Friday, May 29, 2009

Lost in Translation - Part 2

There is more to this story then what I wrote in the first post. If one looked at the positions and analysis, he could see that it was an interesting endgame. I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the game itself, and I did not want that to get lost in what occurred during the game, after the game, and on the following day.

At times I let my inner coach and TD go places that perhaps she should not go. I've had discussions with my blog readers when recounting these incidents. In this particular case I was dealing with my opponent, and I was trying to keep the tournament director out of it. I did not feel it was necessary to get the TD involved. I thought I could make the point of not talking in the tournament room, and staying focused on one's game without getting anyone in trouble. What I had not counted on was my idiomatic English being misconstrued as a cheating accusation, and butting heads with an overly protective chess parent.

After I went back into the playing room and the tournament director gave the mom a "polite lecture" about her son being mature enough to play with adults, she decided she would camp out by the door. This way she could keep an eye out on her son, and make sure his "mean and nasty opponent" was not going do anything else to him. It was rather annoying to look up from my game and see this woman staring at me like I was the devil incarnate. At one point I said something to the tournament director about not liking her giving me the evil eye from across the room. I think he was kind of aggravated by the whole thing and said to me, "What do you want me to do? Gouge her eyes out?"

I decided it was not worth asking him to tell her she could not sit by the door. I may have won the battle on the talking issue, but I was clearly going to lose the psychological war if I did not just ignore her. However it's hard to ignore this type of thing when the kid has an entourage of coaches, parents of coaches, and other assorted people who come in during the game check up on him. Nobody said anything, but people would bring him water and snacks or just stand around and watch. I felt like it was me versus my opponent and the chess academy that he is part of. Are these kids like Hollywood actors who need their entourage to look after them? Do my people need to talk to their people to smooth things out. The problem is, I don't have any people.

One may be thinking, "Ohhh, Polly let herself get psyched out by a nine year old." No it was not getting psyched out by the kid. It was getting intimidated by his entourage, and feeling guilty about being thought of as a bully accusing a nine year old of cheating. After the game was over I made a point of going out of the room with my opponent, congratulating him on outstanding play, apologizing to the mother and him for the misunderstanding, and explaining what I had meant. Apology accepted. End of story? Not quite.

On Monday I had taken a bye for round 5 so that I could play in the action tournament. That tournament was fairly uneventful except one game against a guy whose "elevator doesn't go to the top." Perhaps a post on that event will follow. The short version is; I scored 2.5 - 2.5 and won $16 tying for top under 1800. Woo hoo! That paid for dinner at LAX on Monday night. The action tournament was being played on the other side of the room, so I didn't have to deal with the kid, his mother or his entourage.

In round 6 I'm back to the main event. Taking a 1/2 point bye did not protect me from the dreaded full point bye when I only have 1 point out 5. A last round bye in a tournament where I purposely take a red-eye to avoid worrying about making my flight is really annoying. Originally the director paired me against a kid from the action who had also gotten a bye. However it seemed like he left, so the director found the player in the Open section who was getting the bye in that section.

While I'm waiting for the director to find me an opponent I got talking to the mom who had stuck up for me on Sunday. I thanked her for backing me up. She told me I was absolutely right for saying something. She knows that kids tend to talk too much with the other kids, and she's always concerned that her son might say something about a game accidentally. I told her that I felt bad that I upset the kid, and that he felt it necessary to go crying to mommy. She said something to the effect of "he plays her (you) like a fiddle." I'm not sure if she was saying I got suckered, or that he goes running to mommy over every little thing. Which ever, I guess this may be part of his game. I should mention that this woman's son is friends with the kid, and they both seem to go to the same chess program.

During his sixth round game the kid was seated directly behind me on another row of tables. Another one of his friends was seated next me. The friend's opponent was a no show, and got a forfeit win after an hour. Later on mommy comes into the playing room, and sits down next to me to watch her son play. I didn't say anything to her. I just acted as if she was a random spectator watching another game. Every once in awhile she'd get up and give him something to eat or drink. Sometimes he'd get up from the board and have a conversation with her. To me that is so wrong, but I wasn't going to say a thing. I wasn't playing him, so it his opponent's problem not mine. I made my point the day before, and if she wants to condone, even encourage her son's behavior that's her business not mine.

