The Chess Ecosystem: Children of the Corn

They get their designation from the American horror of the same name. The plot involves crazy children doing a lot of unkind things to adults. If you’ve ever lot to anyone less than 4’6″ then you understand this label. Note: A subset of the species is the “child that will Soon be better than you”; the difference is that the brilliance of the latter is not yet fully developed, offering a scant glimmer to the middle-aged chess enthusiast. It won’t last long.

Identification: The children of the corn are usually demure, and not quite socially comfortable. They come between ages twelve and sixteen. They may have a signed board and/or a father who is a chess master. They are extremely precocious, usually second-generation Americans, and often attend school at home. Research agrees that they take instruction from the “Overly Critical NM Father”. Chess-wise they are highly tactical and booked-up. They are a curious juxtaposition of mathematical smarts and gross childhood habits, like nosepicking.

Sometimes you can see the Children of the Corn running through the halls in a gaggle of small people. They make a lot of noise about their winning positions, regardless of the results, and are easy to spot at any tournament across the country. They hate adults, and secretly relish beating them. They’re bitter inside because of their regimented lives and take it out on the insurance salesman or middle manager sitting in front of them. Scary.

How to beat them: You can’t. It’s lose/lose. What are you going to do, brag to your buddies about making a youngster burst into tears? If you lose, you darned well know you can’t tell anyone that. A friend lost to a ten year old not long ago, in about fifteen moves. The little conqueror used his extra time wisely, running through the tournament like an airplane, ADHD in full bloom. The best you can hope for is that one of them will become really, really good and, if you cracked them once, you get a story out of the deal. If they have a weakness it’s their underdeveloped psychology. You can wheedle them into a draw even when it’s not beneficial for them to accept.

Fortunately losing to a Child of the Corn is not all bad. They’re plenty eager to regale you with the fruits of their chess study. They’re extremely booked up and if they play an opening move it’s probably from Fritz. Save yourself some time and just play what they play. A postmortem with the rug rat will teach you a lot.




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