I have never seen an anime based on this game called "Karuta", however there's plenty of tournament love triangle shows out there. Chihayafuru is a show that never really tries to do anything special or different with the plot, it simply bounces from one arc to the next- from the setting up arc where characters are introduced and backstories are told (at least for Chihaya, Arata, and Taichi.) right into a plethora of different tournaments (all of which seem to drag out their matches for as many inner monologues as possible.)
I guess right about now I should give you the disclaimer that the only other tournament show I've watched is Bamboo Blade. BB was not quite as excessive with inner monologues.
At the beginning the show is very sweet and fun, but around the middle I started to find myself getting bored with it. Not to the point of staring at the wall behind my computer, but there were times I felt like the show was just too formulaic to hold my attention much longer.
The animation itself was decent (other than one part of the OP wear Chihaya moves but the pattern on her hakama doesn't. YOU WILL NOT UNSEE.) and the art was pretty. The palet was soft and the character designs were clean and, if not memorable, they were at least suitable. The three main characters were all bishounen/bishoujo.
The OP was fantastic (I downloaded it instantly), but I skipped the ED. The soundtrack I always noticed because it followed a pattern and was pretty suitable for the over-the-top drama in the show.
The majority of the show was focused on Chihaya's quest to become Queen while the rest of the characters struggled to improve. While near the end, Kana got some development with her goals, most development was hogged by Chihaya and Taichi. Even Arata was fairly 2-dimensional. Chihaya as a main character was not much more than your average loud-mouthed determined girl who doesn't excel at school work, etc. She's fairly mediocre as a lead character. Taichi recieved a bit of character development, and was actually a fairly interesting character to watch. The other three in the Karuta club, Kana, Desky, and Porky, recieve little to no character development.
I want to rate Chihayafuru higher, but it's just too average to rate too highly. Chihayafuru knows what it is and doesn't try to be anything but. It bounces from tournament to tournament and never tries to be superb or unique.
It's still a good anime, and if you like tournament anime then you shouldn't skip Chihayafuru. Just don't go in expecting to be blown away.