For many young chess players, winning a chess game in a tournament can be extremely challenging. Exactly why they might be struggling to win games instead of simply drawing them may vary from player to player, but it usually boils down to one of three problems, each of which has its own solution. Here’s a quick look at these three problems, and what your next step as a player, coach or parent should be.
Problem 1: The Player Isn’t Strong Enough to Win Yet
At some point, every player goes through this phase. At this level, the player simply can’t reach winning positions because their opponents are stronger than they are. At the scholastic level, this doesn’t need to last very long; simply learning to prioritize safety and recognize opportunities to win material is usually enough to attain an advantage against a large number of scholastic opponents.
However, while this will allow players to get to winning positions, this doesn’t necessarily mean the player will be able to win many games. That brings us to our next issue.
Problem 2: The Player Doesn’t Understand Basic Checkmating Patterns
At this point, the player is getting to winning positions, but is often either failing to reach a checkmate or is accidentally stalemating opponents on a regular basis. In this case, the player simply needs to learn a few basic checkmating techniques to allow them to head into lopsided endgames with confidence. The best places to start are learning how to mate with two heavy pieces (two queens, two rooks, or one of each), how to checkmate with king and queen, and how to checkmate with king and rook. In the vast majority of games, the player with the advantage will be able to reach one of these situations eventually.
Problem 3: The Player Doesn’t Take Enough Time in the Endgame
Finally, there’s a problem that has nothing to do with chess knowledge, but rather with the natural tendencies of many children. If a player rushes too quickly through endgames because they feel as though victory is assured, they’ll sometime surprise themselves by stalemating an opponent or leaving a piece unprotected. The fix for this issue is simply remembering (or reminding your young player) to take their time once they have the advantage in order to convert their victory. After all, there’s nothing worse than drawing (or even losing!) a game you know you should have won easily, and taking your time is the best way to avoid this.