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The definitive Q&A guide for chess newbies

Just getting started in the wonderful world of chess? Here are our answers to the questions you’ve been too shy to ask!

Are chess players allowed to use the bathroom during tournament games?

Yes. Not only is it allowed, but it is pretty common in top-level classical games, especially since classical chess games can last for a long time.

Are chess players allowed to talk to each other in tournament games?

Yes, but the conversation often should not be excessive. It’s considered polite to exchange a few words before and after the game but you are not allowed to disturb your opponent, or make a lot of noise inside the tournament hall in general. One thing is for sure: you are never allowed to talk about the game.

Could a computer beat Magnus Carlsen at chess?

Yes. Top computers like Houdini, Komodo, Stockfish, Critter or Rybka can beat Carlsen in a match.

Is there a time limit in professional chess?

There is a classical time control for most of major events: 90 minutes for the first 40 moves. This is followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game, and 30 seconds is added per move starting from the first move.

Do you have to say check in a game of chess?

No. Announcing check is not required. In a a tournament game you shouldn't say check, as it disturbs the other players.

How do the top players prepare for a big game?

It depends a lot on the players. Some players prepare a lot, while others benefit more from relaxing before a game. What most professionals do is work hard between the tournaments so they know their systems well and feel up-to-date on their openings. Preparation is not all about openings. You can also solve puzzles before a tournament to make sure your head is sharp and you calculate quickly.

Do I have to write down the moves?

In games with classical time control you must write down the the moves, but not in blitz or rapid games. We write down the moves to keep track of the moves, but if you make a mistake it’s not the end of the world. Learning chess notation is quite easy, but learning the coordinates might take some practice. That’s why we created the Flight Control game in the Magnus Trainer.

Can I have a break during the game?

You can leave the board while your opponent is thinking, but you can’t leave the tournament hall without the permission of the arbiter. If you need to go to the bathroom, have a snack or get some fresh air, you are free to do so.

Where do I find chess tournaments to join?

It depends where you are in the world, but most federations and chess clubs have tournament calendars. There are many tournaments being played every day all over the world.

Do I have to be a member of a club?

If you want to play a proper tournament where you can get a FIDE-rating, you have to be member of a club or a direct member of the federation. There are many informal tournaments where you don’t have to be a member, but to play the serious ones you normally need to be a member.
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Photo: Lennart Ootes