Monday, December 3, 2007

Wearing My TD Hat: Observations From The Other Side

On Sunday I directed a scholastic tournament in NYC with 166 kids. What's amazing about the New York City scholastic chess scene is there were 3 other scholastic events going that day on within a 80 block radius. In addition there was a another scholastic event on Saturday. I'm not sure how many the other events drew, but there were plenty of options. We even lost a few players who were traveling in from New Jersey and Connecticut whose parents couldn't deal with the icy roads, and the snow. Damn! December arrives, and the sucky weather comes right with it.

This particular tournament has 6 sections including 2 unrated sections for K-1, and 2-3. There are 4 rated sections including one for players rated over 1400. I'd be lucky to get a plus score in that top section, especially since King Kong was playing. I'm convinced spending too much time watching the unrated sections causes your playing strength to go down by 200 points. I saw one game where a kid had mate in two and offered his opponent a draw. I'm sure he had no idea there was a mate so soon, but he was up a queen and bishop. Who knows what what going through his head at the time. You can never predict what a 7 year old is going to do. Though there's no guarantee crazy stuff doesn't happen in the higher rated sections either. The final game in the Championship Section (Rating range 1000 to 1399) ended in stalemate with a player being up two rooks.

Sometimes my role as a teacher and coach crosses over with my directing role. The mom of one the kids on the team I'll be assisting in Houston came up to me. She said her son looked very upset when he came out of the room to use the bathroom. She also said that he was slumped over and shading his eyes while sitting at the board. The body language was all wrong. She was curious as to what might have happened, and asked me to take a look. I always try to be very careful with requests like this so that there is no appearance of a conflict of interest. With this particular kid I've never coached him before and this is his first year at the school that I travel with. I don't know him all that well, though he and I made excellent bughouse partners at the team season kickoff party in October. We were close to unbeatable.

I had no intention of saying anything to him, but since I was going into the playing room to check on the progress of the various games I figured I'd at least take a peek at the position. Sure enough he was not only slumped over the board, and trying to hide his eyes he was totally flushed, and looked like he had been crying. Yes, boys cry over chess too. When he saw me he told me that he had accidentally knocked his king over while reaching to write his move down and that the opponent made him move the king since he didn't say adjust. I asked him when did this happen. He said three moves before. I explained that if he wanted a ruling on the situation that he should have gotten a TD when it happened.

I did explain to both players about accidental touches such as knocking a piece over while reaching for another piece. Who knows if the opponent was being a hard ass or just didn't understand about incidental contact with pieces. Hopefully I set him straight on the matter, and hopefully the other player learned an important lesson about how to handle questionable situations in the future. Far better to learn it in a local event then at the grade nationals next weekend. The king move had cost him a knight for a pawn, but he did fight back and drew the game. That was a nice comeback from an unfortunate situation.

Even when I don't have to play King Kong, somehow he still manages to be in the picture. In the last round he beat one of the girls in the section. His opponent Maddie was really ticked about losing to him. I told Maddie's mom that she should not feel bad about losing to him considering that I'm 0-8-1 against him. I said I lost to him when he was 1100, and have continued to lose to him now that's he's higher rated then me. Mom tells Maddie about that. She also tells her that she should go over the game with Kevin, but she's too annoyed and says ."He's mean. I don't like him." Spoken like a 4th grade girl!

After I had gone back into the playing room Maddie's good friend, Lilia got Maddie to sit down and look at the game. Yes, this is the same Lilia who smacked me around at the Marshall a few months ago. Lilia also has lost to King Kong. Maybe he just does well against the fairer sex. So the two girls are looking over Maddie's game and trying to see what she could have done. As they're analyzing the game Kevin comes over and starts putting in his two cents. Then Kevin's friend Mike comes over, and the four of them are looking at the game. When they get tired of analyzing the game they decide they want to play bughouse. Girls versus the boys. Maddie's mom told me about this, but she did not say who one the bughouse games.

What a great way to end a rough day of hard chess. None of the four kids had a great tournament. Poor Mike had a horrendous tournament. This is the same Mike from class who crushed me, and didn't make a big deal about it. He not only handles winning well, but he handles losing well. How nice that at an age when girls and boys aren't too crazy about each other they can bond over a few games of bughouse. All of them will be in Houston for the K-12 grade nationals. I'm sure at some point I will see them hanging out together between rounds. It's nice that players can butt heads over the board, but when the game is done they can be friends with their fellow competitors.


Liquid Egg Product said...

"I'm sure he had no idea there was a mate so soon, but he was up a queen and bishop."

Probably sexist and atheist. He didn't think his female and religious piece were worth anything.

You've undoubtedly been TD'ing for a while, and believe me, we who don't appreciate those of you who do. It's generally a thankless job, I take it!

Didn't know the K-12 nationals would be in Houston. I'll have to swing by.

Polly said...

LMAO!!! But the kid who was up the queen and bishop was a boy, and his opponent was a girl. :-Þ

There will probably around 1000 kids all over the Hilton. If you've never been to a big scholastic event it's quite something.

likesforests said...

Maybe he watched Searching For Bobby Fischer one too many times. You know the part... where Josh has an obvious win and politely offers a draw--of course, the real Josh had enough sense never to do that in real life!

likesforests said...

Or he has a crush on her and wants to get on her good side? ;)

PeteyDaddy said...

I miss the NY chess scene. There's always something (or two or three or four somethings) going on.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I am so jealous, it sounds like NY is such a great place for chess. It just moved up in the list of places I'd like to work.

Polly said...

I love the NY chess scene. There is just so much happening. My blog only touches on a part of it since I write about my experiences as a player and TD. A lot centers around the Marshall Chess Club where I hang out.

I guess maybe sometime I'll have to revisit my Washington Square stomping grounds. I actually lived a few blocks away from there in 1978. I'd spend my afternoons playing chess or bridge. The scene is different now.

Brechstange said...

Maybe you should show your kids my chesslesson-videos :-) Then they will never accept a draw and play with the first move for the full point :-D

The queen in kids hand is very often not more worth, than a bishop.

You can only see the worth of a piece, if you take a look to the owner of it.

yk @

maddiesmom said...


You did a great job with that story. I love the line about 4th grade girls. Maddie says that she thinks that she and Lilia won at bughouse. They didn't get a chance to have a rematch in Houston. Maybe back in NYC in January!

Congrats to your team! I saw them go up for a trophy but I forget which section.

Polly said...

Maddies Mom: The team came in 3rd in 8th grade division. Very close in top 3. We were 1 point out of 1st, 1/2 out of second.

Glenn Wilson said...

Full results for the National Scholastics are available here

You can click the links at top to show individual or team results and then select the grade level ...

Here's an interesting article on the New York v. Texas angle

Polly said...

Glenn: I was in your home turf, but I don't know whether you were there or not.

The NY vs Texas angle came into play in the 8th grade section too. Going into the last round the standings were:

1. NY
2. TX
3. TX
4. NY

We were in 4th place and got paired against 2 players from the TX team in 3rd place. We took out those two guys, but only scored 2-1 in the final round so we couldn't take out the other TX team or our NY rival in 1st.

Glenn Wilson said...

I was around for a short while on Saturday but never got over to the George R Brown. I spent a few hours at the Hilton K/1 area, bookstore, etc. Currently I am only mildly involved in scholastic chess. I have two young students that found me via word of mouth or being a friend of the family. I know chess well enough but I am still working on the coaching/ teaching thing. :-)

The quality of the Houston scholastic players owes a lot to people like Jim Liptrap, Larry Englebretson and Bill Reuter. I've been an observer but plan to get more actively involved over time.