Abe teaches his little brother how to play chess

David is almost three-year old. He is fortunate to have a caring older brother: Abe to play with him.

It is almost time to go to bed, they are still playing chess in Abe’s room:


What did you learn from this chess tournament

Last Weekend Abe and I went to Indianapolis to play the 2010 US Junior Chess Congress. It was the first time Abe played chess tournaments out of state,  his little brother: David and Mommy also came with us to show the support.

The tournament was well organized, such as paring sheets were always posted  twenty minutes before each round; the tournament was held in a nice hotel;  there was enough skittles space; and the top board games were broadcast in one skittles room.  Even my wife praised there were enough water and food without leaving the hotel—a big plus for chess parents:

Chess skittles roomOne chess skittles room
broadcast of top board chess games

Broadcast of top board chess games

It was always hard to pass time for little David in chess tournaments since he had to behave himself,  and got tired quickly playing the toys we brought along. Fortunately, the books brought by some chess parents looked enormously attractive, he asked Mommy to read every book for him:

David and Mommy are reading books

David and Mommy are reading books

There were six rounds of games in the tournament, four on Saturday, and two on Sunday. The time control of games at the first day was G/60, G/90 at the second day.

In order to let Abe have experience playing with strong opponents, I registered him in the Grade 12 section. I didn’t expect him to have a strong performance in his section, but hopefully he could learn something from his games.

In the first day, Abe won two opponents who were lower rated, he also lost two games. The first loss was the second round, his opponent was rated more than 1800 and went on winning the section;  his second loss was delivered by an opponent of 1700 in his fourth round, although Abe later said he had a chance and was up a pawn at some point. But in the end he made a blunder and lost the game. Here is the game:

After the four rounds, we went to a hotel about 15 minutes away. I had bidden the hotel on line. My previous experience of  bidding on line for two-and-a-half star hotels was great. I  knew this one was a two star hotel, I though it could be slightly worse than two-and-a-half star hotels  but still OK.  In fact, as we found out,  it was terrible: the strong wind blown out of the heater swept  me like a brush, the big noise of the refrigerator vibrated the room air like a tractor…Abe later complained his bed was too hard.

I managed to sleep since I was very tired after a long day but the sleep was not a good one, and I did not feel fresh the next day.

Anyway Abe won his first game against a lower rated player. After the game, he gladly told me he won the endgame. He said, “Previously, I won or lost games at middle games.”  Since he just started reading a chess end game book these days, I was happy for him if he could apply some of the teaching in his game. Here is the game:

Abe lost his final round to another 1800 player. The game was a long battle, when I finally saw him coming into the skittles room, he already told Mommy why he lost his game: “I had a stomach ache” and “it is too hot over there”. Here is the game:

On our way home, I half joked as I drove on the highway, “At least, we learned something from this tournament. Abe, next time, try not to have a stomach ache.”

“Yeah,” Abe replied. “If I want to pee, I should go to the bathroom right away.” I am surprised to hear Abe’s response to my apparently unreasonable request.

“I rushed, then panicked, and then lost the game,” Abe talked about his last game.

For me, next time, I should book a better hotel  to let Abe have a good night of sleep. At least a two-and-a-half star.


Oops, life is made of what you think

We used to live on second floor of an apartment building when Abe was five or six years old. The mail boxes were located on the side wall of the small entrance lobby. Each mail box was marked by the owners of the unit, in our case, it was Mommy’s last name and Daddy’s last name.

One day,  Mommy told me what happened on the way she and Abe were entering our apartment: When she was collecting the mail from the mailbox, watching at the mail box, Abe suddently had a question for Mommy,

“Mommy, why it is marked with your last name and my last name? where is Daddy’s?” Maybe he felt lucky for himself or he somewhat felt sorry for his Daddy.

The answer was easy for her, and even easy for him if he think twice . “Oops, life is made of what you think,” I was surprised that he asked that question. But on another thought,  in whatever conditions, how unlucky or lucky you feel, the facts may be totally different from what you feel. Always think positive. OK?


Abe, his little brother, and the park

Abe has been to many chess tournaments, so has his little brother: David. On nice days, I bring the two brothers together, Abe plays chess in the playing hall, David and I stay in the skittles room or outside.

The little brother is waiting in the chess skittles room

The little brother is waiting in the chess skittles room

The little brother is waiting outside of the chess playing hall

The little brother is waiting outside of the chess playing hall

Playing, eating, pooping and sleeping are David’s routine; I know how the day will be passed and what I shall do. In addition, if I bring the two together, their mom can get a little nice break; On Saturdays when Abe has a tournament, I will check the weather and his mom to see if it is a good idea to bring the two together to the tournament.

During the rounds, if there is a park nearby, David and I will go to the park, he loves the playground. We always try to return before Abe finish his game.

