Friday, October 3, 2008

Richie Turns 5!

On the eve of Richie's 5th Birthday I thought I'd give a short state of the union address. For just about the entire summer, Richie played almost no chess at all. After returning we put him back into chess club but decided for the time being not to continue with individual lessons. It was unclear that he was getting much out of it towards the end of the last school year as his enthusiasm waned. After the break, however, he seems to have begun enjoying the game once again. He still prefers Lego Star Wars over chess, but now he enjoys occasional games against Dee. (At the moment she holds a small edge over him it seems, but it's not one-sided at all). I also find it interesting that he now plays Chessmaster quite willingly and has become aware of his rating. As he turns five, his current Chessmaster rating is around 700. (He hasn't played a USCF tournament since last school year but his rating at the end of Pre-K was around 550). He has played about 100 rated games over the last year on Chessmaster but they were really done in about two spurts of activity: the first 80 games in his first few months of playing and the last 20 or so games in the last few weeks. Interestingly despite the nearly 3 month break from playing, his rating was pretty much unchanged at around 550 when he resumed. Then in the last 20 games it shot up 150 pts. To be honest I don't think he's actually improved from 4 months ago, but he does take his Chessmaster games more seriously.

Some may take issue with this so I hesitate to mention it but the main reason for his newfound zeal is related to another lesson I've been trying to teach him. Recently we have been emphasizing the concept of money and saving so we decided to give a small allowance to the kids to let them get an understanding of the value of money. But it occurred to me that without work, there is no association between work and value. So we have asked them to do some minor chores and let them know that we expect certain behavior out of them and if they fill these duties they will be awarded with an allowance to spend as they please. This turned out to be a HUGE hit with them. They really enjoy the idea of having some control over what goodies they can get and when. Then it occurred to me to try to motivate Richie to play good chess, so I offered him a small amount for each win he could produce against Chessmaster. Well obviously this reward system had a big impact on his playing frequency. He often plays several games straight now and is displaying much of his original enthusiasm for winning. He has matured over the year and is less tempermental about losses too so that is another big change that has made it easier for him to play the computer.

As I mentioned, I don't see much change in his play, really, but I think the motivation to win has made his rating go up. Or maybe he is improving but I can't tell.

Here's an example game he played as Black against Anders(859) who is described as a timid attacker.

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