Should you drink coffee in chess tournaments? Clarified!

Coffee is a drink that can help a player’s concentration, physical/mental endurance, and alertness, although it has side effects (crash/anxiety) that can lead participants away from it.

Coffee is a form of stimulant that has an artificial effect on the brain’s natural capability. This has led to debate whether drinking coffee in tournaments can be effective, or whether it should be legal in the first place.

Most of the time it is allowed, in fact most other drinks that a participant can opt for. The real question is whether you would even want to go for it (is it really that useful)?

This topic is somewhat personal to me since I have tried drinking both water and coffee in tournaments. I think I can sufficiently provide an answer to the power of coffee.

Of course I have researched these things as well (adding my experience), which I will share here. Let’s begin right away.

Is drinking coffee allowed in chess tournaments?

I have already said earlier that it is permitted, well most of the time. Tournament rules can be quite complex and different between federations.

Most drinks including coffee are allowed in chess tournaments unless there are legal concerns outside of the tournament.

Banning of drinks is not typically seen in any federation’s history as it doesn’t make sense. Chess is played in very extensive time formats where players normally become dehydrated.

Any form of refreshments is not only preferred but is an extreme necessity in these conditions, otherwise there could be potential health concerns.

A lot of drinks are allowed in tournaments including coffee and many others. Coffee may seem like the magic substance that could help a player cheat in some form.

This is not the case though, it’s not banned since there is rarely any evidence that coffee improves the results of players (it has downsides too). It may have intrinsic benefits but is just the same as any other drink (which also have their own benefits).

Though I must say that you should ensure that drinks (in general) are allowed in the tournament before you enter. They usually would let you know beforehand if there could be a problem with drinks.

My experience tells that they usually don’t even bother with this, since there are more important issues.

Most drinks are allowed in tournaments unless the issue is outside of the tournament (illegal drugs, etc.). Tournaments themselves may not have imposed regulations but still have to follow the rules of the environment they’re in.

They just let participants decide what kind of beverage they would choose to bring with them. Take note though that there are rare occasions where organizers will ban coffee but should be stated beforehand.

It is rare but can definitely happen, so make sure you make this clear by reading tournament etiquettes before the fated day.

How does coffee help for a participating tournament player?

All right we have already completed step one, coffee is permitted. But what about step two, why would we choose it in the first place if there are other drinks?

Coffee has been proven to grant drinkers increased concentration and alertness among other things as well as some physical/mental tolerance.

Have you tasted coffee before? chances are you have experienced a relative amount of attentiveness in everything you do. The details of each activity are somewhat more focused, and for something as detailed oriented as chess is it can be useful.

Coffee grants vigilance that helps in spotting subtleties over a long game. You are likely to lose focus over the span of time you get to solve various elements of chess.

It increases concentration that makes a player more likely to pay attention to each move. Every decision becomes important when you get coffee, making you likely to think of moves better.

Some players say that the extra alertness helps them calculate at a level they are not usually at. This is understandable since coffee is a stimulant which by definition is a substance that invigorates physical/mental energy.

It is a drink similar to water, which refreshes cognitive tiredness (from long-playing). The brain just works better if it is not dehydrated from performing all those processes.

The substance within the coffee could provide extra benefits not available to regular water. basically it is water, with better functionality and added taste.

Not only that, coffee increases the body’s physical tolerance (sitting for a long period of time). Most people don’t know this but sitting for incredible amounts of time can be somewhat uncomfortable.

Not only mentally but physically, our backbone and behinds need some stretching every now and then. This in itself is ok unless there is time trouble or a crucial moment, the extra endurance help in these situations.

Chess in the old days is played with all sorts of drinks, which means it’s been tested over time. The fact that it remains a choice of drink for most people in the modern era must mean that it is helpful for some people.

Can drinking coffee in chess tournaments be bad?

Above we’ve talked about the wonders of drinking coffee, but there’s an untold story here. If it is that good then everyone would be drinking it which is not the case.

What are the downsides of drinking coffee?

Stimulants like coffee give a crash in energy after the effect wears off and along with an increase in anxiety and aggressiveness, gives trouble to players near the end of their games.

Stimulus in general causes a sort of demotivation after their reaction has been fully resolved. It has a side effect, namely the “crash” a player experiences which could be problematic in some cases.

Nobody wants to play a rook ending when one is lazy and wanting to sleep. And since the effects of coffee only last approximately about 6 hours, it is likely that one will experience this before the end of the tournament.

Adding to this, coffee drinkers are more anxious as adenosine (a chemical that calms nerve) are limited by caffeine. This is why frequent drinkers are prone to being restless under its influence (since it is on a chemical level).

Even worse, a nervous-prone person will have a significant toll from drinking coffee. So you are a pretty anxious person yourself and then you drink coffee, you might as well be wanting a disaster.

Some coffee drinkers stated that they play very inconsistent and aggressive when choosing coffee. Contrary to some statements from coffee lovers, it seems that it made them want to end the game very fast (becoming impatient).

There is also data that shows how drinking coffee will make it likely for players to lose on time (losing focus). This is again, somewhat contradictory to statements before.

On blitz, it is said that players get a 9% boost from drinking coffee, but also said that they are more likely to lose on time.

This just proves further how the effects of coffee (in playing chess) can differ from person to person, so it’s hard to appropriately provide a description.

Do top chess players make coffee as their choice of refreshment?

I’ve already taken some opinions from regular tournament players, but what about the professionals? What do they do?

Some grandmasters prefer coffee as their choice of drink, although there are others that go for other refreshments (juice, water, etc.)

Surprisingly there isn’t that much difference in people’s insights of this drink. There are definitely top players that drink coffee in their games, but there are those who don’t.

This again has made it pretty difficult to take top player’s sentiments in hopes of providing an answer. So I will share my own personal take based on experience (though I am not a professional player).

In my first tournament I had only pure mineral water which is an extremely refreshing choice. I’ve got tons of satisfaction from drinking regular water, and I think it is the best

Though in my second tournament I did try Kopiko (brand of instant coffee) which the arbiters don’t seem to mind. To tell you the truth I hate it, my mind is floating all over the place.

The water beat the coffee (in my taste) by a long shot but there’s a problem. I actually performed way better in my second tournament (which I’ve won) than the first one.

That may seem weird to you but I think that is a result of excessive preparation rather than the drinks themselves. I believe I would have the same if not more success by using water than coffee.

If you will have any beverage though make sure to not place the drink over the board as it may become a form of distraction. I recommend placing it under the table just to be sure.

Are there other beverages (that function the same) for chess players to use as a substitute?

Some beverages that contain caffeine (like coffee) include energy drinks, cokes, chocolate, and tea, which are all choices for chess players.

Coffee is not the only source of caffeine, Hikaru Nakamura (top player) for example uses Redbull, which also has caffeine. Ok granted that he is being paid (advertisement) for that one but still, he wouldn’t accept that if he can’t play with it.

There are of course the tea, general energy drinks, cokes, and even chocolates all have been tried in their own right. The difference would be the amount of caffeine in each beverage some will have higher some lower.

You can choose the amount of caffeine intake for best performance (by choosing the appropriate type of coffee/medium).

Will you drink coffee in chess tournaments?

The question regarding this drink (coffee) is really vague, you can’t just put a finger on it. I’ve already stated that water works way better for me, but again that is for me.

Some of my friends are extremely satisfied taking coffee to ramp up their game. I really think it is just a matter of compatibility (since I naturally have a lower tolerance for these substances).

I recommend trying on your own and experimenting, see what can be useful to you and not. My article just provides a perspective for that, anyway I hope my message has been delivered sleep well and play chess.