I remember once Abe just finished the game, we three met at hallway. On the first glance of Abe from far, David gladly announced,

“There’s Abe!”

“You are right.” I replied as Abe run to us.

“Have you guys been waiting outside all the time?”Abe asked.

“No, we went to the park, just came back,” I replied. “How’s your game?”

“I won.”

“Good Job.”

The two brothers went on playing for a while, such as running in the hallway. David was proud of his big brother, he followed Abe from one room to another until he lost Abe, I knew Abe was playing some chess games with his friends somewhere.

During Abe’s next game, David said,

“Diaper on.” (Now he does not need Diaper, in stead , he uses toilet for pooping.)

I knew David need pooping. We went to bathroom to let him do his thing. After he finises, I have his dirty diaper changed. Then I put David in the stroller, walked around and around.  Finally David fell into sleep.

When I saw Abe coming out of the playing hall, I signaled him that David is sleeping in the stroller.

Abe asked in a lower voice,

“Have you guys been to the park?”

“No, we’ve been waiting outside all the time,” I replied. “How’s your game?”

“I lost.”

Before I could reply, Abe said,

“You guys should go to the park, it brings me good luck.”

It is probably not true David’s going to park brings Abe good luck in his chess tournaments. Maybe Abe can play without pressure with our absent, therefore, play better? Maybe Abe is old enough to be independent and does not like to be watched over?

Anyway, from then on, David and I go to the park more often. As long as both Abe and David have a good time at Abe’s tournaments, why not?


The myth of the gifted child: how high the IQ score should be

I recently read a very interesting article named The Junior Meritocracy in New York magazine (Feb 8, 2010). The article explained why the kindergarten admission tests required by many New York schools could be worthless. It also discussed IQ scores and proposed a better alternative screening method for future success.

Some interesting points and associated quotes are listed below; you can read the full article here.

  • IQ of 120 is high enough:

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell makes a similar point, noting that one’s IQ needn’t be super-high to succeed; it simply needs to be high enough. “Once someone has reached an IQ of somewhere around 120,” he writes, “having additional IQ points doesn’t seem to translate into any measurable real-world advantage.” In Genius Revisited, Rena Subotnik, director of the American Psychological Association’s Center for Gifted Education Policy, undertook a similar study, with colleagues, looking at Hunter elementary-school alumni all grown up. Their mean IQs were 157. “They were lovely people,” she says, “and they were generally happy, productive, and satisfied with their lives. But there really wasn’t any wow factor in terms of stellar achievement.”

  • The marshmallow test, a compelling test, demonstrated self-discipline leads to better academic performance:

In the sixties, a Stanford psychologist named Walter Mischel rounded up 653 young children and gave them a choice: They could eat one marshmallow at that very moment, or they could wait for an unspecified period of time and eat two. Most chose two, but in the end, only one third of the sample had the self-discipline to wait the fifteen or so minutes for them. Mischel then had the inspired idea to follow up on his young subjects, checking in with them as they were finishing high school. He discovered that the children who’d waited for that second marshmallow had scored, on average, 210 points higher on the SAT.

  • A interesting conclusion that self-discipline and the ability to tolerate delayed gratification, instead of IQ score or other intelligence test score should be a predictor of future success:

Maybe our schools ought to be screening children for self-discipline and the ability to tolerate delayed gratification, rather than intelligence and academic achievement.

So, if you want your kids to be successful in future, the best chance to achieve it is the kids should be mildly talented while having self-discipline and the ability to tolerate delayed gratification. Are your kids mildly talented? Probably yes.


From chess board to basketball court

Last Saturday, Abe and I went to the the Blaze Fundraiser tournament. Abe hadn’t been to chess tournaments for about a month since he loved playing basketball games on Saturdays.

The reason that I chose this tournament with assumption that Abe can play the chess tournament and still make his basketball game was:

  • The chess playing hall of the tournament is only about half an hour’s drive to the gym of his basketball games.
  • Abe’s basketball game starts at 3:30 pm.
  • We could  go to the gym directly after his chess tournament. Abe can miss his third round if no enough time (the tournament has three rounds) for it.

Here is the chess playing hall:

Chess playing hall of Blaze Fundraiser tournament

Chess playing hall of Blaze Fundraiser tournament

Abe won the his first two games and quickly lost his third. Out of the three games, he recorded the moves of the second game, both his opponent and he made quite a few blunders according to later computer analysis,  the game is shown here:

We arrived just on time for his basketball game. Abe still has some gas left in his tank and made some free throws.

As usual, Abe and his teammates scored another win. Go “Nuggets”!


Why did Saints win the Super Bowl

I suggested you to cheer for Drew Brees in this post about two weeks ago. Now Saints won the Super Bowl, for the first time in its franchise history.

