We are back in the saddle for the new year at the Denver Chess Club.
My opponent Tuesday night was 11 years old. He played well and developed some initiative against my routine and unimaginative handling of the Modern Defense.
At a certain point his play changed. After dropping back 18. Rd2 (18. R6d1 or 18. Rxf6!? are both better) he forgot to hit his clock. We sat in thought a while, perhaps 8 minutes and then … he moved 18bis. a3??
I pointed out that he had already moved, that he had retreated his rook from the attack by 17… Bg7-f8 and had merely forgotten to operate his clock. He retracted the move and I examined his face. Bags had appeared under his eyes and he was clearly no longer alert, an assessment confirmed with each move as the game concluded.
Afterwards, I made three observations with him and his father in the skittles room.
Firstly, his play was excellent. He did not even know the name of the opening and yet had handled it well.
Secondly, the nexus was move 18, where he took a poor choice among some promising alternatives. I ascribed the lapse to being up too late on a school night. He and his father agreed that was probably the case. His father then expressed the wish that the son would take Chess more seriously and analyze his games more thoroughly afterwards …
… Which led to my third observation: Young people should take chess precisely as they wish. It’s not important enough to waste your youth peering over the board unless you are entirely self-motivated to do so. The price is too steep, the time is too precious, and the rewards too few. I suggested to my opponent that he enjoy his youth, that he play outside more and relax about chess and merely keep active through competition if he enjoyed Chess enough to do so. I’m not sure I convinced the father, but the young man heartily concurred.