Having been a chess parent for eight years as well as a GM and coach, I thought I would offer a few tips on chess parenting. Despite my extensive background in the game itself I have been learning ‘on the job’ to a large extent. Richard James’s insights were very useful, certainly at the start, and I learned more by experience and watching other parents in action, both doing things well and making mistakes.
The first thing to understand is that when your kid becomes interested in chess then basically it’s their show. As I see it a parent’s job is to be quietly supportive in celebrating wins, commiserating with defeats and avoiding lectures or reprimands. It might be that you need to look after their interests now and then if you think they are being unfairly treated. But in this case you also need to listen to your child’s view on the situation.
The second big thing to consider is that becoming a good player and getting the most benefit from involvement with the game takes time and effort. A lot of it. In this our eight year I will be taking my son Sam to around 20 tournaments. He also works on chess at home, probably putting in around 8-10 hours a week on average. This is normal for anyone who takes up a musical instrument but many chess kids tend to do much less than that. As a result they may struggle to go from junior chess to fulfilling their potential, or even getting established in the adult game.
Number three is that they need coaching, and probably a lot of it unless they are autodidacts who can learn on their own. This is why so many of the young players who come through have a chess playing parent who can do the coaching ‘in house’, at least up to a certain level. For parents who can not play chess, or at least not well, they can try to organize enough homework for their kids to develop, or perhaps learn together with them. But I will not hide the fact that it is tough for parents who do not play, and they will need a lot of research and motivation to provide appropriate support.
Number four is that you should look for a genuine involvement with the chess scene rather than be day trippers. Parents who seem to be more successful often involve themselves with organization, providing transport to other players and making friends with those in the chess community. This is then rewarded at many different levels, not least of which is the fact that your kids will find it easier to make friends themselves.
There are other tips too but these are the four main ones that come to mind. Here meanwhile is an interview with a couple of tennis parents, Mr. and Mrs. Federer, who seem to be a perfect model:
In these days of computer based preparation is there any benefit to using a board and pieces? It can certainly seem harder, especially if someone is used to whizzing through dozens of games using the right hand arrow. Yet there could be hidden benefits of the sort that makes many brain experts suggest that we write things down. One theory is that the physical act of writing things down helps activate the brain.
Actually I use a chess set myself whenever it is possible. This is not the case when teaching over the internet but it certainly is when I work on chess with my son Sam. We rarely use a computer unless we want a second opinion from an engine or need to map out some opening lines.
Not convinced? There is quite a lot of stuff on the internet about doing away with laptops, so do your own research and consider giving it a try.
Despite recent events in Berlin, the Candidates Tournament in Zurich 1953 is still known as the greatest in history. Fifteen players took part with the format being a double round all-play-all, and ultimately it was Vasily Smyslov who emerged the winner, two points clear of David Bronstein, Paul Keres and Samuel Reshevsky.
Why is this the most famous Candidates Tournament? Largely because of David Bronstein’s book on the event which has become known as one of the best ever written. Bronstein’s insightful remarks give a real insight into the mind of top Grandmasters, from opening to endgame.
Here is a video on the event by the prolific Lucas Anderson:
Here’s another nice video from Lucas Andersson, this time about the Soviet School of Chess. It’s also worth reading Alexander Kotov’s book with the same title, which showcased Soviet chess talent together with a large dollop of propaganda!
Another nice Lucas Andersson video, this time on Akiba Rubinstein. Rubinstein was one of my favourite players in my teenage years and his games influenced me a lot.
Here’s another in Lucas Anderson’s wonderful series of videos on great players. I must admit that I’m a big fan of Anatoly Karpov’s chess, as are many other strong players. His games are very subtle.
Here’s another nice video by Lucas Anderson, this time on Wilhelm Steinitz. Steinitz is worth studying so as to better understand the development of modern chess strategy.
The new ECF grades came out this week which would have had a lot of UK players in the UK checking their latest number. Of what significance are they? Well they do give a fairly good indication of playing strength and you can see whether you are improving or not. A larger number of games will give a more accurate figure, a smaller number is less reliable.
My own grade came out at 247, up from 240. It was based on just 12 games so I don’t think it will be very reliable, though it does perhaps indicate that I did not completely go to seed during my long layoff from competitive chess. My son Sam stayed about the same, his standard grade going down slightly (153 from 157) and his rapid grade going up (147 from 144). I think he reached a bit of a plateau after moving up steadily from his first rapid play grade of 33 in 2012. I figure he’ll be moving up again before too long.
These long term trends, over a large number of games, are what best indicates where someone is heading. Many older players suffer a slow, long term decline, though not all. Checking players over 70 for ‘standard improvement’ shows that it is never too late to get better. It was good to see a Tiger Chess member occupying one of the top places on this metric.
Of course grades can be taken a bit too seriously and can become something of a distraction. So I would recommend not thinking about them until a list comes out, and even then take a very long term view. Things like moving house, a change of job or trouble at home can play havoc with someone’s playing strength. But these issues eventually come to an end leaving the big picture as what really matters.
Magnus Carlsen’s round 8 game from the Tata Steel tournament in Wijk aan Zee was a good example of not giving up. He blundered a piece away in the opening but fought on and eventually won. Here’s an interview with him after the game.
As for the entire round, here it is with expert commentary. Coverage of the Carlsen game can be found within..
There’s some nice coverage of the Tata Steel tournament on Youtube right now. Here’s the round 5 video: