Friday, November 4, 2011

Integrating a Simul into Integrating Chess

Olivia records a move
Austin likes his new opening repertoires
Playing chess seventh period every day is a great way to end the day.  The Integrating Chess and Critical Thinking Class is one of the most unique classes at Wood River High School and a popular one among the students that signed up.  For the students that were placed in the class by counselors searching for an open class, it was certainly an eye-opening experience.  One such student said,"I didn't realize there was so much [about chess]."  Another said that he can now "demolish" his brother.  Most of the students in this class are new to the game, but their are some veterans of chess club that I use to help teach concepts.

Emmett calculates during the opening.

John Nahlen educates students.

Students are able to get 1/2 a credit if they take the course for 9 weeks, or a full credit if they sign up for the semester.  Our quarter ended today and to celebrate and provide something special, I brought John Nahlen, a computer programmer for Smith Optics, Inc. and nearly a scholastic state champion (2nd place 2005 Idaho Scholastic Championship), for a simultaneous exhibition yesterday.  This would be good for John and the students that participated.  John's primary game is bughouse, and he has even developed a bughouse database on the internet but he still is a strong player.

This class taught beginner's how to play
Ty plays while Kalen observes.
I set up one long row of tables, introduced John, explained how simultaneous exhibitions are run, reminded students of chess etiquette, and encouraged hesitant students to join in the fun.  Only eight of 25 students had the courage to play.  The others watched or played their friends in the class.  After ten minutes of play, John won his first game and then like clockwork every ten or so minutes brought another victory.  After about an hour, only three students remained:  Tommy, Desmond, and Christoffer.  Christoffer was the first of the last to go after castling on the queen-side incorrectly and successfully penning his King for a severe attack.  Tommy did not recognize the seriousness of a rook on the seventh rank and succumbed.  Desmond blundered his bishop away after creating a winning position and then politely resigned after several more exchanges that put him down too much material for any hope in a pawn game.

Tommy gets nervous.
John plays the Italian game in all his games.

In the post-game show today during class, I asked students what they thought about the experience.  Some noted how serious John was - some noticed how he seemed "pissed" when they made a bad move.  Others described how nervous they were, and their feelings when they made a mistake.  As this was the first competition for all but one of them, I explained that experienced players really know how to capitalize on a blunder, but they are willing to share better moves, as John did afterwards.  As this class houses mostly beginner's, this was a valuable experience for those that played and an interesting one for those that watched.

Students will remember their first competition!
In the end, John won all eight games and the students were impressed and excited about learning more chess.  Seventeen students are registered for the semester, so they will be back next week for more chess during the school day, but eight are leaving for other 9-week courses.  On the way out of my room, a couple are determined to meet with their counselors to sign up for the next 9-week session.  Chess certainly is the way to end the day!

John Nahlen shakes Alex's hand, "good game."

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