When talented kids go on to succeed it always seems like it was bound to happen, and most great players showed considerable early promise. Accordingly it seems natural to assume that adult success will inevitably follow early successes, yet this doesn’t seem to be the case.
Many top juniors actually give up the game or fail to follow through. All we see are the winners and not the original line up.
In fact I think that childhood ability may actually serve to sabotage adult success in a number of subtle ways. First of all it sets up very high expectations that will turn into frustration if progress slows down or stops. Early success is also unlikely to foster the kind of rigorous self analysis that tends to be needed as you get to higher levels. Bad habits are likely to persist rather than get eradicated.
How can prodigies stand a better chance of success? Here are a few suggestions:
- Avoid the press like the plague.
- Give them the opportunity to get crushed by someone stronger rather than score hollow victories.
- Foster an attitude of continual self-improvement.
- Avoid stroking their young egos.
- Try to get them help in developing a balanced and mature chess style.
- Prepare them for disappointment.
Here’s a Youtube video about how child stars can be horribly affected by a surreal early environment. And whilst early chess success is hardly going to have the same effect I think it serves to show some of the dangers: