Category Archives: Children’s Chess

Recognising the Patterns : Challenge # 17

V. Anand against M. Carlsen in 2009 (WCH Blitz)

In the diagrammed position Anand was losing anyway, but he played 46.Rh1. This allowed Carlsen to mate him in one with 46…Qg3#.

This method of checkmating is called the Epaulette mate where the two escape squares have been occupied by the king’s own pieces, usually rooks. Here it is f1 & h1 which are taken by White’s two rooks.

Now try to solve following positions based on the same pattern:

Loek Van Wely against Alexaander Morzoevich in 2001: Black to Move:

White is losing anyway but in this position he played 21.Rf1, which allows Black to finish him off quickly.

Q: How will you proceed from here?
A: He set up an Epaulette mate as follows:

21… Rg8+

This sacrifice clears the 2nd rank for his queen by removing the blockage caused by White’s Bishop.




Gustav Richard Neumann against Karl Mayet in 1866: White to move

Q: What should White’s plan be here?
A: White can charge his h-pawn up the board to break up Black’s kingside.

27. h4

White wants to attack g6 in order to open up the 7th rank!


Apparently oblivious to White’s aims. Instead Black should play Rh7 in order to save himself from a quick disaster.

28. h5

Now mate can’t be avoided.


29. hxg6 Bxg6

Now what?

30. Qxg6!!

The concluding blow.

30…fxg6 31. Rg7#

Anderssen against Dufresne in 1851: White to move.

This position is not actual arose from captioned game; I have made few changes to the actual position for to enhance its teaching value.

Q: What should White’s plan be?

27. Bd5! Bc6

The bishop can’t be taken because of 27…Bxd5 28. dxc7+ Rxc7 29. Qxc7+ Ke7 30. Qd6+ Kd8 31. Qxd5 wins. And if 27…c6 then Qb6+ wins.

28. Bxc6 dxc6

Now what? Can you recognise the pattern?

29. d7!!

Winning a rook and the game. The pawn can’t be taken because of mate in one.

Ashvin Chauhan


Dear Parents

This is a open letter to all the well meaning and loving parents out there who work so hard to give their children an advantage in life by teaching them, in this case, the game of chess. I know you love your children and I appreciate your efforts to aid them in their journey through life. However, we often, in the name of love, do things that end up having more negative consequences than positive outcomes. Take teaching your child chess for example. How could teaching your children a game that helps them develop logic and reasoning skills possibly have any negative consequences? Well, in theory the idea is absolutely sound. However, in reality, where the rubber hits the road (as an old college professor was fond of saying), things can go terribly wrong.

Enter the well meaning parent. Now, I know some of you are not going to like what I have to say. So be it. I’m not a politician seeking office and would rather bruise a few egos to ensure this problem is corrected than hold your collective hands and say, “don’t worry, it’s going to be alright.” I’m here to fix a few things and in doing so help your children get the most out of chess. What do I mean by the well meaning parent?

We all want the best for our children and tend to shield them from the harshness of life with love. The last thing a parent wants to see is their own child crying. It’s heart breaking but it’s part of a child’s journey through life. Children try something, make mistakes, cry and move on (hopefully learning something in the process). Parents, rightfully so, don’t want to see their children feel any kind of pain, be it falling down on the playground or getting crushed on the chessboard. It’s the well meaning parent that bends the rules and principles of chess so their child can win (and not cry) that creates a plethora of problems for the child later in life as well as the chess teacher in the here and now. Here’s what I mean.

Our well meaning parent will decide to enroll their child in a chess class or club to give them an academic leg up. A few months before the class or club starts up, our parent teaches their child the game of chess. This sounds great so far doesn’t it? After all, my job will be so much easier if all my students know the basics before my class starts. The parent works with the child every night and those few months pass quickly. Armed with chess knowledge from mommy or daddy, my new student walks into class. I ask them if they know how to play chess and they enthusiastically answer yes! I sit down with them to play a game and they proceed to play a version of chess that has it’s own set of principles and rules. When I question them about questionable or illegal moves they respond the same way, “my father always does this, so I do that and I always win.” Here’s an example:

I had a new student who knew how the pieces moved and the very basics of the game. His father, who taught him how to play, had done a fine job so far. However, my student started the opening phase of the game without any regards to the most basic of opening principles. With each move my student made, I asked him if he knew about the proper way to start a chess game. His response was “to move pieces and win the game.” I opted to give him the chance (a one time offer) to choose alternative moves. He chose not to change the moves he made because, in his words “I always beat my dad when I play this way. Needless to say, I beat him and without mercy. A week later, the father came to class and asked me why I insisted on beating his son and “not even giving him a chance to win a few pieces!”

I carefully explained that the students I teach show no mercy on the chessboard, doing their best to win the game. I wasn’t trying to produce chess players that were mean spirited but chess players who simply played good chess. Of course, the father decided to avenge his son’s loss with me, expecting I would graciously loose to him so his son would be proud. Wrong. I’m not in the business of throwing games. I try to play to best of my abilities and expect my students to do likewise. I really hate being put in this position with parents.

Many parents, really great people who only want the best for their children, make a huge mistake in letting their children win. What happens when that child, whose parents let them win over and over again playing chess, faces another child who knows the basics and has faced losses on the board before? Tears and loathing for the game I love so much is what happens in most cases. Sheltering your child from loss can have extremely negative effects in the long run. Better to teach them how to handle losing before enrolling them in a chess class or letting them loose in the world!

The other big problem that crops up is the teaching of bad chess habits by parents. If I had a dollar for every bad chess habit I had to break in my classes, I could purchase a small castle somewhere. Again, it’s the well meaning parent with little in the way of principled chess knowledge that creates the problem. Bad habits are hard to break once they’re ingrained into a young mind. Compounding this problem is the statement “my father always does this” or “mom always beats grandma doing this.” Now it’s personal since the bad idea was hatched by a beloved family member. I really don’t want to be the guy that points out to children that their parents were wrong! I bet there’s a few parents that use a picture of me for a dartboard!

On the flip side of this problem are the parents who realize that they don’t know enough about the game to offer good instruction prior to their child’s first chess class or who know that it’s better to have their child face a loss on the chessboard with them before that child faces another child across the chessboard in class. I offer my parents the option of sitting in on my classes if they don’t play chess so they can learn along with their child, thus ensuring everyone is on the same page. I’m surprised at how many parents won’t take me up on the offer and then proceed to teach their children bad chess habits. The best life lesson I ever learned was discovering that I don’t know everything and should consult experts when need be! When it comes to the intellectual welfare of children, one should set their ego aside.