Maybe it's a southern California thing, but I saw way too many parents getting involved with their children's games while in progress. (My people will talk to your people, and our people will deal with the tournament director's people.) In one round there was a dispute about whether somebody had made the time control or not. The mother of one of the players in the dispute starts talking to the director and the opponent. The kid was probably 12 or 13 years old. Why is his mother butting in like that?

I've seen my share of crazy chess parents argue with the director when they don't like how a ruling was handled. I've also seen neurotic parents at open tournaments hover over their child's game when they're playing. My feeling on the matter is; if the child is strong enough to play adults then he needs to behave accordingly. That means not running around the room, or chit chatting with his friends because he's bored. That means not relying on mommy or daddy to fetch water or snacks for him during the game. That means if he has a problem with the opponent, try to work it out with the opponent, or go to the tournament director. The parent should not be involved at all while the child is playing. Chess is a game between two individual players. Parents, coaches, spouses, significant others, etc should play no part in what happens during game. After the game is over then those people can provide whatever support is needed.

Most scholastic tournaments impose certain rules regarding player conduct. Some examples are, no parents in the room while games are in progress, no wandering around the room during the game, no talking with other players, and no returning to the playing room once their game is done. Rules like this would not go over too well in an open event. "I'm sorry Grandmaster Shabalov, your game is over you can't come back in and watch Grandmaster Akobian's game." The problem is parents and kids take advantage of the less rigid structure regarding player conduct in the playing room.

This past weekend I saw too many incidents with kids having conversations with their friends, or parents not just in the playing room, but right at the board while the opponent was on move. At one point during my game with the kid, he was trying to correct his score sheet. I had given him my Mon Roi so he could see what moves he was missing. His clock was running since it was his move. A kid comes up and starts asking him questions. I said "Excuse me, we are still playing. You should not be talking to him."

I suppose it would be easy ask "Where were the tournament directors?" There was one tournament director. He was responsible for pairings, and running not only the main event, but the various side events. It was hard for him to be everywhere at once. He could only deal with what he saw, or what was reported to him. I probably caused him enough aggravation with my "cat fight" with mommy. I didn't need to tell him how to run his tournament too.

As players we need to take responsibility for our own actions. If we are parents or coaches then we need to make sure we have taught our youngsters to behave in an appropriate manner regarding etiquette, sportsmanship, decision making and all the other stuff involved in being a tournament chess player. If we can take care of these things ourselves it makes the tournament director's job a whole lot easier.


Anonymous said...


Evil eye said...

Watch out from the Evil Eye!

chesstiger said...

As a chess coach i never can stand at the board of my player and dont say a word or even give a sign of approvement or dissapointment.

After the game i only ask how his game went and chitchat a little to either congrats him or to console him.

Our kids parents are seated at a tafel on which refreshments and such are on. So after the round the kids can come for a drink or a cookie or .... But during the game they are on their own.

We have taught them to either call the tournament director or the arbiter if something is wrong so that (s)he can intervine. For drinks they have their money so that they can get atleast something for themselfs and their opponent (yes, in our country we offer our opponent a drink if we get something for ourselfs, atleast once during the game. So does the opponent btw.)

chesstiger said...

Woops, erase the word 'never' at the first sentence of my comment above.

Polly said...

Anon: Hiding Part 2. :-)

Evil Eye: LOL :-)

Tiger: That's the way it should be.

Anonymous said...

Always enjoy your blog, but you sound as if you never have any fun at these tourneys.

Anonymous said...

hey you kids get off my lawn

hey you kids "stop having fun"

Tommyg said...

Hi Polly!

I am not trying to be facetious but I was wondering if geography has anything to do with how the children behave??

I haven't played all that many tournaments but all of them have had a lot of children and I have had to play against a lot of children at the tournaments. (I got absolutely hammered by a kid today in a local tourney)

Anyway, I have yet to see any real abhorrent behvior in any of the TN tournaments I have been to. All the kids have been quiet and respectul.

