Drew Brees, his mother and his Alma Mater

Saints will go to The Super Bowl  for the first time in its club history. The quarterback Drew Brees is certainly a favorite among the Saints fans. They are hoping Drew could lead the team to win another championship two weeks from now.

Unfortunately, I noticed a sad news recently about the suicide of his mother, who died of drug overdose. During the years of their strained relation, the son asked his mother to stop using his picture in TV commercials touting her candidacy for a Texas appeals court seat in 2006 and also refused to hire her as his agent.

One may ask if Drew is too tightfisted, the answer is No. According to his website, the Brees Dream Foundation, founded by Drew and his wife (both are Purdue graduates),  has committed more than $4,500,000 to charitable causes and academic institutions in the New Orleans, San Diego and West Lafayette/Purdue communities. That is quite an achievement for a graduate who left the school for less than 9 years.

Drew is a nice guy, generous and intelligent,  as one praise reported here, during his college years, made by a coach of one of his rival teams: “He’s not only gifted athletically, he’s gifted intellectually. He knows where the pressure is coming from. He knows where the coverage is going to be rolled. He makes such great decisions. There’s nothing he can’t do.”

So I suggest, whether you are a Saints fan or not, cheer for Drew Brees when watching  the Super Bowl. Let’s dedicate the cheer to his lost mother… Poor kid.


Cheer up, tomorrow is Saturday

Everyone likes Saturday. You may choose traveling out of town, going shopping, watching a movie, fixing something on your house, or like me, bringing kids to a chess tournament. Wow, so many choices, you choose whatever you like.

Maybe not entirely true. As I mentioned in another post, Abe’s basketball games are on Saturdays. Most chess tournaments are held on Saturdays too. He likes playing both basketball and chess. If he goes to the basketball game, he can’t go to the chess tournament of the same day, and vice versa. The basketball season ends in late March, until then, he has to play basketball less often than he likes and to spare some time to play chess tournaments. If Abe can choose whatever he likes, he may choose both, but it is not possible.

If the weather allows, you may choose more outdoor activities: going to a zoo with kids,  picnic gathering in a park,  fishing on a lake… I loved fishing several years ago when I had more free time. Many people have  stories about fishing or hunting. I do not want to tell my stories of the good old days, instead, I would like share an old picture showing the harvest after a fishing trip:

the good old days - after a fishing trip

the good old days - after a fishing trip

…My bad, I caught those fish on a Sunday, not on a Saturday.

Any way, cheer up for the weekend, no matter you will be free or busy.


D is for David

Every time Abe and I go to pick up David from his daycare center, David is always very happy, and busy with something, either running in the gym, solving a puzzle or reading a book with one of his teachers. Once seeing me, he will run toward me and calling along the way “D-a-d-d-y!”

Sometimes, I go there by myself to pick him up. Not seeing Abe, David asks,
“Where is Abe?”
“He is at home.”
“Is Mommy at home?”
“Let’s go home and check.” I always answer like this, even Mommy is at home; David will be glad to go home with me and, in a surprise, find Mommy is waiting for him at home.

David likes to ask the name labels when I try to put on his coat, he will point to them one by one,
“What is this?”
“What is this?”

“It is Luke.” Luke is his best friend, he knows the name label.

“It is David,” He points to his own name label. “D is for David!”

Sometimes, Abe explains the name labels to David.

At home or library, David likes me to read books for him. Upon finding letter “A” in the book,
“It is A,” he exclaims. “A is for Abe!”

As David knows more letters, counts beyond 10, grows bigger, he likes more playing time with his mommy, his bigger brother and his daddy.

The following video was taken about one month ago at his daycare center. Enjoy the toddlers’ show before the parents and siblings:


Colton Harris-Moore: A teenage thief, a master escape artist, or a smart boy

This morning, I heard this news from NPR.  The story was fascinating because:

  • Police say the young outlaw is an amateur criminal — but a master escape artist.
  • He had stolen planes, learning how to flight on the internet?
  • His IQ was three points below Einstein.
  • His mom is writing a book about her son. She plans to use the profits to open an animal shelter for abused pets, something she says her son had dreamed of doing

The kid could have a very bright future if he gives up what he is doing, which is destructive to the society. Colton, turn yourself in, so no one will get hurt.