To remedy the problems discussed above, parents should take advantage of old fashioned books and new technology! You can find many great books, look up Richard James, and software programs/DVDs that properly teach chess to children. By doing so, you’ll ensure that your children are learning the right chess habits. Don’t be afraid of hurting your child’s feelings by beating them at chess. They love you and will get over it in five minutes. Play the best you can against your child because when your son or daughter sits down with a classmate, that classmate isn’t going to go easy on them. It’s much better to get a life lesson regarding losing on the chessboard than elsewhere in life. Children are a lot tougher than you think! Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It doesn’t make you a bad parent! In fact, in my book it makes you “parent of the year.” Here’s a game to enjoy until next week.

Hugh Patterson


Recognising The Patterns : Challenge # 16

Today’s Challenge: Find the typical pattern and react accordingly.

Pillsbury Against F. Lee in 1899; White to Move
This position was taken from Build Up Your Chess by Artur Yusupov.

1.Qf3!! Qxf3

If 1…Qg6 then 2.Bxf8 is winning, but text move leads to a quick mate.

2. Rg1+ Kh8 3. Bg7+ Kg8 4. Bxf6#

This way of checkmating your opponent is called Pillsbury’s mate.

Try to solve following problem based on the same theme:

Adolf Anderssen against NN in 1861: Black to Move

Q: Is it wise to take on d3?
A: Black should play here 19…g6 when the game is open for 3 results. Taking on d3, on the other hand, leads to quick finish as demonstrated by Anderssen.


Taking with the knight also leads to the same result.

20. Qxd3 Nxd3 21. Rxg7+

Removing the shelter.


Now the windmill attack is not possible here as Bishop has been already attacked by knight.

22. Rg8!!

Sacrificing the whole rook.

22…Kg8 23. Rg1#

Adolf Anderssen against Berthold Suhul in 1859: Black to move

Q: How will you proceed with black?
A: Black should play 17…Ne8! when he is more than OK. But in the game he played 17…Nc4 and soon got checkmated:

17…Nc4?? 18. Rg1!!

Threatening checkmate and to win knight on f6.

18… Ne8

Completely oblivious.
19. Qxg7+!! Nxg7 20. Rxg7+ Kh8

And now you know how to proceed, right?

21. Rg8+ Kxg8 22. Rg1#

Ashvin Chauhan



I’m the type of individual who would rather be good at a handful of things then master of one. I like intellectual variety in my life, probably because I enjoy a bit of chaos (but not a lot of chaos). I had a teenage student ask me how to get “good” at a number of endeavors and I had no concrete answer until I really thought about it. I’m sure some of you may be thinking “you can’t get good at at one, let alone few things, without having some sort of plan.” However, I tend to jump into things and figure out what works in achieving my goals (or what doesn’t), making a note of what does the trick. Intuition from a lifetime of learning simply kicks in. I use a variety of learning techniques depending on the subject matter. Yet, there is one common thread that ties together all my learning experiences and that is a solid foundation.

Building a solid foundation is the real key to learning something, be it chess, music or Mandarin. You simply cannot become good at something unless your knowledge of the subject at hand rests upon a solid foundation! On the first day of my first college class, the teacher stated that we would spend the first week learning how to study. I was amazed and appalled at the same time. After all, we were in college so we should already know how to study. After quizzing my classmates, it became apparent that none of us really knew the fine art of studying. It’s really quite simple. It comes down to time management and reading the texts in manner that allows you to comprehend the material (skimming through a chapter to become familiar with it, rereading it in detail and asking yourself, after each paragraph, exact what points the author was making). Also included in the professor’s instructions regarding studying were finding a quiet place to read and taking good notes.

However, he never really talked about the power of a strong foundation regarding the subject matter. This is where I’ll jump in! How good you get at something depends completely on the foundation of knowledge you build for yourself. Think about building a house. If you live in earthquake country as I do, building even the nicest house on a foundation of sand will lead to disaster when the ground starts to shake. Therefore, you build a house on a solid foundation of concrete (poured onto bedrock). The same holds true with learning. How far you get in your study of a subject depends on the foundation of information you create. Your foundation, in this case, requires a firm and complete grasp of the basics, the essentials.

We all know chess players who employ openings, for example that are beyond their grasp. They memorize an opening move order along with a few variations without having a solid grasp of the underlying principles. Then they play someone who makes a move they haven’t memorized and it’s game over! Before you venture off and play the Ruy Lopez, you need to understand the principles that guild each move. When white plays 3. Bb5, for example, you need to understand how this seemingly non-centralized move helps to control the center (the Bishop on b5 attacks the Knight on c6 who in turn is defending the pawn on e5). If you want to get good at chess you have to know the very basics of the game inside and out. It’s knowledge if the simplest concepts that allow you to learn and understand the complex ideas. There’s no room for partial knowledge if you want to win games against strong opponents. Too many times, a player will try to make a move he saw Karpov make, only to have it backfire and lead to a loss. As a beginner or improver, you can’t play like Karpov so you shouldn’t try. It’s the idea of learning to walk before trying to run! You build your foundation of knowledge as single brick at a time.

Another great example of building a solid foundation can be found in mathematics. If you wish to learn algebra and calculus, you need to have an absolute grasp of arithmetic! Many people dislike mathematics, and while they’re able to get through the basics of arithmetic with little pain, they usually have a little trouble with fractions (unless you live in a country smart enough to use the metric system which bypasses this annoying branch of mathematics). They skim through learning fractions, which weakens their mathematical foundation and then run into trouble when fractions are applied in algebra! Their thinking is this: Fractions are a small part of arithmetic as a whole, so if I do well everywhere else, I’ll be just fine! Wrong! It only takes one poorly placed brick to bring your foundation crashing down.

There’s no taking half measures when it comes to building a solid foundation. In studying Mandarin, I made a point of really working on the most basic aspects of the language, the tones. Some words in Mandarin are spelled identically but have different meanings based on how they’re pronounced. If you gloss over studying the tonal aspects of the language, you’ll never speak it correctly. You’ll proudly walk into a Chinese restaurant, place your order in Mandarin and be swiftly thrown out because you told the waiter his wife was a goat! Like memorizing a chess opening, you can memorize a huge number of words in Mandarin but if you can’t pronounce them, no one will understand what you’re saying (and you’ll never be allowed back into your favorite Chinese eatery).

