Remedy to junior variability

National developments, strategies and ideas.
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Wadih Khoury
Posts: 283
Joined: Sun Jul 12, 2020 8:14 pm

Remedy to junior variability

Post by Wadih Khoury » Sat Sep 05, 2020 4:48 pm

Most chess parents will tell you, there are 2 things that escape their comprehension:
  1. why do children play so fast?
  2. why are their results so variable
I think mine has broadly surmounted the first point (thanks to puzzle survival!). But I am still stumped by the second.

While I do understand that chess itself is quite variable, you'd expect most (sober :twisted: ) players to operate in +/- 200 Elo point range of their natural strength, with the odd, rare, exceptions.
However, my son, and many in his age group, can regularly beat 1900+ players, yet still regularly lose to sub 100 ecf/ sub 1200 players the next game.

Time controls may play a part (I notice that as they get better at standard, they start having problems with the shorter time controls as they got used to calculate deeper and broader), but I believe something escapes me.
Some of the below answers were suggested to me in the past. It is due to:
  • to natural children brain development?
  • to a lack of experience?
  • to the psychology of playing other children?
  • various other ideas
So what drives that variability, and for those who are familiar with juniors, what is the best way to reduce variability and results?

Matt Bridgeman
Posts: 622
Joined: Wed Aug 03, 2016 9:21 pm

Re: Remedy to junior variability

Post by Matt Bridgeman » Sat Sep 05, 2020 6:10 pm

Scale any online blitz play and supplement instead with rapids. Play twice as many adult events as junior ones. Usually the good players break the speed habit once they get to 12+.
Last edited by Matt Bridgeman on Sat Sep 05, 2020 7:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Kevin Thurlow
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Joined: Wed Apr 30, 2008 12:28 pm

Re: Remedy to junior variability

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Sat Sep 05, 2020 6:12 pm

Expecting to beat someone might make a difference. Either on grading or, "Oh, I'm winning" and then you lose concentration...

They might notice this has happened or maybe somebody has to tell them!

I have played some strong juniors who are not very good at endings - experience really helps there.

Nick Ivell
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Joined: Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:33 pm

Re: Remedy to junior variability

Post by Nick Ivell » Sat Sep 05, 2020 6:42 pm

I wonder if part of this might be lack of positional understanding.

I've been playing through some of my games from the 1970s. I'm struck by the almost complete absence of positional understanding. Ok, so what's changed, some might say!

Looking back, my contemporary with the best positional understanding was Nicholas Benjamin (no idea what happened to him, but his brother posts on here).

Nick Grey
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Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2011 12:16 am

Re: Remedy to junior variability

Post by Nick Grey » Sat Sep 05, 2020 6:48 pm

My results were variable as a junior. Playing on a Friday after a long week at school.

More study of endings, etc - less playing.

Parents expectations too high. ANNUAL assessments in education. So why not chess.

I have losses against u100 of five in my whole career. I am not a strong player.

Alex McFarlane
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Joined: Sat Aug 02, 2008 8:52 pm

Re: Remedy to junior variability

Post by Alex McFarlane » Sat Sep 05, 2020 6:59 pm

I've known juniors to lose as a result of getting too nervous due to the expectation that they will win. (That's not restricted to juniors.)

On the other hand, over confidence can cause unexpected losses as their concentration is not what is needed. Although they might be good enough to recover from a minor early disadvantage their inexperience/panic kicks in and the position actually gets worse.

Joseph Conlon
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Re: Remedy to junior variability

Post by Joseph Conlon » Sun Sep 06, 2020 7:06 pm

Echoing earlier replies, I think many juniors grow up on a tactical style which aims for decisive victory in the middle game, but then have little understanding of positional chess or endgames. So I can easily imagine juniors being graded 125, but with effective 150 tactical strength and 100 at endgames (and so can lose against much lower graded players when caught in a position they do not understand and where their natural style just makes it worse).

As a junior I stalled for a year at 160 as my cheerfully uncomplicated aggressive style ran into stronger opposition who could defend against it.

One tournament I was assisting at, which your son was playing in (but not your son), I watched two juniors both over 100 playing a K+P endgame, with the evaluation rapidly switching from won for one side to won for the other, with no sign that either realised that the position was critical and they had to calculate accurately. In the end the game was won in K+P vs K due to a basic opposition error by the side with the K.

Roger de Coverly
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Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 2:51 pm

Re: Remedy to junior variability

Post by Roger de Coverly » Sun Sep 06, 2020 7:44 pm

Joseph Conlon wrote:
Sun Sep 06, 2020 7:06 pm
As a junior I stalled for a year at 160 as my cheerfully uncomplicated aggressive style ran into stronger opposition who could defend against it.
The opening of this game with Joseph as white against me may have been a case in point.

From the 1992 Berks & Bucks Congress.



An engine now suggests that not only does Black have a piece for two pawns, but also a better position. Later though the game was drawn in a Rook and Pawn ending at move 60 as I failed to handle the technical phase with sufficient accuracy. Time pressure may have come into it as well.

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