For better or for worse

Abe played in two tournaments last weekend — one on Saturday and one on Sunday, scored one point out of  three and two points out of four,  respectively. The performance was certainly not that good, however, it wasn’t as poor as his in recent weeks either.

Abe at Sunday's chess tournament

Abe at Sunday's chess tournament

I had been telling him all the time: 1) Do not spend too much time on video games and 2) Slow down, therefore, try his best during chess matches. The reasons were: 1) Once having an opportunity, he would play for video games for hours non-stop, which decreases interest and time for others activities. 2) He usually played very fast when he was a beginner— in fact, the quicker the game, the more likely he would win. But not now (after around 1400, maybe) —the quicker he played, the more he could get punished. In order to win, he has to slow down and try hard for each game.

I do not know he will do better or worse in the next few months, I do believe he could get better in the next couple of years if he keeps his interest in chess. His long term performance should be in proportion to his chess knowledge: if he rises too quickly in rating, later on, his rating could drop— he needs time to catch on what he lacks.

Of course, short term performance, which nobody should  care about, could be much different than the rating. Win or lose, “it is OK as long as you tried your best”, as I have been telling Abe.

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Chess camp, vacation and others (2 of 2)

We arrived at our hotel a little bit after noon. Mommy left to her conference right away. In fact, during each day, Abe, his little brother David and I would stay in the hotel most of the time: spending hours playing in the pools and hours watching the World Cup on the TV.

As usual, Abe was in charge of the remote control. I was glad that he mostly chose the Soccer World Cup, which I was more than happy to watch together. In addition, Abe and I watched a very moving documentary film from ESPN: The Two Escobars. The film was about soccer and crime, honesty and lying, a people’s struggle and a nation’s struggle. After watching it, I said to Abe “A player needs to play with heart at every chance, never gives up.” Abe nodded. Except we all agreed it was a very good film, I did not know what else proper to say at the moment. I would highly recommend it whether you like soccer or not. You may want to check this review if you want watch it on TV or preorder the DVD.

We drove back on Wednesday afternoon, made home at about 4:30 pm. Abe’s basketball game (the first one of the summer league) began half an hour later. Upon his insistence, Abe and I had to leave at once for the game. We were glad Abe’s team won the game from behind. Abe looked a little tired, but made some defense plays.

Wow, what a team effort. Great game, everyone!

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Chess camp, vacation and others (1 of 2)

Abe went to a chess camp last week. There were five groups in the camp based on ratings of campers. Abe was placed in the group 5—the strongest group. Abe also came to the same camp last year, he won the first place easily in his group— group 3 at the time (there were chess tournaments  during the camp). Considering the much stronger opponents in the group this year and Abe’s recent slump, I hoped he’d stand a losing streak and learn more from those losses than wins, so he would learn more from this stronger group than last year’s group. However, I was a little worried that the lectures of the strongest group might be too advanced for him.

After the first day’s camp, upon picking him up, I asked him: “What were the topics for today?”

He replied with quite a few topics, which were way over my head, however, I still wanted to ask him in order to make sure Abe had not forgotten all he learned for the day.

“Can you understand the lectures or they are too hard for you?” I asked him.

“Yes, I can understand them, although I am not sure remembering them all.” He replied. I relieved a little bit.

“One of the teachers mentioned something that he said he would not tell to a lower rated player (or other groups), so group 5 teaches more than group 3.” He said. I was glad that Abe agreed with my assumption before the camp—you could learn more from the stronger group.

Abe was excited with the lectures after each day at the camp. Especially he thought it’d be cool using the chess databases as the teachers have them.  They are expensive toys, but would be very helpful in chess study, especially on openings and endgames. I worried that since he need to stay on computer to use the chess database software, would he stay doing chess study or switching to computer video games quickly? Nowadays, Abe spent too much times on video games already. Therefore, I haven’t made my mind to purchase them yet.

Although I deliberately avoided asking how he did in his tournament, Abe was eager to tell me he could beat some much higher rated opponents if not his later blunders. Maybe Abe can remember those blunders and learn from those.

Friday came and went; the week long chess camp seemed so short.

Too bad, Abe could not go to a chess tournament the following weekend to practice what he just learned. We stayed at home on Saturday and went to a trip (a conference trip for Mommy, a vacation for the rest of us) on Sunday morning.

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A story remembered

After reading this article (The Leap) from New York Magazine, I felt very very sad. I remember a similar case happened to one of my classmates when I was in the graduate school. After the first exam, at which I did poorly, so were most in the class—many failed, as told by the professor the next class, I admitted to myself that there were many people that were better then me. The next class, the professor brought us a very sad news—one people in the class committed suicide.

I do not know the reason behind the story. In fact, I do not want to know-it must be a very sad story. It happened, to a young graduate, how sad it was, how shocking were the parents of the kid upon hearing the news. Hope similar cases would  not happen to other kids! But, today, the very sad story happened in New York to a bright high school student.

Whatever the reasons may contribute to it, as a parent, how should you contribute to stop the happening of such tragedies? From now on, let your kids know:” Even when you have a setback, you have many many more chances to fight back. Whether it is your fault making the mistake, but that is your previous fault, you can forgive yourself; let’s not make a current or future fault. ” Maybe we should learn more from this moving story, maybe we should read it once again, if you can.

