Tournament Preparation, Part 2: Tournament Play
Hello! My name is Zach Kasiurak. I am a National Master living in Columbus, OH, USA rated 2283 USCF and 2216 FIDE. I am seriously pursuing my chess career and looking to improve rapidly as a player and coach.
I have created my blog to provide insight into ideas or themes I have discovered in my own games, games of my students, or in games of strong players. I hope to convey my personal stuggles as well as successes in my own stuides, my tournaments, and the coaching scene.
In this series, rather than analyzing particular chess themes or motiffs, I will discuss some methods for preparing, playing in, and processing tournament play. A proper mindset not only increases the chances of a good result, but the improvement that is possible from analyzing and seriously approaching each game. These methods come from my own experience and may differ for each invidual, however, I hope that these personal methods will provide usefullness in some degree to each reader!
1. Focus on Your Game
Very straightforward yet often difficult in practice. During a tournament, there are many distractions that can affect your focus: Your friends' or strong players' games may seem interesting when strolling around the tournament hall, the pairing and standing sheets for your section, and various other noises and distractions. Do your best to devote your full attention to your game. In my experience, I avoid even looking where other games I would be interested in are taking place. When I do feel fatigued or otherwise disinterested, I usually walk outside of the tournament hall or use the bathroom to refocus and think from a different perspective about my own game. (Usually I try to recall all of my major ideas/themes and those of my opponent in general terms to be able to sit back down and immediately be involved in the position.) These methods work well for me, but do your best to find a simliar method in order to both maintain focus and reset your mind while at the same time doing your best to avoid distractions.
2. Playing Well vs Result Orientation
It is important to focus on playing your best game without being preoccupied with a specific result. Being result oriented, in my experience, only serves as a detriment to my results. A crucial last round game doesn't need any additional nervous tension. Focus on what you can control; do not obesses over a specific result. Often times this result orientation or pressure will result from tournament situation but also from rating differential. Forcing an otherwise dubious sacrifice against a lower-rated player or playing passively to hold a draw against a higher-rated player is ill-advised. Changing from your optimal play to obtain a certain result will often times prove unfavorably towards the desired result. Here is a small list of tips I use to lessen the urge to be result oriented:
- I never write down my opponent's rating on my score sheet.
- I remind myself each game is an opportunity to learn and improvement in the long-run is the more important than the result of a single game.
- I do my best to avoid conversation with my opponent (Not to be meanspirited or unfriendly!) prior to the round to focus solely on the game.
3. Rest and Recharge Before Each Round
Tournaments are stress-filled and exhausting. It is important to maintain healthy habits in order to play at your best. Regardless of what activities each player deems useful, it is important to matain habits. Habits allow each player to create a schedule to achieve a proper frame of mind prior to each round. Here are some habits I have found to help me to prepare for each round.
- Ask for post-mortem analysis with your opponents (Especially stronger opponents!) but make sure you have time to prepare for each round.
- Entering my previous game to Chessbase and briefly addressing my mistakes (without an engine!) by myself or with my coach.
- Eating healthy and ideally at least 30 minutes prior to the round.
- A quick 20-30 minute nap 40-50 minutes prior to round (Often drinking caffiene prior to sleeping).
- Arrive shortly before the round begins, setting up, and walking around the tournament hall prior to the round to clear my mind.