So how does the beginning chess player build a solid foundation? Obviously through hard work and study. However, you have to progress slowly and not advance from one concept to another until you have a firm grasp of the material you just studied. I advocate over-kill when it comes to learning. You can’t study too much (within reason of course). Opening theory, something I talk about a great deal in my classes, is a great example of an area in which beginners tend to skim through. Patience, is the chess student and chess player’s best friend. When learning how to start a game, the opening, beginners more often than not, study the games of the masters. There is nothing wrong with this as long as you really understand the opening principles. As you play through the game of a master, ask yourself with each move made for either side, how do the opening principles apply here. Too often, a beginner will jump to the next move if her or she can’t figure out what opening principle applied to the previous move. Wrong! You have to determine the principle behind each move before moving onto the next. If you can’t figure this out, go online and do some research. There are millions of beginners out there and you can’t be the only one stumped by a particular move! By doing the research you’ll answer the question which will, in turn, strengthen your foundation. Play through the game you’re studying not once but five or six times. When you can play that particular game from memory you can move on.

The same holds true for tactical play. I use tactical training programs on my computer to improve my skills. However, I do something not everyone does. Most people will look at the screen, solve the problem and move on. Wrong! Tactics don’t appear out of thin air. They are set up. This means you need to look at moves made prior to the execution of the tactic! If the program you’re using doesn’t give you the moves made prior to the tactic in question (many don’t), find it in a database. I know this this takes extra time and you won’t be able to tell your friends that “I did 1,237 tactical puzzles today,” but you’ll learn a lot about how to set up the tactic in question. It’s all about the foundation you build!

Endgame play tends to stump the beginner because they never get to a proper endgame or if they do, they’re playing someone with endgame experience. Learn endgame principles and find someone to play endgame positions with, such as a chess playing program. Play pawn and King endgames until you’re eyes glaze over and then do it again. Slowly add more different pieces into the mix. Take it slowly, one brick at a time.

Going that extra mile, building a simple but solid foundation, will do wonders for your ability to take on more complex ideas (both on and off the chessboard). Like I said, you can’t run until you learn how to walk. Don’t worry about people around claiming to have sped through their studies because they’ll hit the brick wall fast learning soon enough. Of course, for anyone who has read my social media posts regarding my fast acceleration in learning Mandarin, it’s only happening because I build a solid foundation of the basics, which took a great deal of time and work. However, that work in fully grasping the simplest concepts is paying off. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson


The Poor Improver

Oh, the poor chess Improver. You know this person, the novice chess player who has learned the rules of the game, as well as some basic tactics and checkmates, but that’s the extent of their game knowledge. Why do I say the poor Improver? Because this chess player wants to improve his or her chess skills but faces a hard road to improvement. The road is hard because it requires work and dedication. However, the journey is made even more difficult due to the vast array of inappropriate training material available. Stop if you’re thinking that this last statement is ridiculous because it’s true! I know that, thanks to technology, improvers have a seemingly endless source of training options available to them. There are books, DVDs and countless software programs to help them get better at chess. It’s all wonderful and should be propelling players towards mastery. There’s just one problem. For the Improver there isn’t a lot of truly suitable material. The majority of training material is simply too advanced for them!

I don’t normally say this but I am a bit of an authority on this dilemma. Teaching and coaching beginners and Improvers, it’s my job to dig through all the available material out there and find training aids that are suitable for my students. Teaching and coaching is my full time occupation and something I love doing. To keep doing what I love to do, I have to give my students the best education I can so I examine a plethora of training aids to do so. What I’ve discovered is a nightmarish world in which the improver rarely gets the needed outside training support. While some who teach chess might smile because, after all, it forces the student back to their teacher for further improvement (more money for the teacher), I like my students to improve on their own. Here’s what I mean about the nightmarish world of chess self improvement:

You’re a novice Improver, one who knows the bare basics. You decided to pick up a physical catalog from one of the big chess supply businesses or go online and check out their training aids. You decide to look at books and DVDs. You see that the books and DVDs are all geared towards players within a set rating range, such as 1000 to 1400 (the ranges go up much higher). You’re at a rating of roughly 1000 and mutter to yourself “I’ll get this book because the caption says it’s good for players rated between 1000 and 1400. You order the book and, after it arrives, open it up to start improving. Within three pages, you realize it’s way over your head, requiring a more sophisticated skill set to get anything accomplished. Welcome to the world of self improvement!

This common problem arises because improves don’t realize that there is a huge skill set difference between a a player with a rating of 1000 and a player with a rating of 1400. While the 1400 rated player might sail through the book in question, the 1000 rated player will struggle. In a perfect world, an exact rating system would be applied to chess books. “This book is geared towards the player with a rating of exactly 1000.” However, this is unrealistic. Publishers have to sell their chess books to a broader chess playing audience in order to stay in business. Therefore, publishers use a rating range. So what’s the Improver to do?

My suggestion, one I give to all my adult students in this position, is to use books written for junior players. When I say junior players, I’m not talking about small children but kids between the age of 12 and 15. The books I recommend give clear, concise explanations that a 12 year old could understand, or a befuddled Improver. By using these books, you’ll gain a solid grasp of the subject matter that allows you to improve your skill set. Two titles that come to mind are “Winning Chess Tactics for Kids” and “Winning Chess Strategies for Kids,” both by Jeff Coakley. He’s also written other books in this series. What I like about his books are that they explain key concepts very clearly because they’re written for a younger reader, and the game positions he uses are to the point. These books serve as excellent stepping stones that will make working with more complicated adult chess books on the same subject much easier. If you feel embarrassed carrying around a kid’s chess book, make a paper book cover and write (in thick black ink) “The Super Grandmaster’s Advanced Guide to Extremely Complex Tactics.” If you feel silly about doing this, you should. There’s nothing wrong with any book that helps you improve (even books written for kids). If you want to get better at chess do what every it takes, within reason!

