Living La Vida Chess: A Parent’s Perspective on Chess Tournaments

It’s been awhile, and they haven’t come out yet. Well, maybe that’s a good sign–they are still holding on or fighting for that win. I surely hope it’s going okay in there. How are they doing?

Those are just a few thoughts that are running through a parent’s mind as they sit and wait for their child during chess tournaments.

The Parent Experience

Anyone that has been to a chess tournament knows that time seems to slow down tremendously—especially when you are the one waiting. Depending on the tournament, it is not unusual to find parents and/or coaches pacing around a closed door or staring with great intensity at that same door. Some may poke their heads inside for a quick peek but know that is as far as they can go. Others occupy their time via books, games, knitting, music, movies, simple projects, work, or whatever else would serve as a distraction during the waiting periods. Luckily, I have a little one that tends to keep me distracted enough to alleviate some of my nervousness at times.

Honestly, I tend to be more anxious or nervous than my boys are when they are playing in certain chess tournaments.  I often joke that I can be the nervous one in the tournament, so they only have to concentrate on playing their best games. While they are battling on the chess board, I’ll be battling the nervousness in the waiting room. We are fortunate in the fact that my boys have achieved a level of comfort that eliminates any qualms about playing in tournaments. At times, they may be taken aback by the larger size tournaments, but that feeling quickly dissipates the moment they sit in front of those 64 squares. Game on.

Waiting…and Wondering

Perhaps the most nerve wracking experiences for me are the times when spectators aren’t allowed in the tournament area or rooms during the games. Therefore, you lose all opportunity of following the game play-by-play or observing your child’s facial expression—which can sometimes give you an indication of how that specific round is going. Waiting can be the hardest!

As time passes, you, the parent, begin to think about every possible scenario of what might possibly be taking place in that room. You start to question the state of your child’s hunger needs as the longevity of the game continues, hoping that they finish with some time remaining for a quick bite before beginning the next round. It is not uncommon to find parents trying to persuade their children to take a bite or two of some food. Or, even feeding them a few bites or spoonful of lunch/dinner as they are walking back into the tournament room. At that moment, all you want is to make sure that they have the energy and nutrients that their bodies need to continue.

On the other end, there are tournaments with a much more relaxed atmosphere. Most will allow spectators in the tournament rooms, provided you remain silent while observing. It is customary for a player’s parent(s), coach, friend(s) and so forth to stand a few feet behind that player while observing the game. Tournament like this allow for a much more “relaxed” experience, because the suspense and mystery are not a factor.

Living La Vida Chess: A Parent's Perspective on Chess Tournaments

Preparing for Tournaments 

Usually, the night before a tournament, our number one goal is to get sufficient amounts of rest. Prior to bedtime, the boys would review old games (some of prominent players), various chess openings, tactics and strategies. In the meantime, my attention is diverted elsewhere–ensuring that we have enough healthy snacks, water, annotation books, pen/pencils, activity books (for the little one), reading books, power cords, electronics, etc. Plus, the boys often have a few additional items on their minds as well. Having a checklist tends to make the process faster, and it helps me avoid forgetting an item or two.

When attending out of town tournaments, preparation can be a little more involved. Upon arrival, we perform a quick recon of the hotel, tournament room, and the surrounding area to locate nearby restaurants, grocery store, and gas stations. Sometimes, it is so much easier and healthier to buy groceries upon arrival as opposed to relying on snack machines or snack bars. We always try to have a breakfast alternative, just incase the kids decide they want a few more minutes of rest before their games.  

Tournament Day

By the time we arrive at the tournament area, there are a usually a few things that occur. First, we locate a free table or area to stage our “home base” for the day. We often try to sit near or at a friend’s table. Secondly, the boys locate their pairings and make sure they’re in the right section. Lastly, we start to plan out lunch and dinner—which can be tricky at times because both vary with the individual sections. Our boys have been playing in different sections for a while now, so lunch is almost always a delivery from some restaurant. 

As the tournament commences, many of us begin to occupy our time with some of the aforementioned activities we brought along. My little one, on the other hand, begins to scout the waiting area or lobby for other kids her age. She is extremely sociable, so making new friends is second nature to her. She is usually successful in finding a few play friends to occupy some of her time.

After several hours have passed, the waiting room takes on a more tranquil atmosphere. By then, some of the younger ones are taking naps back at the hotel room or in the vicinity. Around dinner time, some parents would leave to pick up dinner if they know that their players will be playing through the usual dinner time. At times, the opportunity to have a “sit down” dinner meal is not ideal for some players. There are some tournaments that go well into the late night, so going to a restaurant may not be an option for some.     

Award Ceremony

By the end of the day, depending on the tournament, there may be an award ceremony that follows. Tournaments that are multiple days long end with the award ceremony on the last day. Throughout the tournament, players can keep track of their standings, for the most part. The tournament directors work very hard to keep the postings current.

However, there is still an element of surprise and suspense among the players because the standings normally do not account for their last round. The outcome of the last round may possibly dethrone the 1st place player, causing multiple ties in place standings, which can cause a domino effect for other players in contention of a trophy. I think it’s safe to say that everyone looks forward to the award ceremony, even if you are not in contention for an award. Players are just simply happy to watch and congratulate a friend or a fellow chess mate on their achievement.

Has your child participated in a chess tournament before?



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