Monday, April 30, 2007

Big Daddy is Toast

It took me until 9th grade to beat my father at chess. Even then I don't think I could consistently beat him until I was a senior.

My son, in the 3rd grade has now taken that torch. I am both delighted and saddened. My father, "Big Daddy" to the grandkids is now not as excited to play his grandson.

My hope is that I will enjoy getting my ass eventually whoomped by the kid when he is no longer saving the earth from the alien invaders.

I wish there was more chess in the park around here. Alas.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


A great big thank you to Blue Devil, and hello to the Knights that have arrived. I hope that you enjoy our adventure, and that y'all get at least a little bit of entertainment and edification out of this. But I think the Knights understand that comradery and process are key parts of chess mastery. So as Minnie says HOOOOWWWDY!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Friday Night Lights

Friday night is one of the regular times you can actually get some chess in around here. They hold quads at the Chess4Life center. A local organization that started in the last year, that is both a result of the local chess boom, and will also help drive it.

You can also play at the local mall crossroads, quads at Eckstein middle school. And the University of Washington has an informal meeting at Cafe on the ave.

My son, his bud and I decided it was a good night to blow off some steam so we went and played. We need to do this more often. So that it means chess rather than just screwing around. It is hard to get into a chessy mind set on a friday evening, especially when your trying to man it up for your bud. And your bud is doing likewise. He eventually did play well with a record of 2/1. He did not when the tiebreak though, so missed the trophy this week. His bud, who is rated about 150 points up, is the lowest rated in the top quad. With the predictable and unfortunate results.

There is, unfortunately, no score. We talked about that, and we all agreed that it is probably a good idea to keep score. My son's one loss was to the Fried Liver Attack. Out of the 3 games he has lost in the past two weeks. All of them to this. Our strategy is to keep falling into it, but finding a way to win. At least so far.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Our Summer of Mastery

Our goal this summer is to jam pack our knowledge. Just like any good stage dad. However, the only thing I am signed up for here, and the only thing he signed up for, is one summer. This summer. Hopefully he gains enough chess mastery in this one summer, that with little other work, except exposure, he can choose to play chess competively for the rest of his scholastic career. Without feeling embarrassed and most importantly having fun.

It will take a lot of work to get there, but not nearly as much work as it will take to be "That Guy". But he is too young yet to make that decision, and while he is enjoying chess, I don't think he is prepared to make the exclusionary demands to be that one guy. So... Our Summer of Mastery.

I will post about our plan as we go on. A few of things of note. He is not entirely a beginner. He has some chess vision and mastery of the board. But he is clearly a beginner, in that even with ability and vision, he lacks wisdom and experience. He has had very little positional training or opening training other than the standard maxims. There are interesting phases in the beginners life. I don't think we are through them all, but in many ways we are at the very level that many knights start at. I think it is worth examining what the differences are, so that we can all grow.

Focus Points

We are going to use PCT 3.0 for tactics training. He is currently on Tactics Module 1 unit 20. And we generally do about 5 a week. The goal is to do one unit a day, but homework, soccer, and other things come up. But I see us ramping up rather than ramping down through the summer. We have CT-Art, but currently I do not see the need to add anything extra in. We have made a bet here.

We are using Fritz with Rybka 2.3.1 to follow our own games and to go through master games that we discover. This gives us a world class kibitzer to look over our shoulder when we examine games. At this level, there is nearly nothing to be learned by the wins (almost universally poor opponents), but there is a lot to be learned from playing better players. We can help determine plans and methodologies to come up with better things to do in the future. I have tried many other UI's, and I am on a Mac so it would be better if something like Sigma 6 worked better. But the always working cut and paste features, infinite analysis, and adding kibitzers is better than anything else to date. It just works very well.

We have used "Searching for Bobby Fischer" to create discussion points, and help understand the needs of the beginners up front. This movie has been very good for this, and has helped provide a vocabulary around the adventure.

For attempting not to lose, and bring structure to the game, we use the Principles of Dan Heisman's "Real Chess". This has also created a structure around talking about not losing, and the difficulties that you can have over the chess board. And how those difficulties lead to reactions that make it even more likely to lose. Playing "Real Chess" helps keep you from looking stupid. Both in reality, and in your own mind.

