Sunday, March 27, 2011

do it for the children

       I think it's stupid when chess teachers refuse to teach openings. I've met a whole range of these people with a range of explanations: it's superficial to make the kids memorize things, they want to teach how to think, they're all about discovery learning or creativity, they teach only endgames, and leave it to the kids to intuit middlegame principles, they teach through a "critical positions" approach.
        This is their problem: they think too much about teaching and not enough about learning. It looks good but it doesn't work.
        People don't learn the deep stuff first; you learn the superficial stuff first, and later, once you can do it, then you learn why it's like that. When you learn a foreign language, you learn how to say "hi, my name is Elizabeth" before you know what a possessive is, or a predicate nominative, or how to conjugate the verb "to be."
       Beginners have no idea what is going on in a game of chess, they are the semi-blind, lost in a new world. They need and want to be told what to do. Teach a kid the colle, even better, the colle zuckertort, give them a plan to play for, and they will learn how to make and carry out a plan. They will get the same type of positions and structures, so they will be able to use their experience from past games and post-mortems to orient themselves in the future.
    teach them critical positions when they're 1500 and endgames when they're 1800.
    they need to know openings now. it's good for them, I promise, plus they'll love you for it.   

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sunday, March 13, 2011

incredible before/after interactive google pictures of the tsunami

Satellite Photos - Japan Before and After Tsunami - Interactive Feature -

Counterplay: An Anthropologist at the Chessboard

     Congrats to Bob Desjarles on the publication of his new book, Counterplay: An Anthropologist at the Chessboard, and on its glowing review by Rowson in New In Chess. I'm quoted and described in it, so I'm not impartial, but it's insightful, engaging, and will inform how you think about chess in relation to the rest of  life. You can buy it here.

an exerpt from Rowson's review:

Perhaps the main reason I feel charmed by this book is that it is so well-balanced. The author is as credible when describing his passion for the game as he is when he gradually falls out of love with it. There have been lots of non-fiction books about chess which convey the positive side of chess — the wonder of it all, but few that honestly face up to the experience of alienation that arises when players realize that the game is not the exis¬tential panacea they thought it might be. Life goes on, and chess doesn't always help us to live it well. Desjar¬lais highlights that the competitive spirit of the world, and the quest for chess status becomes strenuous after a while, and he had me laughing in agreement with the observation that “a hierarchy of dominance exists, not unlike that which can be found at a posh country club or among a troop of baboons.”

He also refers to the “trivial depth” of the game, but captures the alienation best through his own experience:

“Later, before heading out to my car, I walk through the tournament area. I step past the tournament directors' office, where two men are keeping track of results reported and complaints lodged, past the display of chess books, past the food vendors selling soggy hot dogs and crisp burgers. I stumble around three kids seated on the carpeted floor, placing pieces on a board, and I overhear two men discussing a game. `That's a nasty pin,’ mutters one of them. I stick my head into the skittles room and see pairs of players jousting over rooks and knights, and then walk into the playing hall, where all is quiet and somber and deadly serious, as though a world is at stake. I feel I should be seated at a board as well, fighting it out. But I don't care to be here. Playing now would be like counting pebbles in the sand. I feel discordant, antiheroic. Moments later I'm on the road, heading for home.”

I can’t quite say I know the feeling, but I identify with that sense of being “discordant, antiheroic” and I have felt it many times when I was, as a Grandmaster who is supposed to love the game, suddenly unable to muster any deep concern for the quality of my moves or the outcome they might lead to.

weight by state

There's a hilarious infographic in Charles' Blow's op-ed piece in the Times called "Weight by State: Measure of childhood obesity and some contributing factors in states won by John McCain in 2008."

Which leads to the punchline/thesis of the article, which is "Maybe conservatives aren't attacking Michelle Obama's seemingly unobjectable anti-obesity campaign because they attack Michelle Obama reflexively, maybe it's because THEY'RE FAT."
      which at first I thought was a little mean ("no, you're fat!" "no!! you're fat!") but keep in mind, Blow is attacking leaders who are taking a stand against important public health education.
    I was a little surprised that I couldn't find any direct look at obesity rates among registered voters by party.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

New World Youth Qualification Policy

This was approved by the executive Board on Feb 22, 2011. It should be of interest to chess parents, as it opens up many more spots for the World Youth, especially under the rating minimums (2.).
FIDE World Youth Chess Championships Selection Criteria:

The World Youth is an annual tournament held traditionally between June and November. Players must be selected by their individual federations in order to participate. The age categories are currently U8, U10, U12, U14, U16 and U18 (Subject to change by the host country and FIDE). In the event that any FIDE rules or regulations are determined to be in contradiction with these selection criteria, FIDE rules and procedures will supersede these criteria. (REVISED January 2011 to take effect for the 2011 World Youth.)

