What do you wear to a chess tournament? (Fact checked)

Participants of chess tournaments are required to wear business casual which can include pants, sweaters, dresses, long-sleeve, leather shoes, polo/knit shirts, twinsets, or button-down shirts.

Alternatively, players can also go for smart casual which includes henleys, t-shirts, or blazers.

Chess tournaments are respectable events held in honor of the game’s mastery. Such a prestigious competition will require a proper dress code worthy of formality.

Stereotypes for people who play chess are not that good after all, proper clothing can change that. You don’t want to mess this up so I will share things that I’ve learned from researching this hoping you’ll get it right.

Some people don’t even consider this as a question, like do you really need clothing to play chess? Yes, like any other pursuit that seeks to present decency.

You can face forfeits for this very same reason which I don’t want you to have. I will provide clarification on how to dress correctly, we shall start.

Is there a dress code in chess tournaments?

Certain types of outfits are suggested for tournament chess playing. Failure to heed the call and gathering the attention of arbiters in the process can be a concern.

There are dress codes in chess tournaments mostly in the line with business casual or smart casual clothing, though privileged tournaments even require suits.

Formal chess competitions are treated seriously, participants are expected to prepare and dress accordingly.

We don’t want the venue to appear very informal and trashy for players and spectators in general. Appropriate clothing is necessary to keep things formal and respectable.

It’s just hard to maintain the dignity of the tournament rules and ethics if the participants can’t even dress right. This essentially provides an atmosphere worthy of a studded competitive spirit.

A business casual outfit is pretty acceptable in these settings. And if you are like me who has no idea what that means I’ve done the google search for you.

Business casual includes:

For women
Khaki, corduroy, twill, or cotton pants or conservative-length skirts
Sweaters, twinsets, cardigans, polo/knit shirts
A professional dress—try a sheath silhouette.
For men
Khaki, gabardine, wool, or cotton pants, neatly pressed
Cotton long-sleeve, button-down shirts, pressed sweaters
Leather shoes, in black and brown
Leather belt, in black and brown
A selection of ties

This range of attire is particularly popular in business meetings making it formal. Of course this is not the entire option of business casual (since there are so many of them) but are just the most popular that chess players wear.

If you want the entire selection of things that would go with this attire (business casual) there are tons of information online. Some google searches would be enough to paint the general picture of what you need.

Another option that is my favorite (since it looks so informal) is smart casual. Although business casual can make you feel good, smart casual can also be just as reliable since they are pretty comfortable (in my opinion).

Here are some parts of a smart casual attire that I’ve found:

(For women)
Pants (not ripped) and Skirts
Sweaters, Henlys, Button downs, Blouses, and Nice t-shirts

Smart casual is a vague word in itself referring to something polished yet relaxed

(For men)
Pants (not ripped)
Short and long sleeve button down, henlys and classic t-shirt
Jackets and Blazers

These attires as you can see are pretty common even in informal settings which makes it comfortable.

Of course again this is not the entirety of the clothing profile, there are other smart casuals that are not included here (Though smart casual is a vague word in itself referring to something polished yet relaxed).

Take note that these two are not the only categories of clothing you might wear, there can be special attires for specific tournaments. Suits for example are occasionally necessary for prestigious events (top tournaments).

If you’re not playing as a top grandmaster though (which would apply to most people reading this) then you would be dressing informally most of the time. 

What outfits are strictly not allowed in chess tournaments?

We have already talked about what is allowed but what about those that are not? Are there any specific items that the arbiters will most likely condemn?

Shorts and caps/hats are forbidden in any tournament setting for reasons of indecency or possible distractions.

Shorts are one of those “I’m at home” kinds of clothing that someone could possibly wear. It is unbecoming of someone who is going to participate in a chess competition (which is supposed to be formal).

Shorts are forbidden in most cases, though I must admit that my knowledge is limited in this area. There might be some unpopular or lesser-known federations that will allow this.

Glasses and neckties or permitted, but caps/hats are more dubious if allowed (which I found funny). Apparently, hats can also appear as something of an indecent nature therefore being banned altogether.

There is usually a declaration of dress code before the tournament, make sure you read that. A specific case may present itself in the tournament you’re going to be involved with, this just ensures that you are in the clear.

Are there penalties for inappropriate clothing in (chess) tournaments?

Ok it is extremely discouraged, but is there any disciplinary action for this? Would you lose a game for example much less a tournament for not following the dress code?

A participant will not be allowed to play in the tournament without the proper dress code and/or having distracting colors.

The colors and patterns of the actual clothing are not something that I have touched on above. Annoying colorations and patterns on a player’s attire can also be subject to disciplinary action.

Here’s an example of that annoying clothing:

Topalov (name of the chess player) here really ramps up his weird game with this suit. As you can imagine it is very distracting to even look at the thing, it may affect the gameplay itself.

Some tournament directors will outright forfeit or at least not allow the participant to play under these conditions. Of course, there are circumstances where you can get away with wearing troubling colors (just like Topalov here).

Anyway I want to provide a case where a player has been forced into forfeiting a match because of inappropriate dressing.

There is one case where a grandmaster has been asked to change their attire to follow the dress code (only for their game to be forfeited)

Kovalyov (name of the grandmaster) tried to play the third round with the striped shorts that he has on previous matches, only to be asked to change outfits. Kovalyov didn’t return on time and therefore was considered a walkover (forfeit).

Just like Kovalyov (who is able to play the first and second round), you may be able to get away with inappropriate clothing for a while but should get caught sooner or later.

The warnings to change outfits typically come in between rounds, unless it is too obvious.

Different federations actually impose diverse regulations that may be different from Fide (international body). In Eu chess (Europe) for example there are fines for inappropriate clothing.

In Fide, it is stated that a player should not be allowed to play at the moment their dress code has been pointed out. But then again, Kovalyov was able to play in the first and second round so the arbiters appear to occasionally miss it.

How to dress at tournaments of team chess?

So far I’ve only covered the things to be worn when playing individually, but what about team chess? Are there special dress codes that may apply here not normally found individually?

Players of team chess are mandated to provide uniform clothing to their members, usually in the form of business or club attire.

It is a sort of what you see in a basketball game, a consistent outfit to identify members of one’s team. All participants in team chess should be dressed uniformly from one another (with respect to their team).

I have participated in team chess before (in my university) where we all have invested in official uniforms. In fact all other teams did so as well since we are required to ensure it before the event.

Corporate business and club attires are typically what’s used in team chess (you should clarify it before the event though). There are some rare exceptions where the tournament directors could decide on something else.

A caveat that I will give to you though is that you shouldn’t worry about the dress code all that much. As long as you wear something that wouldn’t give you trouble elsewhere, then it shouldn’t be an issue in tournaments.

I suggest wearing something that you’re comfortable with, something you like. Clothes after all can signify a symbol of strength and style, which boosts people’s confidence.

And if you are planning to wear a suit in chess tournaments then you’re most likely going to be the only one. It’s not illegal though and will definitely make you flamboyant, but if it gives you the morale then you should go for it.

What are you going to wear in chess tournaments?

There are definitely mountains of options to choose from when going after the legal dress codes. If you think the one you’re planning to wear can appear to be indecent then it likely is.

You can go for formal or something informal (just like me) to take heed of your preference. This article serves to make you avoid the landmines that can potentially make you lose games (due to the dress code).

By now you should have sufficient information to avoid this, so go out there and dress as you like. Dress up, sleep well, and play chess.