT! Play to win like Fischer did. Your rating is still good for having started playing. Now study and learn to fix the weaknesses you saw in reviewing your past results. if you like my advice upvote the answer, then select it with the check mark. Feb 9, 2020 at 18:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.