Chess Tournaments Demystified

Playing in chess tournaments is the holy grail of all chess enthusiasts. It is only through these events that a player can measure his progress and strive to improve upon the areas that he is relatively weak in. FIDE, the governing body of chess awards an official rating to players who participate in FIDE authorized tournaments. Strictly speaking a rating number is not necessarily the best indicator of a player’s skill, but it does represent a generally accepted yardstick to gauge a player’s current chess playing ability. Consequently it becomes an obsession for players and parents alike to become rated players by playing in FIDE tournaments. As we shall see there are different kinds of FIDE tournaments and it is not necessarily a good idea to send your child/participate in such a tournament without proper knowledge of the playing field and stakes involved. Many talented players get discouraged by their results at such tournaments and decide too prematurely that Chess is not their cup of tea.

At Zugzwang academy we have developed an 8 rank scholastic program to guide young players through their chess careers. We represent below our approach to handle the organic growth of a professional tournament player as he moves along the 8 ranks –


Rank 01 chess players are absolute beginners at the game. We take them through our Chess 101 program and teach them how the pieces move right up to the point that they can play a legal game of chess. Since this is the phase when impressionistic learning is happening, we advise parents to let the student enjoy the process of learning the game without having to worry about competition. This stage is analogous to the play school phase of a student’s academic career, the focus should entirely be on learning fundamentals properly.


In Rank 02, players have learnt to play a legal game of chess but are still akin to making blunders. Because of this, we advise only the following two types of tournaments for a Rank 02 player –

  •  Intra Rank Tournaments      
  • Chesskid slow tournaments

At Zugzwang Academy we conduct Intra rank tournaments in regular intervals which pits players of same skill levels. This ensures that the results a player gets is a correct indicator of his growth without discouraging him .

We have partnered with to provide all our students gold membership on the website. is considered to be the industry standard in training young kids in chess. Through gold membership they have access to all features of this site like unlimited chess puzzles, lessons and tournaments. Rank 02 players are encouraged to play slow chess tournaments on this site which provides ample time to the players to make individual moves. This helps them to get into the habit of analyzing their moves and iron out blunders. 



A Rank 03 player has inculcated discipline in his thinking. He is familiar with general themes of all three stages of a chess game. We recommend the following kinds of tournaments for a Rank 03 player -

  • Inter Rank Tournaments
  • Intra School Tournaments
  • FIDE Age category (Consult coach)

In Zugzwang tournaments, players who win/perform well in their respective rank category are invited to participate in a higher rank category in the forthcoming event. This way they get to match their wits against their peers who are in a higher rank.

Many schools have started to realize the potential of Chess in an academic curriculum and host intra school tournaments. It is a great idea for Rank 03 players to participate in these events.

Some students who show exceptional performance across all these events are encouraged to participate in FIDE Age category tournaments. Read on to know what these mean.


A Rank 04 chess player is well and truly ready to launch his professional FIDE career. What we recommend are the following tournaments –

  • Inter School Tournaments
  • FIDE Age Category Tournaments

A Rank 04 student is expected to continue playing School tournaments and earn a place in official School Team playing in Inter School Championships.

Although a Rank 04 player is considerably strong, we recommend him or her start their chess career with an Age Category Tournament. What exactly is an Age Category Tournament? FIDE organizes certain tournaments which have an age restriction on the participants. These are distinguishable from others by their individual names itself, for example – Karnataka State U-15 Chess Championship. U-15 signifies under 15 which is the corresponding age restriction on the players. Winners of these events at the state level are given the opportunity to play in a national championship for the same age category.


A Rank 05 chess player is a force to be reckoned with. He has made giant strides in his chess ability and has started to prepare professionally for his tournaments. It is very important that he picks the right tournaments to further his chess career. In an academic year, we recommend the player pre-select the following three kinds of tournamentswith the help of a coach and prepare with concrete goals –

  • FIDE Age Category Tournament
  • Rating Cap Tournament
  • State Open FIDE Tournament

A rating cap tournament is one in which the restriction on the participants is that of their official FIDE rating, not of age. An example would be Karnataka 2016 State Amateur Championship Under 2000. The rating cap for players in this tournament is 2000. Players of all age are welcome to participate. Sometimes the rating cap might not be mentioned in the tournament name, in such cases it is best to check the event/federation website or call a helpline number provided in the tournament brochure.

State level FIDE Open tournaments are organized once a year inviting players from all over the state without any restriction on age or rating. Hence the moniker open tournament. To participate and perform well in these tournaments one must prepare thoroughly in advance as the competition is considerably higher than the other kinds of tournament.


A Rank 06 player has entered the realm of professional chess. In addition to the tournaments mentioned for Rank 05 players, he should also aim for National Level Open FIDE tournaments and Open FIDE tournaments. These tournaments do not have any restriction on participation but are considerably tougher to win.

This is a scholastic timeline of chess tournaments, not a yearly timeline. Players of different skills are suited to different ranks.
Want to know your chess rank ? Go through this test series!