Anyway, I hope we can find out the motivations behind his acts, who is to blame for his present: himself, his parents, insurance company,  society… Please give your comments after watching this video:


Jeff Sarwer—From a child chess prodigy to a successful poker player

I know that many people have heard of Jeff, either by watching this video

or reading this wonderful interview by Jennifer Shahade.

I recently read the book “Searching for Bobby Fisher” by Fred Waitzkin. (Not the movie as I talked in other posts). Although this book is about the author’s son, another chess prodigy named Josh Waitzkin, there are some descriptions of Jeff, Jeff’s older sister, and his father.  Some excerpts from this book are listed:

About Jeff:

He was different from any other kid I had ever met. His passion for the game was hotter…Jeff believed that no other child was in his class.

About Josh’s coach, Bruce Pandolfini’s comments on Jeff:

For months, Pandolfini had said that if they met, Jeff would be Joshua’s toughest competition. They had similar attacking styles, and both played the endgame with a sophistication rare even among chess prodigies. Bruce had said that if Josh played Jeff it would be like playing against himself.

About Jeff and his father, Mike Sarwer:

Jeff’s father demanded perfection from his kids. In an interview he once described how he had taught Jeff not to have nightmares. In stead of comforting the child, Mike Sarwer would let him to go back to sleep and bring his dream back, but this time he had to overcome the conflict that had terrified him. Mike claimed that both his children had learned to do this…But whether because of his father’s training or because of a natural fighting spirit, spindle-legged, bald-headed little Jeff perceived himself to be a chess superman…Five hundred and fifty kids had come to Charlotte for this tournament and slept in nice beds, but according to several parents, Jeff and his sister and farther slept in their car.

About Jeff and Josh:

Despite their tense relationship, Josh respected Jeff and deferred his great passion…

How to give a kid a happy life when he/she is young? no matter you have  a child chess prodigy or not. It is my intention this site will promote that each kid has a strong mind, strong body and strong bond with parents. Do you want to leave your thoughts here?

Being an adult, Jeff looks quite happy now. I wish Jeff all the best whatever he choose to do.


A Second Time and a Third Time: Part 2

Abe scored three points out of five, he might tie for second for the the U1600 cash prize, but he did not know the amount with some games still going on. So he was glad to play with other kids while waiting. The following video shows the kids playing blitz games.

It was the third time that Abe has won cash prizes in chess tournament: last time was last October, he won 20 dollars; the first time was last September, he won about 110 dollars.

The whole family was with him when he won his first cash prize, we stayed in a nearby hotel for a night. The hotel room was quite spacious, with a big flat screen TV and a big couch. We also played in the hotel pool for a while. The kids were excited playing in the water.  Although at age of two and half, David, Abe’s little brother, wasn’t scared of water. He even enjoyed submerging his head in water for a few seconds. Abe was fond of the hotel too. Later  he told his friends about the hotel, “The hotel has a huge flat screen TV and a huge couch. I love the hotel.”

At the end of that tournament, we waited hours to get Abe’s check since we had to wait until all games were finished. I envied that Abe had so much patience then. On the way home, we congratulated Abe again for his performance.

“Good job,” Mom said to Abe.

Abe smiled, he must be proud of himself at the moment.

“How do you want to spend your money?”

“Let me think…” Abe was excited, he must have many ideas coming to his head…but maybe too many. “I don’t know right now.”

“Do you want to buy your brother a little gift? It will be very nice.” Mom asked.

“Hum… OK…  if it is no more than ten dollars.”

Days later, we went to a local Walmart to buy some toys for Abe and David. We three went together, Abe found himself a Lego toy priced about 60 dollars, with the sale tax at 10%, I would think the toy is expensive, but since Abe use his own money, he would make his decision. I found David “ Thomas and Friends Bathtub Squirters” with three trains in the package marked about 10 dollars.  David loved the “Thomas and Friends and it was within budget. We bought the toys, Abe and David were eager to go home playing with them.

