Sunday, May 11, 2008

More Observations From Pittsburgh

Despite the brutal schedule on Saturday, things started looking a little better for the group. Kids that had started off 0-3 finally got some wins. I was hoping I wasn’t going to have to deal with any of the kids going 0-7. Even I haven’t gone 0-7! There have been those 0-5 and ugly .5-5.5 that have happened a few times. I’ve been spared 0-6 or worse.

With the kids that got off to the bad start I make it a point to find something positive in their game no matter how ugly it had been. Sometimes they just feel so bad, especially when the other kids are winning and they're not. I also make sure at the end of my analysis session with the kid to remind him or her what the lesson was that he or she should take from that game. Sometimes it was as simple as when a piece is attacked by a pawn to move the piece. The first few rounds I kept having to remind them that guarding a piece attacked by a pawn is not enough.

Sometimes as a teacher I have to be careful exactly how I explain something, because kids take things so literally. A few weeks ago in class I was talking about a few different things including etiquette. We also were talking about stalemate. During the etiquette discussion I said it’s not a nice thing to keep promoting pawns to queens when one has an easy mate with what’s already on the board. I told them about the obnoxious kid who made 4 queens and was about to make a fifth, when I told him to stop showing up his opponent. I also said that making too many queens could lead to stalemate if the opponent has nothing but a king.

One of my players reached this position and promoted to a rook.
When I asked him why he didn’t promote to another queen, he said “You told us it wasn’t good to take another queen.” I had to explain that wasn’t what I meant. Especially since promoting to queen in that position was mate on the move. It would not have been a big deal, except that he kept missing easy mates in one or two with the rooks and queen and ended out drawing. I suggested to his parents to get him a checkmate workbook so that he could practice queen and rook checkmates and begin to recognize the patterns. Is this a future Knight Errant? (Note: I wrote this before reading the heated discussion regarding the Knight's Errant on Elizabth Vicary's blog. For the record, I think for kids that type of exercise is useful.)

The Parents & Friends tournament was on Saturday, but with a group this size I don’t have time to play in it. By the time the first round started at 10:30, I had over half my players done their 9:00 AM round. Despite my pleas to slow down any game that took over an hour and half was considered long. Our local scholastic tournaments have a time limit of game/45 so game/120 is just beyond their comprehension. It doesn’t matter how I explain how much time 4 hours is they just don’t get it. In one round, one of my players comes back in about a half hour. He tells me he played so fast because his opponent had a clock and wanted to play with it. For some reason the mere presence of a clock makes a lot of inexperienced players think they need to play fast. Part of that may be because when they use a clock at chess club they play 15 minute chess. The other reason is they get a clock put on their game late in a round. In the local tournaments any games without a clock going gets a clock put on with 10 minutes for each when there’s 25 minutes before the next round is scheduled.

I was perfectly happy I wasn’t playing in the event since they held it in the skittles room. There were kids running around playing ball, and some teams were using that area in lieu of a team room. The noise would have made me crazy. One of the New York parents I know was using his iPod to block the noise. I’ve never seen him use an iPod when we’ve played in New York. Also given my track record in the event I didn’t feel like tossing a chunk of the 53 rating points I gained on Tuesday.

I met a remarkable young man named Domingo Santoyo who was playing in the Parents & Friends tournament as brother/player team. He's a 10th grader from Brownsville, TX who was born with no arms. He moves the pieces, presses the clock and keeps score using his right foot. He can move the pieces so quickly with his foot that I couldn't even get the picture fast enough. This picture I took he had just put the piece down and was going to press his clock.

His "footwriting" is neater then some high school kids' handwriting that I've seen.

I got to speak to him briefly afterwards. I wanted to make sure he wouldn't mind my posting some of the pictures. He's very a very easy going kid. I wish I had more time to ask him how he got involved in chess. It seems like all of his family plays or directs scholastic tournaments in Texas. I had to check on my team, and I think he was anxious to see how his kid brother was doing.


tanc(happyhippo) said...

Amazing! i'm quite simply blown away.

Top marks to the kid for making moves with his foot.

es_trick said...

Holy cow! You played three experts and came away with a win and two draws. That must be right up there with your Saratoga victory.

Polly said...

ES: In terms of rating points it ranks right up there with Saratoga. It was a kind of a funny evening. In the first round I got crushed horribly and was scheduled for a bye in round two. I thought here we go again! A player stopped by and was willing to play me. My win against her was a lot of luck since she sac'ed two pieces for an attack that didn't work. She could have simply won a second pawn and forced the queens off. Then it would have gone like our previous game where she won a pawn and then ground it out.

The two draws that followed were hard fought and very satisfying. It's amazing how a little break such the opponent making an unsound sac can turn not only the game around, but the rest of the evening.

BlunderProne said...

I posted a wacky wednesday entry... I hope you enjoy.

Wahrheit said...

I really enjoyed your reports, it's amazing you put them up after such long, crazy days!

Polly said...

Blunder: I saw your WW post. I could have taken almost any one of the games I analysed this past weekend and it would have been worthy. However I'm so wiped from that trip. Some kid gave me a nasty cold. :-(