Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Young and old

Our sport needs advertising to grow or just even to survive but rarely its biggest asset is used. Chess can be played a whole life. It keeps intriguing and enjoying us. I am addicted to the game for more than 25 years and still every day I discover new things. Chess is an endless source of exciting stories on and off the board. Countless examples are shown on this blog.

An important role in all this are the absence of strict age-categories. Any physical sport must take into account the age of the person but a game of chess can be played between a very young player and a very old experienced player. Chess acts as a bridge builder between generations. It not only is a lot of joy but it is also a very easy topic of discussion.

Besides very young can be considered literally. At the age of 3 years children are already capable to learn the rules and adopt them in a game. My son Hugo wasn't yet 4 years old when he was together with his sister Evelien introduced to chess see cheating. On the picture below we see Hugo playing a game at home just before his fourth birthday.
No, I am definitely not a parent pushing my children to play chess. My daughter quickly dropped the game while Hugo slowly learned more and more about chess. Nothing was mandatory so it took 2 years to finish step 1. I believe there is a big difference with the performance of the 3 years old Misha Osipov in a Russian TV show. A genius or just a kid? I am not the only one asking if this is appropriate.

On the other hand support of the parents is absolutely necessary for very young children. Clubs must warn the parents if this isn't happening. I even dare to state that some minimum conditions should be demanded from the parents when they subscribe their child in a chessclub. Too often I see parents dropping their 7/8 years old child in the class without any further commitments. Sorry but this sounds more like an elite day care. Children can/ should play youth-tournaments once they are at step 2. I don't recommend earlier as often the rules aren't well mastered yet and the child risks otherwise to lose a long demotivating string of games. Hugo was already 6,5 years old when he started to join me to the youth-tournaments (see basic).

Beginning of 2017 Hugo achieved step 3 so time to try his luck in standard games. However here I encountered a problem as there is no club in the neighborhood arranging a standard competition in the daytime. No club had experienced issues with players going normally to bed between 8 and 9 PM. I toyed with the idea to contact my old club de Torrewachters in Roeselare. I know they have a very nice championship on Saturdays at 2 PM. But I didn't like the prospect of each week to drive more than 300km for just 1 game. In the end KMSK offered an emergency solution. Hugo could play a couple of games in 1 of their 10 teams of the interclub. 1 day after his 8th birthday Hugo played his first official game. Coincidence or not but there were 75 years difference with his 83 years old team-mate Walter Huyck.
Both players are clearly enjoying side by side a game of chess. The huge age-difference was no obstacle. Besides Walter remembered a cute anecdote which he shared with my son. Walter played 17 years ago once against me. Playing chess at a very advanced age seems to train the memory as indeed I do have a game in my personal database which I played against Walter.
[Event "Zilveren Toren Deurne - Mechelen2"] [Date "2000"] [White "Brabo"] [Black "Huyck, W."] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C82"] [WhiteElo "2261"] [BlackElo "1990"] [PlyCount "81"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5 Be6 9. c3 Bc5 {(It has been since my very first official game, 5 years ago that I met the open Spanish. Herman Ottevaere played at that time Be7.)} 10. Nbd2 O-O 11. Bc2 Bf5 12. Nb3 Ba7 13. Nfd4 Bd7 $146 {(I only found 1 correspondence-game with Nxd4 leading to complex play. My move is also shown by Fritz so looks interesting.)} 14. f3 Nc5 $5 { (Ng5 is answered by Be3 again with somewhat the better position for white.)} 15. Nxc5 Bxc5 16. f4 f5 $6 {(Black is not comfortable. F6 is risky because of Qh5. Qh4 avoids Qh5 but after Be3 white has also a clear advantage.)} (16... f6 $5 17. Qh5 h6 (17... g6 18. Bxg6 hxg6 19. Qxg6 Kh8 20. e6 Bxe6 21. Qh6 $1 Kg8 22. f5 Qe7 23. fxe6 $16) 18. Be3 Qe8 19. Qf3 Bxd4 20. cxd4 fxe5 21. dxe5 d4 22. Bd2 $14) 17. Be3 Nxd4 18. Bxd4 $5 {(Cxd4 is recommended by the engine but I prefer to exchange my bad bishop. Black proposes a draw with his next move which I reject.)} Qe7 $6 {(Slightly stronger must be Be7.)} 19. b4 Bxd4 20. Qxd4 Be6 {(Black hopes to build a fortress.)} 21. a4 c6 22. Ra3 Qb7 23. Bd3 Rfd8 24. Kf2 h6 25. Ra2 Kh8 26. Ke3 {(White can afford to bring his king to the center. This frees both lowest lines so the rooks can quickly switch between the wings.)} Qe7 27. g3 Rdc8 28. Rfa1 Qb7 29. Rg2 Rd8 $6 {(Rf8 or Qf7 to hamper the push g4, was better. A5 recommended by Fritz can be countered by Rga2 which shows why freeing both lines was useful.)} (29... a5 30. Rga2 axb4 31. cxb4 bxa4 32. Rxa4 Rxa4 33. Rxa4 $16 {(White has a big endgame advantage.)}) 30. g4 Qd7 $6 {(Again inaccurate as Qf7 was better to keep an eye at h5.)} 31. g5 Rg8 $5 {(Black realizes too late that white is not only playing at the queen-side. Fritz wants to play h5 but then g6 becomes a real headache.)} (31... h5 $5 32. axb5 $1 {(G6 can be answered by a5. White still has a big advantage but there is no clear win immediately.)} axb5 {(After cxb5 there is g6 and black has no counterplay.)} 33. Rga2 Rxa2 34. Rxa2 Qe8 35. Ra7 Ra8 36. Qb6 Rxa7 37. Qxa7 {(Black can not defend this any longer.)} Kg8 38. Qc7 g6 39. Kd4 Bd7 40. Kc5 Qe7 41. Qd6 Kf7 42. h4 Be8 43. Kb6 Qxd6 (43... Bd7 44. Qf6 Qxf6 45. gxf6 Ke6 46. Be2 Be8 47. Kc7 Bd7 48. f7 $18) 44. exd6 Ke6 45. Kc7 Bd7 46. Bxf5 $3 $18) 32. Qc5 $5 {(Gxh6 recommended by Fritz is probably a bit quicker but my move sets a nasty trap which is very difficult to avoid when you do not have much time.)} Qc7 $2 {(Black just waits. However black should have played here something like Rge8 although it would just prolong the game a bit.)} 33. axb5 $5 {(This wins but even stronger is gxh6 with the idea of exchanging rooks and next infiltrate with Ra7 after axb5.)} axb5 34. Rxa8 Rxa8 35. gxh6 gxh6 36. Rg6 Qf7 $6 {(Stronger was Qd7 as now also c6 drops.)} 37. Rxh6 Kg8 $6 38. Qxc6 Qa7 $6 39. Kf3 Bf7 $2 40. Qf6 Qa1 41. Rh8# 1-0
Walters playing-strength has decreased over the latest years but I don't think he really cares. Korchnoi or Strong Jan are/ were big exceptions. Jan playing our first board this season got 70 years old. Extraordinary if you know that last year he was laying for some time in the hospital for a cerebral infarct. In the past some players already died during a game due to cardiac failure see e.g. deaths at the chess olympiad. I know several (older) players whom don't play competitive chess anymore after their doctor warned them.

