Saturday, December 15, 2007

Drawing The Line

I'm a kid at heart, and sometimes I can get very silly when playing bughouse or blitz with the kids. When I'm hanging kings or flagging in a won position I get flak from my bughouse partner. The kibitzers will rag on me and tell me I suck. They're right. My reflexes aren't so hot, and sometimes I suffer from brain freeze. It's all in good fun, and I'm among friends even though they're 40 years younger then me.

In regular tournament play it's a whole different story. Leave the snarky comments and trash talk out of the tournament arena. One needs to show respect to opponents no matter what his or her age or rating is. Sometimes I've let certain kids slide when they've made snide comments making fun of my time pressure issues or my inability to beat certain players. I've also put up with another kid from Manhattan telling me I should stick to directing because I'm a better director then player. One kid once told me player X was over rated because he's beaten me so many times when I've been on my floor. That was not a nice thing to say about me or the other player.

At one tournament one of the kids was yapping to my first round opponent on how to beat me. "Get her into time pressure and you'll crush her." Albeit true about me, IMHO it's disrespectful to talk about one's competitors like that, especially when one of those competitors is one's parents' age. Then in between rounds he started ragging on me for drawing with a 1688. "1700s aren't supposed to draw with 1600s! It gives us 1700s a bad name." Give me a break it was opposite color bishops with even material. There's 12 points between me and the 1688. I'm glad he wasn't in the room when I lost my second round game to a 1632.

Maybe I was just having a bad night, but I decided I would say something to him about his comments. I've lost to lots of kids, and unless I limit myself to tournaments for players over the age of 21 I will lose to more kids. I didn't want it to sound like I couldn't deal with losing to kids, or that my feelings were hurt by his snarky remarks. Truth be told it does bother me when he needles me like that. But I'm more bothered by the general lack of respect that I see amongst many kids. I see it in chess, and in other places. It's not just kids saying crap to adults, but to other kids. About the only place I don't see it is at the do jang where I'm studying Taekwondo. I'm amazed at the respect shown by the students to the masters, and to each other. It's a very different world in there.

The short version is, I ended out telling him with his parents present that he needs to show a little more respect, and not be so cocky. It doesn't matter how good or bad one's opponent is, or what one's record is against that person, treat the person with respect. I tried not to be harsh, but he did get a little upset. I wasn't trying to be mean, but I just wanted him to know that sportsmanship and respect are very important. Chess Karma, a new blogger hit the nail on the head when he listed his 10 things to make chess more popular. Although the post is very funny, #10 on his list strikes a very serious note. "10. When top level players play one another have them treat their opponents with courtesy and respect. I know the previous suggestions are easily achievable but I have to admit this one is a bit of a stretch." Thanks Karma for such wise words, and welcome to the chess blogosphere.


Glenn Wilson said...

Disclaimer: I know little about the actual facts and may have misinterpreted what I think I know. But..and I'll try not to be harsh. :)

ended out telling him with his parents present.

Why with the parents present? Why not one-on-one?

Perhaps you have done that before without effect?

especially when one of those competitors is one's parents' age. The age of the opponent is not relevant here.

It sounds to me like you may be too involved and taking this too personally. Of course, it can be hard to separate the role of opponent from the role of teacher when one is both.

BlunderProne said...

I think you did the right thing telling him with his parents present.

Otherwise you risk misinterpretation as he tells "his side" to his parents and ... well... you know how that could go. It's better to have his parents there to also get feedback of the little snot's behavior.

As you know, I am constantly encountering chess kids. I agree, there is very little respect. Why is that? We live in a society that seems to pander to narcisitic self entitlment. We get it everywhere.

What are the natural consequences of such arogant beahvior? In some places, you can refuse service or ask the patron to leave teh store of you own the store. In Chess, there are USCF rules on conducts of game. It might be good to refresh these rules before the tournament and maybe approach the torunament directors BEFORE the tournament. Ask them how they plan on enforcing this. Bringing Respect back into the game would be a welcome change. I don't think they teach that at teh scholastic level. Partly becasue the scholastic TD's may not be experienced enough.

Polly said...

Glenn: I considered taking him aside sans parents, but I decided they needed to hear it too.

