Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Scholastic Tournaments

I cannot think of anything quite like a scholastic chess tournament. Is there any other kind of competitive event where fully half the people there have no idea what they are doing? And when they do poorly they will never return again?

It creates all sorts of interesting problems. First is for the parents of kids that are hoping that their childres will learn chess so that they can do better at math and english and stuff. And that this extra boost will generate millions of dollars in extra income in their life. And whatever they get promised. But I am pretty sure that knowing the horsey can jump over pieces and move in an "L" shape provides none of this. And these kids are exposed to a tournament experience, have their ignorance flashed in front of their small weak egos, and will never get near a chess board again, except to extract some lunch money from the school nerd.

The second group are those that know just a little about chess. This group probably will just start getting the life long benefits of chess. Especially if they continue. But for now, in their little delusional heads they think they are good at chess. When they are not even close. What they are good at is beating people that can't play chess, and barely know how to move the peices. This is such a long way from knowing how to play chess it's not even funny.

Which leads to the first basic gap in chess instruction. How to play chess. There is tons and tons of books about how to move your horsey, castling and en passent. But there is this magical gap. Between not knowing anything, and starting to understand the game. When you move from moving pieces to playing chess. This happens WAY before you can follow a game in print. Before opening knowledge can be anything but rote memorization. Where for the first time, you can *see*. For a good half of these kids that start to early, and end to early, there needs to be a book for them and their parents. A guide to that first step. That step that gets them what they want for their children. The gift of thinking and seeing. The gift of chess.

More Later.


likesforests said...

Chess Kids is the primary resource designed for children just learning how the pieces move all the way up to Lucena and the Sicilian. :)

If your son thinks the pictures are too childish, there's also "Learn chess or call me an idiot!!". It's there--you just have to look.

Blue Devil Knight said...

For someone avoiding books, you sure like to write about chess books!

Idiot's Guide to Chess. Best intro to chess there is, IMO. And I am something of a chess book junkie. If I had ten rating points added for every chess book I owned I could kick Kramnik's butt.

hisbestfriend said...


I think you are beginning to see the point. I don't have anything against chess books. I see the desire, the need. I have them too. What I rail against is how poorly they serve the need. How much of a money sink they are.

This should be the easiest thing in the world. An audience that desires desperately to be educated. And yet so little to be done to actually provide stuff to those that would like to be educated.

I am actually going to go check out the idiots guide and the dummies guide. They may be what I am looking for.

What I am really looking for though is, Cooks Illustrated for chess.

Blue Devil Knight said...

What the heck is Cooks Illustrated?

Idiot's guide is fantastic. It has the best introduction to strategy I have seen. I agree that Silman is not very good.

It is hard to find other good books for people who know some basic tactics but are looking to ramp up their performance. The best one I own is A first book of morphy by del Rosario. It includes annotated Morphy games used to illustrate Fine's 30 principles of chess as well as Purdy's wonderful two principles of candidate move selection.

I think if you just read through the books at the bookstore and are not impulsive (like I am sometimes buying them at Amazon), you will find some winners.

One thing that is strange is how few 'second' chess books address the thought process. I think that should be addressed even in beginner books.

Anonymous said...

"Learn chess or call me an idiot!!" is fantastic. Oh, and the book (actually an ebook) is FREE!

hisbestfriend said...


I have looked at that ebook, and yes it is free. And that is a good thing.

I am glad that you found it good, and other people may like it. As a matter of fact others have mentioned it.

I find it interesting that after 400 years, this is it.

However, other than free, personally I cannot recommend it.

It installs software onto your machine which in general better be required, because I know nothing about the software.

It uses a very non-standard way of presenting information. This would be okay if that somehow worked in providing a better educational experience. I am for the new and better. In this case, I am definitely not.

The information is presented by someone who kinda has an idea of how to present information, but many of the illustrations, actually are fairly poor at providing that information.

For 11 bucks and some change, and cheaper if you buy it used, The Complete Idiots guide to Chess, simply does a much, much better job with the same material.

I am always open for another view on the same info. Free is always good. The Idiot's guide is worth WAY more than the cost compared to this.

I do like the title though!!

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with you at all. A lot of the diagrams are actually animated graphics and the book has recieved excellent reviews precisely because of its graphics (the book also uses lots animated smileys, which kids love) and was written by a master who actually coaches chess at schools, so he's in contact with the classroom and has a very good idea of what it is like to teach kids.
But apart from that, the book is supported by on-line quizzes to check the assimilation of the ideas and the person who wrote it actually offers free on-line support to anyone who reads the book.
As for the software, are you saying that installing a program in your computer is dangerous? because that's what it sounds like! :)
The book was not published to make money (it's free), but to promote chess amongst beginners. That, to me at least, is already a bonus... ;)