Proud father

My oldest daughter won the u300 (yup Scottish rating) event in Airdrie yesterday. She scored 7/8. Obviously the level is not that high, but for a six-year-old, it can still be intimidating. Actually, we had mentally prepared for her losing all her games, as she did in an event in Edinburgh in March.

This is from the last round where she with Black has blundered her queen (exchanges are rare on this level), but has received quite a lot in return. This is the moment where I came to watch:

Sarah – Cathy

Can you spot a deadly plan. Remember – your opponent will do NOTHING to stop it!

1… Rg8 2. Bxc5 Bb2 3. Bxa7 gxh5 4. Bb8 Rg1#

The first two moves looked very odd to me; then I realised what she was doing…

41 thoughts on “Proud father”

  1. Clearly there’s nothing wrong with her imagination, and that’s the hardest thing to learn 🙂

    My five year old still refuses to see chess as a game, as in something that you play, against an opponent. She likes filling the board with pieces from several sets, or placing the pieces exactly like they are in a diagram in one of daddy’s Yusupov books. But moving them? Why would you want to do that?

  2. And apparently she already knows how to fianchetto her (king’s) bishop – quite sophisticated for a six-year-old 🙂

  3. This is one example why it is often much more fun to watch beginners play. Imagination is not yet restricted by a certain basic level of play.

    I’m coaching a friend and now after 2 years he is already quite good (around 1600) but his first games were really wild. I recall a game where he switched 7 times from losing to winning and back …

  4. Jacob Aagaard

    Also it allows them to castle before any threats can come their way. They are taught to start with either 1.d4 or 1…d6, though Cathy has recently gone for a pure Reti of her own volition.

  5. Jacob Aagaard

    Why the open games? This is used a lot to teach dynamics, but what if this is not what the student is naturally adaptable to? I think it makes more sense to give them a feeling of fun by playing, which is why I chastise all kids delivering a four move check mate in my club, just as I teach the younger/weaker kids how to avoid it. Get a game and then see what happens.

  6. I would never chastise a kid for going for a four move mate. Mate *is* the object of the game, isn’t it? That’s how I lost my first game, and I quickly learned to be on the lookout for it and defend against it. I also learned that trying for a four move mate is not so smart by trying it myself, and having my queen harrassed. If a kid can’t handle losing, chess is the wrong game for him.

    As for open games, I believe the standard reasoning is that open games are more tactical, and since chess is 90% tactics, it’s best to be comfortable with tactics first. Donaldson, for instance: “I’m a firm believer that everyone should play classical chess at the beginning of his/her career, and I cringe whenever I see a 1600 player wheel out the King’s Indian Attack.”

  7. Jacob Aagaard

    @The Lurker
    Having seen players come up doing all kinds of things, I think Donaldson is just a victim to his own preferences.

    And chess is neither 99% or 90% tactics. Working with strong players, I would say it is about 30% tactics and 40% positional and 30% strategy. But if you have no tactics, it is 100% tactics, which is what happens with weak players. But the fact that people have a total weakness in one area, does not mean that a complete proficiency in this area means that you do not need the other areas. Thus I would say 50% or less. Actually, I would say a good deal less, but I am not out to create a debate.

  8. Jacob Aagaard

    @The Lurker
    And why tell a kid that four move check mates are not allowed in our club? Because the experience for the opponent is humiliating and discouraging. Someone who comes to enjoy chess, on one of their first appearances, get abused. Obviously none of the kids behave dignified after giving four move check mates. Arrogant little sods :-). Sorry, but it is the best way to describe it. So it is a part of bullying that risks someone not wanting to come back. They might be there the next week, but if you do not cut it out immediately, the magic risks getting broken.

    This is what I have observed.

    Oh yeah, and the kid giving the mate learned nothing as well.

  9. Jacob Aagaard

    Dead. The authors screwed us and sent too much good stuff… We are working hard and I will put up a publishing schedule as soon as I can get my act together and have gotten back to 100% after this virus that has attacked us all.

  10. Shurlock Ventriloquist

    Chess is 100% tactics.

    Tactics: an action or strategy carefully planned to achieve a specific end.

    Positional and strategic moves exist as a means to set up tactics or to prevent them from happening.

  11. @Jacob Aagaard
    Perhaps those 4-moves mate didn’t let me become the real garry…but I’m happy to be what I am and to have enjoyed even the “brutal” part of the game…

    It may sound harsh but if a boy feels discouraged for being mated in four moves…well, chess it’s not his game.

  12. garryk :</strongIt may sound harsh but if a boy feels discouraged for being mated in four moves…well, chess it’s not his game.

    If he’s disappointed, no big problem. Kids get disappointed when they lose. It’s natural. If he gives up, *then* it’s not his game.

    The way I see it, learning the four-move mate and similar cheap tricks is just a part of the process of learning the game. So a kid learns nothing by going for a 4-move mate. So what? Learning is a process. Later, he’ll try it against a kid who knows how to deal with it, and *then* he’ll learn something. Later on, he might become infatuated with the Grob. Then he’ll play people who’ll trounce him when he plays it. He’ll dig deeper, and come to an understanding of why it’s not so good after all (unless his last name is Basman or Bloodgood). *Then* he will have learned something, probably better than most people have.