David liked to play his Thomas toys in the bathtub and he also liked to grabbed the trains in hands or put them on bed beside him when going to sleep. He would not go to sleep until he collected all three. Many times, we have to make additional trips to go down stairs to get the missing trains for him.

This past Christmas, David received a better toy of Thomas and Friends“, the engine can run itself on tracks. Now he likes to play with the engine and tracks; bring them wherever he go.

Abe spent hours after getting home from the store to assemble his Lego, then he put his assembled toy in some box. Until this day, I have not seen him dissemble and assemble it again. I have seen him taking off his toy out of the box a couple of times, probably just showing he hasn’t forgot his toy, and he planed to re-assemble it. But he never did, it is too much a project. Every one is too busy nowadays, you can accomplish nothing if you do not have the urge and passion to do something. Even at times, you may have time, but you are too busy to do nothing.

So Abe’s expansive toy brought him hours of joy, while the little toy Abe bought for David was enjoyed by David for months.

Now back to this past tournament, it turned out the three games that could have three more players tie with Abe all resulted in draws; the only other player has three points was given the U1400 first place price instead of the smaller amount of U1600 tied second place price. Therefore, Abe is the sole second place winner of U1600. Here is the video when Abe received his check, the check amount is $91.20. Hope this time, Abe can spend his money wisely.


A Second Time and a Third Time: Part 1

Abe did it again within the same weekend, unfortunately, it’s the bad thing I warned him against many times; He did another thing the third time since he started playing chess, hopefully, it could be a good thing. Part 1 is about the bad thing; part 2 is about the good thing.

This past weekend, Abe and I went to the Tim Just’s Winter Open XXIV, it was held in the same venue as the Nation Youth Action 2009 (see my post about it here). The tournament includes two sections: reserve section for players rated below 1800 and open section for other players. Abe played in the reserve section. I was told this tournament is one of the best local tournaments since the long time control: 90 minutes for the first 40 moves and then 30 minutes for the rest of the game, 5 seconds delay through the whole game, for example, for a game of 50 moves for each player, the time limit for each player is about 124 minutes. Therefore, the game could last up to a little more than four hours. The following two pictures shows some of the players in reserve section and open section,

some players in the reserve section

some players in the reserve section

some players in the open section

some players in the open section

It’s a pretty strong tournament; Abe’s first opponent was rated about 1780. Considering Abe’s rating was about 1400, I had no doubt Abe would lose his game. It turned out to be what I expected, about two hours in the game, Abe came out the playing hall, looked sad, I did not asked him the result since it’s quite obvious.

“I lost,” Abe murmured.

“OK, your opponent’s much higher rated than you are. Let’s go to lunch, next round is about two hours away,” I replied.

We didn’t want to drive far so we went to the McDonald’s about two blocks away.

After finishing lunch, I asked Abe how much time left on his opponent’s clock out of the first 90 minutes.

“About 10 minutes.”

“How much time left for you?”

“More than an hour.”

“ So you spent about twenty some minutes on the game, while your opponent spent eighty some minutes on the game, am I right?”

“Yes.” Abe answered with a smiling face as if he was glad at his “achievement”.

“Let’s say your opponent is about the same strength as you, you think 20-30 minutes, while your opponent thinks about 80 minutes, he will outplay you on the board. In fact, he is much stronger than you. You have to find a way to be better than yourself,” I replied. “Slow down and think deep, you could play better.

“Maybe,” Abe still argued, “But I would be tired if I think that long.”

“For this morning’s game, maybe you can walk around in the playing hall or maybe you can take a one-hour nap, you will still have half an hour to finish your game,” I replied.

Abe’s next two opponents were both lower rated than him, he won the games quickly. So on the first day Abe scored two points out of three.

The next morning, Abe’s facing an opponent who was rated about 1600, I thought Abe might have a chance to score a point. But he lost the game, even in a quicker way than yesterday morning’s game. We waited a while before we went to lunch at noon− the final round was more than two hours away.

