You are about to register for a U.S chess tournament and see multiple sections in the event, and you need help determining which section to register for. Go ahead and read this article to get some clarity.
I get asked the question mentioned above at the minimum twice a month by the academy student’s parents, asking me to advise them on how to choose the section during tournament registration.
Which section to register for?
This confusion of registering for which section is a distinctively U.S. tournament problem, as there are about 4-5 sections in most events that happen in the U.S.
For example, let’s say Rahul is a 10-year-old kid rated 1680 rated and can play in the 1700 section or register one section up for the 2000 rated section. In such a scenario, what should he do?
Playing in the strongest possible section
Rahul should play in the 2000-rated section so that he can get to test his skills against higher-rated opponents. Playing stronger opponents will give Rahul significant learning experiences, even if he gets beaten by the higher-rated players many times.
Benefits of playing against higher-rated players
Playing against higher-rated players will make you resilient and resourceful. Fighting hard for every half-point will put you in survival mode, making you resilient.
Another advantage of playing in the stronger section is that you will have less pressure as you don’t lose many rating points, even if you lose the game. As your opponents are the ones who would have to prove their higher rating by trying to push for a win so that they would be under additional pressure.
Garry Kasparov’s views on this topic
I would like to quote the views of World Champion Garry Kasparov in his book “How Life Imitates Chess“
In Chapter 11 on the topic “Question Success”, Kasparov mentions the following.
“Every person has to find the right balance between confidence and correction. But my rule of thumb is to lose as often as you can take it. Playing in the open section and going 0-9 every time is going to crush your spirit long before you get good enough to make a decent score.
Unless you have a superhuman ego or totally lack one. A constant stream of negativity will leave you too depressed and antagonized to make the necessary changes.
But as much as you enjoy winning, remember that winning every time is not ideal. Setbacks and losses are both inevitable and essential if you’re going to improve and become a good, even great competitor.
Who should make the decision? The Parent or the Player?
The decision to choose a section should always be with the Player, as only then would the Player take responsibility for their actions.
If the parent decides, and if the tournament goes terribly. The Player can quickly shift blame by saying it was not their decision to play in that section.
My final views on this topic
I suggest playing against stronger opposition and foregoing short-term victories and prize winnings by playing in the weaker section.
We are playing chess to get better at the game, not for the trophies or the cash prize, so it would make more sense to look at the pursuit of chess improvement from a long-term perspective.
Good luck playing and getting better at chess!
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