For most chess players a tournament is a chance to show what they’ve learned and proved those hours spent in training.
However, competitions don’t always go as planned and this usually depends on many factors, some of which will have absolutely nothing to do with chess. It could, of course, also be that your training hasn’t been consistent or focused on improving your chess weaknesses and this can all be identified after a thorough analysis of your own games. But besides adjusting your training plan, what else could you do to enhance your tournament performance? From my experience as a chess player and a trainer, there are a few things that can affect your play.
Chess training is different for everybody. Everybody wants to get better, but the goal of a training schedule is not the same for everybody. There is no universal recipe for success; each player has to create their own training program based on their weaknesses. Some players need to improve their positional skills, others their calculation. Some may need to work on their openings, while others should study and get better at the endgame phase.
Sometimes we win, sometimes we learn, us chess players like to say a lot. It can make us feel better after a loss, but this should be more than just a saying to improve our post-game mood. We should, in fact, be always learning, whether we win, lose or draw. Many players think that they can learn something only from their losses, others only like to show their wins to their trainers. Truth is, all games are equally important. There is no perfect game and play can almost always be improved at some point.
Strategy and positional concepts are an important part of the chess game and improving our understanding of them can play a major role in the overall improvement of our level. Most of the time, the strategy is what makes the difference between a strong player and an amateur. If with other elements, such as tactics or endgames, the method of training is rather clear – solving puzzles or studying the theoretical positions, we are often asked what the way to train strategy is.
Playing well and having a good chess understanding is what every chess player is looking for. However, when it comes to practice this is not the only thing that matters. While when you are training there is no time limit on the exercises you solve and the themes that your learn, during a tournament you have a very stressing piece of equipment at the side of the board – a chess clock. This means that even if your play is good, bad management of the time you spend on your moves will eventually lead to time trouble when bad moves can easily happen.
The tactics and calculation training is the most important type of training a chess player can undertake if he or she is serious of his or her chess improvement.
The reason for this is that all chess games are decided by tactics. You cannot win if the opponent does not make a mistake – hence you have to take advantage of that mistake. While the mistake can be of various types, from the one-move blunders to a “small” positional detail 4 moves into a line, the mistake is always tactical in its essence. Something was missed and the opponent can take advantage of that miss.
Being on the defensive side during a game is probably the most difficult tasks a chess player has to complete successfully. Everybody likes chess for a reason – some like to attack, others prefer strategy instead, but I’m sure that most of you will agree that defending is not one of them.
There is no chess player who has not asked himself that question. And it is not about ratings or titles, because, let us be honest about this, we all think we are better than what those two parameters suggest.
The question is a serious one because it does not only determine our current strength but it should also give some idea of our own potential, how good we can be.
So how to answer that question?
Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.
This is a very popular saying that’s even more popular among chess players. As good as you get, you can’t help but lose a game from time to time or draw a completely winning position which, to be honest, sometimes feels just as bad as a loss. Defeat is part of the game and in my opinion, one of the most notable characteristics of a sports person is knowing how to deal with it and accepting it with grace.
How to obtain your best form in order to perform well at your next tournament?
We all know miracles and shortcut solutions do not really work in chess progress; as in any other activity, consistency is the key. However, for one reason or another, not everyone can keep up with regular training and very often, we are at a stage where our next tournament is approaching and the time we have to prepare for it is limited.
What should we do then?