How Many Tournaments Does a Professional Chess Player Play a Year?

I don’t really play in many chess tournaments per year. Since they require a lot of commitment I usually just play online, it is more convenient.

Top Universities in The World
Top Universities in The World

Of course I play in a tournament or two but I don’t do it a lot, but maybe I will start to do more in the future. I have noticed that a lot of strong chess players participate in many over the board tournaments per year, this has piqued my interest.

For the past few days I have been researching the amount of tournaments most professional chess players play in.

I want to know if the number of tournaments per year matters, and what is the best way to know that than to look at the professionals?

My findings are interesting and I will share them in this article. Without further ado, let’s get started. 

How many tournaments do super grandmasters play in a year?

Super grandmasters typically play around 10-15 tournaments in a single year. If we’re talking about a super grandmaster, then this would be someone that is on the top 20-30.

These individuals do not have the same financial burden as regular grandmasters. Regular grandmasters struggle in sustaining themselves financially, the prize money in tournaments are usually not enough.

Super grandmasters on the other hand can earn a lot of money from prestigious chess tournaments. This is why they only typically play around 10-15 tournaments in a single year, lower than a regular grandmaster.

Prestigious tournaments have a more predictable schedule, they cannot be all over the place.

Throughout the year, super grandmasters only choose to participate in these selected super tournaments in order to make the most money.

You will rarely see a super grandmaster in a local tournament, this is because there is no money there.

This is why a super grandmaster usually won’t play in more than 15 tournaments in a single year, after all there is no point in doing so. They would rather spend their time practicing their skills and preparation for the next prestigious chess tournament.

Participating in a local chess tournament with less prize money doesn’t make sense. Now, some super tournaments are predictable, they occur annually or after a specific amount of years.

This is why super grandmasters participate in around 10-15 tournaments a year, there are years where one super tournament is not available and there are others when it is available.

Super grandmasters follow these super chess tournaments to make sure that they don’t miss any. 

Why do super grandmasters have to play in so many tournaments per year?

You might think that 10 to 15 tournaments in the span of a year is still too much for a super grandmaster.

There are players who win a significant amount of money from a super tournament (sometimes six figures) which can surely last for some amount of time.

Why would a super grandmaster who has won so much money still choose to participate in a future super tournament and risk the rating?

Well, the answer is actually simple, it is because they are professionals.

At that point of their career it is no longer about money, it is about staying at the top for as long as possible. Many new grandmasters are trying to climb into the top 20, some show a lot of promise more than the others.

This is why super grandmasters have to play in every super tournament that they can have access to.

They want to stay in the “field” and keep their repertoire fresh in order to keep up with the competition. This is what they do for a living, you wouldn’t expect a professional to just sit on the couch doing nothing. 

How many chess tournaments does Magnus Carlsen play in a year?

Interestingly, Magnus Carlsen has repeatedly stated that he follows a different schedule than the other top chess players.

In many interviews, he has revealed that he only participates in about 8 tournaments a year. I suspect that on some occasions, he will go for 10 in order to keep his instinct fresh, he had repeatedly done this in the past.

Magnus Carlsen has stated that he wants to have lesser tournaments per year in order to focus on every one of them. The guy is probably the greatest chess player of all time, a mediocre result is unacceptable.

He also wants to protect his rating from ever whittling down, this means that fewer tournaments per year is ideal.

Magnus Carlsen prefers quality over quantity, he makes the most out of any single tournaments he participates in.

Also we need to remember that Magnus Carlsen has a lot of third party income to sustain his bank account. He has sponsors, earnings from his app (play magnus), a youtube channel, and the payment that he gets from being featured in tv shows.

He mainly plays in tournaments to maintain his reputation, not to get the money. This is why he plays fewer tournaments per year. 

Does the world championship cycle change a supergrandmaster’s tournament schedule?

Yes, the world chess championship cycle does interfere with the regular schedules of super grandmasters.

The candidates tournament is probably one of the most important tournaments that a chess player can participate in, it needs a lot of preparation.

In order to play well in the candidates, a player needs to conserve as much stamina as they can. They can’t be playing 10-15 tournaments just when the candidate is about to start, they have to tone it down a little.

They usually spend time analyzing the other candidates and preparing some opening lines. With this fact in mind, a world chess championship candidate only plays about 5-6 tournaments in the year that they were chosen as a candidate.

This range is perfect in keeping their skills fresh but also conserving stamina for the real thing.

There is even one famous example of Ding Liren where he only played 1-2 tournaments in a year in order to properly prepare for the candidates.

The current world champion also has to adjust their schedule in order to prepare for the one who wins the candidates. This also means that there will be fewer tournaments per year for the current world champion.

There are of course other super grandmasters who qualify for the candidates. The tournament schedule will remain the same for these super grandmasters. 

What about grandmasters, international masters, and fide masters?

As for regular titled players, the range can really change per year.

They play in about 15-22 tournaments a year, depending on where they live.

In some federations like the United States (USCF), there are more chess tournaments that are being played every year.

These kinds of tournaments feature many fide masters, international masters, and grandmasters. A whole bunch of titled players can be seen all across the board.

Some federations on the other hand do not have as many opportunities for tournaments so this range might change. It really depends on the location. 

Why do regular titled players participate in more tournaments than super grandmasters?

As I have stated before, the reason for this is mainly due to the financial part. Most of the money that can be earned in chess are concentrated on the top, regular grandmasters do not earn as much as super grandmasters.

A regular grandmaster cannot just enter a prestigious tournament, they have to play in a local tournament.

These local tournaments host significantly lower prizes as you might expect, it is also not a guarantee that they can win any prize. This is why a regular title player has to play in more tournaments, they have to make a living.

Since the amount of money that can be learned per tournament is lower, they have to increase the quantity in order to make the ends meet.

Super grandmasters can afford to appear in a few prestigious chess tournaments. Titled players on the other hand have to deal with many small local tournaments that offer any kind of money.

This is why titled chess players play in 15-22 tournaments a year, they need to maximize the amount of money that can be earned. 

Conclusion

Super grandmasters typically play in around 10-15 chess tournaments in a year. The top chess players in the world only participate in a few selected tournaments, mostly the prestigious ones.

They really pick which tournaments to play on since this will give them the most money, due to this, the overall number of tournaments per year may change.

The candidates tournament is probably one of the main causes of this change. A candidate for the “world champion” title will usually only play about 5-6 tournaments in a single year.

Regular titled players on the other hand have to play around 15-22 tournaments in a year in order to sustain themselves.

Titled players need to play in as many tournaments as they can in order to maximize their income.

Since they cannot attend a super tournament they need every financial opportunity that they can get. This is their number. That is all for this article, thank you for reading. 

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