Planning Your Tournament Schedule

Planning Your Tournament Schedule

Natalia_Pogonina
WGM Natalia_Pogonina
Nov 9, 2010, 12:00 AM |
18 | Scholastics

Originally my column has been titled “Preparing for international competition,” so today I decided to be more to-the-point and cover one of the most important topics in this field – planning one’s tournament schedule.

Choosing where and when to play is typical of both amateurs and pros. Let’s try to think over the process and discuss the main steps. I would like to point out right away that the tips offered below suit rational people (who are fond of making plans and time management) better than those who prefer spontaneity and light-mindedness. Anyway, they should be more or less useful for everyone.

1.     Allocate your free time. Check with your planner or simply think about it (if you don’t have one). Unless you are a professional player, most of your time is distributed between work (or studies), family, and other hobbies. Decide how much time you can afford to spend on chess (it’s also worth checking out my article on the optimal number of games per year in case you haven’t read it before). If your opportunities are in conflict with your wishes, you will have to reconsider your priorities. Some of you will forget about your chess ambitions, others will find a way to reorganize weekends or holidays, some might even think about changing his/her lifestyle!

2.     Mind your goals. Chess is popular since the game brings joy to people in many ways. Tourism, the process of playing, dealing with interesting people, mastering the game, competing with others, earning money – these are just a few factors that make chess attractive.  After understanding what is important for you personally, it will be easier to make decisions. Start looking out for open tournaments in certain countries (tourism). Forget about planning and play whenever you want to (enjoying the game). Connect with your friends and meet at a pre-chosen event (communicating with interesting people). Plan your preparation in detail (mastering the game). Try to earn a title (competing with others). Estimate your financial needs (chess as a means of making money). And so on.

3.      Choose the tournaments. Let’s say you have allocated some time and decided what you want from those events. Now it makes perfect sense to search one of the online databases (e.g. Chess Events or ChessMix) and compile your actual tournament list. After that you can handle the organizational matters (start preparing, connect with the organizers and friends, purchase tickets, etc.).

4.     Participating in tournaments and reviewing your plans. Sometimes our plans have to be revised either due to our fault (didn’t apply for a vacation at the correct time) or someone else’s (the organizers of the tournament have escaped with the sponsors’ money). To mitigate the effects, one should have second best choices, i.e. emergency options. If a tournament gets canceled, you will attend a different one. If your family affairs don’t let you play, the next time you will firmly say “no” and travel to an open. In this respect it’s a good idea to discuss your plans with all the associated people: your boss, relatives, friends, organizers. This will minimize the chance of being sent to a conference at the wrong time, running into a scandal at home, missing a chance to meet the people you would have loved to see, getting turned down by organizers.  

Let’s take a look at this method in practice. I am a professional player, so for me the process is, in some way, easier. Sometimes I want to spend more time with my family, have certain health issues or simply get bored with chess. However, most of my calendar year is open for chess tournaments (item 1). Another feature is that I often have the luxury of choosing one of several attractive proposals that come to me, as opposed to searching for them myself. Otherwise, the process is identical to the one described above.

As I have already mentioned, it is essential to know the hierarchy of your chess values (item 2). Until recently, for me it went like this:

  1. Financial reward
  2. Prestigiousness of the event
  3. Opportunity to increase my chess mastery by facing strong opponents
  4. Atmosphere (venue, people, etc.)

After having reconsidered my life-style in October, I decided to stick with the following pyramid of values:

  1. Opportunity to increase my chess mastery by facing strong opponents
  2. Prestigiousness of the event
  3. Financial reward
  4. Atmosphere (venue, people, etc.)

Based on that, I can choose where to play (item 3):

November 2010 – Russian SuperFinal (main criterion - prestigiousness)

December 2010 – World Championship (main criterion - prestigiousness)

January 2011 – Gibraltar Open (main criterion – opportunity to improve in chess)

February-March 2011: Аeroflot Open or something similar (main criterion – opportunity to improve in chess). Depending on my mood and wellbeing.

March-April 2011: European Championship (main criterion - prestigiousness)

I also have the other months of 2011 planned, but would like to abstain from publishing the info so that not to confuse the organizers (in some cases I will have to choose between two or three attractive offers – item 4).

Hopefully, the recommendations provided above will help you plan your chess calendar and enjoy playing!

To conclude this article, let me share with you the annotations of one more game of mine from the recent European Club Cup:  

After playing inaccurately in the opening, I got a worse position with White. The knight on e4 was restraining all of my pieces. Under these circumstances it was hard to come up with a decent plan, so I made a few weird moves. Luckily enough, Black’s play was far from perfect, so I found a chance to confuse matters, gain some advantage and even convert it into a win.

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