Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ferguson Library Chess and Stamford Times Article

Every January, the Ferguson Library in Stamford, CT runs a chess program for children. It runs for 4 weeks on Saturdays and consists of 2 hours of play and instruction. This year Richie & Alyssa's teacher, Michael, ran the program so we brought them there during the month. There were a few interesting things about the Ferguson program that were great to see. First, because of its association with the library, perhaps, the program attracted a very broad cross-section of players in terms of skill level, age, and ethnicity. Despite the presense of scholastic programs in many public schools in the area, it seems that the vast majority of young players in the area are young male caucasians. The former is probably just a consequence of the combatitive/competitive nature of the game, while the latter has more to do with the general population composition in the area as well as income effects. It was refreshing to see such a diverse group of kids all enjoying the same game. Some were rank novices, but most had basic knowledge of the game and by the 2nd session they began a ladder tournament which gave everyone a chance to play many games against various strength opponents.

The local newspaper ran a story about the program and in it Richie and Alyssa are mentioned. If you read the article, I should caveat that I don't think I ever actually said that I thought Richie was talented, only that he seemed ready to play the game (when he turned 4). I think talent is not so easy to determine in such young players because they develop so rapidly. Just learning the moves may seem a hurdle one month but a few months later, almost every kid begins to develop a set of strategies. It is only later when games are won and lost based on more sophisticated strategic or deeper tactical considerations that I think real talent is observable. At this stage, and probably for a year, games are lost by the player that loses a piece by moving it en prise, or that misses a mate in 1.

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