Top 10 Chess Tournament Tips for Parents

My son has been actively competing in chess tournaments in the last three years.  Over the course of time, after those long days of hanging out with him during tournaments, I’ve learned the dos & don’ts of this sport. Thought I’d share these with parents who are new to this.

  1. Do get a tournament-style chess set for practice.  This helps the kids (especially the newer ones) get used to playing with bigger chess pieces. There are letters & numbers on the board sides that tell them how to notate.
  2. Do tell your kids to notate during the game. This is a requirement in order to do a post-game analysis. You can retrace the steps & find out where your child could have made a mistake.  They won’t like it at first and will probably tell you that it slows them down. But they’ll get used to it. Of course, if you child has a chess coach, they’re probably doing this already.
  3. Do register early. Registration is done online & most tournaments offer $5-$10 discounts for signing up early. I don’t know about you but with everything that’s going on in our household, we can’t always make a decision whether my child should join or not. What I do is once I hear about a tournament, put 2 placeholders on my calendar – one for the early registration deadline & the other for the tournament date.
  4. Do dress for comfort.  Your child will be sitting down & playing for a long time. It’s important that he/she is relaxed so he/she can just focus on the next move.
  5. Do show up 10 mins. earlier than the registration start time.  Most organizers simply allocate a general waiting area.  If you beat the crowds, you can find the better spots. 50% of the chess parents bring their laptop so proximity to a power outlet is a plus. Some venues don’t have enough tables for the 200+ people that show up. 
  6. Do bring a power strip. Share 1 power outlet with 5-6 other folks so you can get brownie points from the other parents!
  7. Do bring a book, laptop (with charger), or lots of magazines to read. There are at least 5 games in one tournament. You’ll be sitting and waiting for a long time. At first, I would bring 1-2 magazines… But I’ve found that these don’t make it to the 3rd game.
  8. Do not expect that you can watch your kid play the whole time. – By the nature of the game, chess requires concentration.  After the preliminary announcements, parents are asked to leave the playing area and wait outside. 
  9. Do bring healthy snacks and lunch that don’t require re-heating.  –  Most tournaments have concessions that sell pizza and some baked goods but it’s good to be prepared in case your child has some dietary restrictions. There is usually no microwaves where you can heat food.
  10. Don’t be rude. Expect to see a lot of the familiar faces after 3-4 matches. Chess is a small community. Unlike the more physical sports like soccer or volleyball, the kids’ can advance their rating, without having to travel to other cities/states. After 3-4 matches, you’ll see the same kids competing and of course, see the same parents.

Here are some chess resources for you to consider:

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