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Natalia Pogonina: Tournaments as a way of increasing your chess mastery

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Written by Natalia Pogonina   
Saturday, 18 July 2009

Natalia Pogonina at Moscow Open-09 (which she

Studying chess is very important. By doing so, we gain new knowledge and boost our chess level. However, it is hard to progress only by learning the theory of chess. Practice makes perfect, so, to become a better player, its essential to participate in tournaments.

Competitions are not only a way of checking how good you are as compared to the other players, but also an impulse for your future chess development. The golden middle rule applies here as well: by playing too few events you will not be able to stay in top trim and estimate your chess level. If you play too much, you wont have any time to study and work on your mistakes and, therefore, wont be progressing as rapidly as desired.

Lets talk a bit about various tournament types, and their features.


1.       Swiss (open) tournaments.

These are the most popular ones. Their main advantages: a chance to play against strong opposition and, if the tournament is a strong international one, obtain title norms. Playing against masters and grandmasters (even if you lose) is extremely useful in terms of becoming a better player. On the contrary, when youre facing opponents who are weaker players than you, you will hardly have any chances to progress.

Lets look at an example: heres the pairings of a well-known Swiss open tournament in Spain. Even if you have a moderate rating (e.g. 2000), in the first round you will be playing against formidable opponents (e.g. 2600).  If you are successful enough, you will keep facing grandmasters and masters all tournament long.

When I was a very young girl, I used to play in Russian open tournaments a lot, where I often had a chance to compete with strong opponents. At that time every encounter with a titled player was like a holiday to me I enjoyed it and viewed it as a free lesson.

2.       Round robins.

One of the benefits of playing in round robins is that you know whom youre going to play against in advance. This allows prepare for the event more thoroughly. Generally, the participants of round robins are of approximately equal strength, so you will have no easy games (as compared to opens, where you sometimes can get a player whose rating is a few hundred points below yours), and will take a good endurance test. One of the peculiarities of playing in round robins is the shark effect when a player loses a game (spills some blood), other players (sharks) start hunting after his scalp pretty badly. This effect can be traced at the super tournament in San Sebastian. Right now the ex-world champion Anatoly Karpov is performing the role of the victim. A legendary grandmaster hasnt played otb for a long time, and his preparation is rusty. Seeing this, his opponents are ready to exploit it: they probably wont agree to draws, but will be pressing for a win even in equal positions. In round robins, unlike in open tournaments, the current trim of the player is easier to trace.

3.       Knock-out events.

This is a rather rare tournament type, but very useful for any chess player. The secret is that the knock-out format implies a tough test of your chess skills and, even more, psychology. Losing in a match means getting eliminated from the event, so you have to be especially focused and careful. Strong nerves account for a lot here: the one who controls his emotions better has higher chances of winning.

4.       Team events.

I wont dwell much on this subject, since I have already written an article on the importance of playing in team events. The one thing I would like to remind you about is that playing in team events is useful in terms of developing your identity, becoming a more communicable and amicable person, learning how to excel at team-work. And its also very interesting and fun!

5.       Matches.

Matches may be both official and unofficial. As very few people get to play official matches, I would like to discuss the second variety. Friendly matches (sparring) are an excellent means of training. Lets say you and your friend decide to play a training match. There are no restrictions: you may not only play the classical way (e.g. 8 games of 1h/game), but also work on special areas of chess: openings, endgames, important middlegames, etc. Or even analyze the games together, which is very beneficial.

Its up to you what tournament types to choose. The more options you try, the more positive experience you will get. The key thing is to analyze your games after each event and monitor your psychological state. By analyzing games, you will find out what your chess weaknesses are and get a chance to eliminate them. Becoming more psychologically stable will add to your chances of succeeding in chess games. When working on your chess and gaining self-confidence, you are founding a basis of your future victories.

Comments (3)
1. Written by phisey on 07:59 19 2009 .
. :)
2. Written by Natalia on 13:46 19 2009 .
, 2 2, . . :)
3. Written by on 05:02 20 2009 .

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 18 July 2009 )
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