After finishing lunch, I asked Abe how much time left on his opponent’s clock out of the first 90 minutes.

“About half an hour.”

“Thirty nine minutes, to be exact,” I replied since I went to the playing hall and checked the game at the moment they were about to finish the game.

“How much time left for you?”

“About an hour.”

Abe did it again, I spoke to myself, he used only about 20-30 minutes while he was allowed to use more than two hours.

“Do not move that fast, fast means shallow thinking and more blunders, you will improve only if you can slow down.

… Abe argued further with me…

Abe spent closed to one hour on his final game, he was down in material, but somehow, his opponent made a blunder and lost a winning game.

After that, we returned home for dinner. At dinner table, Abe grabbed a piece of paper out of his pocket,

“Every time I use a loose scoresheet instead of a scorebook, I will win.” Abe told his mom. “It brings me good luck.”

I thought Abe knew I did not agree and he knew I would say, but “Will Abe care what I might say? do I need to repeat another time? No, of course not,” I told my self. “I’d better shut up”. No matter what, after today’s hard learned lessons, may he start to slow down in his chess games.


Do foreign language skills really help people to be smart?

Whenever we visit the local library, David, my younger son always loves to do the check-out using the auto-check-out machine. Since he is a toddler and not tall enough to reach the scan platform, he has to step on his toes and try hard, if his brother helps him, David will scream, he wants to do himself. About a year ago, seeing him using the laser scan staff, the librarian paid attention to us, and she asked me if he can speak Chinese.

“Yes, but only a little bit.” I replied.

“Teach him whenever possible.”

She told me not to worry about some experts’ view: Learning two languages at a very young age is confusing,

The younger the better,” she said. “Foreign languages make kids smart… my son can speak four or five languages.”

His son must be super smart, I guessed.

Back home, I searched the internet and found some chess prodigies that might have foreign language skills:

  • Ray Robson, GM, won 2009 US Junior Championship at fourteen. His mother is a Chinese American, I assume he can speak Chinese.
  • Alex Lenderman, GM, won the U16 division of the 2005 World Youth Chess Championship, 5th place in the recent World Junior Championship (with a very strong field). He is a Russian American. I assume he can speak Russian.
  • Hikaru Nakamura, GM, won 2005 US Championship at seventeen and then won US Championship a second time in 2009. He had a Japanese father and then a Sri Lankan stepfather. I assume he can speak one foreign language.

Do foreign language skills really help people to be smart? And they have a very positive effect on chess players too? What do you think?


An interesting article about Mansion by Michael Lewis

Today, I asked Abe to read ten pages of a chess book, since the book is an advanced book, I supposed him to finish the reading no less than half an hour.

He started to read the chess book, at the same time, I started to read an article  from another book, minutes later, he said to me,
“I am done.”
“You must have not read it carefully, it is supposed to be a difficult book,” I replied, “I have not finished reading this interesting story yet.”
“Which story? Let me see how soon I can finish it.” Abe must think he is a super-reader, he will surely finish reading an article or whatever much faster than his dad.

“Sure, you can. But after you finish reading the article, I will test you some questions to see if you really read the article.” I guess it is not a bad idea to teach him some lessons.

“I may not remember every detail.”


I showed the story to Abe, it’s named The Mansion: A Subprime Parable written by Michael Lewis.

After Abe finished reading the article, I asked him the following questions:

  • What is the story about?
  • Do the kids like the house when they first see it? Why?
  • What are the names of the three kids?
  • Do the author think he has privacy living in the house, why?
  • Why do they move out of the house?
  • How much is the utility bill for the first month?
  • How much is the water bill for the first month? Is it for drinking water?
  • What is Quinn’s response when visiting William Randolph Hearst’s house?

See if you can answer them all and let me know if I missed some of important questions.

Abe answered most of my questions correctly or almost correct. So I thought the lesson he could learn was not about his reading, the lesson was about managing money:  Spend only if you can afford.

By the way, Abe said he used ten minutes reading it (The Mansion: A Subprime Parable). How about you?