My daughter is very clever at playing chess. At 5 years of age, she could win against her mother and grandparents, but still couldn't beat me. She kept playing with me and tried to win, but always failed. At last she threatened me, saying that if I don't let her win, she'll never play chess.

To make her happy, I let her win easily afterwards, but she's still not happy, and gave up playing chess forever.

I don't know how to deal with this situation. She knows that I'm more powerful than her at chess and wants to beat me, but she felt there was no hope for it, so she gave up.

It's not her fault, but I don't know how to encourage her, even losing chess for her couldn't encourage her because she knows I didn't try all my best.

Has anyone encountered a similar situation and handled it in a better way? I really want to see a better solution.

  • Hi folks, a reminder - comments aren't for posting answers or things that look like answers. They're for posting clarifications about the question. Please feel free to post answers in the answer section - even if you don't think they're good enough, I suspect others will find them useful. Thanks!
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 15:52
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    Possible duplicate of Should you let a toddler win?
    – Becuzz
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 16:23
  • While the answers are covering the same area, the question is about a different scenario than in the proposed duplicate.
    – Stephie
    Commented Oct 21, 2018 at 14:23
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    Hi! It's been a while. How did it end? Did you finally manage to get her interested again? Commented May 28, 2019 at 18:03
  • @StéphaneGourichon Thanks for you question. No, my daughter has never played chess again with me from then. It's a pity for me, because when I was a child, I liked to play chess with my father, and finally could win him, I want to repeat the story on my daughter. But it's not a pity for her, you know, nowadays, children have many many interesting things to do, from internet, they could get everything they want to indulge in. Winning her father is not a so big reward in her life as what I felt in my childhood. Commented May 30, 2019 at 2:15

5 Answers 5


My experience with this (and a 7 and 5 year old child) is that you should not let the child win, but rather adjust the scenario so that the child can win. This ensures there is still a sense of accomplishment in the win, and still requires the child to challenge themselves.

I run with my older son from time to time, and as a fairly fast runner myself I certainly am not going to lose a race to him when I try my best (at least, for now). But he enjoys running races; he's much more interested in that than in just running for fun.

So what we do is I give him a head start. We run a block, say, and I know I'm about 5 seconds faster than him normally; so I give him a head start of 5 seconds. I count out loud, and at 5 seconds I take off. Sometimes I win, sometimes he wins; if I win, I adjust the time up a second the next block, and if he wins I adjust the time down a second.

This not only means we have exciting finishes most of the time, but it gives him something else to compete against: he competes to get the head start as low as possible.

You can do a very similar thing in chess. Start by removing your queen from the board, and then play the game as normal. If you still win, remove a rook or a bishop. Find the handicap that works best for her level, where she sometimes wins. Then, experiment by adding back a piece when she starts winning more often.

The game then has two separate goals: winning the individual game (which she can do), and trying to reduce the handicap. You could even set up an ELO-like system; perhaps start with 1500, remove 100 every time she loses, add 100 every time she wins, and when it gets over 2000, lower the handicap by one and return her to 1600. (Conversely, if it gets below 1000, raise the handicap by one.)

You can see some discussions on various advantages and disadvantages of the handicap method of teaching chess here:

I don't suggest Time handicaps (also mentioned in some of the above articles) at five, as she's still not quite up to taking advantage of that time. As she gets older this is a great way to play, giving her longer to think than you, as it can encourage her to think more.

  • I think you are giving the right answer to the wrong question. She can already beat many people. She has to learn that sometimes it's her turn to lose
    – David
    Commented Jun 2, 2019 at 22:27
  • was it a fair fight ? Did they let her win ? I think that @Joe has the right approach, simplify the game, but fight fair. Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 14:21

On average, kids need to win about 1 in 3 times in order to stay interested in a game. They must win fairly, not by default. It sounds like she is well on her way to becoming a ranked player - she is strong enough as a player now to recognize when a much stronger opponent is throwing a game.

She is not ready to play you, but she needs more advanced players than her mother and grandparents. Check out local chess clubs and gaming shops. In my experience, when facing a person across a chess board, considerations of age and social status are set aside. While it would be a bonus to find someone of her approximate age and ability, find someone of her approximate ability, with age being a secondary consideration

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    I really like this answer and I would gladly upvote it if you provided a source for the statement, "On average, kids need to win about 1 in 3 times in order to stay interested in a game." Commented Oct 14, 2018 at 5:02
  • I'll see if I can find that article. It's been a while, and <cue music>... the old grey cells they aint what they used to be ...
    – pojo-guy
    Commented Oct 14, 2018 at 5:33
  • Lol... same here! Commented Oct 14, 2018 at 6:12

Tell her you miss playing Chess with her, which you obviously do, and offer to teach her some new strategies while you play. You might have to give up some of your key moves, but your games would take on a new meaning. Instead of her just trying to beat you, perhaps she could start to guess which strategy you are using, and learn the appropriate countermeasures for them. Then you will be strengthening her skills and enjoying the game from a different perspective. It might even become something that lasts your lifetime.


There is a middle ground between "letting your kid win" and "giving it all you've got".

Let me make an analogy to basketball. If I go outside and play basketball against an 8 year old, just based on size and strength, I could easily beat him every time, block every shot of his, out run him to every loose ball, etc. This would make the game not very fun for either of us. He would get exasperated with constant losing and, unless I'm just a bully who enjoys beating lesser opponents, it would be pretty boring for me.

However, letting them win is really not any better. I'd get bored just letting the kid win and the kid gets bored winning easily. Plus, the kid knows you are letting him win and it cheapens the win.

So, my recommendation is to not let him win, but not play full out either. Don't spend 2-3 minutes deciding on every move. Make some questionable moves that you wouldn't make against a player on your level, just to see how they react.

I play racquetball with my 12 year old daughter. I could, with a little effort, beat her 21-0 every time, but that would be boring and exasperating. So instead, I relax and have fun. My serves are not as hard as they could be. I try some ridiculous shots sometimes. I just let a shot go if it's on the other side of the court and I don't feel like chasing it down.

I have a fun relaxing game. She scores some points and enjoys it. We have a great time together. But I never just let her win.


It's been a long time since the question was posted, but just in case this is useful to anyone:

Very interesting question! I have no parenting experience nor any intention to have it soon (by the way. I joined this community only to answer your question), but I've been a chess coach for years and you may want this alternative perspective.

Your daughter is capable of beating most of the people she plays with, so there is no need for you to let her win just to make her happy. I would also suggest you against "making things easier for her". She has to learn that, in every aspect of life, there are people who do better than her, and people who do worse than her. She'd better realise that with chess that with somehthing more important later on in life. ç

As a kid I grew up with the (encouraged by my family) belief that I was smarter than everybody else, and as you may have guessed, it made me no favour at all. Indeed, it just made me feel that I could achieve stuff with no effort, and I don't think you want your child to believe that.

Some people talked about her becoming a federated player. Well, let me be clear: your daughter is not a genius (I'm wrong about this about 0.01% of the time) She didn't win because she is very smart, but rather because her opponents played badly.

And finally, if she will stop playing chess because she lost to someone, then she would have stopped sooner or later. Maybe she doesn't like chess all that much and there is nothing wrong about that. You may want her to play chess because of osme study that claims that it makes people smarter, but have you ever done something for that reason? People play chess because it's fun, not because it will make you a genius. If it's not fun for her, then she may be happier with something else

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    I'd definitely recommend the OP asking their child if they're all that interested in chess, and to what extent (professional, recreational, ...). I grew up to do something I was good at but which I find boring, because I'm good at it. There are people around who waffle about "potential", ambition, prizes, fame and the like, and actually get angry if you're interested in something different. I mean proper angry. The reality is that unless the child actually wants it, it won't happen anyway. Teachers and tutors are the worst! As long as the kid's ambitions are respectable, please respect them!
    – Dannie
    Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 10:30

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