23 March 2024

From a Youth Tournament

As tournament director for my city’s youth events, I see a lot of examples of basic skills not yet learned.

In one game today, I spent quite a bit of time watching a player with several pieces endlessly checking a lone king. The stronger side had a queen, bishop, and knight. Shortly after I began watching, he missed a mate in one. Thirty or forty checks later, his opponent captured the knight. Checks continued. Occasionally, I noticed that he seemed to be reaching for his king, but then grabbed the queen and checked again. After the bishop was captured, I began counting moves, thinking I might intervene at 50. As my counting got into the late 20s, there was a move of the king. The defending player did not try to stay in the middle of the board. When he was confined to the back rank, I could see a light come on in the mind of the player with the queen. He had some faint memory of lessons on how to checkmate with king and queen against lone king. With his opponent’s king confined to three squares on the eighth rank, he moved his king in closer. Although the king did not take the shortest route, he went in the correct direction. At the 35th move after the bishop was captured, checkmate was delivered.
Another game reached a somewhat more sophisticated ending after Black had thrown away a clear advantage.

White to move
With my phone, I took a photo of the position so that I could remember it. The young girl playing White thought for a few minutes and then played Bxf3. A few moves later, the game was drawn by insufficient material as White had only a bishop and Black only a knight.

From the diagram, I would have played Bc5. For young children, the direct attack (check, check, check,…) is easier to fathom than preventing the opponent’s plan by controlling the squares they want to use.
Another lopsided game reached this position.

White to move
White missed Qf1#, instead playing Kh3. After Kf2 and Qd1, the player of Black said that she could not find a move. After a few moments, they realized that Black was in stalemate.
The longest game was on the top board in round three. Two moves after offering a draw that was refused, Black captured White’s queen. 

White to move
Capturing with the pawn allows Ke4 and a trebuchet. White played Kxd4 and offered a draw, which was accepted.

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