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Handicap for Equality

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White: John P. Pratt
Black: Monica McOmber
Date: 29 June 1986
Location: Rigby, Idaho

Why do people play chess? Probably because it fills some needs, such as developing many skills, providing enjoyment and a sense of growth and accomplishment. But that applies to both players. How about the one who loses? What if one player is of far greater skill and the other has no chance to win? How fulfilling is that for either?

Often a parent who loves chess wishes to instill the love for the game into their children, both to develop the children's skills, but also to have a "home grown" chess partner. How is that to be done if Dad has played for years and his child is 4-years old? One way is to take a lot of Dad's pieces off the board to even up the odds. That really worked in our family. Many of the games included in these pages are with family, such as this one.

Taking off some (or even half) of your pieces to make it more fair to a beginner is a great way to get them started. They love seeing you sweat at the disastrous thought of trading them even, or watching them march pawns down to get queens. You will have to remember the fine art of taking chances and hoping they don't notice they can capture your unprotected piece. Many games consist of simply taking enemy pieces until they figure out they should stop you.

Record the game and then play it over with them so they can see where they could have taken you or defended against your attack. You'll be surprised how fast they learn, when they have a chance to win. As they can win two out of three at one level, then gradually add more pawns and pieces.

Another important point for me is that I wish to play at my best level as much as possible and really compete hard to win or to do my best trying. And I expect the same from my opponent. This is a war game after all. Children don't want to feel that Dad just let them win to be nice, giving them a phony sense of victory. They want to know they really beat Dad when he was trying his hardest. Handicapping provides that experience.

This was my first game with a 9-year-old niece who was still just learning how the pieces move. If we had had more time, my king's rook and king rook's pawn would also have been removed (which makes a very long game). If I don't have at least six men, then there in no chance for me to beat anyone. This game is included just to show an example of the technique. See how few pieces you can play with and beat anyone at all! It can make for very long end games. This is one of the rare short beginning games, thanks to her cooperation!

1. e2-e4, e7-e5. 
2. Ng1-f3, Nb8-c6. 
3. Bf1-c4, a7-a6. 
4. 0-0, Ra8-a7. 
5. Nf3-g5, Ng8-f6. 
6. Ng5xf7, b7-b6. 
7. Nf7xh8, Nf6-g4. 
8. f2-f4, g7-g6. 
9. h2-h3, Nc6-b4. 
10. h3xg4, c7-c6. 
11. f4xe5, g6-g5. 
12. Rf1-f7, h7-h6.Lucky break! She saw the attack on an unprotected pawn. Now I can extricate my knight.
13. Nh8-g6, d7-d6.Wow, another lucky break. Those breaks are the only reason this is a short game! I doubt she even knew she attacked two pawns with one move, but it unwittingly helped me.
14. e5-e6, a6-a5.I advance the pawn threatening checkmate, confident that the bishop backs it up in case she notices she can take it. But she sees no threat.
15. Rf7xf8 mate.Probably my shortest game with so few pieces.