Tuesday, April 20, 2010

thoughts on girls, high school nationals

I'm so glad I took the day off today. I really had nothing pleasant left inside. I value my downalonenothingtime a lot, and I've spent something like 26 of the last 30 days with the kids and the other four days moving. Now I'm sitting on my deck in the sunshine drinking tea and eating banana oatmeal. much much much better.

The weekend was very strange: less pressure than junior high nationals (somehow 19 kids is less than 19/55 of the stress of 55) although I feel like I worked a lot also. Going back and forth between the games of 2000s and 500s is disorienting.

After junior high nationals I was pretty annoyed at how lackadaisically most of the girls played. So on Thursday and Friday I divided them into two groups of four and made each group sit through two 2-hour opening review sessions. Which for half of them was learn-your-openings-for-the-first-time sessions. I just couldn't bear to sit through any more advanced caro kanns with the light squared bishop behind the e6 pawn, or any double e pawn four knights games. This way they would have no excuse.

The first day and a half was generally pretty bad. I was on a complete rampage, going over every game and being a huge bitch all the time: saying things like "THAT IS COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE!!!" to 11 year olds for hanging pieces or nto having a reason for a move. I said some amazing things to kids, including "You can count to two, right? Then you should have seen that!!" and "If you are not going to pay more attention, you should quit chess, because you are wasting everyone's time." I also put girls on "room arrest" (you can't leave you room) for playing too quickly.

By the end of round three I was starting to feel like an abusive jerk and, since it apparently wasn't helping, was about to give up, and be fake nice instead. but then in round four everyone took over an hour and started playing well. And I really believe that's why we seem to win girls nationals sections pretty easily every year: most people won't tell teenage girls (especially the together, articulate ones) that they are lazy and the quality of their work is unacceptable. and sometimes kids need to hear that, or they have no reason to step up. I do think I'm fortunate to be a public school teacher and not a private coach: it's much harder to be that tough with someone who is paying you. I was very happy to see them improve visibly over the course of the tournament: several of them I acquired a new respect for as chessplayers.

It was quite amazing that Rochelle won the under 18. Anna Matlin was the top seed going in, and so Rochelle and I had started preparing for her Saturday morning, thinking we had time and they wouldn't play until Sunday. But we had only just done some basic stuff, and they were paired that night. I haven't seen the game yet, but I understand Rochelle salvaged a draw in Anna's time trouble despite being down a piece for much of the game. of course, you can't blame someone for being lucky.

On Sunday Rochelle just had to beat a 1300 and a 1400 in the last two rounds, while Anna had to beat Alexandra Botez, an 1800, and the mysterious Danni Chen. This seems to have been Danni's first USCF rated event, but her provisional rating is 2068 (!!). Anna lost on time to Chen in the last round, (no idea what the game or final position was like) which allowed Rochelle to win with 5/6 and better tiebreaks.

So maybe she got a little fortunate with the pairings (although she played Botez in round 2 and the talented Margaret Hua in round three) and Anna's recurrant time trouble, but Rochelle also played some tough practical chess. The scholarship make a huge difference in her life: I hear that a lot of the people who win the Girls Nationals scholarship don't end up using it, but she will.

It was basically the greatest moment of my life Saturday night when we were in first in high school team standings. I actually stayed up later just to enjoy it some more. I knew it couldn't last: we would get super hard pairings on Sunday and three of them are eleven, but it was a huge thrill to see.

pretty good for sixth grade: James Black places 22nd in the High School Championship

I was proud of them for coming fifth. They played some nice games.

I asked one kid what happened in his last round game and he said, "I didn't feel like playing so I wasn't concentrating and made a lot of mistakes." At first I was interested in figuring out how bad he felt about this, because it seemed ambiguous from his delivery, but then I started thinking I was impressed with the kid's self-awareness.

my plan for the rest of the afternoon: take a nap, watch an episode of House, and go for an exploratory bike ride.


Alex Steger said...

Hi Elizabeth,

I am conducting a psychological study of chess players as a research project and I am trying to recruit volunteers who have non-provisional USCF ratings and an Internet Chess Club account.

In a nutshell, you will play a game of chess and write down how you felt during your thinking time. There are 10 feeling words you will rate on a scale of 1 to 5. You will record your response after playing your move. The games will be played online at the Internet Chess Club (unrated) and the time control will be 45 45 (G/45 with a 45 second increment). You will then submit your game and responses to be analyzed as part of the study.

Do you have any suggestions as to how I might get the word out?

Please visit http://sites.google.com/site/psychchess/ for complete details.

Thanks for your time and consideration!

Elizabeth Vicary said...

Can you tell us what the research project is for/ how many people you are looking for/ what (if any) academic affiliations you have?

Alex Steger said...

Thanks for the quick response, and I appreciate your time.

I am a research assistant at the Neuropsychology Clinic of Louisiana (http://www.louisiananeuropsych.com). I am also a student at Louisiana State University, although this study is not through the Psychology department at LSU. I have a bachelor's degree in Mathematics, and I am applying to graduate school in Psychology this Fall. I am conducting this study through the NCLA to investigate correlations between emotional stress and performance during a chess game.

I am seeking between 50 and 100 volunteers; participants will be paired against other players who are in similar rating range.

I apologize for posting this as a comment to your blog, I was unsure how to otherwise contact you; delete these comments if you wish. You can contact me via email at psychchess@gmail.com if you are interested.

Again, thanks for your time and consideration.

Anonymous said...

Soon they'll make a movie with Ben Kingsley playing you.

gurdonark said...

It's kinda fun to play the four knights game, from either side.
It teaches patience.

Yet the point is good--expectations are a good thing. People can thrive if they are expected to succeed.