I am wondering if the New York pressure cooker affects the kids as well? I truly am not being facetious.

Polly said...

Anon 10:43 am: I actually have more fun then it seems. I spent a little too much time writing about this particular incident. A lot of fun things happened at the tournament including seeing some players that I have not seen since 1981. It was interesting to talk to someone and ask, "So what have you been doing for the last 28 years?"

Anonymous said...

Are you playing in the US Open in Indy?

Polly said...

Tommy: I do notice different ways of doing things in different parts of the country. NY/NJ kids seem a little more independent. If they come to a tournament with the parents, the parents tend to camp out in a hallway to have minimal contact with their kid, unless he wants something. They will get into the TD's face if they don't like the ruling, but this tends to happen afterward. There are some psycho parents that are exceptions to the rule. :-)

I do notice that the kids tend to hang out together in groups based on either private school(s) attended, chess academy, coach, race, etc.

I played an adorable little eight year old girl yesterday at The Marshall Chess Club. (Note to self: What out for adorable little girls. More on that in a later post.) Her parents got her settled in, but once the game started I never saw the parents come back into the playing room. On occasion her older brother would stand by the door, look at the position and go back and hang out with mom and dad in the rear courtyard. He never spent much time watching. I suppose he was just giving them updates. My opponent never even made eye contact with him.

Knowing a little bit about manners and respect in the South, it doesn't surprise me that you don't have as many issues with behavior. I think a lot has to do with the culture and vibe of certai parts of the country. I notice that just from traveling and visiting different states. It doesn't ven have to be chess related.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Perhaps when everyone is seated, before round 1 starts, the TD should be on the ball if there are lots of kids in the room and "review" certain rules of conduct. Kind of like those reminders at the movie theater to shut the hell up and turn off your cell phones.

These posts are making me nervous about my next big tournament. I don't want to have to deal with this crap.

I put in earplugs in all tournament games (yes, I'm that guy), which seems to help.

Tommyg said...

Another example of good behavior occurred a couple of weeks ago at the local club's monthly swiss.

I was paired against a young girl of about 8 or 9 years of age. As fate would have it her father was also in the tournament and he was playing at the very next board.

In a show of excellent decorum he never once looked over at our board and never once whispered to his daughter. He let her play our game (which she won!!) and he played his.

I agree with BDK that the TD could set the tone at the beginning of the tournament. A nice reminder never hurts. (and yet there is always that one person who STILL answers their cell phone at the movies!!!!!)

Anonymous said...

Sometimes when I am playing against kids, after the game is over, other people come up to me and tell me about something he was doing. I rarely notice because I focus on my game and not what my opponent is doing. The only time I've had to call the TD about a kid's behavior is when a 10-year old (1700 rated) started writing candidate moves on his notation. I said something like "You realize you aren't allowed to make notes about the game while it is going on?" He replied with "Do you realize that you are not allowed to talk to your opponent during the game?" Then I paused the clock, got the TD. The TD made his ruling and the kid stopped. The ironic thing is that the kid blundered mate in 1. I guess the candidate moves really helped!

Polly said...

Anon531: Yes I'll be at the US Open.

BDK: At scholastic tournaments the TD will make some announcements and reminders about rules and behavior. However at most tournaments the director will simply remind players about turning off cell phones, setting the clock correctly, don't analyze in the playing room, and post your result. Tournament directors get really annoyed when results are missing.

Don't be nervous. This sort of stuff is not the norm. Most kids are well behaved, but there are exceptions. Unfortunately the exceptions tend to make bigger impression.

Tommy: That is a father with a lot of restraint. I have a father and son who play at my club. Both are wonderful people. The father is really laid back, but he will go over and look at how his son is doing. He's told me it's hard for him to play when his son is playing because he worries about his son's game, and loses focus on his own.

Anon61: Gotta love the player who brazenly violates the rules, and then throws a non-rule back at you when you complain. There is no specific rule saying you're not allowed to speak to your opponent during the game. Otherwise how would you offer a draw, or ask to borrow his score sheet?