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Tips and Advice for players

Last year I posted some advice for players playing their first Gigafinal (though this advice is still applicable if you have played in one previously). I thought I would update that post and share with the ‘Class of 2019’ as the advice is still valid and hopefully useful. This post contains some general advice about the day and also some chess advice. Though some of it seems quite basic, I have seen too many players wilt under the pressure and make really basic mistakes on the day. So make sure that isn’t you!

Enjoying the day

Of the 40,000 children that begin the event only 5% make it to the Gigafinal so it is a great achievement to make it this far. The next step is hard – but it’s important to make sure you enjoy the day regardless of the result.

Whether you win or lose – playing against other good players will only make you a better player in the long run. Think of the day as a great opportunity to play some fun games of chess and to learn from the experience. They say it takes at least 10,000 hours to master anything that is hard. Well chess is certainly hard and I’ve been playing for 25 years and still have so much to learn. What I want you to take away from this is that yu can only do your best and you can be proud of yourself whatever your score as long as you try your hardest.

Before and after the game

Before you enter the playing hall make sure you know who you are playing and what board number and section you are in. Make your way to the playing hall and find your board. If you have any queries please ask a member of the team. You might want to bring a bottle of water and a pencil if you wish to write down your moves (though this is not compulsory).

Before and after the game shake hands with your opponent.

When the game has finished, put up your hand and notify the section controller of the result. Both players must do this. Make absolutely sure that the result has been recorded properly as we may not be able to correct it later. Setup the pieces ready for the next game and then quietly leave the playing hall.

Disputes

We hope you don’t encounter any problems in your games – but sometimes it does happen so it is important to know what to do.

If you think you opponent has done something wrong:

1) Put up your hand and attract the attention of an arbiter or section controller
2) Calmly explain to the arbiter what has happened
3) Allow your opponent to explain their point of view to the arbiter

We can only deal with disputes during the game – we will almost never reverse the decision of an arbiter after a result has been submitted. It is unlikely the arbiter saw what happened so they will have to make their best judgement call

Sometimes decisions may go against you. It is important to be able to smile and deal with these setbacks. If your opponent has cheated remember that in the long run they are only cheating themselves and you can be proud that you did your best and played an honest game.

The Chief Arbiter’s decision is final!

For more information please see our ‘Disputes and Code of Conduct’ policy.

General chess advice

  • You have 20 minutes for the whole game plus 10 seconds a move. This is longer than you might think – so don’t panic
  • Make sure you press your clock after every move
  • Think properly about your moves – don’t rush. Many players end up losing with more time on their clock than they started with. Don’t let this be you!
  • Writing down the moves may help resolve disputes later in the game
  • But…only write down your moves if you are comfortable doing so
  • Consider your opponent’s ideas and threats – what are they trying to do?
  • Do not fall for ‘Scholars Mate’!

Basic good opening strategy

  • Bring pawns out into the centre
  • Bring out your knights (towards the centre) and bishops
  • Get castled
  • Be wary of any traps your opponent might be trying to set

Middlegame strategy

  • Look at all checks, captures and threats (both for you and your opponent)
  • Improve the placement of your worst placed piece
  • Look for targets to attack

Endgame strategy

  • The King is an important attacking piece in the endgame
  • Watch out for advanced pawns – they can become queens
  • If your opponent only has a king left – do not stalemate them!

Good luck and have fun!

Sarah Longson
Director – UK Chess Challenge
2013 British Ladies Champion and girls winner of the UKCC!