Now for those DVDs! DVDs employ a similar rating system with similar pitfalls for the Improver. The advantage to DVDs for many players is the visual aspect. Many players do better with animated pieces moving about the chessboard on their computer when it comes to learning. Here, you also have to be careful because even a rating range of 300 points can make comprehension difficult for the player on the lower end of the rating range. My first suggestion is to research the person lecturing on the DVD. Youtube is an excellent place to vet your electronic chess coach. Simply type in the person in question’s name on Youtube and watch a few clips. Ask yourself, did I get anything out of this clip or did it go over my head? If you want to cut to the chase, check out Andrew Martin and Nigel Davies. Both provide useful information in clear and concise ways. For example, Andrew Martin’s Winning Chess provides the Improver with really clear explanations regarding good overall play. I’m also a huge fan of Nigel’s Tricks and Traps series because it explains the mechanics of tricks and traps early in the game, allowing you to use them and better yet, avoid them. If you’re looking for a basic opening to learn, avoid the more varietal and complex opens, such as The Ruy Lopez or The Sicilian Defense and opt for simpler openings such as The Italian Opening. You can’t learn to run until you learn to walk! At least with DVDs you have the option of sampling them online before purchasing them.

Now for training software! Here, the Improver stands a better chance of improving! As with the other aids for self learning, you have to do some research. Training software also uses the same rating ranges. However, I’ve found that the range tends to favor the player on the lower end of the spectrum. Peshka (ChessOk) has some good programs geared towards the low end Improver, such as their Mate In One and Easy Ways of Taking Pawns and Pieces. While these are really simple, they help you develop your chess eye! They also have a Mate in Two, Mate in Three and tactical training programs that are good. Again do your research. Chess King (also by the Peshka folks) has three good Tactics Training software programs. There are many other programs to consider as well. Training software tends to gear itself (for the most part) to lower level players.

When choosing a training aid, the more research you put into your potential purchase, the less likely you end up with something geared towards a master level player. Ask around. Go onto a chess forum (something I never thought I’d suggest) and ask other improvers what’s worked for them. With all training aids, go through the information at least two or three times. I have gone through Chessbase Training DVDs at least three times. Why? Because the more I work through them the more knowledge I gain. You’d be surprised at how much you miss the first time through. You only discover this fact by going through the DVD again and again, where you pick up more and more.

You don’t go out and buy the first car you see and you shouldn’t go out and purchase the first training aid you run into. Do the research. While you can find a great deal of good training videos on Youtube, you have to remember that anyone can claim to be a chess guru online. Google the name of someone claiming to have a great training video and see what qualifies them to make that claim. Do your homework. Beware titles like “Grandmaster Secrets for Beginners” and “Instant Chess Mastery.” If it sounds too good to be true then it is! Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson


Too Young for Chess

When I was a small child, when technology such as the cordless phone was still considered science fiction, children were allowed to grow intellectually at a natural pace. We grew through our own trial and error way of discovering the world around us, with our parents patiently watching from the sidelines. Now, parents seem to be goaded (often by other parents) into developing their child’s mind literally while that child is still in the womb. When the child is finally born, the race for intellectual superiority is in full swing. Every parent is convinced that their child is brilliant, capable of changing the world (and a few do go on to do just that). Of course, there’s nothing wrong with thinking your child is absolutely brilliant but when you push a child at too young an age, more damage can be done than good. In my work teaching chess to children, I find an overwhelming number of parents enrolling their children in my classes at too young an age. They also expect their young children to excel at chess because, after all, their children are brilliant (according to the parents). Einstein’s childhood exemplifies the falsehood of developing a child’s mind at an early age in order to increase their chances of becoming the next great intellectual thinker of our times!

While it’s generally a good idea to learn chess at a young age, there is a minimum age at which the game should be introduced. Expose a child younger than that age to the game and the results will be mixed at best. For example, I have an entire class of kindergarten students who are roughly five years of age. Five years of age is far to young to get any real benefit out of chess. Why? Because chess requires abstract thinking that five year old children just haven’t developed. While I have had a few exceptions to this rule, the majority of kindergarten students shouldn’t be taking a chess class. They should be playing with Lego building blocks instead which actually would help them develop the mindset needed for chess. Building things, using the trial and error method, teaches young children how to problem solve, a requisite for playing chess. It also introduces them to abstract thinking. However, many (but not all) parents love to tell other parents that their children are studying chess “and they’re only in kindergarten!”

It’s as if there is this race to see who can produce the youngest genius but what it comes down to is childish bragging rights on the part of the parents. I recently had a parent of one of my kindergarten students say that her son wasn’t playing chess very well after two months in my class. I replied that, at the age of five, just moving the pieces correctly should be considered a milestone within this time frame. I asked her what she considered to be “playing chess well.” She said that her son was unable to deliver checkmate when playing her husband. By the way, her husband is a chess know-it-all, who makes weekly suggestions regarding my teaching program (beating him at chess on a regular basis seems to be a poor deterrent and pointing to my student’s tournament victories has little effect as well). Honestly, I had to keep my thoughts to myself because, after all, teaching chess is my job (although I consider it a privilege). Negative commentary on my part would create problems for our chess organization ( my sudden unemployment) leading me to a career in customer service which would leave the city of San Francisco with even more angry people. If I could speak freely, I’d tell her she was an idiot with no idea of how to develop her child’s mind (as well as a total disregard for anything resembling fashion sense). I’d also tell her that her husband was a Patzer. However, I patiently explained that children of a certain age don’t have the capacity, brilliant or not, to understand ideas that require a specific level of intellectual maturity that is developed over time (age)! There’s nothing wrong with wanting the best for your child, you just have to make sure you’re not pushing your child to satisfy your own needs. There might be someone that reads this and thinks “well my kid started chess classes at age five and learned the game quickly.” This does happen. Case in point, one of my five year old students: His father played club level chess and spent the better part of eighteen months working with his son, just concentrating on how the pawns and pieces moved. He also consulted the appropriate books and did the appropriate leg work. When his son arrived in my class, at the age of five, he actually knew quite a bit about the game (especially for a five year old). What made the difference, between the mom with no fashion sense and the well prepared chess playing dad? Dad took his time and didn’t set his expectations in the clouds! Patience is a word many parents think they know but often need to reacquaint themselves with it when it comes to chess and expectations.

