Sunday, December 9, 2007

Chess Lecture vs. Ice Cream

Richie and Alyssa enjoyed another chess lesson this weekend. Michael started by having the kids play through a game where he suggested the moves for both sides. Then he reviewed some Q and K checkmates, along with introducing a few new patterns involving a Bishop and Q versus a castled king position. He touched on escapes, and he introduced the concept of stalemate. At one point he was about to demonstrate the strength of a rook battery to create a back rank checkmate against a castled king when Richie surprised him by grabbing the first Rook and quickly playing through the 3 move sequence. This didn't surprise me too much because he often says "if I go there then you go there then I'll go there and eat you!" but Michael was pleased.

On Michael's suggestion we decided to try Richie out in Alyssa's afterschool chess class. I arrived at the end to pick them up and learned that Richie was a mini-celebrity. Michael played a small prank on his class by telling them that Richie was the world's youngest chess master. They got a thrill out of having him visit and several mentioned to me that they thought he was so "cute" and were surprised he could play because he's so young. I thought that was pretty funny coming out of the mouths of 1st and 2nd graders. Richie got an ovation at the end. I think he's enjoying his star status.

Later we stopped by another of Michael's weekend classes for advanced scholastic students to see if that format might be a good addition or replacement to their private lessons. The class was held at Norwalk community college, which turned out to be a really nice venue, and the lecture room was perfect for the 20 or so students. Overall I've been pleased to see the levels of participation in scholastic chess in the area and I'm beginning to realize that Michael's organization, ACTA, is probably the driving force behind everything. There were no kindergardners in the class which makes Richie the youngest by a big margin. I thought this might be a problem but he took to it like a fish to water. There class starts with a free playing period and then transitions into a lecture.

This week's lesson featured an ending combination that the kids were asked to find. I have to admit that I couldn't see the forced victory which involved a bishop sacrifice followed by a knight fork on the king. Richie was enraptured by the lecture, to my surprise. I thought he'd only be interested in playing.

Alyssa was bored by the lesson but seemed to have a fun time playing and was pleased with herself after she checkmated another girl at the class.

Of course the real highlight for both of them was the 15 minute snack break where everyone brings a dollar or two down to the cafeteria and gets to buy an ice cream or cookies from the vending machines. I'm realizing that Michael is a clever motivator. As a funny aside I saw all the kids playing chess with a few dollars in front of them at the beginning of class and was a little disturbed because I thought they were gambling! But at the break everything was illuminated.

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