Losing Graciously

I got wasted by a 4-year-old at chess today. Granted, he was my 4-year-old, but I didn’t let him win. I was caught off guard and taken by surprise. This, despite the fact that he was playing straight from the chess-for-kids book we found on the sidewalk and brought home for him a few months ago. This, despite the fact that I read him that exact chapter of the book and walked him through how to do every step just last week. But he got me anyway. He distracted me by pretending he messed up and wanted to start over. I wouldn’t let him. I said we had to play from where we were, to the end. And then, suddenly, it was the end.

“Checkmate,” he said, studying his book.

Sure enough. Capture his queen with my king and his bishop could take me. I had no recourse. He was both pleased and surprised. And so was I. He had won and done it quickly. He had not played the defensive game that I am used to, the one that drags on and on until I tire of it and he tires of it and we end up putting it away before either of us win. Nobody loses, but nobody wins either.

Until today. He put me in checkmate. And I lost swiftly and without any special effort on my part. The entire game took less than 10 minutes.

But the victory lasted the rest of the day. I loved seeing the sparkle in his eyes when he told his dad about it, and hearing the wonder in his voice as he tried to figure out exactly what he’d done.

“Why did I get you in checkmate, Mom?”

“Why didn’t you capture my queen, Mom?”

“Why do we have weak spots in chess, Mom?”

It’s fun to see him get a legitimate win. It’s fun to see him figure out a little bit of strategy — aside from not letting his pieces get captured. It’s fun to see him find something that intrigues him so deeply.

But in the end, I still lost to a 4-year-old.

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1 Comment

  1. That’s awesome! What is the name of this little book you found? My 5 year old really loves Chess but hasn’t quite figured out all the rules.


    lizzie Reply:

    It’s called “The Kid’s Book of Chess” by Harold Kidder.


    It has been a godsend to us. Manchild will sit and read it on the couch after he wakes up but before he is allowed to come wake us up. 🙂


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