Wednesday, November 28, 2007

JCC Stamford Chess Class

It all started last summer when Alyssa was 5. Although my plans were hatched at her birth (I have photos to prove it), I patiently waited until Alyssa was 3 before prosletyzing Chess to her. After she was born, I gave a gift to myself of a House of Staunton chess set which is housed in a heavy wood briefcase. Naturally, this mysterious latched item had piqued the curiosity of my children for years but they had never seen the game played. I took it out once or twice before as I was mildly curious myself what their reaction to it would be. But when Richie was 2, he used to grab the pieces and sit on the board so it was a little difficult to even begin showing them how the pieces moved.

Having failed at these first half-hearted attempts to teach my children chess, I realized that Richard was not yet ready and even when I was able to show Alyssa how the pieces moved in a rare quiet moment, I had hardly a clue how to start teaching her the game.

So until Alyssa turned 5, the extent of the 'game' was setting up the pieces in the right order and putting them back into the proper cut-outs in the foam casing. They both really enjoyed that part and even fought over which ones went where.

Then I discovered that a local community center offered chess class for kids and got the bright idea to outsource the teaching to a more qualified instructor. JCC stands for Jewish Community Center. It's a wonderful family center with a great swimming pool and gym and operates sort of like a YMCA.

My eyes lit up when I noticed that the instructor had a Russian sounding name and day-dreamed of having Alyssa magically converted into a mini-Kasparov while I swam laps in the pool. Those that know me would be hard pressed to tell which of those two is the more unlikely.

Anyway, in my fantasy-state I gladly signed the check and enrolled young Judit, I mean Alyssa, into the chess class. It was only after attending the 2nd class that I realized my mistake. I am sure that the instructor had the very best intentions but the problem was that the class was too large and there were kids of all levels from complete beginner to the instructor's son. It was a madhouse. He was struggling to keep control of the kids and when they finally quieted down 20 minutes into the allotted hour, he started the class with a sample game with a difficult minor piece checkmate. Alyssa's eyes glazed over. Then he paired them off, putting my daughter together with one of the other 2 girls in the class. Neither knew what to do and the instructor wasn't available to help them. I tried to show them a few things but then we ran out of time.

Needless to say after two more sessions, my daughter started saying "Oh no, not chess! I don't like chess," whenever it was time to go to class. Little did she realize that she was breaking her poor father's heart...

Well, at least she liked her swimming class.

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