    Or he could always go by the book, never take any chances, and never learn anything by experience. But what fun is that?

  13. Some people here seem to forget that children´s souls are quite a bit more vulnerable than those of adults. Even as an adult it´s tough to cope with brutal losses. For a child it´s easy to get discouraged when it gets badly beaten and maybe even belittled afterwards. A Statement like “if you walk away it´s not your game” may hold true for adults but for sure not for children. For children walking away is sometimes just necessary self-protection.

  14. In that context it would be interesting to hear from Jacob how he handles this game with his daughter. Do you point out to her easier ways to win like 2.dxc5 or 2.Ra1 or do you just ignore it and trust that these kind of things will take care about themselves as she improves over time?

  15. Jacob Aagaard

    I am for example talking about an 8-year-old slightly overweight girl with glasses being humiliated by a 12-year-old boy. To be honest, I worry about you if you cannot see the social problem here.

    And no, chess is not for everyone, but we do not put an 8 year old girl in the ring with a 12 year old experienced boxer, do we? (Actually, at Karate they but 5 year old Cathy to spar with a 14 year old and she broke down in tears and did not want to go back. Ignorant idiots…).

  16. Jacob Aagaard

    @The Lurker
    Again you miss the point. I do not want kids to not come back after their initial few visits. Eventually they will go to tournaments and get checkmated there. They will learn in time. I just want them to stick around long enough so that they enjoy the game.

  17. Jacob Aagaard

    Good points and a good question.

    I did show her “another win” in …Ra1, winning the queen. Because the queen is something special for kids this age. We look at taking pieces, protecting them, avoiding checks and such stuff all the time. Why pick out her big triumph and hollow it out? We can play with the Magnus App or the Mephisto Computer for 20 moves and I have 3-4 equally interesting moments to take apart.

    During the tournament we focus on three things.

    * LOOK!
    * Who is not playing (the pieces, not who cannot find their board)
    * Slow down

    Needless to say the results are mixed at their peak :-).

  18. @Jacob Aagaard
    If there are no other girls and no other child of the same age of the girl, I’d give the girl a material edge (removing for example the Queen or the Bishop on f1 to the boy). How can he mate in 4 moves without the Queen or the Bf1? Asking the boy to not open 1 e4 to avoid threatening the scholar’s mate in my opinion is not a solution. What happens when that girl goes somewhere (home, friends, school) and nobody has been warned not to mate her in 4 moves?

  19. @Jacob Aagaard
    Removing the Bf1 to the boy is a good exercise also for him because now he’ll understand that without the lightsquare bishop that attack is going to fail and will try to find another plan to mate her.

  20. @Jacob Aagaard
    I understand your point but “the game” is to checkmate the opponent king. Developing pieces and moving them around is NOT the game.

    Most children think the game is won by the player with most pieces at the end. This mistake, in my opinion, should be clarified since the beginning, the checkmate ends the game.

  21. Jacob Aagaard

    I respectfully disagree. It is only one part of the game. Actually, chess is making the best possible next move, nothing more. And thanks for taking the banter in usual good tone. You really are great, even if not the great man himself ;-).

  22. Always play the Reti. That’s a pleasant change from the “open games” dictate. With my kid I ask him before each game, “What sort of castle do you want to make for your king? ..Ok, and where do you want to put your ‘archer’ (local word for bishop). Do you want to put him in the castle or outside of the castle?”

  23. Just to jump in to the “openings to teach to kids” discussion (refreshing for once not to hear the dogmatism), Yasser Seirawan in his book on Winning Chess Openings recommends building the house, safety for the king, which means the fianchetto K-side, castling for both White and Black.

    I also agree on the reasons for “banning” the 4 move checkmate. Yes, by all means show the children the mate and the defence but encourage them not to use it to score a cheapo win.

  24. @Jacob Aagaard
    I most certainly did not miss the point. I just think you’re more worried about keeping paying students than about teaching the right way (which is to reprimand the kids when they are “arrogant little sods”).

    @weng siow
    A friend of mine, who is an amateur like me and was looking for a “businessman’s chess repertoire”, followed Seirawan’s Barcza Opening suggestion as White. Although I’m sure my approach against him wasn’t sound, it worked wonderfully. I played a perverse sort of reversed Saemisch, without pawn to c5 to save time. He just couldn’t work out the proper defense, and I demolished him so often I broke him of playing that opening completely. It was almost like Fischer’s “sac, sac, mate”, except I didn’t usually have to sac.

  25. Jacob Aagaard

    @The Lurker
    Three things

    a) the chess club is free and potentially overcrowded. I have been forced to hire an assistant.
    b) I care about the kids having a good experience for endless amount of reasons. I like more people to play chess. I like my chess club to be a pleasant place to be. I like to do good things to good people and general humanistic values
    c) I have been a trainer for more than 25 years. I think my opinions are not taken out of clear air.

    And for the fourth. Yes, you did piss me off a bit there. I do not expect to have my character soiled in this way from people I respect.

  26. Jacob Aagaard

    I do. But in the club I am on a fixed salary, guaranteed for years.

    My attitude to everything is to do what I desire and then get paid the fair amount. In some cases this is nothing. In other cases it is what some people would consider a lot. At the end of the day my finances hang together ok for the first time in a decade. I do not feel this makes me dubious in any way :-).

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