I admit that it is a bit personal which is why I hesitated bringing it up. If it was something that was just between the two of us without others seeing or hearing I'd be more inclined to let it slide. However I've heard other chess teachers be critical of his attitude at times.

I feel every player regardless of age and talent has a responsibility to behave in a respectful manner towards opponents and tournament directors. There is leeway for age and experience, however a highly rated player has extra responsibility to set a good example for others. What kind of tone does it set when best player in a tournament of mostly kids (3 adults played that night) is talking trash about one of his opponents?

As a teacher and a competitor I value sportsmanship and respect tremendously. In my classes I will gently remind my students that gloating and the chess equivelant of "end zone dancing" is not acceptable behavior after winning a game.

The inner teacher comes out when I'm in a tournament and I see things that cross the line.

Blunder: In scholastic tournaments the TDs can enforce a code of conduct. A scholastic tournaments is not only a competitive situation, but it's one where kids can get some education about appropriate behavior in competition.

The problem arises when you have kids playing in non-scholastic events where it's a mix of adults and children. The TD makes the assumption that kids playing in his events have learned appropriate behavior, and that the only issues that he will deal with are the things that relate to the actual play of the game itself. I don't think I've ever recalled a TD in a open tournament chastise a player about trash talk or other unsportsmanlike behavior that happens away from the table. The only time it seems to get addressed is during the course of a game when an opponent is being obnoxious by slamming pieces, the clock or doing other annoying stuff.

maddie's mom said...

I think you did the right thing. I think there is way too much trash talking among kids in chess these days. Parents and coaches are equally culpable for letting that kind of thing slide and I don't think it does kids any favors in the long run so I think letting his parents know was a good idea. Recently my 6-year-old played in her first tournament and as she sat down across from her opponent, his friend (a first-grade boy) came over to her and said "he's going to crush you." My daughter shrugged it off in part because she has heard her older sister tell stories about 2nd grade boys who kicked her under the table and swung their chess bags at her and told her "girls can't play chess" but another little girl who hadn't played in many tournaments before got the same treatment by the first-grade trash talker and was so upset that she left the game and may never come back to chess. Coincidentally, Maddie and I were researching Ben Franklin and I pulled up his "Morales of Chess." As applicable today as they were in the 18th century: "Sixthly. You must not, when you have gained a victory, use any triumphing or insulting expression, nor show too much pleasure; but endeavour to console your adversary, and make him less dissatisfied with himself by every kind and civil expression, that may be used with truth, such as, 'You understand the game better than I, buy you are a little inattentive;' or, 'You had the best of the game, but something happened to divert your thoughts, and that turned it in my favor.'" There is some other really good stuff in there such as "Fourthly, If your adversary is long in playing, you ought not to hurry him, or express any uneasiness at his delay. You should not sing, nor whistle, nor look at your watch, nor take up a book to read, nor make a tapping with your feet on the floor, or with your fingers on the table, nor do any thing that may disturb his attention. For all these things displease; and they do not shew your skill in playing, but your craftiness or rudeness. Fifthly, You ought not to endeavour to amuse and deceive your adversary, by pretending to have made bad moves, and saying your have now lost the game, in order to make him secure and careless, and inattentive to your schemes; for this is fraud, and deceit, not skill in the game." Plus ca change . . . (I am thinking about making a bunch of copies to pass out at the next tournament we host at our school -- a little chess wisdom and a little American history!

Liquid Egg Product said...

On the scholastic level, we're dealing with kids learning, and they should be taught to be respectful.

As far as Glenn's concerns are concerned (sorry), one idea is to have a less-involved party talk with him and the parents. But I don't think Polly doing it was a mistake.


No one's going to get involved in chess because top-level players are all polite. No one pays attention.

Toiletgate got chess in the news. And what about the cheater who was banned for 10 years for electronic cheating?

I'll bet there was a minor spike in chess club attendance after those incidents.

The top 10 players in the world should be required to act like an irrational jerk to a rival once every 3 years.

Polly said...

LEP: Sigh. I'm afraid you're right. Chess only seems to make the news when something bad happens, or the player is a raving lunatic.