For strategy, we have Yasser's books, Kasparov's book for children "CheckMate", and now we are seriously looking at Andrew Martins stuff for the Chess Media System in Fritz. I am actually amazed by this. This by far has helped me find understandings that I used to hope came from books. It dramatically lowers the access requirements to certain types of knowledge, and the speed is better in trying to keep things together. I have 2 CD's coming in the mail, the ABC's of openings and The Scandanavian made easy.

More details about all this stuff as we go along.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A bit about me

Seattle in 1980. This was an interesting year. The Seattle Chess explosion is just about to end. Yasser Sierawan and John Donaldson are about to leave town. There was still chess at the Last Exit on Brooklyn, and even still happening a bit at the Pizza Haven on the Ave. But at Garfield High School, there is no one left. I am your typical non-performing, overly qualified senior. Nobody cares, and I barely show up for school at all. The chess team officially disbands. So I get me and 2 of my friends to restart the chess club and we move into the activity center pretty much 7 periods/5 days a week. This is before anyone knew what 24/7 was.

We attracted two more players including a poor sap who actually knew how to play chess. And we were ready for Metro. We played the first match against Lakeside and got whooped 0/5. We learned that we had more to do before next week. We learned our lessons, and didn't lose a single match for the rest of the year. Hah! Our fifth board did not lose a single game. Unfortunately, I don't think our top board won more than 1 or 2 games all season long.

I didn't play any competetive chess for the next 11 years. I had gotten married, moved to Italy, and had taken up bridge as my game of choice. I came back, played unrated and recieved a rating of ~1400 won a couple of class things locally, thanks to the technique of block, pounce and simplify. And dropped out for another 14 years or so. Not that I haven't always been a little bit interested. I played some ICC. Got busted for cheating once. Played some online tourneys for real, read some of Yasser's books, and Silmans Amateurs Mind book. And essentially packed it up.

Last year, my son, the second grader got a tourney chess set for Christmas. And here we are today. I am about as active as I have ever been, I play a lot of chess with my son, who is not quite good enough to beat me, but desperately wants to. This is the summer of chess. We are ambitiously launching on a process while he is still interested, to improve our respective ratings by 300 points or so.

This I believe is eminently doable. We know more now. We have computers to help. While we don't personally have Yasser at our beck and call, we do have him on DVD. So far things are looking dramatically up. His play has improved dramatically. Even his loses are not horrible (usually). He still seems about as far away to beating me, so hopefully I am improving as well. We are in general using PCT for tactics. Generally 5 modules a week. We are trying for 7 but things come up. We intersperse this with various other things, from fiction, to DVD training to Fritz training modules. This helps alot with the general chess gestalt, that helps with making decisions on the board. We have learned about the physicality of the game and how that can help or hinder.

We struggle to find our place in the massively bizzare politics of chess in the USA. But mainly we are attempting to have fun. We shall see if this is actually something that sticks, who knows. I do think that he takes what he learns this summer and can use it at various times in his life. And I hope someday, his brush with greatness is not just a year off.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

First Post

Welcome all to my and my son's chess log. Hopefully this blog will be useful to y'all as we vicariously participate in the chess learning process. We have a decent wealth of experience behind us. This was my son's first anniversery of chess. He plays in the advanced chess club at his school. An award winning participant of Elena's Donaldson's chess camp last summer. He is 4/0 in an 8 round RR in his club. Participated in 10 scholastic tournaments this year including state and we had our "Searching for Bobby Fischer" moment and took the train to the Nationals in Sacramento. And all with a rating that is currently peaking at 907. He is clearly not yet "that guy."

But I believe that is the point of this movement. We all love chess, we all desire to play as well as we can. We are willing to invest or minds, time and resources to this end. We share the triumphs and failures, the techniques and reviews. We are clearly in the middle of this process, both for me, a 1400 player with no games under my belt in over 10 years, and my son who has gone from knowing nothing to just starting to play well, in just over a year.

Please excuse the mess while I get this set up.