Chess is a fantastic sport loved by millions and many players are very keen to improve their game. But how many games of chess are enough in one day? Is there a hard limit or can you play as much as you can? What do the best players do when it comes to practicing the game?
How many chess games should you play a day? 4 or 5 focused chess games a day are better than 20 quick wins. If you are playing with the specific intention of becoming better at chess, then it is a good idea to play fewer games every day but with a higher level of effort and against a stronger player. This is better than playing lots of short, easy games.
In the short-term, there’s no such thing as “too many games of chess” in any given day, but they won’t necessarily make you a better player. Let’s take a look at how to improve your chess by playing chess.
Why Are You Playing Chess?
Before you begin thinking about how often you should play chess, you should probably ask yourself why you are playing chess in the first place? Not everyone is looking to become a grandmaster. If you are playing for the purposes of finding an enjoyable hobby, you will probably want to ensure as your priority that you maintain a healthy balance between chess playing and the other activities in your life.
On the other hand, if you are seeking to become a grandmaster, then you’re going to need to put a lot more effort into playing chess than most people.
It can also pay to consider the impact of your play on those around you. The French chess master, Marcel Duchamp, was obsessed with chess. So much so that on his honeymoon, instead of tending to his bride, he spent his time poring over the board in his room.
One day, he went out to fetch something and when he returned there was no sign of his wife. Then he turned to the board and found out that she had glued all the pieces to it. His wife never returned. It is fair to say that you can play too much chess.
While Duchamp’s example may be something of an extreme, many a divorce has resulted from one player spending more time with the pawns than with their partner. It is absolutely essential that you take into account the importance of chess in your whole life before you decide on a schedule of play.
A World Champion’s Advice
Mikhail Botvinnik, the former World and Russian Chess Champion and grandmaster, was not a fan of masses of practice. In fact, quite to the contrary, he recommended that a serious player only play 50 games of chess a year!
However, we think it’s important to note that Botvinnik was a peculiar chap and while he certainly did only practice infrequently, he was, perhaps, one of the most accomplished chess researchers of all time. He seemed to be able to draw inspiration and ideas from the pages of chess works that most of us could not attain without practice.
So, maybe Botvinnik’s advice will work for you but, on balance, this is probably too little play for most chess players to truly improve their game.
Our Advice: The More Common Path To Improving Your Chess Game Through Play
When we looked into this idea of playing to improve, we had no real idea of what would be recommended by other players. Given that chess is an intensely competitive sport, even if it does not attract the glamor and media interests of other sports, we had a horrible feeling that we were going to find intense routines of dozens of matches a day.
Happily, the reality is quite to the contrary. The majority of players seem to think that there is a “happy medium” when it comes to playing chess to improve and that it certainly does not involve large numbers of games.
The rule of thumb seems to be: never play any more games than you will have the time to thoroughly analyze after the fact. You see, the best learning from play doesn’t come from the game itself but from the post-match breakdown.
When you record each game, you can go back and replay it over and over again. You can ask why you did something and whether there might have been a better decision to make. You can also ask why your opponent did something and learn from their play.
Your Opponent Counts
Speaking of opponents there seems to be a good rule of thumb there too if you want to improve your game: always try to play against an opponent who is stronger than you, however, don’t try to play against an opponent who is too strong for you, find someone that you might just be able to beat on your best day and their worst day, playing Magnus Carlsen would just be demoralizing for you and boring for him.
Always Play On The Clock
We would add a third rule to this mix and that is you should always play your games on the clock, even your friendlies. Not only do this allow you to get used to using a chess clock so that it doesn’t feel irksome during tournaments but it also allows you to constrain the overall length of the game to something reasonable.
The Final Rule
And from this rule stems a final guideline – assuming your games are timed, and you intend to fully analyze them following the game, you are unlikely to benefit from playing much more than 2 games a day. Though you may enjoy playing more.
And A Hint To Improve Your Chess Through Play
We also have a suggestion that may help you to get the most out of playing chess with the intention of improving your game. Don’t forget that chess is a game and it’s meant to be fun. Unless you are already a grandmaster making your living playing chess – the rest of your life does not depend on your play.
We have all seen chess players burn themselves out and it’s never any fun. If you haven’t played for years and then you get the chess bug again. Don’t sign up for a major tournament and practice every day for a month first. This isn’t fun, it’s too much too soon.
You wouldn’t suggest to a grossly obese person who hadn’t run for a bus in years that they should immediately go out and run a marathon, would you? It would be obvious that they lacked the practice and conditioning to do such a thing.
You might however encourage them to start walking a lot, with the intention of running a bit in the future and maybe over a couple of years building up to that marathon.
Your brain is like a muscle. You can’t expect it to be a world champion weightlifter on the first day out. Don’t play so much that you come to resent the game and wish you were doing something else, it’s a game. It’s supposed to be fun, make sure that you keep the fun in your practice sessions. You can always play more tomorrow than you did today.
How many chess games should I play a day? There is no perfect recipe for the number of games you play in a day or even how long you should practice. Some grandmasters will practice for as many as 10 hours but the world champion only practices for 6. This doesn’t mean that a longer practice session is in vain or that a shorter one is always better, but it does mean, we’re all different.
Probably the best approach when playing to improve is to find someone who is somewhat stronger than you (not so strong that they beat you every time, mind you) and then play long, focused games and maybe just two of them. Then spend more time analyzing those games, what did you do well? What could you have done better? We think this is most likely to benefit your game.