Why did Saints win the Super Bowl? I think:

  • Saints was the better team in this game, better QB, smarter coach, tougher players.
  • Colts was the team looked out-coached and unprepared for the game.

What do you think?

Mommy told Abe after watching the game, “You can win from behind, as Drew and Saints did, in your chess game.”

What a Super Bowl game!


Parenting and the digital age

Thanks to the digital technology such as internet, David can watch many kids songs on YouTube for free; Every day, after school, Abe can’t wait to do three things on internet: checking latest chess news, following latest NBA news, and playing video games.

Since the two brothers are not teenagers yet, I haven’t worried much about something associated with internet and teenagers like “multitasking”.

On the other hand, David has already learned how to use the mouse even he is less than three years old; Abe has spent too much time online: playing or sometimes doing his school projects. His school provides every student (in Grade 4 and Grade 5) a laptop. I believe that he may (or have to) spend more and more time online along his growth. Therefore, I think it is probably a good idea to know how to teach kids to deal with this digital age, before it is too late.

If you are one of parents who worry about your kids and this digital age, want to know what affects of digital age on the growth of kids, and try to find ways to deal with the problems, watch this video: Digital Nation from PBS. Usually, PBS videos are very interesting, filled with expert interviews, deep analysis and provocative thoughts. This one (about 90 min long) is no exception:


Investment and Chess Part 2 Similarities

Here come the similarities between virtues of Investment and Chess:

  • Think long term. Just ignore the latest experts’ advices. In investment, long term normally means years (I prefer decades), pay attention to what you may gain at the end, not what you may gain or loss in short term; In chess, long term means the final result of the game. A seemly tactic disadvantage or temporary material disadvantage may not be disadvantage at all. Never give up, fight on.
  • Be value oriented, but not risk/opportunity oriented. In investment, index mutual funds are often preferred than other funds because the low fees involved. Index funds just mimic the market and are boring for those who like to time the market, other funds could be much interesting (much risks and high fees involved) and may have high yields at times. But over the long run, index funds will outperform the majority of other funds. The purpose of investment is neither to maximize profits by all means not to find entertainment within all the time; In chess, you may choose a beautiful positional sacrifice sometimes, but you should be practical, avoid unnecessary risks, chess is not a beauty contest.
  • The important thing is not when to start to take risk, but is when to stop it. In investment, sometimes you can earn a lot of money from one of your funds, for example, some developing country sect funds yield much better than domestic sect funds at one time. You put all stakes into this basket in the hope to get the maximum return; however, you could lose all your money overnight. Do not take this risky route for too long, do the opposite of your impulse, think an exit strategy right away; In chess, do not always think to attack, look around to see if you own king is in danger. You may need to change you strategy in order to clean your own back yard.
  • You control your own destination, not by controlling others, but by controlling yourself. In investment, controlling others could means controlling the financial market by wishful thinking or by keeping changing your investment approaches. Do not waste time to chase a new, fancy investment method, even you have those desires now and than. For example, the “experts” were yelling loudly to convince you to do adopt a brand new investment combination based on current stock market, you do not have to believe the words of those “experts”. Self-discipline and self-control is much important than trying to control others. Be diligently in saving and invest regularly; In chess, do not move on impulses, do not move on wishes of your opponent’s next move, remind yourself all the time: self-discipline and self-control.
  • Slow Down and let time do the magic. It is valid for both investment and classic chess (not speed chess, of course).
  • Finally, have a thankful and gracious mind. In investment, when you earn money, be thankful of good luck; when you lose money, good luck in future; In chess, when you win games, good for you; when you lose games, you will be better by learning from the losses.

Investment and Chess Part 1 Differences

I started investing about seven years ago. Since I did not have time and energy for trading stocks, I chose mutual funds and traded online.

I consider myself a traditional guy: think long term, invest in index funds and take a slow and steady approach. I know at the current economy downturn, SP 500 index recessed to the level of a decade ago. Quite a few “experts” scoff this slow and steady approach too out of date, but I told my self: To be successful, you are allowed to be different.

Over the years, I found there are some differences and similarities between Investment and Chess. Part 1 lists the major differences, and part 2 lists similarities.

I am only a chess parent, not a regular chess player. See if you agree with me about the observations. Here go the differences:

  • Investment is a means to reach richness; Chess is a journey to pursue happiness.
  • Investment prefers diversification; Chess prefers concentration.
  • Investment doesn’t require practices. More actions generally lead to worse performance; Chess requires practices. More excises generally yield better result.
  • Investment requires more static strategy (strategy before acting); Chess needs more dynamical strategy (strategy during the game).
  • Investment involves heavily of “common sense” and luck; Chess involves heavily of calculations and analysis.
  • Many people like investment although they do not earn any money; Some people enjoy chess even the games are relatively boring. At times, I belong to both groups. How about you?