Why do so Many Chess Players Stop Playing Tournaments?

There was that time where I dreamed of participating in a chess tournament. Luckily I have the time and resources in order to participate in some, it gave me a lot of fun experience.

After that, I have dreamed of becoming a chess player and making a living out of chess.

I mean we can dream for free, until we search the conditions of a career in google and start to back away.

In this article I will be talking about the reasons why people stop playing in chess tournaments.

I will also be talking about why international masters and grandmasters suddenly stop playing after giving so much to the game.

This will be an eye opener for those who are trying to pursue a title in chess. Without further ado, let’s get started. 

Why do a lot of chess players stop playing tournaments after their first go?

The answer to this is simple, they quickly realize that chess tournaments are not really for them. Most chess players that enter their first tournaments are only looking for entertainment, they don’t really want to play for real.

Of course they probably want to compete and deliver good results, but what I mean is they don’t really plan to compete in the future.

You see, competing in a chess tournament requires a lot of resources. It is not like you can just go outside and start playing a tournament. These events have schedules, sometimes they even have a participation fee.

This means that you have to drop off any personal responsibility on this specific date if you want to attend, otherwise you will be disqualified.

It also means that you have to spend money getting into the event, plus paying for the travel expenses in order to get to the venue.

This requires a lot of commitment for a newbie chess player’s part, something that most people won’t do consistently.

I for example would want to participate in offline tournaments but don’t want to fully commit to it. If I can just go out and start playing then it would be fine, however there is a process that one has to go through in order to participate.

I think this is the reason why a lot of first time tournament players drop off future tournaments after their first go.

They just don’t have the willingness to go through the same process over and over again. They can also just play online or offline with their friends which is another option. 

If you are a first-time tournament player, I have an article talking about the proper ways to prepare for a tournament. Try reading it.

Why do most people stop playing chess tournaments within a year?

There are some chess players that are able to overcome this “first-go” symptom. They are able to participate in many tournaments after their first one, seemingly looking to be a serious chess player.

But even these kinds of players can suddenly stop playing tournaments within a year. In my experience, most new chess players cannot participate in tournaments consistently for at least one year.

What might be the problem in this case?

The thing is, there is probably no problem.

Just because you have enjoyed the experience and have participated in a few more tournaments (after the first one) doesn’t mean that you will fully commit to it.

For most people chess is just a side hobby, something that you can do in your free time. The problem comes with the life of an adult.

As we grow up, we rarely have free time, we have work and other things to attend to all the time.

Most of these chess players are probably slowing down after the hype. They have discovered a new hobby and have enjoyed playing it for some time.

However after the hype goes down there will be less motivation to play in future tournaments. This doesn’t mean that they won’t participate in any tournaments in the future, but their participation will probably be inconsistent.

They are probably taking a break doing other things before getting back into chess. 

Why are some chess grandmasters quitting on competitive chess?

Now here is the important question. You have probably heard about many cases of grandmasters, sworn professionals of chess, quitting after sacrificing so much for the game.

Suddenly, this really strong player that is good enough to become a grandmaster, just stopped playing tournaments.

It doesn’t make sense, or does it?

To answer this question I will bring you the story of Maurice Ashley. Maurice was a really strong grandmaster back in the day and he had produced many beautiful games.

Just like any regular grandmaster, he has sacrificed so much going from tournament to tournament in order to get his grandmaster title. After getting this status he had realized a problem, he cannot make any money.

He is a grandmaster who is a strong chess player for sure, but he is not a super grandmaster.

Super grandmasters can make a good living with chess, however, regular grandmasters get the short end of the stick.

They don’t earn a lot of money, and whatever little money that can be earned has to be competed with many other grand masters at the same time (prize money).

Since Maurice only knows how to play chess, he finds it difficult to find other jobs that can pay well.

What did he do?

He turned into chess commentary.

He gives commentary to games played between super grandmasters and provides insights on the positions involved. You may know Maurice Ashley as a quirky commentator nowadays, but there was a time that he was a serious chess player.

He had given up trying to be a super grandmaster and had tried to make a living doing chess commentary.

This way, he can still apply his chess skills and make a living. This is the reason why a lot of grandmasters stop pursuing chess, they just cannot earn any money.

Aside from this, chess is just extremely stressful, it is also a money drain. Most call it quits after playing for so long. 

I actually figured out how to make money with chess as a medium. Read my other article for more information.

Will super grandmasters quit playing tournaments soon?

Now this is the good news but also a cruel one. Super grandmasters can make more than enough to have a comfortable life, the prize money in elite tournaments is very rewarding.

I don’t think super grandmasters will quit playing chess tournaments soon, the only reason why grandmasters quit in the first place is they don’t have the financial incentive.

With super grandmasters earning a lot of money, I don’t think they will have much reason to quit.

However this highlights the cruel reality of pursuing chess. Even if you are one of the best chess players in the world (a grandmaster) you still won’t be making enough to have a life.

Chess is not as popular as other sports, there is not a lot of money to be had. Most of the money is concentrated at the top, honored grandmasters have to fight for the little bits of it trickling.

Grandmasters are among the best players in the world, yet they cannot put food on the table.

That is the reality, that is the reason why a lot of grandmasters quit on tournament play. Unless you are one of the top 20 players in the world, you won’t make a living. This is the state of pursuing a career in chess. 

Will there come a time where people won’t play in chess tournaments entirely?

I don’t think there will come a time where people will stop playing chess entirely. Chess has a hundred + years track record of being relevant, it will not die anytime soon.

Chess players in the past had even less money than today, yet there are still many names of great chess players that have made history.

Some do not do it for the money and just want to play. There are also others who have a job outside of chess and treat the game as a personal hobby.

Adding to the fact that chess is actually becoming more popular, the money in chess is probably going to become bigger. With all of this in mind, I don’t think that there will be a time where people just quit playing chess tournaments.

In fact, there is even more reason to play in chess tournaments l, but we must not deny the reality.

Chess is still too competitive for its own good with all of the engine and memorization. Tournament play would not die down , but I still don’t think that it is worth pursuing for anyone (unless you can be the very best).

Will online chess tournaments help?

Yes, online chess tournaments would definitely help in preserving the livelihood of many chess grandmasters. I have seen many tournaments online that have a lot of prize money, although most of them still go to the super grandmasters.

However, I suspect that as chess becomes more popular online, there will be some small tournaments that will be held for local grandmasters and international masters.

I still think that it wouldn’t be enough for the moment, but at least there is hope. If chess becomes popular enough online, then it may help solve this problem.

A lot of grandmasters and international masters will keep on playing in chess tournaments, they will have no reason to quit as long as the money issues are resolved. 


Most chess newbies quit playing tournaments since participating in an official event requires a lot of commitment.

It requires a lot of time, money, and effort in order to participate in a chess tournament. A lot of people may want to do this one or two times but they won’t do it consistently.

For most people, chess is just a side hobby, which is why at the end of the day they will just rather play online or with their friends.

As for grandmasters and international masters, they quit playing in tournaments since they cannot make a living. Most of the money that can be earned in chess is concentrated in the top.

If you cannot make it to the top 20 then you won’t probably make a living. Online tournaments might help solve this issue as it would provide more revenue opportunities for chess masters.

These are the reasons why people quit playing chess tournaments. That is all, thank you for reading.