As a shift worker who works a pretty random schedule, I have the unfortunate opportunity to experience how fatigue and tiredness affect my abilities as a chess player.  A look at my blitz rating here paints a pretty clear picture.  When I'm on my days off, and when I've had a good rest the night before, I can often make my way up to around 2100 (I make no claim to ever being a very good blitz player, but 2100 is better than 1950).  When I'm working a set of night shifts (as I am as I write this), my rating falls to about 2000.

I figure the first thing to go when you're tired, is your tenacity.  When you're playing an opponent of similar strength, sometimes the only decisive factor is how hard a player fought.  In chess, the will to win is incredibly important as it motivates you to 'dig deep' and calculate as well as possible (hopefully before it's too late).  When I'm tired, I tend to get sloppy and I often let those 'slightly worse but still very complicated' middlegames that Sicilian players should be familiar with slip too easily.  When I have more energy it shows on the board and it seems as though I'm able to turn "slightly worse" into "with counterplay".

I also find that fatigue causes my tactical and calculation abilities to falter slightly.  I originally thought that this was caused by an increase in isolated, unpredictable, blunders, but after my recent poor performance on the tactics trainer I use, I now believe that this ability falters too during times of fatigue.

As I also mentioned, isolated blunders obviously increase when one is tired.

All said, I now believe that the single most important factor in terms of maximizing tournament results is getting a good nights rest.  It's clear that a tired player is a weak player.

... time for bed.

Until next time,



  • 3 years ago


    but it is still the morning when you wrote this article! : P

  • 3 years ago


    It's interesting, because for me I actually think my tenacity can be totally intact (or if it's lower, it's caused by something else rather than fatigue). What often happens when I start to get frustrated, at the end of a late-night blitz or bullet session is this: I try valiantly to get my rating back up to a certain point, but I often find that no matter how hard I try, it's like my mind is doomed to not be able to see certain things. And I think wow, I guess there are certain tactical ideas my brain fundamentally can't comprehend. I try to use tenacity to make up for my decreased processing power in finding moves, but obviously there is always a limit. A super tenacious me at night might be ok, but a super tenacious me with full energy will obviously be invariably better.

    Then the next day, with my mind fresh, I may even find that I don't even have to try that hard, and tactics that I was constantly missing the night before seem to come to me automatically, as if my brain is being spoon-fed strong ideas by some supernatural force. The late night sessions show me that we simply have biological limits -- no matter how passionate we may be about coming up with the right idea, there comes a point where the brain just doesn't have enough fuel to hit upon it. Our control over our cleverness is a bit limited by our brain's condition, unfortunately Smile

  • 3 years ago


    As a software developer I've gone back and looked at code I've written when fatigued or when working off hours and have been horrified at how bad it is.  I've also tackled problems that were a snap when I was fresh but that I found intractable when in the off hours.

    A recent article said that Lasker's tournament results dropped off when he hit his 50s and I'd be willing to bet mental stamina and freshness had a lot to do with it.

  • 3 years ago


    I have two small children that wake up way to early.
    I exspect my ratings to rise about 1.000 points when they get older and starts to sleep some more Smile

  • 3 years ago


    I almost never play late at night for this exact reason, I've made terrible mistakes that cost me games some nights!

  • 3 years ago


    I find that I am the freshest on a Saturday morning after waking up naturally without the alarm clock interupting my sleep. I then spend an hour or so on blitz games and feel sharp. After a brief rest, I then plough through my online games with a warmed up mind.

  • 3 years ago


    Lot of truth to this post. And not just in chess games. This applies to everything in life. 

  • 3 years ago


    I've noticed my performance improves on off days when I've had a good night's sleep compared to work days (I also work shifts) when I have to get up earlier. In fact, only yesterday or the day before I made a horrible blunder on one of my online games because I was tired Embarassed.

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