Why are chess tournaments so stressful? (Explained!)

Chess tournaments are stressful due to the ridiculous amount of games played consecutively, the pressure between games, the investments before the match, and the possible losses involved.

Believe it or not chess tournaments are one of the most stressful competitions you can participate out there. It is fierce I promise, the unprepared will be eaten alive.

The goal of this article is to express the hardship of going through such tourneys, so you can set a reasonable expectation of how hard it is.

It is just very challenging and I want you to be as formidable as you can before entering this. I personally am not my first tournament, so I want you to have a different experience.

Okay here we go.

Are stresses from tournaments due to financial reasons?

Yes, players of chess tournaments usually have invested a lot of financial capability to participate in the field and are therefore more stressed due to the added opportunistic reasons.

Money is always a primary issue of stress as anyone can tell you. And for a competition as less monetized as chess is, it sure can be a factor.

When money is on the line there will always be more pressure, we need it to make a living. It’s either eat or be eaten, competitive players need to survive and win the prize money.

Otherwise, they would not be able to continue living the lifestyle of playing chess and have to find something else to do. Now, I don’t think this applies to the general population of people playing tournaments since most of you don’t do this for a living.

What’s in stake though are future opportunities that are gravely decided by every move. That spot that could land you to a prestigious tournament, or that one round that could have given you the top spot.

People are more likely to get stressed when they care about the results, which they do in this setting.

Do chess tournaments cause physical stress?

Sitting and thinking for a very excessive amount of hours are involved in tournament chess, which is physically tolling.

Most people think that physical is not really a term that is related to chess, and I can see their point. This however is absolutely wrong and you’d be surprised how exhausting it is (physically) to be able to perform well.

You see, tournaments last for ridiculous amounts of hours which is naturally tiring. You wouldn’t be that bewildered if classical games last for something more than half a day.

That is crazy but is perfectly natural, and the brain of course would have to take a break eventually. Especially if it was a really long game with increment (added time) it’s normal to take some three hours or so (per game).

Fun fact: The brain can only focus for only about two hours until it needs some 20 to 30-minute break.

Participants naturally will lose focus but can’t afford it since they will lose.

Adding to this, sitting for some extraneous amount of hours straight will take a toll on the body. A healthy sitting should only involve two hours max before needing to stand.

There are definitely physical reasons to this, it’s just natural for us to remove tension from the spine. This is why players usually take a walk or two when they can’t endure anymore.

Not only that, it would be acceptable if you would only do some sitting. This is not the case, every round is usually a well-fought game that requires a lot of energy.

Participants are likely to be still recovering from the previous match while already having the need to play the next one. A compilation of this makes chess tournaments unexpectedly tiring (physically) than what people imagine.

Do chess tournaments cause psychological stress?

Chess tournaments offer a lot of psychological stress from the possibility of streak losses, bad tournament rankings, and just being competitive in general.

There’s always the stigma that you have to earn the right to be in that environment. That you need to be on top of your game to say that you actually belong there.

Participants are always seeking to prove themselves, that they have what it takes to break through and win. This is a recipe of existential pressure (psychologically) that can be hard to bear for some.

When you play a game everything is possible from move one, and you would help decide the result. The game is so fragile, one mistake is enough to be crushed.

This makes people more attentive to their actions on the board, and suffer some stress along the way. The results after all can be suffocating in an unacceptable way.

Not to mention when you lose, where all of your doubts and fear becomes a reality. It’s hard to cope from losing a game, especially when you’re supposed to win.

You will be left wondering the “what ifs” while being forced to play the next game.

The point is, consecutive losses will absolutely crush your self esteem.

It can make you feel like an idiot, that all the time you practice is now wasted. Some people had a hard time recovering from this experience since it is traumatic (believe or not).

There even exists participants who decided to quit the game altogether, to avoid having those emotions again.

And even if you’ve managed to do well, tournament rankings change all the time, even at the last minute. You may have celebrated subconsciously only to be disappointed at the very last round.

And not even the disappointment, just the possibility of losing that desired price is very disturbing. You can be filled with horrors from sitting there and not knowing what can happen.

On top of that, the investments in this both physically and psychologically are really important factors in this equation. People usually invest a lot to be playing competitively, which adds more pressure.

When you invest in something you want a return through some form or the other. And investing in something like this is a bad investment to make, since there’s a lot of risks of losing.

Some stress can also come from outside the tournament, maybe from friends or families. A lot of chess players just don’t get the respect that they deserve, and tournaments are the way to prove such people wrong.

This makes things more complicated than it already is, and playing with people who are literally in the same situation can be draining.

Do tournament rules add to the stress of playing?

The strict implementation of the laws of chess adds to the stress of a player’s experience, mainly to the possibility of losing a game by default.

There’s a lot at stake in this event surrounding a participant’s self-esteem and physical capability. And losing technically (due to the rules) are unacceptable, so players are more focused on their actions.

This task is a conscious effort that can be mentally tolling if done consecutively. Players need to draw from their “inner strength” if they actually managed to lose on these conditions (technical) since they have invested a lot just to lose before even playing the game.

Adding with the pressure imposed by playing with a clock, and you get a very attention-demanding environment. Time troubles can make you panic and stress you in a way much more than you think.

Especially during time troubles where you have to make moves rapidly despite the ticking time. And not even that, just playing normally with the clock can be pretty annoying for someone who is not used to it.

And if we’re talking about rules, of course there will be disputes with your opponents who try to take advantage of them. I promise you in this setting everyone is trying to exploit the rules with every chance they can (most of the time).

The only chill people that I’ve met are those that are not that into the game. If they are playing competitively, then it’s likely that they will give you headaches.

Do your opponents in chess tournaments cause stress?

Your opponent in a chess tournament can just be as stressful as the tournament in itself. They will intimidate and pressure you until they can have an advantage.

This is something that I hope I would never see before I entered my first tournament. But yes, people are looking to get into each other’s skin instead of just beating them in the game.

You see, the result matters a lot for serious competitors. Which I completely understand since they want to win even if it means appearing as “unsportsman”.

But I am here to warn you of what is to be expected before it actually comes. Opponents are usually intimidating and merciless, sometimes even looking down at you as a person.

This as you may know is incredibly stressful but something you need to learn to deal with. Though this usually happens with people that are “beatable”.

Stronger players will still expect that they will beat you, but enough to not make them try such psychological pressure. Though as you can imagine, the presence of strong people by itself is already intimidating.

Facing stronger opponents intensift pressure, and you have to deal with that somehow. Especially if it is a good fight, it can be really tiring afterwards.

Can you handle the pressure of a chess tournament?

Chess tournaments can be stressful sure, but I don’t want you to think that it is not something enjoyable. It’s one of the most unforgettable experience that I’ve had, and I want you to experience it too.

Depending on the level, you may dominate on some occasions by just being a decent player. Again, this article is just to provide some insights on how tiring it can be.

You now have an expectation that will allow you to endure these harsh conditions. And that is really valuable, sleep well and play chess.