Monday, May 24, 2010

Summer Doldrums Intervention!

If the last couple of years can be taken as precedent, without active planning we'll be heading for another lazy summer with little chess activity. This year, however, I've got some strategies to keep the ember burning a little better than previous years. We're planning to try out several of the local and not so local chess camps. If they are anything like the Go camp we attended last year Richie will have lots of fun and learn a lot too.

I have found several chess camps and programs within the greater NYC area that are of interest + one camp that is well known nationally.

Darien HS Chess Summer Camps (Darien, CT)
Fairfield County Chess Club (Norwalk, CT)
National Scholastic Chess Foundation (Westchester, NY)
NYChessKids (New York, NY)
Chess-in-the-Schools (New York, NY)
Castle Chess Camp (Atlanta, GA)

These vary in terms of the average strength of the players and seriousness with the Atlanta Camp being on one extreme and the Darien HS at the other.

The first one to kick off in our area is the Fairfield County Chess Club which is starting out before school even ends. I like the idea of this one because it seems to incorporate some of the history of the game as part of the program which would be a nice change. Incidentally, FCCC is apparently opening a new dedicated chess facility in the area which, as far as I know, will be the only one of it's kind in the state of CT.

I am most excited this year about going to the Castle Chess Camp in Atlanta which we learned about during the last nationals. Richie saw some videos of the Grandmasters on the website and became very excited to go. We heard good things about the camp so we decided to try it out and see how an immersive chess experience goes over with Richie. (The nearby Red Wall Studios offers Art Camp at the same time which seems perfect for Alyssa).

After that we're not sure what our plans are but assuming Richie is up for it we may even try some of the other camps listed above. I'll also be on the lookout for interesting local tournaments--preferably those in locations that make for a fun trip and which will give Richie experience with longer time controls.

If all goes well Richie should have plenty of opportunity to play in fun environments. Unlike previous summers, I hope he will be able to maintain and even increase his playing level this summer even without dedicated coaching.

Speaking of dedicated coaching, sadly it has become apparent to me that even my best efforts are likely to slow his development down from this point relative to having a dedicated chess coach. We're still not sure if a professional coach is the way to go yet but it's clear that if he is going to aim to stay near the top of his age group he'll need more help than I can give him.

I am still on the fence about coaching, however, because I do find it somewhat perverse to for a six or seven year old kid to have a professional coach. But on the other hand it seems like that's what it takes barring exceptional self-motivation or talent. At this point, I still don't know where Richie stands in those two dimensions. I believe with work he'll become quite strong, but I have no idea if he'll want to put in the effort later on in life to bring himself to say the master level. But on the off chance that he does turn into a serious chess player for the duration of his scholastic years, I would probably regret it if I didn't give him the same opportunities as I see other kids getting.

Decisions, decisions. More later on this one.

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