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I'm an expert-level chess player, who enjoys playing dynamic chess, but I am struggling against young chess players (ages between 8-16), who have lower ratings. How can I improve my score against this type of player? Playing positional chess? Non-traditional chess openings? or solid ones, which I don't play normally?

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    Analyse the games, figure out why you lost, figure out how you can avoid doing that in the future. The age of the opponent isn't necessarily relevant. Jan 9, 2023 at 19:15
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    By "prodigies" you mean actual prodigies or kids that will quit without even hitting 2000?
    – David
    Jan 11, 2023 at 15:22

4 Answers 4

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If you play what you call "dynamic" chess and are being consistently beaten by young, lower rated players then it is very likely that you are losing to superior tacticians. If you enjoy dynamic chess then you are probably already working on tactics so just suggesting that you do more work on tactics probably isn't very helpful.

Instead I would suggest an alternative approach which as well as countering these young players will improve your chess generally:

  1. Start working hard on your endgames to make sure they are bulletproof.
  2. Change your repertoire to favour openings which give rise to queenless middlegames and an early endgame. For example, the Berlin, the exchange Ruy Lopez, the Philidor with d6, Nf6, e5 which gives the possibility of an early queen exchange.

These openings give rise to positions where maneuvering becomes more important, where positional factors feature more than tactics. Give your young opponents positions where there is not much to calculate and there is more to plan.

You should try and be happy to reach even middlegames and endgames which are quiet, where not much is going on. Then try and outplay them.

This type of approach has been successfully adopted by a number of strong, older players to counter younger players. The English GM Keith Arkell is probably the most dedicated player of these kind of principles. He has almost made it his life's work to be an expert on the Carlsbad structure and the resulting endgames and has won an enormous number of games from such quiet, even middlegame positions.

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Here's a fun article published by Chessbase several years ago, titled "How to lose to a 9-year old at chess". After complaining about the ignominy of losing to an opponent barely tall enough to see over the board (not to mention explaining it to one's friends afterwards), the author suggests heading to an endgame where experience matters more. The author gives several games as examples, and describes how once the youngsters are in an endgame, their physical play noticeably changes - they are no longer as quick or as confident, which is a psychological victory.

So yeah: choose lines that head to quiet middlegames/endgames, and make sure your own handling of those positions is up to snuff.

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  • I would add that this works against computers also. If I barricade the middle and focus on reducing my opponents mobility, the computer will lose focus and starts to move its rooks back and forth. This gives me time to develop and execute a long term attack. Obviously I'm not setting the computer to its highest level :) Jan 12, 2023 at 21:55
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Attack more, and exchange their pieces for your attack. I assume they're attacking most of the time. If you're on the defense, look how their attacks are weakening their position and go straight for the king, because they are attacking without paying attention to their king.

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Examine their play: Consider their previous contests and make an effort to pinpoint their advantages and disadvantages. Note their favourite openings and strategies, then try to come up with a plan to oppose them.

Be patient: Due to their inexperience, young prodigies sometimes make blunders. Use this to your advantage by waiting patiently for them to make a mistake.

Utilize your expertise: You have more experience than your younger opponent as an adult gamer. Take use of this by remaining composed under stress and making wise choices.

Utilize your advantages: Try to lead the game in the direction of the regions of the game where you shine. Find their weak points and try to take advantage of them by exploiting them.

Do not undervalue them: Young prodigies are frequently extremely skilled and unpredictable in their movements. Never let your guard down and always be ready for anything.

Keep it simple by avoiding overly intricate or sophisticated maneuvers and sticking to tried-and-true strategies.

Don't let the pressure of competing against a young prodigy get to you; instead, keep a positive outlook.

Be modest: Avoid becoming overconfident or arrogant, and always treat your adversary with respect.

Love the game: Keep in mind that playing chess is a game, and try to enjoy yourself when you play a young player.

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