Thursday, April 2, 2009

Heading to Supernationals IV

Richie and I are off to the Supernationals IV tomorrow. It's actually a bit of an accident that we're even going at all. I had made reservations for the Opryland hotel just in case we decided to go but I was 90% sure we wouldn't. The main reason I wasn't interested in going this year was that Richie is still in Kindergarten. (Actually he I should probably refer to him as Pre-K since he will be entering Kindergarten next year) but they only have a K-1 section. He has pretty much no shot at winning and only a small chance of getting the all important trophy so I was inclined to pass and just wait for next year. But, and let this be a lesson to myself for the future, I naively listened to the booking agent who originally told me I could cancel with 48 hours notice. That's apparently true for normal hotel reservations but not for conventions like the Supernationals. So I was basically stuck with the reservation and had to scramble to make other arrangements so it didn't go to waste.

It's nice though to go to the tournament just for the experience (at 5000 players it's the biggest chess tournament in history). I won't be so concerned about preparation because the results are not as meaningful this time and I can focus on making sure Richie is getting an enjoyable and edifying chess experience. It's actually awful that I care so much about the results at tournaments to begin with but to be perfectly honest with myself, they always matter to some degree. Having said that, the most uplifting chess parent moment I've had recently was when I showed Alyssa a grandmaster game that involved opposite side castling and a spectacular double edged race to land the first blow. At the end of it she said, "that game was so cool, I like that one a lot." She's always been more of an artistically minded person, so I had hoped that the creative side of chess would appeal to her, and it seems like the seeds of chess appreciation are taking root.


Rich Tanenbaum said...

What a great blog! This reminds me of what the Polgar's dad did with them being home schooled as an experiment in making kids "intelligent" (or so I've read). I hope you have the same level of success!

You're approaching your own kids' accomplishments with great objectivity in this blog, which is refreshing and admirable. So I'll throw out a gratuitous comment that you have held back from making: seeing Richie pop on out of the playing hall, notation pad in hand, so much smaller than all the others (not because of genes, but because of his age) with such a purposeful gait, like the Nobel prize-winning professor bolting across campus, is so cute you have to laugh at the absurdity: he's too young for this! And yet, he does it, and he does it really really well.

I'm glad that Alyssa is regaining interest. It would be so easy for her to be completely turned off by the game with the success that Richie is having.

As a comment on an earlier post, I think speed chess and blitz, while they have some advantages (more decisions per hour), they are going to create a developmental roadblock in the kids' ability to play slow and consider multiple possibilities. I constantly hear that getting kids to play slow is the toughest challenge. It doesn't just make the teacher's job harder, it makes the student's job harder as well. Especially because Richie is able to focus for long periods, it would seem better to nurture that quality instead of effectively stifling it. But I'll admit I'm no expert on the subject.

The chart of players rating by age and experience was interesting, and a subject I've pondered too. But there are lots of variables we can't graph if we don't know the people: did they switch schools? get a coach? switch coaches? start taking online lessons?

And as you've undoubtedly seen with your kids in chess and outside chess, sometimes things which seemed so difficult for so long, just click overnight. It just seems to be the way the brain works. Some kids get stuck with a rating for a year, and all of a sudden they jump 200 points, and they stay there for a year, then they jump again, like electrons making a leap. And then other kids go up nice and steadily, while a third set jumps way up and down, with an upward trned around a lot of variability. I'd guess that knowing which kind of kid you have would help determine the best way to motivate them for long run growth.

Keep up the posts, and hope to see you again soon.

Koji said...

Thanks Rich. I think blitz has a role in development but it's value diminishes once the player can consistently avoid really simple errors. There's certainly a trade-off. It seems to me that the more strategic knowledge they have the more benefit there is to playing slower time control. But if they aren't really able to think more than a move or two ahead, all the time in the world doesn't necessarily increase the learning rate because that time isn't being applied to make better moves. I agree that it can be detrimental to practice a faster control because that pace may begin to feel natural to them. Then they end up playing tournament games like blitz games.

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