A Grandmaster’s View Of The Parents Room

The idea of having a separate room for parents at junior tournaments is a really good one. One hates to think of the chaos that might ensue if they were allowed into the tournament room, even momentarily. Besides disturbing the players (most chess parents have little experience of what tournament conditions should be) there would probably be a lot of tension. Not to mention the possibility of unsolicited advice.

I doubt that many Grandmasters have experienced tournament parents’ rooms, at least as parents, so I guess I have a fairly unique perspective. What are my impressions?

For starters I’m amazed at the dedication of my fellow chess parents in carting their children around to these events. And when they get there they must wait in often crowded conditions sitting on chairs made for 6 year olds. The refreshments are often dodgy and overpriced, none of which makes the experience more enjoyable.

A few parents seem to base their weekends around their children’s chess, having relatively few occasions when there’s nothing on. Usually these parents do chess with their kids at home and are strong believers in its value. I guess I’m becoming one of them even though I’m still something of a neophyte.

The majority of parents take their kids with rather less ideological fervour, they don’t do chess at home and are taking them because their kids have been persuaded to go. In this case it seems tougher all round, the parents seem to suffer the situation less well (it’s easier to be tortured in what you perceive to be a good cause) and their kids will be outgunned if they’re not playing a LOT of chess. Even more importantly they need to be taught well.

Will such families stay the course long enough for the kids to become good players? My guess is that this would be rare.

Of course nobody knows that they’re doomed from the start, probably they haven’t really thought about it. We’re also living in a fast paced culture in which people have the option of trying many things. Yet this isn’t particularly good for getting on board deep activities that facilitate self cultivation. You have to do a lot of chess before you get to benefits such as powerful mental discipline.

Do I have any words of wisdom for other chess parents? Only that I agree with Richard James’s view that chess must be done regularly (which probably means at home) for the benefits to be properly realised. And I strongly suspect that this idea is applicable to other fields as well, whether it’s an art form like chess or music or a sport like football, golf or cricket.

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About NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in Southport in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days he teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 14 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game.