Monday, November 24, 2008

New Jersey State Grade Championship for 2008

Richie had a very nice result at the New Jersey State Grade Championships. He scored a perfect 5.0/5.0 in the Kindergarten section to take 1st place ahead of a small field (13 players, I think). Richie seems to be "in between" levels right now. He had an easy time with unrated or inexperienced players, but has quite a bit of difficulty against 1st-3rd graders rated over 500. We made the trip out to NJ, hoping to give him a chance to play stronger competition in his age group, but from that perspective this tournament turned out to be no different than local tournaments. There were only two rated players and the rest were early beginners so the experiential value was a little less than I had hoped. Alyssa scored 2.0/5.0 in the 2nd grade section. There were quite a few players that are objectively stronger than her and her results pretty much followed expectations based on ratings.

Inline with my recent realization that Alyssa and on occasion Richie are still making simple sight errors (not having anything to do with strategy, but simply overlooking a chance to win a free piece easily, or moving her pieces in a way that they can be captured immediately), I asked both of them to try their best to avoid these two types of errors on every single move. That's quite a bit of concentrating to do over a whole day, so I'm proud of them for their efforts. I believe that until this much can be mastered, working on other skill development may be premature.

Most of the time these errors are the side-effect of a good thing: trying to plan ahead. Usually at some time during their previous turn they plan something, often something that follows some generally recommended action (castle, or develop a piece, for instance), but they execute the move without pausing to consider the opponent's most recent move and how that move changes the dynamic of the position.

I am going to experiment with speed chess as a practice routine. The goal of the exercise is not to win the game (they are hardly dexterous enough to win a close game at 5-minutes), but to focus on a short set of thoughts that should be made every single move. For example, play through a 5-minute game making an effort on every move to check a. if the piece they just moved is free, and b. if it attacks something that should be moved. If a. or b. they should respond appropriately with a capture or an evasion, otherwise they should make the first safe move piece move they can think of (or pawn move if no piece move seems obvious).

[Edit: I had previously called Richie the 2008 Kindergarten Champion, which technically incorrect. That title is reserved for NJ state residents. The NJ State Kindergarten Champion is Jai Narayanan. Congratulations to him and congratulations to Richie for taking first place.

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