I truly believe that everyone can benefit from chess, especially when it comes to life lessons. Chess can give children the ability to problem solve with relative ease. However, timing is everything! Putting a small child into a structured chess class can be extremely boring for that child because they don’t understand the concepts. It doesn’t mean they suffer from sub-intelligence. It just means they’re too young for abstract thinking and extended periods of focusing on something. Yet, many parents think their child has an intellectual problem if they’re not doing well in my chess class. Of course, I try to explain to them that this simply isn’t the case but we live in a world in which parents push their children to the breaking point, thinking they’re helping that child develop an advantage. Dear parents, there is no real intellectual race and parents who allow their children to develop their minds on their own often end up with children who go on to do amazing things.

Parents should also consider whether or not their children actually want to play chess at all. I’ve had students enrolled in my classes who have no interest in the game but their parents force them to attend. Fortunately, I can usually make the game interesting to them but it seems counterproductive to the child’s intellectual growth. What’s wrong with having a child not interested in chess take music lessons instead? Better yet, why not ask the child what they might be interested in? Parents never seem to consider asking their child what they want to do.

I know this all may seem a bit negative but I’m in the trenches so to speak and and watch the great intellectual race run every single day. So, what age is the right age to introduce children to chess? It depends on a number of variables so there is no concrete answer. However, I’ll pose a simple question to determine whether your child is ready for a chess class. Does your child have a problem with sitting still and focusing for 10 to 15 minutes at a time? If the answer is yes, then your child isn’t ready. When I say “focusing,” I don’t expect your child to be able to concentrate on something with the metal dexterity of a Jedi Knight. However, could you ask your child to look at a slightly abstract drawing for a few minutes and then have them answer some simple questions about that drawing, such as what they think it depicts and why they think it depicts what they think it depicts. Can they create a story around the picture? How long can they study the drawing before they start fidgeting? This simple test will tell you a bit about the concentration, depth and abstract thinking your child employs when looking at the drawing. While not an exact science, it tends to shed some light on the issue of being able to sit still, concentrate and interpret an abstract form. There are a number of ways to garner this information, such as having your child build something with Lego building blocks and then explain what they’ve built. Note how long your child spends working on the project.

The point is this: Test your child’s ability to sit relatively still (after all, even the most well behaved children will always fidget a bit), concentrate on something and provide an explanation before enrolling them in a chess class where they’ll have to sit still, concentrate and tackle abstract thinking. Don’t force your child into taking a chess class if they don’t want to. Let them become interested in the game on their own. Forcing them into taking on such a complex game will only produce negative results. The older they are, the better the chances that they’ll enjoy the game and learn how to play it correctly. Third grade is a good age to start taking a chess class.

If your five year old child doesn’t take to chess like a duck to water, don’t worry about it. You can always try again when they’re older. Don’t force the game on them because children don’t want to do what they don’t want to do. Be gentle, nurture your children and allow them to grow at their own pace. It worked wonders for Einstein. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson



You’ll find a lot of chess playing royalty in The (Even More) Complete Chess Addict, but this isn’t about that sort of royalty.

A few weeks ago I received my six-monthly royalty statement covering sales of Chess for Kids and The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids between January and June 2015.

Chess for Kids had 1930 home sales, 22 export sales and 146 electronic sales, giving me earnings over the six month period of £600.08. It’s the only book I’ve written that has covered its advance and made a profit.

The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids, on the other hand, had only 55 home sales and 61 electronic sales, minus 4 export sales returns. Many of those would have been bought by parents on the recommendation of myself or my friends and colleagues. It’s nowhere near paying off its advance, and, barring a miracle (such as the ECF setting up a formal junior chess structure and recommending the book to parents), never will.

Now it strikes me that, in a sensible world, the sales ratio between the two books would be very much the other way round. The Right Way to Teach Chess to Kids is the only UK-centric book on the market for parents and teachers who want to introduce chess to young children. Now, whether you’re a parent or a teacher, if you want to teach your kids something new you’d find out about it first, wouldn’t you, to make sure it was really going to be suitable? And if you knew about it already you’d want some advice on the best way to teach it. In which case you’d have no choice but to consult my book. Once you’ve read my book you might decide that chess is not going to be suitable for your children, or that they are too young and it would be best to wait a year or so. Or you might decide that you should start teaching your children chess and that it might be a good idea to buy them a chess book. Now there are quite a lot of chess books for young children on the market, all of which teach essentially the same material (how the pieces move plus some elementary advice on tactics and strategy) but in different ways. You might like my approach, a story using subversive humour and illustrated with cartoons, or you might prefer a different method: it doesn’t really matter too much which you choose.

I sometimes hand round flyers in local primary schools offering parents a free session for them and their children. I will visit their house at any convenient time, bring a proper chess set with me, and spend between half an hour and an hour with them, talking through a game with the child and explaining to the parents how they can best help and support their children’s interest in chess. Or if they prefer they can visit me and see a wide range of coaching materials. Whichever they want: either way there’s no charge. Because of all the enjoyment chess has given me over the years I’m more than happy to give up my time for free to ensure that kids get a good start in chess. But how many takers do I get? None. A big fat zero. And every school I visit it’s exactly the same. Many parents want their children to learn chess because they see it as beneficial. But most parents, at least in my part of the world, are not prepared to help their children learn. Why? Because they wouldn’t want their children to have Top Trumps lessons, and they see chess as a trivial kids’ game like Top Trumps rather than what it really is: an exceptionally difficult game, more suitable for older children and adults, which younger children will probably need a lot of help to understand.

Yes, chess can be a very powerful learning tool, but only if it is broken down into its component parts. In my opinion playing more or less random moves is not chess and children who are just doing this will derive little benefit and no lasting interest in the game, but unless they’re getting more adult help than they’ll get from a school chess club once a week, that’s all they will do. I know that children will learn more in an hour’s one to one session with a good teacher than they’ll learn in a term at a school chess club. How can we get the message across to parents that teaching your children the moves in half an hour and signing them up for their primary school chess club is really not the best way to go about introducing your children to one of the world’s most complex and profound games?

Richard James


The Line of Scrimmage

I received an email a while back from a gentleman who is a professional football player. He decided to take up chess as a way to relax and exercise his mind while on the road. He carefully explained that he was have trouble with fully grasping the reasons for control of board’s center during the beginning of the game. He asked if I could explain the idea in simple terms. I thought about and decided to use an analogy he’d understand. The key to both good teaching and meaningful learning is to find explanations that allow one to understand a concept comfortably. Thus, the line of scrimmage.

