Thursday, July 28, 2011

Idaho Scholastic Player News: Round 4

     Get your pom-poms out and start chanting I-D-A-H-O (or at least mouth it if you are at the tournament!).  Savanna Nacarrato, of Sandpoint, Idaho is enjoying her visit to the 2011 Susan Polgar Girls' Invitational which is hosting 46  participants from around the country.  [She currently has 2.0 points and is paired with Annastasia Wyzywany in round 3 (post: Wed., July 27.]  [Savanna won her game against Ms. Wyzywany, a class A player from Louisiana, and is now entering round 4 with 3.0 points and a pairing with Mandy Lu of Michigan.  She is tied with four other girls and Idahoans are all pulling for her with three rounds left to play!(post:  Thurs., July 28)]  [Results were released for Round 4 and 5 which were tougher for her.  Savanna was paired with Maggie Fen in round 5, but still has a chance to improve her standings in the final round.  She is currently in 9th place and is paired with Joy Chen for round 6 - each with 3.0 points.  The sole leader, Apurva Virkud has 5.0 points.  We are very proud of Savanna's efforts and representation.(post: Thurs., July 28)]  The tournament finished today and Savanna won her last game for a total of 4.0 pts. and a 9th placement.  This was a job well done and I do believe her first experience competing at this level of play.  As she is a ninth grader, we look forward to seeing more of Savanna representing Idaho, her family, and herself at other prestigious events.  Good luck, Savanna!
Savanna is on left
     The Susan Polgar Girls' Invitational combines chess instruction and a 6-round scholastic girl's championship.  This year, there are over $120,000 in college scholarships and other prizes donated by Texas Tech University and the Susan Polgar Foundation.  In order to participate, players are primarily selected from state scholastic girls championships, but may be selected as the highest rated scholastic girl in a state without a championship tournament.  From the pictures I have seen, it sure looks like fun,  and  I hope my daughter will be lucky enough to participate someday. (photos from Susan Polgar Chess Daily News)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Chess Projects

I have written chapters 1- 4 in the high school textbook I am writing.  It appears that there will be at least nine chapters by the end of it all (but, maybe more if I can bust them all out in a month!).  I think I have a very solid start with an interdisciplinary approach that includes history, geography, literature, arts, and mathematics.  And I have included an approach that might prove useful to some:  scientific thinking.  The idea might not produce any grand masters, but it is sure to exercise the brain and more formally include logic in chess thinking and analysis for teenage beginner's.  Here is a list of the chapter title's:
1.  Let's Play Chess
2.  Boardom
3.  Notation is Floatation
4.  Even a Pawn Must Hold a Grudge

Tigran Petrosian is from Armenia
My next project I am embarking on might prove useful for my textbook.  The plan is to obtain chess data from the world and correlate it with several geographical and social factors.   The idea came to me while reading an article about Armenia winning the World Team Championships this past week that was held in China.  I began looking up information on Armenia and discovered they have more grand master's per capita than any other country.  I discovered that Idaho is 65% larger than Aremenia but has only half the population.  I don't think we have one grand master residing in our borders!  I will post some preliminary information just before school begins at the end of August.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Need some "Pawn Chains"

Attention readers or transients!  I need a good "pawn chain" game that sets up a successful pawn chain.  I also need a game demonstrating how to attack the base of a pawn chain.  Here are two that I found but I am looking for better.

Maroczy - Barmen Shuchting, 1905

Petrosian vs. Lilienthal, 1949

Monday, July 11, 2011

2011 Summer Classic Rounds 4-5: Tales from the Reserve Section

95 years of separation.
One of the greatest things about chess is the interaction of different generations and and age classes.  It became apparent to me when I was looking at the variety of players in the Summer Classic Tournament.  There is an age span of 95 years displayed in the group photograph!  Nearly a century of separation between the youngest and oldest players.  This offers chess tournaments and organizers challenges, and requires patience and toleration of the players.

Breathing in surround sound
Tournament etiquette can sometimes be turned upside down by the various players and the Tournament Directors have to straddle a fence to preserve the fun for some participants and the seriousness for others.  During my round 4 game against Gary Hollingsworth (see rounds 1-3), I noticed an elderly gentlemen's breathing pattern in another game across the room.  As I struggled to maintain focus, the rhythmic breathing began to sound like Darth Vader in surround sound.  Definitely something you can't and shouldn't complain about.   A bit later, another gentlemen always brings munchies that he will tear into about an hour into the game.  Riiipp!  The crunching sound of the grocery bag and the wrappers then become sporadic as the munching sounds now echoed across the small room.

With such a variety of persona, it is easy to spot the loud families.  Some people are unable to whisper (especially kids, with their robust diaphragms!) and yet others speak loudly because they can't hear so well (the older crowd).  The one good thing about bad hearing is that you can turn your hearing aide off when playing in a tournament.  There will always be occasional voices when there is a blunder.  And, everyone in the room will crane their head to see what happened.
This is why some people insist on listening to music during tournament play.  This tends to be at the Tournament Director's discretion.  In Idaho, some allow it and some don't.  Sometimes players can ruin the privileges for others as one man listened to a symphony that I could "sing along" to.  I prefer Deadmau5, but invariably, I model good behavior and refrain from the zune (microsoft's ipod).
Some players like to listen to music while they play (more to drown out other distractions  than anything else).