A lot depends of course of how a player looks at chess. Is winning still very important or can you quicker accept a loss? If I look at my son Hugo then I notice already a positive trend. It has been a while that he cried despite losing the first 3 games in the interclub. Nevertheless he is still motivated which his big smile betrayed when he won his very first game against the 55 years old Greek Nikolaos Zaimis.
[Event "Interclub Europchess - KMSK"] [Date "2017"] [White "Zaimis, N."] [Black "Hugo"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "B13"] [PlyCount "109"] 1. e4 c6 2. Nf3 d5 3. exd5 cxd5 4. d4 Nc6 5. Bb5 Bd7 6. Nc3 Nf6 7. O-O e6 8. Re1 Bd6 9. Bg5 h6 $2 {(Too often Hugo keeps his king in the center.)} 10. Bxf6 Qxf6 11. Nxd5 Qf5 12. c4 O-O 13. Nc3 e5 14. d5 Nb4 15. Bxd7 Qxd7 16. Nxe5 {(White is of course winning with 2 pawns up.)} Qf5 {(This attacks the knight at e5 and simultaneously threatens a fork on c2.)} 17. Qe2 $4 {(Qb1 and Nf3 counter all threats but it is not simple.)} Rfe8 18. f4 Qxf4 19. Qf3 Bxe5 20. Qxf4 Bxf4 {(Now Hugo has a won position. Technically it is still very hard for him as the white center-pawns are not so easy to deal with.)} 21. Rxe8 Rxe8 22. Nb5 Nc2 23. Rf1 Bb8 24. Rc1 Nb4 25. a3 Na6 26. Rd1 Rd8 27. b4 b6 28. h3 Nc7 29. Nd4 Ne8 $4 30. Re1 $4 {(Hugo escapes as Nc6 was again winning.)} Bg3 31. Re2 Bh4 32. Nc6 Ra8 33. Nxa7 Nf6 34. Nb5 Bg5 35. Kf2 Bc1 36. Ra2 Ne4 37. Kf3 Nd2 38. Ke2 Nxc4 39. Rc2 Nxa3 {(Luck? I do not know.)} 40. Rxc1 Nxb5 41. Kd3 Rd8 42. Ke4 Nd6 43. Ke5 f6 44. Ke6 Ne4 45. Rc6 Ng5 46. Ke7 Rxd5 47. Rxb6 Rd2 48. Ke8 Rxg2 49. Rc6 Rb2 50. Rc4 Nxh3 51. Ke7 f5 52. Ke6 f4 53. Kf5 f3 54. Kg6 Kf8 { (Nice. Hugo is still attentive.)} 55. Rf4 {(White did not want to see Nxf4 so resigned. A wild but surely deserved first win in the interclub for Hugo.)} 0-1
It is still too early for Hugo to go to big international tournaments like Gent, Charleroi,...  I think step 4 is a minimum with a rating of approximately 1400. I don't want to run before walking as some other youth-players do. Some -10 players already are at step 5 or 6 while technically they are not mature at all.

A real danger is children advancing too fast and getting exhausted at some point. I also see adults with unrealistic goals. Fun should always be the most important. Only if we respect that then chess can be something unique of which young and old can enjoy at the same time.


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