Tuesday, April 29, 2008

New Chess Books, Things I've Been Doing, Some Actual USCL News and Gossip

So overall... I'm feeling a little flat. It's like I've forgotten what to do to have fun. Also, I've forgotten how to hang out with other people. I think I need to move to the French countryside and grow vegetables and take up horseback riding. But all I want to do is stay in bed.

Despite this, fun things I did recently:

1. Went to a karoake night at a Russian banya (bathhouse) with some friends from the UTD chess team. Andrei Zaremba and Igor Shneider sung the Russian song "American Boy." Was very funny. I danced, which surprised me by being fun.

2. Abby Marshall visited for a couple days after high school nationals. We were going to study chess together, but this didn't happen so much-- she was pretty sick of chess-- so we just walked around New York.

3. saw 2 good movies: The Hole (dvd) and Harold and Kumar Escape From Guatanomo Bay (in theaters). Liked the latter much more than Going to White Castle.

Anyway, two great books:

1. Forcing Chess Moves by Charles Hertan.

Hertan's thesis is that you have to look at the forcing moves first, which I'm sure you've heard before, but he's got some entrancing examples and it's very very well-organized. I read it every free moment I got last weekend-- I feel like I've learned a lot from it, and I also feel like it will serve as my lesson source for all levels of classes from now until the end of the year. Angelica borrowed it Sunday night and I haven't gotten it back yet, but tomorrow or Thursday when I do I'll show you some examples-- some examples that I feel like define "sexy" in chess.

2. Teaching Chess in the 21st Century/ Chess Workbook For Children by Todd Bardwick

I wrote a review of Alexey Root's new book Science, Math, Checkmate in a recent Chess Life which said I thought this was the first book that tried to integrate chess into the national "Standards" movement in education. Pretty soon after that Todd Bardwick emailed me saying he had a similar type of book already published. He was kind enough to send me a copy of both titles above. Turns out he was right.

Teaching Chess in the 21st Century is designed for classrom teachers, and the Workbook complements it but is also useful for kids/parents to read independantly. They're intended for elementary kids, a younger age than I teach, but it's really top notch stuff. Very basic thinking methods (Where's the free stuff?) are explained with many practice examples. Here's a fairly randomly chosen problem I like a lot:

What's black's best move?

Nice problem, right, because you know kids are going to say Ne7+ first, but of course Nd6+ is the only way to draw.

One thing I appreciate a lot about TCI21C is that it gives rubrics for evaluation. An example of the one for pins and forks:

Novice: Student is confused by the question and doesn't understand pins or forks and is unsure how the pieces move. No logical solution is given.

Apprentice: Student identifies some of the possible pins and forks. The apprentice may include other squares that are not pins or forks.

Practitioner: The practitioner understands the problem and corrrectly identifies all the forks and pins and draws them on the board.

Expert: The student clearly understand sthe problem and arrived at the correct answer by identifying all the forks and pins on the diagrammed board and noticed the symmetry in the forks about the b1-h7 diagonal. The expert will also point out that the black king could capture the queen, if she forked from g6.

Anyway, if you are a classroom teacher, or know one, I recommend these two books highly.

USCL News and Gossip

So Greg named the blog for me, but this doesn't excuse its embarrasing lack of news or gossip about the USCL. So here you are:

Alex Shabalov will play for the New York Knights next season, replacing Hikaru Nakamura. He will wear a blue wig for all* games.

*OK, just for the playoffs.


Anonymous said...

He is that one anonymous. I think.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Elizabeth! That's the best review I've gotten yet ("examples that define sexy in chess")! I hope we get to meet some day--we once had fun back-to-back articles in Chess Chow magazine!

Charlie Hertan

Anonymous said...

Gee, Elizabeth! That,s a really nice friendly article. Hopefully, when an older player who is 400 or 500 points weaker than you asks you for an offhand game again at a chess tournament you won't say, "I don't play weaker players!"-nice and friendly like you wrote that article!