Monday, July 28, 2008

The real advantage kids have in chess

Everyone knows little kids are the most dangerous chess opponents for class level adult players, barring only 'unrated' middle aged men from the former Soviet bloc.

But why are kids so dangerous? Two reasons:

They're never hung over and they usually don't feel pressure to beat adults in the same way we feel pressure to beat them.

If I quit drinking at chess tournaments, I bet I gain 50 points pretty fast. When I look at my results in rounds 4 and 5, I'm disgusted at the disparity with rounds 1 and 2. This could just be a function of playing the better players due to Swiss pairings, but I get paired up as often as down and if I'm going to upset you, it will be in rounds 1 or 2. The second day is murder. Still, I enjoy the social aspects of going to tournaments as much as the chess and I have no plans to change my habits. I doubt I am alone amongst childless (I'm 26) adults in my behavior at tournaments, especially those like me who usually room with friends who also like a drink.

As for their other advantage, if a kid loses to some adult who's been playing for years, it's usually not considered such a big deal, especially by their parents. I think this takes a lot of pressure off them in games against their elders. I for one feel a special imperative to beat anyone significantly younger than me, or at least anyone who can't legally drive. This is a silly feeling because ratings are obviously independent of age, but never the less I get very annoyed when elementary age kids beat me. Never mind my Finance and Psychology degrees, disregard that I play several instruments with performance proficiency, the 1420 on my SATs years ago, this little kid JUST TOTALLY OUTSMARTED ME AND IT PISSES ME OFF!

Little kids have none of these pressures.

So if you ever see me pacing, cursing at 2:00 on Sunday at some tournament, there's a good chance I just hung my queen to some third grade would-be prodigy after a night of pounding Sam Adams, and I'm not happy about it.

Did I mention that kids often play really off-beat but trappy lines? I've never really been caught out in one by a child, but I still hate playing against them because I'm usually not so familiar with the positions (I mostly study main lines).

And I really hate that sometimes, when you beat a kid badly or in an important game, they cry. I'm not heartless and it makes me feel awful, even though it's certainly just part of the game and I would never let them win. It's especially bad if I see their parents berate them later for losing (or for crying). It's just chess. They feel bad enough already.


tanc(happyhippo) said...


With regards to kids, IMHO I don't see why it's such a big deal. I've lost to kids before (but not yet in a real competition but I'm sure I will in due time). In informal blitz, I basically hang loose and play crazily with no fear of being penalised or being ridiculed.

Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. Some kids think it's a big thing to beat an adult but really, I could not care any less what they think regardless if children beat me or if I beat them.

I've long accepted that some children will infinitely be better than me in chess, just like I am better than some of them.

I don't get pissed off when I lost to a kid. After all, my entire world does not revolve around the microcosm that is chess.

I just relax, play the game and have fun.

I'm sure some children do have stress, usually put on by overbearing parents anxious to see their children succeed be it to boost their morale or their ego.

I've long acknowledged that children have more time to study chess than I. As a result, it's not surprising that some of them excel. If I have the same amount of time as they do, I'm sure I can peform to that level as well.


natec said...

I mostly have trouble with Asian kids. Even if I'm losing a game to a Caucasian kid (like Round 2 or 3 of the Indiana Open a few years ago against the young chap from Ft. Wayne) I can swindle them.. The asian kids are just ruthless though. :)

For me I think it is probably just poetic justice losing to kids these days because I used to be that kid. I beat my first master at 16 and had reached my peak playing strength by that time as well.

I think that Rowson has some insight into the real reason for this in Chess For Zebra's when he talks about "unlearning". Kids have nothing to "unlearn" and have to work harder at the board (even though they do it faster sometimes).

Another reason is that darned "youthful optimism" they actually believe they are going to win when they go into a game every game they play. I have had to work hard to get that belief back myself and it hasn't come back all the way.

Caeruleum Canis said...

I really wanted to avoid any racial overtones, but I have to say that I too have noticed that Asian kids seem especially dangerous. I imagine it's just the eastern cultural proclivity to value intellectual pursuits (sadly lacking among many occidentals) rather than any inherent racial ability to play chess, but I have noticed it as well. Nice to see fellow midwesterners reading the blog.

CHESSX said...

Hi every one
When i use to play i hated sitting opposite a kid,as you knew they were pumped and primed with all the lastest openning traps and theory.
I generally found if the kid was close to my grading, and i could get through the openning safely, i stood a good chance of winning the game.
Kids are good very good at opennings,but in most cases the middlegame and certainly the endgame finds them out.
This is a generalization.
But now i run a Primary School chess club,i now help to pump and prim kids but in all 3 parts of the game.