In American football, the line of scrimmage is an imaginary line that runs across the width of the football field. Players of either team cannot cross this line until play has started. When you watch a football game, you’ll see both teams facing each other on either side of this line and when the play starts, one team tries to push across the line of scrimmage while the other team tries to hold the line, keeping the opposition from getting across.

During the opening phase of a chess game, the line of scrimmage can be thought of as the line between the fourth and fifth ranks. This line divides the field of battle, with the fifth through eighth ranks being black’s territory and the first through fourth ranks being white’s territory. In football, it’s the quarterback’s job to get the ball over the line of scrimmage either into the hands of a receiver or carry it himself to the opposition’s goal line for a touchdown. While the quarterback is trying to accomplish this task, his teammates are trying to keep the other side from attacking and tackling the quarterback (or the poor receiver running for his life down the field). His team mates are defending the line of scrimmage. Attack and defense, two concepts football and chess players need to be familiar with.

During the opening, you’re trying to hold down your side of the board while pushing across the line of scrimmage to gain space on your opponent’s side of the board. In football, it’s a lot easier to score a goal if you’re closer to the opponent’s goal line. The closer you get, the better your chances of scoring. The line of scrimmage in a football game moves back and forth and the closer your team gets to the opposition’s goal line, the easier it will be to score a touchdown.

The same idea holds true in chess, especially early in the game. If you’re playing the white pieces, you’ll want to gain a foothold in the center immediately. You’ll want to strengthen your control of the line of scrimmage as quickly as possible. Why is the center of the board so crucial? First of all, pieces have greater power and thus greater control when centrally located. Secondly, the opposition King sits on a central file and he’s the guy you want to get at. In football, the quarterback starts behind his teammates near the center of the line of scrimmage. This is why you’ll see the opposition rush across the center of the scrimmage line. When the play starts, you don’t see everyone running towards the line’s flanks. Because of this, the quarterback’s teammates will build up a heavy presence at the line’s center, defending it. The team that owns the line line of scrimmage usually owns the game (provided they can get the ball to the opposition’s goal). In chess, you build up a strong presence at the board’s center. You defend your territory, keep the opposition tied down and only then consider an attack. However, you have to use the right players for the job.

You can consider the Queen as the quarterback. This means that if you bring her into the game early, she might get taken out before she has a chance to score the game winning touchdown or checkmate (Queen based checkmates are the beginner’s mate of choice)! Therefore, you have to use the right players, or pieces in this case, for the job, and in a specific order. Start with your defensive linemen, the pawns. Pawns have great power against pieces because of their relative value. Your opponent isn’t going to trade a piece for a pawn early in the game (yes, there are exceptions to this idea but we’re just going over the basics for now). It would be like trading your best football player for one with a permanent injury, unable to run. Because of their value, pawns can stand in the center and keep the opposition’s pieces at bay, as long as they are protected. In chess teammates must protect teammates. Next bring in the linebackers, the Knights and Bishops. They have more agility or power than the pawns and work well at controlling the center right away. Again, it’s about the center during the opening so you have to move them towards the center. In football, linebackers are the guys that stop the passes, push forward and sometimes sack the opposition’s quarterback. Like the linebackers, your Knights and Bishops have an extremely important job during the opening and if you leave them on the sidelines (their starting squares), you’ll pay the price.

In football, you keep your quarterback safe because if he can’t play, you’re going to have a hard time scoring a goal. This is why we don’t bring the Queen into the game early. In chess, we also have to keep our King safe because when the King goes down the game ends. The easiest way to do this is to castle your King early on. This special move has the added bonus of bringing a heavy hitter into the game, the Rook. When castling King-side for white, the Rook ends up on the f1 square. From there, it’s only a one square move to e1 where our Rook will be opposite the black King. In football, this would be the equivalent of having a fast moving 350 pound tackling expert aimed at the opponent’s quarterback.

During the opening, you bring the right team members out onto the field, in this case the board, in a strategic order. You play for the center and control of your opponent’s side of the board while holding down the line of scrimmage, keeping your opponent from gaining a foothold on your side of the board.

Then there’s the Hail Mary play in football or the fast checkmate attempt in chess. In football, when things get desperate, the team coach will often try a play that has little chance of succeeding. Sometimes it does and that play goes down in history (look up the Hail Mary football play). In chess, this kind of play fails when employed against an opponent who knows even a little about the game. You have to avoid all or nothing attacks. You build up an attack the same way you would push the line of scrimmage towards the opposition’s goal line to ensure a touchdown. Slow and steady wins the race. Of course, opportunities may present themselves, allowing you to deliver a deadly blow in the form of checkmate. However, this rarely happens when playing skilled opponents, so play the long game not the short game. To win a football game, you have to play all four quarters.

So that is a little of the analogy I gave my football playing friend. Once he applied the game he knows so well to the game he’s just learning, he started to make better decisions during the opening. If you’re learning the game of chess, try to take concepts you know from other endeavors and see if you can use them to create a useful analogy of your own. Here’s a game until next week. Watch the line of scrimmage in this one!

Hugh Patterson


Scholar’s Mate Revisited

Once a month, my students play in a local tournament here in San Francisco. The tournament is very casual because it’s meant to introduce new players to the idea of competitive play in a non stressful manner. My students do extremely well and have done so for a number of years, due to their hard work (as opposed to my instruction). My students aim for longer games, not trying to pull off fast checkmates, and exercise principled play. However, in the beginner’s section, their were a few of their opponents who had been taught the Scholar’s Mate as a means of winning games quickly. Of course, this method of winning works exclusively on players with no practical experience. While my students know how to easily defend against such a ghastly attack, a fair number of students from other schools fell victim to this rather shaky ploy. Therefore, I decided to revisit this topic so any of you who are new to the game won’t fall prey to it.

Scholar’s Mate, otherwise know as the four move checkmate, is a favorite attack with very young chess players. While I dissuade my students from employing it, parents will often allow their children to use it against them in an effort to encourage further study of the game. These parents feel that allowing their children to win, using this attack, is a form of positive reinforcement. Sadly, it has the opposite effect in the long run. It may win a few games at junior level but it will lead to a greater number of losses against slightly more skilled opponents later on. Good chess is all about building a position up until you have more directional options, not going for the quickest attack possible. With that said, let’s look at this sketchy form of checkmate.

