I just got back from a chess tournament after around 5 years without playing tournament chess. I did mediocre in this tournament, and I attribute it to struggling to maintain concentration after 3+ hours into a game.

I'd play a relatively decent game throughout (imperfections on both sides here or there), but lose e.g. to some simple tactic late in the game. Something that I would ordinarily see easily, e.g. a knight fork, but was not simply looking for it late in the game.

There seems to be no point in learning openings, endgames, etc. when you end up down a bishop and end up resigning.

Question: What training exercises (drills) can we do to prevent making elementary mistakes long into tournament games?

  • Your loss of concentration is normal. Everything plays a role in "this department"->your age, physical fitness, oxygen level in the room, noise... It is always good to take a walk after a long time playing, just be sure to remember your current plan. Then take a fresh look at the position after you come back. In your case the problem might be boredom as well. Again, just take a short walk and return once your opponent plays ( you may walk only after you play a move and start opponent's clock ). This method served me well, hopefully it will be useful to you too. Best regards. Apr 22 '14 at 0:43
  • Start an exercise regimen. If the body is healthy, the brain is better.
    – Tony Ennis
    Apr 22 '14 at 4:50

Fatigue leads to errors of judgment. Fatigue in long games manifests as 'seeing things that aren't there' and 'not seeing things that are there." As stated before, current health status, conditions of the room, even how much sleep was gotten the night before, are factors. Actually, errors in judgment is an integral part of the game, or as one grandmaster said, "whomever makes the last mistake loses."


Nobody touched on this point before, so here we go:

I had the same problem, when I started playing tournament chess. Although I was physically extremely fit, I would start blundering after 4 h.

I got rid of this by drinking a coke after 3-4 h. Drinking something cold and getting some caffeine probably didn't hurt, but the main reason for my blunders was lack of sugar.

Nowadays I try to keep my sugar level constant by eating some chocolate, fruits or nuts in regular intervals.

  • I often take a break (on my time) to have a bit of a snack (usually away from the board as to not disturb the other players). I find it helps to keep my blood sugar consistent. Jun 20 '15 at 4:39

struggling to maintain concentration after 3+ hours into a game.

This is not something that you can fix with chess exercises. This is a physical problem.

I had something similar a few years ago although I'm embarrassed to admit that it kicked in after about 30 minutes! During our winter club competitions you typically get between 40 and 50 players crammed elbow to elbow in one large room with the windows shut. I was unfit at the time and if my opponent inconsiderately had a long think 10 or 12 moves into the game I found myself nodding off from the warmth and lack of oxygen in the room.

Round about the same time I read a (junk science) newspaper article saying that dieing to go for a pee improved concentration. I came up with the combination solution of starting the game with a paper cup of cold water, sipping regularly and going for a refill when it was empty. This meant that every 10 or 15 moves I was getting up to go to the kitchen where I could open the window and take a few deep breaths of cold air as I refilled my cup. Later in the game I was making regular trips to the toilet ;-) where again there was an open window and fresh air.

Now I'm fit again and don't have the same problem.

Another approach is to look at cold remedies. The one I take when I have a heavy cold or touch of flue has the following active ingredients: paracetamol 300mg, caffeine 25mn, phenylephrine hydrochloride 5mg. Make of that what you will.

I would, however, point you towards the FIDE anti-doping policy . In particular if you are close to the Australian women's team note this section:

The most relevant banned substances for chess are:

• Amphetamines – e.g. Adderall, Ritalin

• Ephedrine and Methylephedrine – Prohibited by WADA when its concentration in urine is greater than 10 micrograms per milliliter

• Pseudoephedrine is prohibited when its concentration in urine is greater than 150 micrograms per milliliter

Substances not present on the Prohibited List but represented in the Monitoring Program:

• Caffeine – Included in WADA 2013 Monitoring Program and relevant for in-competition testing only. Any test reading of less than 400 milligrams poses no problem.

• Codeine – A common ingredient in, for example, preparations used to treat coughs and stomach upsets. Any dosage is highly unlikely to be significant when taken in normal therapeutic quantities.

Just how this relates to common cold medication I don't know although a British skier had his Olympic bronze medal taken away from him after taking such a cold remedy.


Just study loads of tactical exercises and it will become second nature to you. I can recommend websites such as chesstempo and chess tactics server for such practice. To be able to maintain concentration effectively for long periods of time you would need to update your physical condition :). Although it is not so critical in chess as in tennis shall we say, an example is Viktor Korchnoi, the guy is 80+ and yet still plays at a very high level! This demonstrates that despite his obviously poor physical condition his massive skill, experience and understanding Of chess trump this. I would say exercise and improvement of chess playing skill and understanding (achieved by constant practice (tournaments every two months) and personal study time (or even better with a coach) )can improve your concentration immensely. I can also say that walking around during the game helps greatly in keeping you sharp (but be careful of getting distracted!) Also do not neglect study of endgames and positional chess as these are the keys to improved play, doing this would be fatal. Also try to have fun and, motivation and determination is the key! :)


I think you should do more tactical training using tactic trainers to sharpen your tactical eye. Also, before making your move, check all threats, captures and tactics you or your opponent can do. This will reduce this type of mistakes. Hope this helps!


To avoid elementary mistakes simply study tactics before a tournament. chess.emrald.net is a good place to do drills.

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