FAQ : Frequently Asked Questions About The Game of Chess

This is a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page related to the game of chess. Do not hesitate to contribute by sending me your questions by using the Facebook page or by sending me an email.

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How does a chess club work?

Usually, we need to pay an annual fee to become a member of the club. The club may organize several types of tournaments usually determined by the game's time control: standard, rapid or blitz games. If a standard time control is selected, there will be only one game at the agenda for each player every week (or following the club's calendar). Sometimes, some tournaments are organized outside the regular hours of the club, like during a weekend for example. For each tournament, a pairing system is used to determine the matches. Players face opponents of all levels, but big disparities are usually avoided. Most clubs are charging a fee for participating in tournaments, but the money accumulated is distributed in prizes to the winners at the end of the tournament.

A member is usually not required to participate in tournaments and can go to the club to play friendly games only. Each club has its own characteristics so I invite you to refer to your local club to get their specific setup/activities.

When a player has played a couple of games in an official tournament, he/she will obtain an ELO rating indicating his/her level of play. The referees will use this rating in futur tournaments in order to find proper opponents when pairing the players.

Where can we play chess online?

There are several places where you can play free chess on the web. Here is a short list:

How do we rank chess players (ELO rating)?

The ELO rating is used to determine the level of play of chess players. A mathematical formula based on the work of the mathematician Arpad Elo uses statistical probabilities about performance between players in an event to generate a rating. A beginner player without competition experience will have a rating between 800 and 1000. A player with 50 to 100 games played has a rating around 1200. A serious chessclub player training on tactics and doing post-mortem analysis of his losses could rreach a rating around 1400 to 1500. A good chess club player has around 1700 to 1900. Starting at rating of 2000, chess players deserve a title:

  • Expert : rating between 2000 and 2200
  • Master: keep a rating over 2200 for 20 consecutive games
  • International Master (IM): got 3 IM norms in international events. IM rating is around 2300 to 2450
  • Grandmaster (GM): got 3 GM norms in international events. This is the highest rank we can reach in chess. GM rating is around 2400 to 2900.

IM et GM titles are permanent: even if the player's rating goes down significantly, his international title cannot be revoked. Top 10 players in the world currently have an average rating of 2790.

How do we prepare for a tournament?

Before registering for his first tournament, a player must master all the rules of the game (including special rules explained in lesson 5 available on the site) and also be familiar with the rules governing official events. These rules are defined by the articles 4 to 12 (inclusively) in the Laws of Chess Handbook maintained by the FIDE (World Chess Federation [Federation Internationale Des Echecs]).

Concerning the practical preparation of its play, a player should sharpen its tactical vision by doing as much tactical problems and exercises as he canprior and during the tournament. To learn and practice the different tactics, I invite you to consult the lesson on basic tactics available on my site. For those of you who are already familiar with tactics, I recommend some interresting books below that you can bring along with you so you can do your tactical gymnastic wherever you are:

If the player is an intermediate or advanced player (a rating of 1600 ELO or more) and he/she is being serious in its preparation, he/she must define an opening repertoire with white pieces (1.e4, 1.d4, 1.c4, 1.Cf3) and study all main defenses, with their plans, that his/her opponents could use. He/she must also work on a defense repertoire with black pieces against all main opening moves (1.e4, 1.d4, 1.c4, 1.Cf3) and study main variations of these defenses. Several books are available for helping tournament players in developing a good opening repertoire:

Physical preparation is also very important in order to be able to maintain a good level of concentration during the tournament. At a minimum, a player must arrive fresh and well rested and he must avoid eating junk or fast food prior and during the tournament. This type of food contains generally empty calories and great quantities of fat affecting the physical aspects of the players (and his/her concentration and focus). A very small portion of chess players will also undertake a workout program in the preceeding weeks of the tournament to maximize their chance and improve their ability to stay focus for a long period of time... but it is not necessary for beginners or intermediate players.

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