Wednesday, November 19, 2008

81st ACTA Scholastic Chess Tournament

On November 1st, the kids participated in the 81st ACTA Tournament. Richie ran away 4.0/4.0 to take first place for the Kindergarten section. In general it seems the competition in CT in the Kindergarten age group is not really much challenge currently. I'm very proud to report that Alyssa scored 3.0/4.0 to take 2nd place in the Primary Novice section. More importantly, she was very proud of herself and even started to say that she "kinda likes chess now." I had told her many times in the past that it was just a matter of time before she started winning more. We've recently worked a little bit on tactics (or "tictacs" as she calls them) which has helped her quite a bit. She is still strangely reluctant to use her queen. She fears losing her major pieces and therefore plays passively, but she is a little more careful nowadays. In her final game, for instance, she lead by a queen and a minor piece at one point, but never moved her queen off of d1 and eventually lost it for free on that square to bishop!

The more I watch them kids play the more I realize that the following skills are most important (in descending order):

1. moving pieces when directly threatened if that piece can be taken for free
2. capturing an opponents piece that has just moved if it is now free
3. not falling for simple counting errors (3 attackers to 2 defenders)
4. not trading pieces for pawns

Surprisingly, Richie, for example, who is sometimes quite strong at tactics and can spot mate in two with a clearance sacrifice, for instance, still sometimes overlooks a chance to win a the most recently moved piece with a pawn.

Someone should make a drill for K-1 age players which repeatedly makes threats and the only task is to save the threatened piece (by capturing the attacker if it's free, or by moving to a safe square if it's not). This is so basic that it's not even covered in tactics books or software, but it really requires practice.

It's pretty hard to make kids play slow enough too. I still struggle with finding away to remove these types of hasty errors from their play.

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