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“I’m gonna kick your ass”

A few years ago I went to a Sunday afternoon party in Brooklyn at the home of a couple who had 2 kids. One was a 7-year-old boy who, I’d been told, loved to play chess–he was a great chess player, but didn’t get much of a chance to play (his parents barely knew the rules). When I was introduced to him I told him I’d like to play chess–he was very happy and we set up the board. Right before we started, he said to me, “I’m gonna kick your ass!” I tried to gently explain to him that he couldn’t really kick my ass at chess, he’s just 7 years old and I’m an adult, etc. (I’m not a particularly good chess player. But I know I can beat a 7-year-old kid.) He didn’t believe me, kept insisting he would kick my ass. I quickly conferred with his mother and asked whether it was OK for me to beat him and she said, yeah, it would actually be good for him to lose a little. So we played, I tried to play like a kid, chasing his pieces around. The game was OK, he was actually pretty good, but I followed his mom’s instructions and beat him. We played again with similar results. He was fine with it.

Anyway, the point of this story is not that I have the amazing skills necessary to beat a little kid in chess–I just think it’s funny that so few adults in that corner of Brooklyn know how to play chess. They have chess in the schools, and somehow this kid picked up the notion that kids know how to play chess but adults don’t.


  1. Lee Sigelman says:

    On the theme of chess prodigies (which is actually a bit off-topic from the posting, I recognize), let me recommend a novel that's really quite good: Walter Tevis's THE QUEEN'S GAMBIT. Tevis also wrote THE HUSTLER (which became the Paul Newman movie) about pool hustlers; he seems to have just as much insight into the world of chess.

  2. caveatBettor says:

    I live in lower manhattan (which is almost as expensive as dumbo brooklyn to live). I beat my 5 year old regularly in chess, and she gets upset. I'm not sure what a better parenting strategy is at this point. Suggestions welcome.

  3. Koray,

    I just figured that's the way things work in Brooklyn.

  4. Koray Can says:

    For me the point of the story is that a seven year old can talk like that to an adult and it’s ok.