I play through a lot of games by young players and one thing strikes me about them …. most of the time juniors only think about what they can do and little if any thought is given to what their opponent can do. Imagine if you were a toddler standing at the side of the road and on the other side he sees a lovely puppy. The toddler would love to pat this puppy so what does he do …. he starts waddling across the road towards the puppy. Has he stopped to consider that there may be cars on the road which will run him down and kill him? Of course not. That’s how young chess players play!
The other day I gave a lesson on this theme at a Primary School, demonstrating what happens if you don’t consider your opponents moves/ideas, then we started the school tournament. I strolled around looking at the games. One boy had quickly played … Nxe4 winning a free pawn. “”Have you” I asked him, “considered what your opponent may reply?” He gave me a vague, guilty look. “Because if he is very clever” I continued “he may play Rd8 checkmate! You have overlooked mate in one move.” I moved on. At the next board White had a black rook on f7 in a deadly Bishop pin against the black King on g8. He could take the Rook and win the exchange, but he wanted more so he played f4 hoping to exchange this pawn and open the “f” file for his rook to join in the attack on f7. “That’s a really clever idea” I commented, “but have you considered what you opponent may reply?” He gave me a vague, guilty look. “Because if he is very clever” I continued “he may play BxK! You have just made an illegal move! Clearly I have a bit more work to do to get my message across.
Over the last few days I have been visiting the Melbourne Chess Club to watch the Anzac Day Tournament in which a few of my students were playing. Most times when a junior plays stronger opponent the opponent will get a better position and grind them down over a number of moves. Sometimes, if you are lucky, there may be a brief opportunity to turn the tables and cause an upset, but the hard part is being alert for these opportunities and seeing the chances when they arise. A typical example is shown in the puzzle below. Black is rated about 900 points above his young opponent and has had the better game since the opening. He has just played Nf4 to fork the R and B but, if he is alert, White now has a chance. What should he play?