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Let it be

I was glad Abe was calm and in not a bad mood this raining Saturday. If you follow this blog, you know that he’s been in a slump in chess recently. In order for him to break out of the slump, I made the following plan: 1) He should play more games. 2) He should have more confidence in his games. In stead of pointing out what he did wrong, which is likely wrong too and maybe not helpful at all, I should give him more encouragements.  So we went to a chess tournament even it’s raining. He continued to lose his games, but there were something good about the tournament.

The tournament was held in a local chess center. There were stacks of old Chess Life magazine in the room; I could read some of them while waiting for Abe’s games. One issue dated 1998 had an article about the 1998 National Elementary Championship. Hikaru Nakamura (current GM and 2008 National Champion) scored 6.5, the first in the section of the K-5. Also tired with him were two other players. In fact, Abe lost to one of these players in a tournament just less than two months ago. In that tournament, that guy was an expert.

Abe looked in awe when he read the article. Maybe he was thinking he was indirectly related to GM Nakamura. Maybe he was thinking how much he can improve in ten years: three hundred points? or more?

I also read an interview about Aleksandr Landerman (current GM) after he won the U16 world champion. His advices to other young chess players were something like: 1) play more OTB (over the board) games 2) study your own games 3) read good books. I told Abe: “We are doing #1, should you start #2.”

I know only time can verify my plan: someday Abe himself will get out of the slump. In the meantime, why not enjoying a song by The Beatles:

Let it be, let it be

Let it be, let it be

Yeah, there will be an answer let it be

Let it be, let it be

Let it be, let it be

Whisper words of wisdom

Let it be

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A first review of “Chess Child” by Gary Robson

About months ago, I pre-ordered the book: Chess Child: The story of Ray Robson, America’s Youngest Grandmaster. I received it two days ago, finished reading it yesterday. It has been long long time since I finish reading a book in one day, not even the book Searching for Bobby Fisher. What a great father-son story. I knew that I only read once, may not be eligible to write a through review on it. I, however, was once eager to read the book since day one I heard it and believe that many people who haven’t read it are eager to know someone’s first impression of book.
The book covers the period from a baby Ray in Taiwan until later 2009 when Ray got all three of the GM norms and became a GM (Grandmaster) at 15 years old. Fascinating to read include Ray’s growth in chess, Gary (Ray’s father)’s plans helping Ray along the way, Yee-chen (Ray’s mother)’s modest but consistent involvement, Ray’s different tutors at different stages, and some of Ray’s disgruntled adult playmates in chess. Gary presented with a very deep thought and spirituality mediation on the lives of his own and of his son. Although it looks daunting to get into every detail at first for the readers, that feeling disappears quickly as we read along.
The book is filled with honest observations, subtle and deep love, pungent though and funny anecdotes. In order to let Ray to be successful, how much Gary had scarified in terms of time, energy, money and others! I especially like the anecdote of a deer running into the car when Ray and Gary were on the way to a tournament while Ray thought a bird did it since he was busy reading a chess book.
The plans that Gary prepared for Ray alone worth the money you spend on this book if you are a chess parent or chess educator. I thought that several factors contributed to Ray’s success after reading this book:

  • had work
  • confidence
  • love, guidance and sacrifice from parents
  • guidance and criticisms from tutors, even sporadically.

As Henry David Thoreau said in Walden: “However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The faultfinder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poor-house.” I envy and congratulate Gary for his glorious hour.
I whole heartily recommended this great book to any chess parents, chess educators, chess players or someone may have an interest in it. I ordered my copy from the publisher’s website.

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Abe’s slump continues at Chicago Open

On the way to the parking lot from the playing hall, Abe said: “I am in a slump.”
“You will get out of it someday.”
“You know I have been on a losing streak since last tournament.”
“It is OK.” I said.
“But I learned nothing from it.”
Pulling the car out of the parking lot, we were heading to have dinner before the last round of the day.
“Every strong player needs to have enough tournaments,” I said. “Do you know how many tournaments GM Lenderman has?” I mentioned GM Lenderman since Abe and I saw him in the playing hall.
“More than one hundred?”
“More than seven hundred.” I emphasized the number; I just checked it the night before, so I was pretty sure.
“How many tournaments do you have?” I asked him.
“About thirty?”
“Forty something.” I said. “Remember to learn little by little.”
“…But the only thing (from today’s losses) I learned is (to think) more variations.”
“You said you learned nothing moments ago.”

After losing and losing, Abe had the one win at the last round. I joked since he was in good mood on the way going home.
” I wish it is the first round, not the last round.” I was pretty sure he thought the same.

In the parking lot, we saw some interesting plates and some interesting texts marked on the car:

"Got chess?"

"Got chess?"

"I play E4"

"I play E4"

"USCF 1"

"USCF 1"

I also saw one plate saying “Mr Chess” the day before, but it’s a pity I did not take a picture of it.

OOPS, some pictures of the tournament:

Chicago Open 2010

Chicago Open 2010

last round of Chicago Open 2010

last round of Chicago Open 2010

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