Successful Tournament Preperation
Hey guys it's Ilan. I wrote a paper for my English 101 class about preparing for a chess tournament and I wanted to share it.
An Unorthodox Approach to Preparation
When a veteran chess player attends a tournament, the player is usually ready to compete. But what does this really mean? Some people might say “He got enough sleep the night before or he played chess the other night.” There are also those who believe, “He doesn’t need to study, he’s naturally smart.” However, none of these hypotheses are entirely true. In order for a chess player to be ready to compete at an optimum performance, there are several grueling steps he or she must endure.
As a former professional player and chess expert, I found out playing solely chess as a means of preparation before a tournament is not sufficient. Usually, a couple of weeks before a tournament, the training begins. Examining previous tournament games helps identify the player’s weaknesses and areas of improvement. A math student studying for a final would go back and review previous quizzes and go over any incorrect problems so that on the final the student would be fully prepared. The same goes for chess, but it’s trickier. Identifying and fixing one’s own mistakes is difficult to accomplish. On many occasions, a player would have a training partner or use a computer engine because mistakes aren’t easy to spot in the higher levels of chess. Therefore, when a mistake is made from a game and a player knows how to correct it, it is sure that it won’t happen again. Thus, going over games is one the best ways to improve in chess and definitely a sound technique to tournament training.
Game databases are also very helpful. A database is a collection of tournament games played by chess players; a typical database would comprise of around four million games. A chess competitor would attempt to get as much information about opponents as possible through their game history. Players study their opponents’ games and look at their repertoires, what openings have given them trouble in games, their strengths, any signs of novelties, and style of play in terms of tactics and strategy. Being able to master these concepts requires a lot of time and commitment, but the time spent off the board is worth it because it could decide the outcome in a match. The logic behind this is a player is analyzing for hours with the aid of computers and partners to spot potential weaknesses in his or her opponent, something that is not available during a game and that an opponent will not able to refute during a high pressured tournament game. By going over opponent’s games a chess player will be able to surprise them in the opening and play a style against theirs which results in a successful tournament preparation and will raise your chances of winning.
Once a player has gone through his or her games and has reviewed any opponent’s games, a player sums up the chess training and reviews remaining components: tactics, strategies and endgames. This is usually done by reading chess books, taking private lessons, or watching lectures. Finally, after countless hours of studying, usually one would play some practice games before the tournament. Each practice game takes around three to four hours to get used to the tournament time control setting. However, a tournament game can take up to seven hours. Also, the day before a tournament a player shouldn’t do anything chess related and should just relax. I would not recommend six hours studying the day before, because it could potentially result in a terrible start. It’s as if you’re studying all night for a midterm and when you take the test you’re almost sleeping. It is important to get rest before the game begins.
In addition to the chess training, it is also important for a player to be physically ready. Playing six hour games takes a big toll on the body. Some argue elite chess players have comparable physiological parameters to those who practice sports such as car racing, shooting and golf; consequently, according to Roberto H. Baglione, a head of the Department of Nutrition at the National Sport High Performance Center, “physical activity done on a regular basis, specially aerobic, may help the chess player in many ways: It makes body posture better, improves resistance and helps improve emotional state. Also it can reduce anxiety, depression, and stress, and can improve cognitive performance, all of which are essential for success on the chess board.” In my personal experience, this holds true as well. In the winter months when weather is monotonously inclement, in the Chicago area it is difficult to stay fit since the outdoors are not available. As a result, this could explain the reason why I perform at a lower level in the winter months. However, when spring and summer comes along, I have some stronger results because I am able to stay fit and in good physical shape. Therefore, being physically active is an essential part of the chess player’s tournament preparation regime.
Furthermore, an ideal preparation would also include maintaining a proper diet. Eating well is no nutritional novelty. Many suggest vitamins and minerals can improve memory, concentration, focus and overall optimism. In addition, fish oils are becoming very popular among chess players due to boosting a person’s memory. In chess, having a good memory is important because chess players memorize many opening variations and tactical themes. Also,during the tournament smart players would avoid the concession stand as they are filled with junk food and soft drinks. Instead, it is advisable to prepare a meal before hand, or if time permits, dining at a healthy restaurant is also a good alternative. A few years ago, I didn’t have enough time to get a proper meal because my next round was starting promptly, so I had a “cheat meal”: pizza with chips and a coke. About two to three hours into the game I felt terrible and my concentration oozed away from the 64 square board. Although coffee is not considered healthy, it can help chess players. Some players drink coffee before rounds to help them keep going which has helped me in the past in some of my longer matches that ended up finishing as late as 1 AM. For the ideal tournament preparation, a good chess diet is essential for success.
Chess is seen many times as a game that only intellectual individuals can prosper in. This statement is indeed false; the preparation determines the success. Many of the elite chess players follow variations of this tournament preparation guide. Preparing for a chess event might take a lot of commitment and work but the end results are worth the training. I can vouch for this theory because due to this intense preparation procedure, I have represented Illinois at National Championships and have played for a professional chess league.