The target square for this checkmate is the f7 square. Why the f7 square? Because it’s the weakest of two square on the board (f2 being the other) at the start of game. It’s weak because the only defender of the f7 square is the King and the King isn’t in a position to defend early on. White’s weak square at the start of the game is the f2 square. While I’m giving this example from white’s point of view, it should be noted that black can also checkmate on the f2 square employing the same technique. The first step to avoid falling victim to the Scholar’s Mate is to know that the f7 square is the square to watch.

When we first learn the game, we’re taught to start out with the move 1. e4 for white and 1… e5 for black. Both sides place a pawn on a central square and open up lines for the King-side Bishop and Queen. You should note this (opening lines or diagonals for Bishop and Queen) when making this first move. Playing the black pieces, you should note that your King and f pawn are on light squares while the white Queen and King-side Bishop are also on light squares. This alone suggests the possibility of an early threat. However, there’s no need to panic yet if your playing the black pieces. It’s move two that will tell you whether or not your opponent is going to go for a fast checkmate. As a beginner, it can be difficult to fully comprehend the possibilities within a position. Of course, when there are only two pawns on the board, it’s not too difficult! However, move two will be the test! I’ve already mentioned that the black King and f pawn, and white’s King-side Bishop and Queen are on light squares. White’s two pieces are also no longer blocked in by the e pawn. As the person playing black, you should watch white’s next move carefully. If white plays 2. Nf3, you don’t have to worry about Scholar’s Mate. However, if white plays either 2. Bc4, 2. Qf3 or 2. Qh5, it’s time to start paying extra close attention to the action!

Normally, we’d see white moving the Knight to f3 on move two. Once the Knight occupies the f3 square, the white Queen can no longer move to either f3 or h5. Let’s say that white instead plays 2. Bc4. At this juncture, the beginner should follow the squares the Bishop controls, paying close attention to the f7 square which the Bishop attacks. Of course, there is now only one white attacker (the Bishop) and one defender of f7 (the King). Placing the Bishop on c4 is the start of a legitimate opening for white but you’re not likely to find many beginner’s pursuing this line. Therefore, you should consider it the start of a two piece mating attack on f7. Developing the Bishop first during the Scholar’s Mate is the less obvious way to employ this attack. Many beginners will be far less subtle and move the white Queen to either f3 of h5. In either case, the beginner should draw an imaginary line from either the Bishop or the Queen and see if that line intersects with the f7 square. If the answer is yes, alarm bells should sound off!

With 2. Bc4, the beginner can continue with a normal developmental move for black. Ideally, 2… Nf6 will put the kibosh on this attack because the black Knight on f6 blocks a Queen attack from f3 and keeps her off of the h5 square. Remember, to deliver Scholar’s Mate, you have to have both white’s Queen and light squared Bishop simultaneously aimed at f7 with nothing standing in the way (blocking). See the example below.

Alright, that seems simple enough. However, beginner’s not familiar with this attack tend to end up in trouble by making what they think are correct moves. Let’s say that we reach the position below after 1. e4…e5, 2. Qh5…g6:

Black, being an inexperienced player, has decided to use a pawn to attack the Queen, thinking that a one point pawn will force the nine point Queen away from the attacking square. Well, the Queen does move but unfortunately, she simply takes the e5 pawn with check (Qxe5+…Be7, 4. Qxh8), forking the Black King and Rook on h8. Black loses the Rook and often other valuable King-side material. Black’s mistake was not fully looking at all of the white Queen’s possible escape squares. The correct move for black is 2…Nc6 which defends the black pawn on e5. Remember, the Queen combines the power of the Rook and Bishop, so she can go a lot of places on the board. Therefore, you should note every square she can move to before considering a response. Don’t attack the Queen until you’ve defended any undefended pawns or pieces.

In our next example, black get a little further with piece movement but makes a fatal mistake in the end. After 1. e4…e5, 2. Bc4…Nc6, 3. Qh5, black once again decides to attack the Queen with 3… Nf6. Well, black is attacking the Queen with a piece of lesser value but the Knight is not blocking the Queen’s access to the f7 square. The Queen simply smiles and winks at the Knight and she slips past to f7 delivering checkmate (Qf7#).

The third move that black could have made was 3… g6, attacking the white Queen. This move works now because the Knight on c6 is stopping the Queen from taking the pawn on e5 with check. Now, it’s safe to use the black g pawn to attack the white Queen.

Scholar’s Mate is very easy to defend against if you’re paying attention to the geometry of the attack on the board. Knowing that f7 is extremely weak and knowing that it is the epicenter for many mating attempts goes a long way toward preventing such attacks. Noting that the white Bishop or Queen has come into play on move two gives you advanced warning of this specific mating attack. Following the attacking lines formed by the white Queen and Bishop and seeing them intersecting at the f7 square helps prevent falling victim to Scholar’s Mate. Now, if you suddenly notice that white’s Queen and Bishop are aimed at the f7 square, provided it’s black’s turn, you can always either play Qe7 or Nh6. In either case, you’ll have two defenders to white’s two attackers. Remember, the checkmate will not work if attackers equal defenders in this case. If white had a Bishop on c4 and a Queen on f3 (with an unblocked attack on f7), and you had your Queen on e7, white wouldn’t go through with the attack because they’d be trading 12 points of material for 10 points of material (black’s f7 pawn and Queen).

So pay attention to white’s light squared Bishop and/or Queen coming out early if they’re aimed at your f7 pawn if you want to avoid such an awful and quick demise. Use common sense and you’ll avoid becoming yet another victim of the Scholar’s Mate. As white, apply the same ideas to the f2 square. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week!

Hugh Patterson


When Openings Go Terribly Wrong

There is a huge difference between simply memorizing an opening and fully understanding the underlying mechanics of that opening. While this should be obvious to anyone with a bit of experience, beginners often don’t consider the difference between knowing the moves (and move order) of a specific opening versus understanding the reasons those moves are made. Compound this with the fact that the very games beginners are memorizing in an effort to learn an opening are played by titled players and you have a recipe for disaster. If you’ve memorized an opening played by two master level players, you’re counting on your opponent making the same moves as were made in the game you memorized. This might work if you were playing a Grandmaster but when playing another beginner, you’ll never see high quality responses to your memorized moves. You can memorize a surgical procedure but if you tried to perform that procedure, you’d likely kill the patient because you don’t understand the reasons behind each swipe of the scalpel.

