Why You Need To Play In Real Tournaments

NM ih8sens
Sep 20, 2016, 6:50 AM |

I can't say for a certainty, but I get the feeling many of my readers are long time chess players in the 1500-1800 range.  I suspect most of them don't play in tournaments often, or perhaps have never played in a rated tournament before. 

I wanted to take a second to address this.

Online chess is great fun, but it's almost useless for improving as a chess player.

What? Really?!... Let me explain.

The problem with online chess is that it promotes bad habits!

For example:

  • You can quickly start a new game if you blunder.  This makes you more blunder prone, as you won't be playing as carefully as you would if a single blunder could ruin an entire 5 round tournament.
  • Your opponents don't resign.  This has a similar effect to the previous point.  When you're playing up an entire piece and your opponent is playing on, it becomes very tempting to start browsing the web while you're waiting for them to move.  The problem is that you get sloppy and sometimes you manage to draw or lose these completely winning games.  This pulls your online rating down and means you won't be as likely to face quality opponents.
  • Your opponents aren't taking the game seriously. And probably neither are you!  You need to be putting maximal effort into something if you really want to improve, so blasting out 10 games in a row without stopping to analyze anything is certainly not helping your chess.  It may be hurting it...

Here's why You Need To Play In Real Tournaments if you want to improve:

  • The games are serious. You're only playing two games today.  If you manage to lose a pawn up position it's going to ruin that sushi you had planned for lunch.
  • The ratings are accurate. You'll be playing against players who are putting forth their best effort.  As a result everybody will have fairly accurate ratings and you'll be playing a lot of games against players more-or-less exactly your level.  If you do well, you'll play even better opponents who will most certainly teach you a thing or two.
  • Skittles. Don't lie. When was the last time you analyzed a game you played online?  Besides quickly flipping on the engine to see if I missed anything, or checking the database if I was surprised in the opening, I literally never study my online games.  In a tournament setting, the odds are your opponent will be willing to go over the game with you, especially if you lost.  As long as you go into skittles trying to learn, rather than trying to "win the post mortem", you'll most certainly be a better chess player for it.

So in conclusion: Support your local federation and join a real tournament.  Your rating will thank you for it!