Can you beat an eight year old at chess?

Mike Basman, December 2021

Chess players are getting younger and stronger every day, so in this test where you are paired against an 8 year old, you can find out how close you are to total and utter humiliation.

In the recent Oxted FIDE rated chess tournament, the organiser Mr Damodaran, bravely put his eight year old son Patrick into the top section. Patrick gained valuable experience in this event. I had the pleasure of meeting him. It was my only win.

In playing through this game, when coming to a diagram, there will be a question. Try to answer it to the best of your ability.

There will be a scoring system plus a success chart at the end of the article.
Of course, we can all beat eight year olds – can’t we?

If you are doing this test ON SCREEN, be careful not to scroll past the diagram before answering: if you are doing the test from the printed page, make sure you use a piece of card to cover below the diagram.

White: P. Damodaran Black: M. Basman

  1. d4, b5
  2. e4, Bb7

Q1: How would you have answered 3. Nc3 here?

diagram courtesy of chess.com

Answer: 3. Nc3 would be a mistake as black could reply 3… b4, 4. Nd5 e6 5. Ne3 Bxe4 winning a pawn. (4 points)

3.Nd2, Nf6
4. e5, Nd5

Q2: how would you respond to 5. Bxb5?

diagram courtesy of chess.com

Answer: After 4… Nd5, 5. Bxb5, Nf4 black regains the pawn, as he attacks g2 twice (4 points)

5. Ngf3, a6
6. c4, bxc4
7. Bxc4, e6

Q3: How would you respond to 8. Qb3 here?

diagram courtesy of chess.com

Answer: Sensible moves would be 8… Qc8, 8… Ra7, 8…Nb6. You could also try 8…Nc6!? 9. Qxb7 Na5 10. Bxd5 Nxb7 11. Bxb7 when white gets three pieces for the queen. (4 points for these moves; 2 points for 8…Bc6 or 8…Bb4.)

But better is 9. Qxb7, Nb6! Also interesting is 9. Bxd5, exd5 10. Qxb7, Nb4 threat Nc2+ and 11… Rb8 12. Qa7, Rb6 threat… Nc6.

8. 0-0, d6
9. a4?

diagram courtesy of chess.com

White’s first mistake, weakening the b4 square.

9… Nd7
10. Re1, dxe5
11. Nxe5, Nxe5
12. dxe5, Bb4
13. Qg4

Patrick was not familiar with my games against Keith Arkell and Mark Hebden (among others) from the 1980’s, otherwise he would have known that such gung-ho tactics are unproductive. He hopes for the craven 13… O-O, where he can attack by 14. Ne4, Bxe1 15. Bh6, g6 16. Rxe1, or even 14. Rd1.

Q4: Can you do better here for black than 13… O-O?

diagram courtesy of chess.com

Answer: 13… Qd7 is the right choice for black, as played in the game. (6 points)

13… Qd7!

Q5: This move sets a cunning trap. Can you see what it is?

diagram courtesy of chess.com

Answer: White could win a piece by 14.Bxd5, Qxd5 15. Qxb4, but then comes 15… Qxg2++ (6 points).

14. Qxg7?

Avoiding one pitfall, white stumbles into another.

14… 0-0-0

The black attack is now overwhelming.

15. b3, Rhg8
16. Qxh7

Q6: How should black continue now?

diagram courtesy of chess.com

Answer: 16…Rxg2+ demolishes white’s kingside, since after 17 Kxg2 Nf6+ wins the white queen. (6 points) Also good is 16… Nf4 (6 points) especially if you noticed 17. g3, Rh8! 18. Qc2, Rxh2 with evil checkmates like 19. Kxh2, Rh8+ and … Rh1++.

Supplementary question

Q7: Had white played 16. Qh6 instead of 16. Qxh7, (see next diagram), how would you have played?

diagram courtesy of chess.com

Answer: 16… Rxg2+ is still crushing, since 17. Kxg2, Ne3+ 18. Kh3, Bg2+! 19. Kh4, Nf5+ still wins the white queen (8 points).

Back to the game, after 16. Qxh7

16… Rxg2+
17. Kf1, Rdg8
18. Nf3

Q8. What is black’s best continuation here?

diagram courtesy of chess.com

A: If you chose 18… Bxe1, as in the game, score 4 points. But as Patrick pointed out after the game, 18… Nc3! is even stronger, since it threatens …Bxf3 followed by …Rg1++, whilst preventing the white king exiting via e2. (8 points for this answer).

We return to the game.

18… Bxe1
19. Kxe1, Nc3
20. Nd2

White was faced with two threats – …Qd1++ and …Bxf3.

Q9. How do you continue here?

diagram courtesy of chess.com

A: Black’s best is 20… Qd4! here, threatening mate at f2. It is important to draw the white queen away from the defence of the d3 square. (4 points) Less good is 20… Rg1+ (2 points) 21. Bf1!

20… Qd4!
21. Qxf7, Rg1+
22. Bf1

It seems white has everything defended.

Q10: How would you now conclude the attack for black?

diagram courtesy of chess.com

A: The most elegant way, as played in the game, is 22… Rxf1+, 23. Kxf1 (23. Nxf1, Qd1++) Qd3+ 24. Ke1, Qe2++. (10 points)

4 points for 22.. Qxe5+23. Ne4 Qxe4 + 24. Be3 which is winning but less destructive.

RANKING SYSTEM

Score

56-60

51 -55

41-50

31-40

21-30

20 and below

Description

DOOMED

Six foot under

Dinosaur status

Crustacian

Trilobite

Amoeboid

Grade (est)

2000

1800

1600

1400

1200

1000

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