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Tournament Tips

Thinking of playing in or watching a chess tournament? Here are some tips that will help ensure that everyone has a good time!

For Participants:

For beginners, the thought of playing in chess tournaments can be overwhelming. Playing in a tournment can be difficult, but it can be fun, too! Here are some suggestions that will make your life easier.

  • Show up to your game in a timely manner.
  • Don't adjust the pieces with each move. It is very annoying to your opponent.
  • Have you ever seen the sign, "No shirt, no shoes, no service"? The same applies to a chess tournament. Make sure you're properly dressed.
  • It is customary to shake hands before and after the game.
  • Don’t do anything to annoy your opponent or other players sitting next to you.
  • It is inappropriate to have a meal or eat at the playing table; Basic refreshment (such as a bottle of water) is okay.
  • If you chew gum, do so quietly.
  • Do not sing/whistle/listen to an MP3 player while you are playing.
  • Except to resign, offer a draw or announce J’adoube (adjusting your pieces); do not communicate with your opponent until after the game.
  • Don’t make a draw offer to your opponent after every move once it is refused or rejected.

The following are four key principles that will help you improve your game:

  • Control the center: The center of the board includes the squares e4, d4, e5, and d5. When you start a game, place your pawns in the center to occupy and control as many of these squares as you can. Location, location, location!
  • Develop your pieces as soon as possible: Get your knights and bishops out right away. This should be done during the first six or seven moves, before you try to checkmate your opponent.
  • Castle as soon as possible: Castle early to keep your king safe. Remember, you can’t win if you get checkmated first. So, don’t forget to castle! After you castle, connect your rooks by developing your queen.
  • Keep your pieces protected: Don’t leave your pieces en prise (unprotected). Each and every piece is very valuable, so don’t forget to protect them. Protecting a piece means that if your opponent can take your piece, then you can capture back.

Here are some other important principles to remember:

  • Every move should have a purpose.
  • Try to discern the idea behind your opponent’s move.
  • Always think before you move.
  • There is no take back in chess. So make your decision carefully.
  • Planning is one of the most important elements of the game.
  • Analyze your games and learn from your mistakes: Every player, from beginner to world champion, makes mistakes. It is very important to review your games to find your mistakes and learn from them.
  • Pace yourself wisely: There are many different time controls in chess. Use your allotted time wisely. Whatever the time control, use your time to find the best plans and moves. Don’t rush just because your opponents play fast.

Most of all, have fun and enjoy yourself!

For Parents and Spectators:

Abiding by the rules is not only for the participants - it's for everyone, including parents and spectators! Here are things to consider when your child is playing in a tournament:

  • You may help your child to find the correct table/board before each round.
  • Once a game has started, do not talk to the players.
  • You may not assist players during a game. If a player raises a hand for assistance, summon a tournament director immediately.
  • If you notice an illegal move or position, do not say anything. It is the responsibility of the players to bring a complaint to the attention of the tournament director.
  • Do not say anything if a player oversteps the time limits. Only players may claim a win on time.
  • You should view your child's game while in the aisle or standing behind them, in order to avoid eye contact with them.
  • Keep a distance between yourself and your child. In large tournaments, you may not be permitted in the playing room during the game.
  • If you notice a player playing the wrong opponent, promptly notify a tournament director.
  • Only tournament officials can record information on the wall charts. Parents, coaches and players should never write on them. However, players may record their results on the pairing charts.
  • You should make sure that your child's results are reported in a timely manner.
  • You should always encourage your child to practice good sportsmanship at all times, especially after losing a game.
  • When your child loses a game, you must refrain from getting upset or angry or showing negative emotions. Young players need support and encouragement more than ever after a loss. They do not need scolding. Help your player stay calm and relaxed for the rest of the tournament.
  • Supervise your child between rounds. It is not the responsibility of the tournament director, organizer, or other players to mind your child.
  • You should keep your child from distracting other players during and between rounds.
  • Children should try to conserve their energy between rounds so they can be fresh for the next game.

It's also important for you to help alleviate any fears your child may have when playing in a tournament. Don't let others talk them out of it! Remind them of the words of Theodore Roosevelt:

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."


"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood... who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly."