According to IM Levy Rozman, GM Yiqun Zhou and GM Anna Rudolf, each a host of  leading YouTube chess channels, their respective viewership exploded during lockdown. According to IM Rozman, The Queen's Gambit series fuelled the public's interest in chess.

In case you don't recognise their titles, IM stands for International Master and GM signals a chess grandmaster.

Meanwhile, as the world hunkered under the threat of coronavirus infections, young Abhimanyu Mishra stole the crown of Youngest-Ever Chess Grandmaster from Sergey Karjakin by earning his title at 12 years, four months and 25 days - nearly three months younger than GM Karjakin was when managed the feat in 2003.

Sure, we're bandying titles and records about like they're common as dirt but make no mistake, that level of recognition is something that you, as a beginner chess player can achieve, too.

Well, maybe not the 'youngest-ever' accolade, if you're already older than young Mr Mishru is. 

But don't let that single recognition steer you away from attaining the level of chess recognition and excellence you're ready to work for. You only need to know how best to reach your goal.

Those steps are what Superprof lays out for you now.

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Chess Tournaments in the UK

If you've set your sights on earning the grandmaster title - or International Master, FIDE Master, FIDE Candidate or World Chess Champion, there's only one way to go about it: compete in chess tournaments.

If you're relatively new to competitive chess - maybe you only learned how to play during lockdown, like so many other novice players, you might wonder how to go about finding and entering chess tournaments.

You should play local and regional tournaments before hitting the major chess events
You don't have to enter major chess tournaments straightaway, you can participate in local and regional tournaments to get the feel of competitive chess. Photo credit: karpidis on Visualhunt

You may also want to know which tournaments will inch you towards your goal and which ones are just good practice.

Whether the tournaments you take part in are between local chess clubs that enjoy a friendly rivalry or you're going straight for the big guns, the one step you cannot forget to take is registering with your country's chess federation.

England, Scotland and Wales each have their own chess federations while Northern Ireland chess players' federation is connected to the Irish Chess Union. 

Your growth as a chess player is tracked through ratings; specifically, Elo ratings. They measure your proficiency as a player by assigning you a number - a rating derived from the number of games you've won, lost and played to a draw.

Only chess federations can adjust players' Elo ratings, based on their performance in chess tournaments.

Once you've affiliated yourself with a chess federation, you will become a rated player, which qualifies you to play in rated tournaments. In the UK, the most prestigious of them are:

  • the Open Championship
  • the Women's Championship
  • the Seniors' Championship
  • the Juniors' Championship
  • the British Chess Championships

Of course, these are by no means the only annual chess tournaments in the UK. Countries and regions within those countries all host tournaments so, even if you don't feel you're quite up to par yet - maybe you want more contests under your belt before you tackle the  big-name events, you can find chess tournaments throughout the UK.

Your local chess club officials likely know where they're all held.

How to Participate in a Chess Tournament

Once you've settled on which tournament to make your chess debut in, there are a few things you have to do to ensure your participation. Obviously, the first one is registering.

Should you still be in the skills-building phase of your competitive chess career, registering for events held in your local area might not be a bad idea. That way, you can raise your chess rating ahead of your first big-name tournament, provided you've registered with a chess federation.

You did register, right?  

Juniors can register with their chess federation to build their Elo rating
Even junior players can register with a chess federation and start building their Elo rating through tournaments. Photo credit: Inkyhack on VisualHunt

Your chess club will surely be in the know of all such events and will have a sign-up list you can add your name to. You can also search online for chess tournaments near you or, in this age of COVID, register to participate in online chess tournaments.

Lichess.org, the online chess platform the English Chess Federation holds its online tournaments on also hosts other tournaments you might play in. This might be a particularly good idea if you want to explore Bullet Chess and other Rapid games.

Regardless of whether you will play online or over-the-board - play in person, you will have to pay to enter the tournament.

The fees depend on what kind of tournament it is, what style of chess you play - Blitz Chess or Classical chess, for example, and your chess rating. We'll discuss tournament fees a bit later in this article. 

As you've likely never played in - and possibly never witnessed a chess tournament, the best step you can take to prepare for the event is to know how tournaments play out. Not the obvious "We all sit down and play chess" part of it but what happens during and after a chess tournament.

Fortunately, Superprof has you covered with our in-depth coverage of chess tournament participation.

How to Prepare for a Chess Tournament

Some people liken participating in a chess tournament to sitting exams because the ordeal can be gruelling and strenuous. That much, we agree on but it's difficult to project students gleefully entering exam halls with glee in anticipation of taking part in something they love.

There is one more critical point that chess tournaments and exams have in common: contestants must be both mentally and physically prepared.

You might scoff about having to be physically ready to play chess but, should you arrive at the tournament sleep-deprived, hungry or aching, you will soon realise how wise this advice is.

Some tournaments last for days while others are packed into just a few hours of action. Either way, the constant drain on your mental faculties - executing your strategies, coming up with the best answers and remembering all the solve tactics you studied so assiduously will take a physical toll on you. A toll made heavier by not being in prime condition.

Solve tactics, openings, gambits and defences: have you studied up on them? Can you tell when it's best to accept or decline a gambit? Are you familiar with the best openings for White and Black? Have you trained your mind to visualise how a game will play out ten moves hence?

From that volley of questions you likely realise that chess is about more than moving pieces on a board; it's far more intellectually challenging.

You'll soon discover that having a single strategy, opening the same way every game and responding to attacks with the same defensive moves will make you a predictable player; one that can easily be beaten.

As the saying goes, chess is 80% mental and 20% physical so, if you can't visualise how your strategies will play out, you're liable to be sorely disappointed in your first foray into tournament chess.

Studying past games and tournaments, working on your attacks, defences and openings and playing training games are all a part of preparing for your first chess tournament.

There's other, more practical advice you need to hear, though...

Ratings, age and type of chess are all factors that impact the cost of tournament entry
The cost of entering a chess tournament depends on many different factors. Photo credit: karpidis on VisualHunt

The Cost of Entering Chess Tournaments

Fishing aficionados love to fish, gardeners love to garden and chess players love playing chess.

Wouldn't it strike you as odd, then, if fishing enthusiasts complained about the cost of bait, tackle, rods and reels - and, if they're so lucky as to have one, how much it costs to buy and maintain a boat?

And have you ever heard of a gardener bemoaning the cost of seeds, gardening implements, fertilizers and mulch?

So how is it that chess enthusiasts sometimes complain about high tournament entry fees?

To be fair, not every chess player whines about out-of-pocket expenses to participate in something that is ostensibly a pastime - something literally called a game.

Like every other competitive sport from basketball to footie, unless the players are professionals, participation in such events demands that a bit of cash change hands. Not much, mind you but, over time, it can accumulate.

The question is, though: what value are you getting for your money?

If you do, in fact, plan on making a career of chess, every tournament fee you pay buys you access to potentially higher Elo ratings, helps turn you into a more experienced - more savvy chess player and brings you a step closer to your goal. To say nothing of allowing you exposure to a wider set of players that you could learn from.

On the other hand, if claiming the World Chess Champion title was never something you wanted to strive for, then paying chess tournament fees provides you access to a fascination you likely wish to explore, allows you to enjoy engaging with like-minded individuals and helps you build your mental focus, problem-solving skills and cognitive/creative abilities.

Some tournaments cost as little as £10 to enter; that's less than even the cheapest London theatre ticket.

Just consider the different yields that tenner could bring! A couple of hours of passive entertainment - as an audience member, you won't get to take the stage, compared to being an active participant in an engaging activity.

Of course, everyone assigns value differently; far be it for us to say what is valuable to you. Still, considering the relatively low outlay to participate in a chess tournament, it's hard to see how the cost of entering chess tournaments could be a reason to grumble.

Won't you let us know your thoughts on the subject in the comments section? Thanks!

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Sophia

A vagabond traveler whose first love is the written word, I advocate for continuous learning, cycling, and the joy only a beloved pet can bring. There is plenty else I am passionate about, but those three should do it, for now.