How do I prepare my son for playing against stronger opponents?

Dear Karen

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Dear Karen,

My son is nine and has been in his school chess club for two years. He usually wins all of his games, and he thinks he is pretty hot stuff. (All the kids are beginners.) They are going to play in a scholastic tournament pretty soon. The chess club Coach told me there will be some really strong players there. Should I say anything to Simon before the tournament? I don’t want him to be upset if he loses some games.
Just wondering,


Dear Peter,

Good question. Yes, you should have a little talk about this before the tournament. You could tell Simon that there will be many strong players from other schools, and that he probably won’t win all of his games. But be sure to stress that the best way to improve his chess game is to play strong opponents. Also, be sure to mention that we always learn from losing to better players. (One Grandmaster says “You have to lose 1000 games before you get good.”) You might also point out that some of these kids take private lessons from Masters or Grandmasters. He might like to take private lessons too!

I started playing casual chess with a group of guys (all guys except me!) in 2015, and even though I lost most of my games for the first year, my skill level got better and better — by losing to those stronger players and learning from my mistakes. Now I am able to get wins over several of those guys who used to beat me every game!

Your son may actually win or draw some games against unrated players, players near his own skill level, or even against a much more experienced player. Part of the beauty of chess is that in any given chess game, either player can win – regardless of their rating. It all depends on studying the board, taking plenty of time before making a move, looking at ALL possible moves, and then making the best move. 

Cheers + Chess!


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