Monday, January 23, 2017

Ouch! That's My Ego You're Hurting..

Blogger: NM Peter Giannatos

This article has been something I've been waiting to write for quite some time. As the Director/Founder of the Charlotte Chess Center as well as an avid chess player, I've experienced the interaction between some grumpy old men and young children over the chess board.

What is great about children is that they do not hold grudges against any adults. Whether their adult opponents slam a piece on the board, mumble curse words under their breath, or stare into their eyes as an intimidation tactic, kids realize that they are there to play chess. What matters to them is the moves that are being played and outcome of the game.

Over the years I've had to hear so many complaints from adults about playing children. My advice is: Focus on the moves, leave your EGO at home.

If you are a true chess enthusiast, the age, race, gender, etc. of the player sitting in front of you should mean nothing. True chess lovers appreciate the game based on moves that are played not whether they are getting smacked down by someone half their age.

There are some things that kids do over the board that could be a bit annoying, but what we have to realize as adults are that those things are not done intentionally. Some of those things could be:

  • Eating at the board
  • Frequently getting up
  • Fiddling with Pieces (Non-Intentional, Just ask them to Stop)
  • Not Resigning (Often taught not to resign; Life lessons at work!)
The only thing that would bother me, which is why we do not permit it at the CCCSA, is eating at the board. I am a firm believer that if you would like to enjoy a snack during your round, you should do so away from the board so it is not a distraction. Bringing a 5 course meal to the table is simply not professional and it is up to the tournament directors to distinguish those rules in advance. (Both adults and kids are guilty of this!)

Again, I can not stress enough that to serious chess players the most important beauty in chess comes in the form of the moves themselves. In this century children are becoming Grandmasters in their early teens on a regular basis. Chess is becoming more and more a young man's game. 

Children are more than capable of playing a high level game of chess and while it may bruise your ego to lose to a child, you might as well get used to it!

In 2016 I was relatively active on the US tournament circuit. Below are my games versus some of the top US Juniors:

The first game is from the 2016 World Open. I was paired with then the youngest master ever from the US (9 Years, 11 months), Maximillian Lu. My strategy against young(er) players is to play somewhat quickly and solid. Get into endgames where they have the most limited knowledge and often get a bit lazy. In the final position my opponent flagged in an equal position (night round, probably past bed time. Who said there aren't advantages to being an adult!?). He had been outplayed most of the game but I continually failed to put the nail in his tiny little coffin.

My second game is from the 2016 Eastern Chess Congress where I played the youngest expert in the history of US Chess (7 Years, 6 Months), Abhinav Mishra. He played a solid game and it took me hours to grind him down. Ultimately he failed to hold an ending where he was slightly worse.

GM Caruana and Mishra

When I observe the games above, I do not see a 9 year old or a 7 year old, I see a chess player. I am more concerned about the quality of moves that I play, and my capability of holding my own over the board. Is there any additional pressure of playing kids so young? Not at all, chess is a young man's game and that is not going to change. My advice: Beat them while you can!

I am very grateful to have started a Chess Center and Club that allows for chess players of all ages, races, genders, etc. a place to play chess. The Charlotte Chess Center is a place for all players and as long as I am alive I will be sure to keep it that way!

Until Next Time,
NM Peter Giannatos

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