Friday, February 20, 2009

Kidz Night @ 4 Rated Games Tonight! Part I

Remind me the next time the public schools are on vacation to skip Thursday night. On a typical Thursday night there are usually around 20 to 30 entries. Of those entries there are normally around 5 kids that will attend regardless of whether it's school night or not. This particular night there were 40 entries, and 19 of them were kids. That would go up to 21 if I counted the two college students, but when they out rate me by 300+ points I don't really look at them as kids.

I guess if I use the rating difference criteria I shouldn't count my first and third round opponents as kids either. However since they're both ninth graders and I've known them since they were in kindergarten and first grade it's hard to think of them otherwise. My first round opponent was Alec Getz. He's a FIDE master and rated 2280. Of all the very talented kids I've watched progress over the years, he is probably one of the nicest and most humble kids I've encountered over the board. I've never seen him be a hot dog at the board, show up his opponent, or say anything unkind about others. I've nicked him once for a draw, otherwise I've lost to him. This night was no different.

Since I was on board 4 in round one I knew I'd get paired down for round two. Normally in this tournament I don't get paired down until round three. I knew I'd play somebody rated in the mid 1400s. Most likely I'd get another kid. Sure enough I'm black against a 6th grader rated 1454. My rule of thumb with kids like that is figure they're really about 100 points higher strength wise. I also figure they're going to play 1. e4 and then play something aggressive against my Sicilian. I was right on both counts. His March rating is close to 100 points higher then his February rating, and he played the Grand Prix against my Sicilian.

Lately my plan against this type of play is to open up the h4 - d8 diagonal and try to exchange the queens after the opponent comes into h4. Getting the queens off the board blunts the king side attack for the most part. Depending on the move order, I've found a number of players will retreat the queen to h3 to prevent the exchange. My opponent traded queens on move 13, and on move 20 offered a draw. We've played for all of about 15 minutes, and outside of two pawn trades, a minor piece trade and the queen trade everything else is still on the board. He obviously hasn't read this, this or this, or he would have known better then to offer me a draw so soon. I said I would think about it. Who was I kidding? There was nothing to think about. I wasn't taking the draw.

We trade off a pair of bishops and he offers me another draw. It's the second draw offer that always causes me to say something. At this point I tell him that if I want a draw I will offer one, but right now there too much left in the position. I find it's usually the second rejection of the draw that does the player in. It's almost like they feel they have to justify their draw offers, and suddenly they play very cautiously. Instead of looking for moves that might even give them the initiative, they play overly safe and allow the opponent to get an attack going. This is exactly what happened in our game.


I talked to the kid and his dad afterwards, and explained that it's not a good idea to simply be aiming for a draw in position that has so much play in it. My opponent responded that he thought the game would end out drawn. Maybe it eventually it would, but there were too many pieces left on the board to accept a draw in round two of a 4 round tournament. I explained how simply trying to get a draw changes one's mindset, and that it's hard to look for aggressive moves that may swing the position in his favor. The dad understood exactly what I was talking about.

In a game with even material it seems like it should simply trade down to a draw, but it doesn't work that way. There are dynamic changes that occur during the course of the game. Small errors can suddenly morph into position killers, and the simple draw becomes a fight for one's life. I would experience the same sort things in a "won ending" in round three. In part II I will recount how a wrong mindset came back to bite me.

I guess my little lecture helped him. He went on to win his last two rounds including a win against an 1800 who makes his younger opponents play almost all the way out to the end.


Anonymous said...

At USATE this year 4 out of 5 of my opponents were kids, and I noticed that a couple of them loved to offer draws - it's as if with no queens on the board every position is equal. They can't be getting coached with that attitude.
I think it will lead me to have an overall strategy when playing young opponents - swap queens as early as possible and try to bore them to death (or at least until they make a bunch of mistakes).

Polly said...

Anon: Too often kids are overly concerned about rating points, so they offer a draw in the hope that their higher rated opponent will take it and they'll pick up some points. I tell these kids they're not going to improve that way.

I've been guilty of "queens off the board, it's simple now". I rarely take draws if there is more then pawns and a minor piece each on the board. Too much can happen. I'd rather lose and learn why it happened then accept an early draw, and wonder what would have happened.

chesstiger said...

I sometimes offer a draw knowing that my opponent will not accept but then it's my opponent who has to prove that he is standing better and sometimes they overreach and i win the game.Kinda the opposite of what you are talking about.

Offcourse, sometimes they prove without mercy why they didn't accept the draw offer by throwing me off the board as if i am patzer number one.

Polly said...

Tiger: Draw offers seem like a simple thing, but in reality there is a lot of psychology involved both from the offering of a draw, to the declining of a draw. Then there is the whole psychology of playing for a draw without actually offering one. I will be discussing that in Part II.