Top Tips for Tournaments

Recently I was reminded just how hard it is to win a FIDE-rated swiss tournament if you’re not a clear favourite. When you’re playing people who are more or less the same strength as you it is tough making progress. In addition, quite a few players are under-rated because either they’re juniors or they don’t play enough FIDE-rated games to get a representative rating.

The FIDE-rated tournament I played in was a well-organised e2e4 event in Sunningdale back in May. In my case I started with a half-point bye as I couldn’t make the 1st round, and had a couple of straightforward wins against some slightly weaker players in rounds 2 and 3. This is as good as it got. In round 4 with White I got a little surprised in the opening and used up too much time to find the right opening moves and while still standing slightly better I bottled it by offering a draw. Not a courageous decision. In round 5 with Black I didn’t have enough time to prepare before the game and I walked into a known attack that I could have avoided with a bit more preparation – and was lost for most of the game despite my efforts to turn the tide. In round 6 as White I had a 100+ move epic that included 50+ moves trying to convert a technically drawn king and pawn ending a pawn up, and unfortunately for me my opponent played it flawlessly to draw. In round 7 with Black I was so exhausted I offered a draw to a much lower rated opponent after about move 6 and a draw was agreed on move 13 when I actually stood a bit better. I think it was partly not sleeping well the previous nights that led to the tiredness – not because of drinking, but because of hay fever triggered by tree pollens.

I only had a worse position in 1/7 games, and yet I only finished on 4/7. This could just be bad luck, but there is probably more to it than that. This experience might well be a case study in how not to succeed in a tournament. So I suppose the remedy is the opposite of what I did.

Here then are my five top tips for playing in FIDE-rated tournaments:

  • Play all the rounds
  • Aim to get a familiar middle game from your opening
  • Don’t offer a draw unless the position is lifeless
  • Get enough sleep (perhaps May isn’t an optimal time for hay fever sufferers to attempt to play in a tournament)
  • Prepare a bit for each game (if you can’t do that between each round it’s probably not the right event)

These are my personal insights based on my experience, but have you got any other tips you’d like to share? Please send your comments.

Angus James