Monday, January 7, 2008

72nd ACTA Tournament

On Sunday, Richie & Alyssa entered the 72nd ACTA Westport Championship scholastic chess tournament. Richie wanted an opportunity to win another trophy. Alyssa, on the other hand, was reluctant to play. I had mixed feelings about entering her since I didn't want to her to develop negative feelings towards chess unnecessarily, but in the end I decided to put her in and hope that she gets acclimated to the scholastic chess environment. She's typically a bit hesitant to try new things (food, activities) and she shies away from confrontation. I think chess could be a confidence builder for her but she needs to get over her initial reservations about competition. It's hard to know if we're pushing her unnecessarily, because she sort of needs some a bit pushing for a lot of things (getting ready to go to school, talking to strangers, trying new foods or activities etc.). Richie, on the other hand, despite being 2 years younger than any other kids in his section, showed no anxiety at all and was eager to play.

Alyssa ended up finishing with 1/2 a point which qualified her for the smallest trophy in the 1st grade division (5 players) (i.e. everyone gets a trophy!). Her half point came from a stalemate (she only had a king left), though in one of her games, Michael told me she had a 'won game' with material advantage and a mate in one but failed to see it. She did something similar in a practice game the other day, going up two pieces, only to go on to lose after forgetting to remove her pieces from threats. She is generally not very willing to use her pieces to get material advantage, and prefers to leave them back in protected positions. She also has not been playing many complete games so she does not really know how to convert a material advantage into a win in most situations.

I find that with the kids that it's hard to get across the idea that exchanges of pieces can be a good thing once you have a material advantage and vice versa.

Richie had a surprisingly strong showing in the tournament, winning 2nd place in the Kindergarden group (out of 4 players). His only full point came from a victory over a young girl who I think was also playing in her first tournament. He had several draws and also had to concede a draw in a winning position (Q vs. Bishop) when he had to interrupt his game for a bathroom visit. (Note to parents: take advantage of breaks between rounds to use the restroom). He played with a lot of confidence and wasn't intimidated at all by the bigger kids.

The winner of the K section was a young boy named Julian. He also studies with the same teacher and we had heard that he was very talented. Indeed he is a strong player in his age group and pretty clearly dominated the others. He said after the game that Richie was "tougher than he thought he'd be" which got a laugh out of us. They seemed to get along well. Julian is quite theatrical and full of youthful energy--he makes an interesting contrast to Richie, who most people consider a "serious boy" because he's rather quiet and watchful--he's always been very careful and deliberate in action. From what I can tell, Julian seems to be the real deal. According to his parents, he has fallen in love with the game and will likely eclipse them in playing skill soon at the rate he's improving. He appears to be gifted with natural aptitude for learning chess so it will be interesting to watch he progresses. Since he and Richie learned the game at about the same time, without getting too caught up in comparisons, I think it will be useful to use his development as a benchmark--we sort of get a peek into the future for how chess skills are acquired. I am curious to know what concepts he may be able to grasp that prove too difficult for Richie at the current time and what methods prove most effective for eventually learning those concepts.

It was nice to meet another enthusiastic young chess player. We hope to set up the kids for a chess play date sometime in the future.

Amazingly, after a full day of chess, after we got home that afternoon, Richie wanted to play Dinosaur chess some more.

No comments:

Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide