Monday, December 29, 2008

Let the Child Win

I've had a few busy days. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Yesterday the family came over to belatedly celebrate my nephew's 3rd birthday. It was his nap time, so he was conked out on the couch, but my niece was bored. She's seven, and staying quiet is hard at seven.

I decided that it was high time to teach her how to play Pente. It was probably not the best idea. It was probably a bit old for her. But she was willing, so we tried it.

The first game was all about the rules. I'd place my stone and then explain where her best moves were. At some point she got annoyed at my advice and wanted to play on her own. That happened by the second game. I kept quiet a lot, but I'd point out when she made a move that was not in her best interest. By the third game I knew I was losing her.

It was time to let her win.

It wasn't that I was gunning for her. I wasn't playing my hardest. But I've been at the game a whole lot longer, so I know a few tricks. In the second game I won by accident. Really. The winning move appeared, and I couldn't not take it.

The best way to get good at a game is to play someone who is a whole lot better at it than you are. That's the way I learn. The more I play, the more I learn, and the better player I become. But that's only when a player is ready to dig in and learn. A beginner needs a win or two under her belt before she's confident enough to lose.

So, I wasn't playing my best. And I kept winning. But I was able to convince the niece to play one more game, and I was bound and determined to lose.

She kept racking up the twos. It was all I could do not to capture one or two of them. And while I was actually playing, I let a couple opportunities pass me by. Then I saw it. She had her winning move. She placed her stone...and she didn't realize that she had won. I had to point it out to her.

Yeah, I think I ruined Pente for her. Maybe she'll try again in a couple years.

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