What's the word for giving a chance to someone, or when you play with little children and you don't fully use your ability to play professionally—instead you play with their level so that they can win?
You could say you're "going easy on them".
Pulling your punches To refrain from deploying all the resources or force at one's disposal
One option is throw:
- to lose (a game, race, or other contest) intentionally, as for a bribe.
Definition no. 15 taken from dictionary.reference.com
sandbagging: deliberately underperform in a race or competition to gain an unfair advantage
underplay: 1. to achieve (an effect) by deliberate lack of emphasis 2. (Cards) to follow suit with a lower card when holding a higher one
play down (to): lower one's standards (to meet the demands of someone)
(go in the) tank: deliberately lose or fail to finish (a match)
Giving someone a sporting chance:
A reasonable chance of winning or succeeding:
"I’ll give you a sporting chance"
"the theory has at least a sporting chance of being right"
You might call it kowtowing if you're allowing the other person to beat you out of respect for the power, authority, and/or or honor they have outside of the competition (e.g. if they're your boss, or if they're a worn old veteran in the sport and you're a young upstart).
Alternately, consider the concept of handicapping in gaming and sports, in which one player is given significant advantage over the other so the difference in their skill levels is compensated for. This advantage can often include weakening the more skillful player's position, and is almost always agreed to by both sides in the competition.
Yet another possibility is holding back, in the sense of not putting forth your best efforts.
When asked why they were afraid to commit and give it everything they had, most said that they had never really though about why they were holding back. They just knew they were.
Will You Love Me if I Don't Win? A Guide for the Parents of Young Athletes
The expression is "to play with one hand tied behind your back."
Best possibilities to me, would be "I played down to his level", or "played softly".
If it were a boxing match you could say "I took a dive" meaning you faked incapacitation and fell on the mat staying there until the referee called the fight over.
Going easy on a junior is often said to be "using kid gloves" meaning I did not strike my unruly subordinate with a closed fist, instead slapped him with kidskin gloves (goat skin is called kid skin because baby goats are called kids). The result is to cause insult not injury in the literal sense, and means "I went easy on him" in the figurative sense.
You could say "I was sand bagging" meaning I was intentionally not working as hard as I could have.
A commonly used phrase is simply "to let [someone] win".
I believe you're asking for a single word answer and with your example, provided two scenarios.
- If the intent is to give a better chance to win, you could use moderate or mitigate.
"Yes, I always [ mitigate | moderate ] my efforts while hustling players at the pool table."
- If the intent is to allow a win, you could use yield.
"Of course, I will [ yield ] to prevent crushing the the toddlers confidence."
I think context is key here. A subtle shift in context can change the word that best fits.
In the context of friendship or friendly competition, I think the term good sportsmanship could apply. For example, in youth sports, it's often seen as a nice gesture when you as a team with a great season, play a team that clearly hasn't had a great season, that you give them a chance for a win. Maybe it's by playing your 3rd stringers exclusively, or encouraging your players to focus on complex plays over a score.
But in a different context, it could be called hustling where you, as a skilled player, allow the opponent a win in hope of lulling them into a sense of superiority so you can 'double or nothing' the bet as a scam.
And in a very specific context, for another example, a boxer may allow the opponent to win to fix the game for gambler. This is usually referred to as taking a dive.