With the youngsters playing and learning etiquette (I like the "brush your teeth rule"), toleration can be very difficult.  It is clear to me when a child is more concerned about his rating than the actual game he is playing by what they say (and how often they say it).  One little guy will always offer a draw (draw etiquette link)  in the quality of voice that is like whispering in a megaphone every time his game takes a bad turn.  It was cute when the little boy offered a draw when Kevin Patterson went a piece up, but every turn after that?  He began to beg for a draw.  I had to restrain myself from turning around and saying "resign or play your game!"  This is one of the scholastic drawbacks - rating fever.  Kevin was a good sport.
Gary from Pokey
Here is my round 4 game against Gary Hollingsworth.  There is a Draw lesson in this game.  I accepted the draw offer by Gary after 15 minutes of consideration.  Fritz gave me a slight advantage, but I was a little too concerned about the h-file pawn to continue play and I would have to prove my bishop was worth his huge pawn majority.  Plus, Gary and Jamie (each with 3.0 pts. as well) both had easier pairings going into round 5 than I was to have.

Unfortunately, I had to sit next to the same boy while Jamie Lang had a go.  While looking at the pairing sheets, I told Jamie to please win quickly.  Jamie won a piece and the draw offers commenced but the little guy seemed to have Vaseline on his king and the game continued longer than I hoped.  He was getting bored and made a pyramid out of the pawns he had taken from Jamie and then knocked them over onto the table.  I finally said something when he was holding onto the table so he could rock better in his chair while shaking his Pepsi.  Our table shimmied and I began to feel like I was playing on a boat!  Thankfully, my round 5 game was not affected by all the distractions offered and I played the shortest tournament game (seven moves!) against Kevin Patterson and I tied for 1st place with 4.0 points.  E4 G4 is not an opening I am likely to play!
Chess is a spectator sport as Kevin watches his daughter Emily play.
In these cases, someone should not have to complain.  Players should know better and TDs should also be cognizant of the playing environment for everyone in the room.  But, in the end, as chess players ultimately know, tournaments are a test of patience and comfort level.  If each tournament pair played their game in an isolated, sound proof room, I probably wouldn't go to tournaments.  Nor would anyone else.  The pleasure is derived from being around a large group of chess enthusiasts from different ages and diverse lifestyles.  Being able to look into their sympathetic eyes when there is a disturbance, smile, and move your game forward with unsaid camaraderie and the knowledge that someday it was you or someday it will be you creating the ruckus.
Idaho chess hero, Glen Buckendorf

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Integrating Chess and Critical Thinking

I was holding off the news of a new class at Wood River High School:  Integrating Chess and Critical Thinking.  I do believe this is the first elective credit class of its kind at the high school level in the United States.  It has taken me over five years of discussion and three administrators to convince them that this will be a great class that students want to take.   My new principal, Peter Jurovich, allowed me much longer than two minutes to present my ideas and justifications, unlike predecessors - and he didn't even laugh!  Students will be able to learn about chess, the history of chess, the art and science of chess, develop their skills, and learn to think more critically in an interdisciplinary manner.

Our school is redesigning its curriculum, school day, and many other areas in order to better serve kids.  We are adopting the IB MYP program, Project Based Learning, and rethinking homework policies.   This class will be a perfect match for those programs.  I thought this was also a perfect time to propose a new chess class and typed a seven page proposal for the academic council in order to sell my idea.  There are currently over 30 kids signed up for the course which will be offered all year, this next year.  Students are able to take it as a nine week class for half a credit or a full semester.  Plus, they are able to sign up multiple times as the class is designed so students can enter the class at any point.

If this sounds like fluff, it certainly isn't going to be an "easy A."  I have identified twenty-eight state standards that this class will address or reinforce in language arts, world history, mathematics, government, science, and US History.  I think this will also be an excellent opportunity to pre-post-test students on the state standardized tests to determine the benefits of playing chess on a weekly, if not daily basis.

I have selected software (Think Like a King, Fritz, and Chessmaster 10000), internet servers (Gameknot and, various work books (Square One, Teaching Chess, Chess Tactics, Susan Polgar's curriculum), Tips for Young Players (Sadler 1999) as a text,  and I am writing my own textbook that I can use for the unique curriculum and exercises that I put together.  Chapter 1 is nearly complete.  I really want to create an appreciation for the game and the culture, as well.

If any donor would like a tax deduction, please help us by financially donating so I can purchase some workbook and textbook resources.  c/o Adam Porth, WRHS, 1250 Fox Acres Road, Hailey, Idaho 83333.

I have the course broken down into these sections:
  • understanding the game of chess
  • playing chess
  • tactics
  • strategies
  • analyzing chess games
  • understanding chess organizations
  • history
  • art
  • science and math
  • biographies
  • journalism
  • creating a chess video of an analysis or an opening
  • chess variants
The goal is not to breed mini-Bobby Fishers or produce grandmasters.  But, I hope to develop, extend, and expand the processing of  information, exercise critical thinking skills in an environment that kids want to be in, and to instill a passion for the game and culture of chess.  Too much of our society falsely prescribes chess playing to either geeks, geniuses, or grandpas, and I believe that an interdisciplinary approach will attract the most interest in chess playing.  You could spend an entire year just working on chess skills, and I believe that students will be more apt to fall in love with the game when they start exploring the culture of chess, as I have.  Stay tuned for successes and failures from the classroom!

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