How does one perform his best at a tournament? This question is very common and has no definite answer, but there are different things that one can do that can guarantee better play. I myself have used these techniques to greatly improve my play and win against player 400-500 points higher than me.
1. Prepare The Best You Can
Before a tournament try to prepare for it as best you can chess wise. If you have a coach than prepare with your coach, but if not try to train with tactics, endgame studies, and pawn endgames to improve calculation. These are just a few of the many things you can use to train. Before a tournament do not learn a new opening line and play it stick to your usuals. If possible you can try to expand your common lines. Also as many studies have found whatever you are occupied with before you go to sleep your brain will process that information throughout the night. As I have found, just solving tactical puzzles for 30 min the night before helped impact my results.
2.Proper Rest and Diet
Proper Rest is key. If one tries to overload himself the night before the tournament with new knowledge this will not be effective. If this is the case it is already too late to prepare and it is recommended to just rest. Before a tournament eat a regular breakfast or something that you know will not cause sickness during your games. Also at the tournament do not forget to eat properly. I also find that staying well hydrated helps, so bring a water bottle with you to the playing hall.
3.Fitness and Quitting Bad Habits
Although this may not seem relevant exercising properly can improve your chess. If one’s body becomes performs better one’s mind also performs better. Exercising can greatly help one’s stamina at the chess board. When I talk about exercising I do not mean ten pushups the night before I mean something like running a mile every day for the 60 days up to the tournament. Also this is probably very hard for some, but if one is able to stop drinking and/or smoking habits this can affect his chess.
4.Creative Thinking and Motivation
Before the tournament try to be open minded. What I mean by this is try to learn new things and do not solely practice chess. Surprisingly learning new unrelated things can improve one’s chess. Before a tournament you want to motivate yourself through what ever means possible. This motivation can be the difference between resigning or waiting for the fat lady to sing.
5.Rating ,Estimation of an Opponent’s Strength, and Expectations
I have seen too many players underestimate an opponent based on their rating. Thankfully this has happened to me and my opponents did not see what was coming. Also it can be vice-versa. If someone is 100 or even 200 points higher rated than you this does not mean anything because rating is just a number. Do not go into a tournament worrying about your rating all the way through just play your best chess and have fun. Do not go into a tournament expecting or wanting a perfect score just do your best. As I have found out by not worrying about your result and rating one’s performance is better thus his result and rating is better.
6. During Tournament Concentration and Tough Losses
During the tournament do not waste your time and especially not OTB. During breaks do not try to tire yourself, but use it to relax. While you are playing remain seated and refrain yourself from walking around. You should use your opponents time to think as well. During the game try not to touch any of the pieces without calculating first. Furthermore in many of my games in winning positions I blunder due to excitement. After tough losses one can think of the remaining games in the tournament as a brand new tournament so if one lost his first round game in a five round tournament imagine the remaining four rounds as a completely new tournament.
Here is a game from a recent tournament of mine against an opponent rated 500 points higher than me: