When Should you Play your First Chess Tournament? Guide!

Chess tournaments are one of the best places to test our abilities regarding this game, it is pretty enjoyable. I think that it will be a wonderful experience for everyone trying to get stronger, the competition here is better than what you can find online.

But what is the right time for anyone who is looking to enter their first chess tournament? This is what I think:

It is recommended to play your first chess tournament after you have reached the rating of 1800 on lichess and 1500 on chess.com, this is where you are good but not too good for tournaments. Also people have seen improvements after their first tournament, so it is best when you are in a plateau.

This is something that I have thought of myself back when I only played online, there is just something about physical chess competitions. I think that it is what I need to get to the next level, and it turns out I am right.

I will discuss when you should consider going to your first chess tournament. With all of that in mind, let’s get started.

Play your first tournament after being 1800 on lichess and 1500 on chess.com

Most people who would recommend you to play on official chess tournaments do not really give an accurate measurement on when you should do it, I think that this is wrong. It is best to have a specific number you can check so you are really sure that it is the right time.

One of the things that I found easy to monitor is your rating on online chess platforms, they are accessible and you can play as much as you want without pressure. There is not much at stake and you can play as long as you want without paying up (at some websites at least).

I recommend playing your first chess tournament after achieving the rating of at least 1800 in lichess and 1500 in chess.com. These are usually the “plateaus” of online chess ratings and where people stagnate for a long time.

In my opinion it is better to go to your first chess tournament after being in this league (rating level), there will be diminishing returns by playing online chess exclusively. People will find it harder to improve when they have reached this level.

Physical chess tournaments offer a more serious playing environment than these online platforms, every game is very important to the tournament standing and you wouldn’t want to lose them. Online chess diminishes the value of scarcity since you can get back the rating that you have lost right away.

Over the board chess tournaments offer a more interactive learning environment that makes people value every game that they play. A rating of 1800 on lichess and 1500 on chess.com is a good indicator that you should play your first tournament.

By having a concrete number to follow you will be confident that you are doing the right thing, there would not be any hesitation that you may not be prepared to do this.

Online ratings are easier to acquire than over-the-board ratings (so you can get these ratings quickly), this is a good benchmark to follow to make sure that you are prepared.

Play your first tournament if you are trying get out of a plateau

Now you might argue that 1800 on lichess or 1500 on chess.com is not really the level that you have “plateaued” and that you can continually improve without going to your first official chess tournament. 

Okay, this might be true for some individuals but is not true for most people.

In this case you should just go to your first chess tournament as soon as you hit a plateau on online chess games, it doesn’t matter if it is at 2000 or 2500 elo (kudos to you, that is difficult). As soon as you have hit a learning plateau then consider going to your first chess tournament.

A learning plateau is hard to break after all, this is true in games where it is hard to differentiate those that can provide value and from those that do not. 

You don’t know if learning openings will give you more value than learning endgames, etc . A good chess tournament might just be what you need in order to identify the gaps that you have to fill, this is a good shift in the learning environment.

Switching to a more competitive field might give your learning curve a little boost since you will be forced to become better.

Go to your first chess tournament if you just feel that you are ready

If you are just really excited and want to get into a physical chess tournament as soon as possible then you should do it, it will be a learning experience. There will be indicators that tell when it is time to go, but sometimes you just feel that it is time, you should listen to that emotion.

I have seen people who are jumping up and down and just want to attend their first chess tournament (even as a beginner), those people have become the strongest chess players that I have met. 

Sometimes you just know that you are ready since your emotions are telling you to go, I believe that being prepared for your first chess tournament is more of an emotional thing.

Most people are too anxious to try something new and pass up on opportunities, I’d say that it is time to dive head on if you are just hesitating because of a scheduling reason. 

You can never be prepared to do something new, no matter how much you have studied beforehand you will overthink going into your first chess tournament. It is not that big of a deal actually, even if you perform terribly it is fine.

It will be a learning experience, it is not where you have started but what you are doing about it. Most people start from the beginning and going to an official chess tournament might be the “click” that your learning curve is looking for.

Your first chess tournament should depend on what you are trying to achieve

I think going to an official chess tournament is exciting, however, I recognize that there are individuals who would rather play online for the rest of their lives. I think it is important to consider what your agenda is on going to a chess tournament.

It really depends on what you are trying to achieve, if you want to learn as fast as possible then you can play your first chess tournament after some practice. You can go without too much preparation and try to learn through the process instead of overthinking it beforehand.

If you want to learn primarily on virtual avenues on the other hand then you can build up your strength as an online player then only go to physical tournaments later. 

There is no shame in playing chess online, the game has moved to virtual avenues for a reason (to make the game more accessible to more people). If you have a day job and are busy with most of your days then it is not really practical to go to a chess tournament.

If you are only looking to play a couple of games here and there then you might never consider going to a chess tournament (and it is fine). 

However if your agenda is to play competitively and be as strong as possible, going to an official chess tournament is the way to go. There are no bad sides to this, if you want to go in a chess tournament then you should go for it.

If not, then it is ok to play on online avenues and enjoy the game that way.


It is recommended to play your first chess tournament after reaching 1800 rating on lichess and 1500 on chess.com, I have found that these are the levels where you are good but not too good to play in a tournament. Most people I know have started their first tournaments at around this level.

But really you shouldn’t make it a big deal, if you are a total beginner it is fine to do it as long as you recognize that you might not do that well. You might also meet friends that can help you become stronger, however, you have to go out there and expose your skills.

That is all, thank you for reading.