A. Within each age and gender category, players may qualify to represent the USA under any of the following criteria:

1. be established as one of the three highest rated candidates by peak post-tournament rating in the previous 12 months, ending with events included in the May Rating Supplement;

2. The minimum rating requirement within the age and gender categories for players who do not qualify for this event by some other means is the following:

Girls Under 18 Minimum Rating1900

Girls Under 16 Minimum Rating 1900

the rating list :)

I.S. 318 Top Rated Players

1. Justus Williams 2255
2. James Black 2152
3. Ms. Vicary 2076
4. Isaac Barayev 2029
5. Danny Feng 1979
6. Shawn Swindell 1947
7. David Kim 1837
8. D’Andrea Dey 1811
9. Randy Rivera 1811
10. Joel Ogunremi 1810
11. Rashawn Williams 1778
12. Kenneth Martin 1765
13. John Paul Garcia 1696
14. Jermaine Cooper 1694
15. Alex Bradford 1684
16. Aleem Awan 1682
17. Jakob Kobajlo 1637
18. Lukasz Fron 1622
19. Maya McGreen 1622
20. Sebastian Dabrowski 1571
21. Matthew Kluska 1566
22. Mr. Galvin 1548
23. Mariah McGreen 1542
24. Markus Pond 1534
25. Kevin Marin 1515
26. Jorge Quiroz 1487
27. Vaughn Soso 1473
28. Anita Maksimiuk 1472
29. Kevin Dominguez 1442
30. Avery Jonas 1441
31. Rhoda Lynch 1417
32. Rashawn Baldwin 1416
33. Sekou Prowell 1413
34. Otto Schatz 1412
35. Brian Arthur 1409
36. Yuxin Zhao 1392
37. Kamil Chmielewski 1354
38. Carlos Tapia 1350
39. Anthony Asseviro 1340
40. Keith Leary 1334
41. Raphael Clifton 1309
42. Shanniah Wright 1291
43. Warren Zhang 1268
44. Tommy Zhang 1228
45. Mr. Murnieks 1222
46. Anthony Ovando 1215
47. Nicholas Amatulli 1207
48. Richard Wu 1195
49. Austin Tang 1175
50. Earl Chase 1155
51. Lequasiah Lawrence 1154
52. Brian Flores 1154
53. Spike Smith 1152
54. Henry Cali 1146
55. Teraab Feaster 1142
56. Lisa Laundry 1133
57. Cedric Brown 1096
58. Xonatia Lee 1093
59. Moshe Lopez 1077
60. Zion McKenzie 1069
61. Ashe Collier 1020
62. David Ding 1001
63. Ariel Peguero 999
64. Jack Wen 996
65. Humzh Alborati 992
66. Jamye Moya 976
67. Edeli Cuate 954
68. Jessy Ramirez 890
69. Justin Bannister 889
70. Ricardo Bellamy 886
71. Sebastian Garcia 736
72. Haby Diallo 725
73. Jiayu Tang 722
74. Mubassar Uddin 693
75. David Yuen 668
76. Patrick Johnston 627
77. Zanea Seymour 601
78. Sebastian Wisnewski 554
79. Alexander Vega 488
80. Jasvir Rai 480
81. Jakub Kulczynski 474
82. Hieu Hoang 467
83. Matthew Vega 460
84. William Abreu 432
85. Kandiwar Randhawa 425
86. Empress Brown 399
87. Jacob Ostrovski 398
88. Vincente Gomez 333
89. Prasant Das 284
90. David Tsoi 236
91. Tariq Troutman 235
92. Shihab Islam 227
93. William Yu 208

Monday, March 7, 2011

south east asia?

We're going to Southeast Asia for our honeymoon. The lesson I learned from last summer is that I get bored after a week anywhere, and so we are planning to go to 4-5 places for 4-5 days each (+ 4-5 days of travel time). You can buy passes for multistops on many local airlines. So I'm looking for suggestions of places to go.

So far, we're thinking:

Inle Lake, Myanmar: "A wonderful watery world of floating gardens, stilted villages and crumbing stupas, Inle Lake is one of those few places that are a tonic for the soul*" (Myanmar). They also have a tradition of foot-rowing (pictured).

Bagan, Myanmar: "Gather all of Europe's medieval cathedrals onto Manhattan Island, and throw in a whole lot more for good measure, and you'll start to get a sense of the ambition of the temple-filled plains of Bagan."

Gunung Bromo, Indonesia: "A lunaresque landscape of epic proportions and surreal beauty, Gunung Bromo is one of Indonesia's most breath-taking sights." If you start hiking at 4 am, you get to the top for sunrise.

Hanoi, or possibly the smaller town of Hoi An, Vietnam.

Has anyone been anywhere that was unmissably awesome?

*descriptions taken from Lonely Planet: Southeast Asia on a shoestring

Sunday, March 6, 2011

happiness by state

a fun infographic from the NY Times: quality of life by state

and.... meet the happiest man on earth: Alvin Wong

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Can't Handle the King

presenting Scottie, aka Michael Peguero, a 318 alumnus who goes over games with me on Saturdays!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

318 in the news: the "LeBron James of Chess" and American Teacher

photo courtesy Monroi

A quick glance at Justus Williams and he looks like a typical 12-year-old. He's quiet, loves Jay-Z and Lil' Wayne, and wears the latest and greatest Air Jordans.
However, Justus has a talent up his sleeve. He's an internationally ranked chess master and the youngest black chess master ever. Justus started playing the game while in an after school program called Chess in the Schools.

Read the rest of this fabulous article on Justus at NBC NY.

These beautiful photos are republished with kind permission from photographer Bruce Gilbert from a fantastic article in American Teacher on the team (scroll down to page 4).