The talent myth and the science of success

Yesterday evening, driving Abe home from his soccer practice, I heard something interesting from an interview on NPR: Some one said that no chess players had reached grandmaster quicker than 10 years.  I had an immediate doubt whether it’s a fact.  I knew some recent chess prodigies got the GM titles when they were younger than 15 years old. Probably they achieved that in less than 10 years?

Then I was more surprised hearing the recommended message by the host to all parents:  stop calling your kid a genius and instead say, hey, good job for studying. Why? As a parent, do I have to agree with it?

The interview is short but fascinating. You could also be captivated with the followings:

  • Mozart clocking 3,500 of practice by his sixth birthday.
  • David Beckham kicking a soccer ball from the same spot for hours on end.
  • If you don’t approach it with a voracious appetite, if you don’t clock up the deliberate practice, it’s not going to get you anywhere.
  • We must praise young people for their effort and not for their talent, and try to embed the growth mindset.

If you want to read more about the interview about what lies behind success and excellence in sports and other endeavors, check here.


Be thankful

Abe and I went to another chess tournament this past Saturday. The tournament had five rounds.  Abe lost two against experts and won the rest. I would think he was lucky pairing with two experts, it’s a good learning experience for him playing with strong opponents, and in addition, the entrance fee is only five dollars.  It looked Abe had a good time in the tournament. What a good Saturday.

round five of top three boards

round five of top three boards

The evening was a wet spring evening: it drizzled on leaves that were turning green.  Abe went to play with his friends in their house. Abe’s little bother, his mommy and I went to another party.

When we returned home, Abe was waiting in front of house—he just arrived minutes earlier. We said goodbye to his friends and their parents. Going from the driveway to the front door, we found that one of two main branches of our ginkgo tree was lying on the ground. There could be a big wind when we were away that brought the branch down.

The next morning, we went out to examine the tree again. The branch just missed the roof, and it was so big the part of it laid in the neighbor’s yard. Some of our neighbors came over and talked about what happened yesterday and other similar happening in the neighborhood before. The big downed branch could cause a lot of damage, fortunately, no one was hurt and our house was not hit either.

The brothers were playing and jumping around the branch. Here are some pictures, the brothers were very happy, weren’t they?

The brothers

The brothers

Abe jumps

Abe jumps

David jumps

David jumps


From Chicago to Milwaukee

OK, I am kidding. I don’t mean to borrow the title of book:  From London to Elista, a chess book covers relative recent events. Abe likes it; he likes to read games, although he has not developed an interest in the anecdotes.

Last Saturday, we went to Hales Corners Challenge XI in Milwaukee.  Abe was  eligible to play in the reserve section based on his rating, but he would likely to be one of the tops of that section.  I convinced him to play up in order to play with stronger opponents. It turned out, to my surprise, Abe still had a lucky day.

In the Open section, all four of his opponents were higher rated than him. He lost to one, won the others. At the end of the day,  he was tied with many others for second place. Considering there were thirteen players being experts or masters, his finish was very good.

Here is the game he lost:

A side note, before and during the tournament, Abe asked me several times to ask the TD for some bytes so he could watch NBA playoff games.  I told him that he’d have many many chances to watch the yearly NBA playoff games. In addition, there was a TV in the hosting hotel showing the NBA playoff games, so he could watch some during the rounds. Reluctantly, he played all the games. However, I do not know if my reply and insistence were good or not. If you have an idea, please let me know.


Get out of the bed

Abe usually gets up at 7 am at Saturdays, he then dresses up and goes downstairs to watch TV or play video games. But not last Saturday; I told him the night before, if we’d wake up at 7, we’d go to a chess tournament, otherwise, we wouldn’t go. I did not tell Abe about the chess tournament early in the week because we might not go because one of Abe’s possible activity. But we are free and I decide to go there.

I only allow Abe to play his DS during weekends. I guess he’d rather to stay in bed until past 7 to skip the trip, and then he’d play his DS. I do not know if he is faking asleep or otherwise, at 7, I tried to wake him up, but he just ignored me. Twenty minutes later, I tried again; he screamed “I do not want to go.”

“How about you sleep in the car when we drive to the tournament?” the tournament is more than two hours’ drive. “We are almost late if we want to make the first round.”

“Who cares?”

After further arguing, finally, we left the house at close to 7:40. I felt a little guilty for getting him out of bed to do what he did not want to do, on the other hand, on several occasions, he said he did not want go to chess tournaments on Saturdays even we were totally free on those days, but we went upon my insistence, he actually had good times and had above average performance on those trips. In addition, if we do not go there, Abe will spend hours of the day on video games.

We barely made the first round. Abe took a long nap in the car during the long boring drive, when he woke up, he was in a very good mood, and he seemed forgot how reluctant he was to come here this morning.

The tournament was held in a church, and skittles room was in an indoor gym, we were glad that he could play some basketball during the rounds; moreover, there are other kids in the tournament.

The chess tournament was held in a church

The chess tournament was held in a church

He had an OK tournament. After four rounds, he was very glad to get a nice big trophy (to show it off to his little brother) and a small cash prize.

I was glad that Abe was very happy at the end of the day, although I knew that I had a long boring drive, mostly in night, to home.


The USCF online ratings

I like that the USCF ratings update after each tournament and they are publicly accessible on its website. So does Abe, I think. He sometimes browses the website, I don’t think he mainly worries his own rating; instead he does it out of curiosity of his friends or other players.

Last Saturday, two days ago, Abe and I went to a chess tournament. He had a lucky day, won two games with opponents of one and two classes higher than him.

Yesterday afternoon, he went to a friend’s home to play for two hours. Before I picked him up, I found from USCF website that his rating jumped above 1600. I congratulated him when I picked him up. He said without much excitement, “I knew I would be above 1600 (at the tournament).”

He browsed the USCF website for a minute or two before going to bed last night. I was glad he would spent time looking at something about chess online, not spending all his time playing video games.


A funny book and a funny video I recommended to Abe

The book is My life and Hard Times by James Thurber. Although it is an old book, it includes many short, sweet and funny stories; it’s the best written book I have read so far. I have no reservation to recommend it to kids and the parents to read. Check you local library, and I am sure you or your kids would not regret reading it.

Last time, I asked Abe read one story in the book; he finished it in minutes and said he liked it. After last chess tournament, Abe said, to not be bored between rounds, he would like to read something short and funny. So we will bring this book to next chess tournament.

I asked Abe watching this show last Sunday:

He became an instant fan of the comedian: Joe Wong even I suspect that he may not understand most of the jokes, but “Who Cares?” I said to my self, “To make good jokes, you have to study the culture deeply.”

“Yes.” Abe affirmed it, to my surprise.