oh yeah, and happy new year.
part one: two people I want to give some props to
I keep being impressed by Alexandra Kosteniuk. I had gotten a good impression a year ago, when she did a benefit simul at the British International School and played Alexis and Ezequiel. I saw her again at her book signings at Grade Nationals.
For the most part, I think introducing kids to strong players usually results in awkwardness. The kid has never heard of the strong player; the strong player doesn't have any interest in talking to the kid, and they have absolutely nothing in common anyway.
But if the kids get a chance to meet a world champion, I figure of course I should make them. I'm a teacher, right? So I go up the elevator and round up the first ones I see, and bring them to the bookstore to meet her. On the ride down, I ask them to think what questions they want to ask her, on the grounds that you don't get too many chances in life to ask a world champion anything you want.
So the kids are all very bashful at first, and then Justus blurts out "What's it like to be a world champion?"
not a great question, right? Really, a hilariously bad question. I'm about to interrupt and apologize, and scold Justus for being stupid, but then Kosteniuk says something like, (and I'm very loosely paraphrasing a whole month later) but something like this:
It felt fantastic when I won, and I was really happy for a while, but the thing is, it's not like you win the world championship and then ok, you're done, you can relax. The next tournament you play in everybody tries to beat you, and you have to play well in every game and prove that you really deserve to be world champion. You can lose at any moment, to anyone, so it's a constant struggle, you have to always try to improve yourself, to raise your level. But this is also what's exciting and it gives you a lot of energy.
I was blown away by this answer. I thought it was a fantastic thing for a talented kid to hear, that, as hard as it is, you have to get used to putting yourself on the line in every game because you will never stop having to do so. And that you can and should use competitive emotional energy to push youself to work on chess: that doing this both helps your chess and gives you something positive to do with the feelings.
Then Azeez asked Alexandra what chess books she liked. At first, she started talking about how when she was a kid, she liked reading stories about chess players, more than instructional books, but Azeez just gave her a blank stare, and then she said she had really enjoyed Jesus de la Villa's 101 Endgames You Should Know and had made flashcards out of the 100 positions. One side of the card had the position; the solution was written out on the reverse, and she quizzed herself on them until she knew all 100.
I'm equally amazed by this second display of question-answering virtuosity: in two sentences, she turned studying technical endgames into a fun activity with cards. wow. I casually say to Azeez, "I'm pretty sure we have that book in our classroom library; let's make flashcards and learn all 100 endgames when we go home," and he says "yeah! great! that sounds like fun!"
She's like an interview magician.
Her publisher very kindly sent me a review copy of Diary of a Chess Queen. I'm probably too lazy to review it, seeing as how I'm not close to finished and I've had it for weeks, but I like the parts I've read, especially this bit:
T. Chalabashvili - A. Kosteniuk 1994
1. e4 e5
2. Nf3 Qe7 (long comment omitted about how, as a child, she studied middlegames and endgames, not openings)
Black's plan is as follows: ...c7-c6, ...d7-d6, ...g7-g6, ...f7-f6, ...Bg7, ...Nd7, ...Nh6-f7. I recall that, when I was young, I believed the plan of b2-b3, Ba3, and d2-d4 would refute this system."
I thought that was pretty funny.
And the second awesome person of the day is Shaun Smith. I'm psyched about him every Saturday when I leave the Chess in the Schools tournaments at 3:45 (before Shaun they used to drag on until 5 or 6).
This guy runs a free rated tournament of 50o kids every Saturday, with only high school kids to help him, in which 4 rounds of game 30 take place with only 15 minutes between each round. The rounds are never late; they make basically no mistakes, and he never gets upset with the insane parents (or coaches/assistant principals).
I do not know how he does it, but my hat is completely off. Also, he's very generous to the kids with time, help, rides, money, and his willingness to try out new ideas, which brings us to....
An Advertisement for the Championship Section at the CIS MLK Day Tournament
Are you rated over 1900, live in the NYC area, and interested in playing in a free 3-SS, G/45 tournament next Monday (Jan 18) or the following Saturday (Jan 23) with cash prizes? Get all the info and preregister by emailing (firstname.lastname@example.org) or calling (212) 688- 0725 Shaun Smith. Last time, the section had 17 players, including local adult experts Mikhail Sher, Jonathan Corbblah, and Benjamin Katz. so you should come play; it'll be good chess.
Anybody Willing To Play a Match with a Kid?
I've arranged a couple matches for my students, and they have thoroughly enjoyed them and learned a great deal , so I'd like to organize more. I'm looking for players rated over 1800 who are interested in playing a rated match of 4-8 games, something between game 60 and game 120, at the Marshall on weekends, against a kid rated 200 points less than you. The child will be polite, on time, and not annoying. What's in it for you? free chess, an enormous supply of instant karma, and I'll post all your wins on this blog.
ok, I'm stopping now to catch up on some episodes of the office and correct some chess workbooks. more coming soon. please leave me some comments.
I almost forgot! I need team name suggestions for an Amateur Team. I'm playing with Ana Izoria, Ben Katz, and Stephen Moore. Thanks!!