Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Go in New York City and Stamford, CT

For a couple of months now I have been semi-regularly attending the classes of the IgoAmigo Go Club/School. I mentioned in a previous post that I accidentally stumbled into one of their classes at the New York Go Center on my first visit. I had originally thought that it was part of the NYGC, but actually it's a completely separate organization. They used to meet twice a month on Saturdays at the NYGC, but due to some disagreements with the NYGC (I don't really know the details) they have moved their class to Columbia University. It's really a shame that in the small circle of NY Go players, it's not possible to reach some sort of amicable solution that would enable the club to meet at the only dedicated go facility in the city. At any rate, I have decided for the time being to try to continue attending.

If anyone is interested in attending, the daily fee is still going to be $7, I believe. The teachers are 7d and 1d. Most attendees are Japanese but there are also English speakers and both teachers speak English fairly fluently.

I also am on the brink of finding some players to play with in the Stamford area. I have been looking for an opportunity to play in person somewhere around my home to no avail. Last Saturday, I randomly dropped by Starbucks in Stamford, near the Ferguson Library and came across a few chess players. I had my laptop and a book on Go which I started reading. One of the players noticed and asked if I played a lot. I learned that he was close to my level (he said 10k) and that he had a friend that was looking for people to play with. Another kid there said he used to play with his mother when he was young but didn't play anymore. Well, counting myself, the guy and his friend, the kid and his mother, and one other acquaintance, I know of 6 Go players in the Stamford/Greenwhich area. It also turns out that the 7d player from IgoAmigo also lives in Rye which is not too far.

I have also been exchanging mails with a guy named Mark, who also has a daughter near the age of Alyssa and a Go Blog. He lives in CT, but a bit far so it's unlikely I will be able to play him, but one can hope.

It would be awesome to play in Stamford so I am going to start hanging out at the Starbucks in my free time to try to stimulate some local interest. I think I'll need to hang a sign out that says "Ask me to Teach You, 5 minutes to Learn, a Lifetime to Master" or something like that.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


I guess it's in my nature to experiment with different ways of doing things, so sometime ago I tried to find out how well material reward would work in motivating the kids--not just for chess, but in general. It started harmlessly enough: Richie and Alyssa were showing signs of disinterest in chess. In particular, they started being reluctant, I would even go so far as to say resistant, to chess lessons with Michael. Since I had already committed to paying for the lessons I had to come up with some way to get them to participate. Of course, most parents will know the temptation of the quick fix: bribery. I offered to take the kids to Wal-Mart to buy one small toy each if they did their best during the lesson. Before I knew it everything, and I mean *everything* we wanted them to do came with a cost. Chess lesson? Small toy from Wal-Mart. Brush their teeth? A coloring book from the bookstore. Kumon homework? Build a toy airplane for them. Go to a tournament? Unlimited Wii game-playing for a night.

Of course I didn't think much at first, I mean, we give them those things anyway, so I thought I was getting a free lunch. But gradually I realized that they were purposely behaving badly or refusing any request to try to entice some sort of "good behavior reward" out of us. Clever little buggers.

So I did what any good panicked dictator does in this situation: I massively debased the currency! I drew a grid of forty squares on a piece of paper (one for each of them), and found some ink stamps and told them that if they did one good thing they would get one stamp. And after their page was full I would take them to Wal-Mart to pick out a small toy of their choice. This slowed down the flow of goods considerably, and I think it made them look forward to the reward more. They were very excited about the new system. They began carrying their stamp pages around with them and constantly asked if something they did was stamp-worthy.

Do I feel bad about bribing the kids for things that they should learn to do as responsible individuals (like homework, or cleaning up their toys)? Maybe a little. But I guess I'm just pragmatic.

It's worked so well, I'm looking around for some stickers which I think would go over very well indeed. I wonder how many stickers it costs to get my car washed?
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