What is a chess tournament?

A chess tournament is one where you play against other chess players based on something called a rating. The more games you win, the higher your rating becomes. The governing body for chess tournaments in the US is the US Chess Federation. There are a lot of principles relating to the psychology behind the operations of chess tournament that are rather numerous but will keep it brief:

The Prize!

In a strictly general sense, a tournament according to thefreedictionary.com is “A series of contests in which a number of contestants compete and the one that prevails through the final round or that finishes with the best record is declared the winner”. Most chess tournaments now these days give cash prizes. An example would be at the 2018 US Open, the 1st place winner in the Class B section (as my rating online is 1780) would get a cash prize of $2,500. When I played chess tournaments many years ago, I would get a very nice trophy. Trophies are very common when chess tournaments are designed for elementary school-high school students and once you get into tournaments for adults, will cash be prevalent

An example of a chess tournament trophy. No copyright infringement is intended

The Big Question; Should You Participate?

Ultimately, it is a matter of personal preference. What do you want to gain out of playing in a chess tournament? If you are in it for the money, it is probably not a good idea as the prize money would barely cover your travel costs. Unless you were to compete in the highest levels of play where as a grand master(rating 2700 and above), you would get millions of dollars in prize money.

I suppose getting several hundred dollars in prize money is alluring but from a time based perspective, it isn’t worth my time. If you want to play in chess tournaments in order to strengthen your play as a chess enthusiast, then it would definitely be worth it to participate. Playing against many different chess players of varying strengths proves that chess is art when the types of positions reached from a simple starting position becomes limitless.


I hope you found this post to be inspiring, educational, and motivating and if you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to leave a comment below and I will be more than happy to answer!


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8 replies
  1. Timothy
    Timothy says:

    Hello Menlife183,

    Great article, I have always liked playing chess. I learned to play around 7 years of age. I do not play that often any more as an adult, however to learn that there are tournaments to compete in this is great to hear. I will probably never compete because i am not that good at the game. i rarely win!! That aside I found your article to be a bit short. I could have read a bunch more on how these tournaments are conducted. I could have seen some awesome videos of a championship match. Those are just a couple of suggestions to help keep your readers on your site a bit longer. All together i found the article to be fun and engaging in every way Thank you for the information on chess tournaments.
    Good Job!!

    • Elan
      Elan says:

      Thank you Timothy! That is great feedback. Most people have very short attention spans so that is why this article might be a little shorter than most. I will have to go ahead and add more information about how tournaments are conducted. I will include a video as well about a championship. I just wanted to give a brief synopsis.

      I highly encourage you to keep practicing your game so that you can win! I practice every day and I win some, I lose some. But I always make sure to reflect on each game to make sure I can learn some principles from each.

  2. Cyrus
    Cyrus says:

    Great article. I’ve never played in a tournament, but do play chess extensively online. Maybe I’ll take a look and see if any tournaments are around my area.

    I do have a question: what are you thoughts about online ratings compared to OTB (over the board) ratings? I’ve read some where that online ratings were 200 or so elo points higher than OTB, but wasn’t sure.

    • Elan
      Elan says:

      Hey Cyrus,

      Great question! I haven’t extensively investigated whether it is true that online ratings are 200 points higher than on over the board tournaments. That being said, there is a lot of potential for cheating in online chess because some could be using computer led analysis every time their opponent makes a move. I have a certain idea of how ratings online transfer to an actual board and from games I have played, the ratings online-board are mostly accurate.

  3. Bree Ward
    Bree Ward says:

    I like it when you said that playing chess to improve your performance as a chess enthusiast is worth participation. My brother has always been a fan of chess, he is always looking for ways he can train himself more. Someone advised him to look for online classes to save expensive training courses. He is into improving her chess skills rather than after the price for now. I hope he finds a website soon.

    • Elan
      Elan says:


      You can take chess classes online for free but the difference in results between paid and free classes are night and day. If you pay, you will be more invested in your chess education and you will see significant improvements in your skill level.

  4. Devin Scott
    Devin Scott says:

    Its good to know that participating in a chess tournament is a great way to improve your knowledge and skills in chess. My son is learning to play chess and he was wondering if he could play against people in a tournament to help him improve. I’ll let him know that he can play in chess tournaments and he’ll get better at chess.

    • Elan
      Elan says:

      He could definitely do that. The best way to play in chess tournaments is making sure that one does not have attachment to outcome.


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