When we play through the games of the masters, we’re watching two very experienced chess players facing off against one another. There is a huge difference between the skill level of a master compared to the skill level of a beginner. Master level players have played the specific opening they’re employing thousands of times so they have practical experience. However, and more importantly, they have a solid grasp of the underlying principles that guide each move they make during that opening. They know exactly why they’re making a specific move. In addition, because they have played this particular opening so many times, they know what to expect in the way of responses, even the more off beat or off book ones. Underlying mechanics is the key here.

If you memorize a series of moves and responses to those moves, you expect your opponent to make the appropriate reply when it is his or her turn to move. Beginners more often than not, make moves that are not the best response to your memorized move. This means, you might be able to play the first three moves of your memorized opening flawlessly but then your opponent throws you a curve ball, making a move that you didn’t memorize a response to. What do you do then? Well, if you have no idea about the underlying mechanics or reason for a move, you usually go down in flames! This is when an opening goes horribly wrong!

Of course, we learn how to play by studying and subsequently memorizing the games of the masters so you can’t simply dismiss them as a slightly flawed learning tool. However, you need to understand the reasoning behind each and every move when studying an opening. By understanding the underlying mechanics of a move, you’re more likely to respond to an off beat beginner’s move correctly.

Of course, I have memorized plenty of openings including their mainline and variations, and this is a good thing. However, I understand why each move was made and know how to deal with opposition moves that take us off book. By book, I mean the excepted mainline/variation moves. Moves that are off book are those not normally played for whatever reason (usually because they don’t work). I know the difference between memorization and principled mechanics.

Principled mechanics are move ideas that apply the opening principles and their underlying mechanics. The great thing about the opening principles is that they allow you to decide on the appropriate response using sound guidelines to help make a decision regarding what to do. Again, when you learn an opening, you usually do so by studying the games of master level players. This does mean you’ll be memorizing a move order. However, you have to understand each opening principle and how it applies to the move being made. You also have to be flexible with move order because sometimes, move order changes in response to your opposition’s current position. This means that if you simply memorize a sequence of moves and try to play it in the order you memorized it, you may end up sinking the ship early! Underlying mechanics based on principled play is the only way to learn an opening.

Of course, I’ve harped on opening principles with the tenacity of a used car salesman who has just spotted a rube on the car lot, but for good reason, because you’ll get nowhere unless you know these principles inside and out. Yes, you have to do a bit of memorization but, you have to know why each move is made in order to successfully employ those moves in your own games! In short, you have to do both but cannot do one without the other!

I suggest that beginning players study the games of the masters in order to learn an opening. However, you must understand why one move is made in an opening sequence before proceeding to the next move. I’ve had beginning students look at me as if I’m out of my mind when I suggest they determine the thought process involved in masterly moves. However, it’s relatively easy when you have a few principles to guide you.

The three big opening principles are controlling the board’s center with a pawn on move one, developing your minor pieces (Knights and Bishops) toward the center, castling your King to safety and further activating your pieces before launching an attack. The first principle, controlling the board’s center with a pawn is very straight forward. The e or d pawn is advanced two squares. However, beginners will often conclude that only the e and d pawns can garner such control. The English Opening starts off with 1. c4 and the Sicilian Defense starts with 1… c5. The beginner might think, “this isn’t an e or d pawn opening so there might be something wrong here.” Absolutely not. The pawn on c4, in the case of the English Opening, controls the d5 square (the same square controlled by 1. e4). With the Sicilian Defense, the pawn on c5 controls the d4 square (the same square controlled by 1… e5). Both these first opening moves adhere to principled play!

Developing your minor pieces is crucial to sound opening play. Beginners often develop a minor headache (rather than a sound position) trying to think of ways to bring their Knights and Bishops into the game. Playing through master level games, it becomes apparent that the minor pieces are usually developed to squares that allow those minor pieces to control, you guessed it, the board’s center. Then there’s the Ruy Lopz and subsequently the beginner’s perfectly logical question, “wouldn’t white’s King-side Bishop have greater control of the center on c4 rather than b5?” Players with greater experience know the answer to this question while those with less experience, are troubled by this move that seems to go against the opening principles. Here’s the thing, in the Ruy Lopez, the Bishop on b5 is attacking black’s Knight on c6. The Knight on c6 is defending the pawn on e5. If white trades Bishop for Knight, the pawn on e5 is undefended. So, it turns out that the Bishop, while not on c4, is attacking the board’s center, influencing the center via its attack on the c6 Knight. There are other openings where this idea of influencing the center without directly attacking it come into play. The important point is to look at a move, like 3. Bb5, and determine its underlying reason (opening mechanics). The longer you have to examine a move for its merits, the more you’ll learn!

King safety is the number one cause of lost beginner’s games. Beginners are taught to castle their kinds as soon as possible. But what of master level games in which the King isn’t castled immediately? Again we apply principled play and opening mechanics to the move(s) in question. King safety is the key phrase here. If we look at a master level game in which one player has the opportunity to castle on move four and doesn’t castle until move nine, there’s usually a few good reasons for not castling early. The first thing to look at is King safety. If your King is really safe, and this requires looking at the opposition pieces carefully to make sure there isn’t the opportunity for a quick attack, then you should consider further developing your forces. After all, the more control of the board’s center you have, the harder it is for your opponent to build up their position in the center. Master level players will build up control of the board before castling as long as their King remains safe. Also, if your opponent is building up his or her position, you might want to hold off on castling until you know the direction the attack is coming from. If your opponent builds up an attack on your King’side, you may want to castle Queen-side.

I can guarantee that, as a beginner, you’ll find yourself in positional situations in which there is no answer to be found from the memorization of an opening. Your opponent will make a strange move that isn’t found in any book on opening theory. Therefore, you have to use opening principles to guide your response. The principles I mentioned should immediately be applied to such a situation. Doing so will allow you to play a principled move rather than a “Gee, I’m just guessing here and I sure hope it works” move. The principles will not let you down as long as you understand the how and why of these principles. Play through your next master level game and ask yourself, with each move made in the game, if the above principles are being applied. If you find yourself not sure of how to respond to your opponent’s move, let the opening principles guide you!

Learn openings by playing through master level games. However, don’t go from one move to the next until you understand the reasons for that first move. You’ll only understand a move if you apply principles to the situation. When you understand the reasons behind a move, you’re grasping the underlying mechanics of that move and will improve your playing greatly. Principled play will take your understand of opening theory in the right direction. Here’s a game to enjoy until next week. See if the principles applied!

Hugh Patterson