|2010 CalChess 9-12 team champs from Saratoga High, a record 6th consecutive title.|
This is one of my all-time favorite posts; I am publishing it for the fifth time. This advice seems especially relevant now: the CalChess Scholastics takes place this weekend, April 27-28.
The main point is that a parent's behavior is critical for a youngster to feel confident and play well. I have seen many examples of parents discouraging their children, instead of positive reinforcement. Is it any surprise that many of the same juniors quit chess soon?
If you haven't entered the State Championship yet, the final online entry deadline is Thursday ($20 late fee). If you already registered, check out the 897 advance entries here (as of 4/24). Good luck!!
The annual CalChess State Scholastic Championship take place this weekend. As a chess coach, I spend my time preparing juniors for the most challenging weekend of their lives. What role do the parents have? How should a parent behave at a chess tournament? I published this article several years ago and now is a good time to reprint it.
|CalChess is state chapter for NorCal.|
Somewhat more challenging is to strike a balance between keeping your child focused between rounds while not draining all their energy. Refrain from chess activities, except for reviewing the tournament games briefly with a coach or a computer. Avoid blitz and bughouse between rounds because both games cause the children to play impulsively instead of carefully thinking about the best move. Older kids may wish to bring a book or a deck of cards to play with their friends. Younger kids may prefer video games. Another idea may be to bring a ball and go outside for a little while—enough to relax but not too much to drain all of their energy.
What should the parent say right before the round? My advice is simple: try your best and have fun! For example, one big aspect to trying your best is to take your time during the game. Of course, when you get to the board, make sure to be respectful to the opponent and parent. While chess is a war game, the battle should take place only on 64 squares.
The hard part about the motto “try your best and have fun” is to stick to it afterward. If your child tried their best, then you must encourage them no matter what the result. Never get angry with your son or daughter simply because they lost, even to a lower rated opponent. A few common and legitimate reasons to get upset include moving too fast, lack of focus by looking at other games or failure to record the moves. Most children will be eager to talk about the game afterward and even parents who aren’t strong chess players may pick up key details (e.g. “I blundered” or “I had a win but I lost” or “I didn’t see his piece”). Be aware that even chess players who try their best might blunder and miss a move that they should have seen.
Let me close by profiling four kinds of parent behaviors that I hope to discourage.
1. Parent measures performance merely by wins, losses and rating points. They become upset when the child draws or loses to a lower rated player, without considering whether the game was well played or the opponent simply had a good day. My response: Chess ratings are based on a statistical formula that predicts your winning percentage. For example, a player rated 200 points higher should win 75% of games and one rated 400 points high should win 90%. We must come to expect an occasional bad result against a lower rated player. Even an improving player may have one bad game or a disappointing tournament. As I’ve told many people, progress typically comes through two steps forward and one step backwards. Look at the big picture instead of every single game.
2. Parent relies on Fritz too much. I have seen many cases where a parent reviews a game with Fritz or another computer program and finds out that the child missed one or more key tactics. The parent will typically quote a computer evaluation, often mentioning scores like +5. My response: No human can play like Fritz and even top Grandmasters sometimes overlook mate in 1 (Kramnik) or hang a piece for no reason at all. Fritz is merely a tool to get better but an impossible standard to measure your performance against. Parents (and even coaches) sometimes forget or never realized how much more difficult it is to play the game with the clock ticking than to review it afterwards with a computer.
|David Chock and Daniel Schwarz, former students and friends.|
4. Parent lives vicariously through their child’s achievements. Most parents are proud of the success by their son or daughter, but a few take it to another level by bragging. They seek success, often even more than the kids. Those same parents become resentful when the result does not meet expectations. My response: It is always of utmost importance that your child has fun. Juniors who don't truly enjoy chess (independent of their parents) simply will not improve as rapidly. You can lead a camel to water, but you cannot force it to drink. Unfortunately, these youngsters, who often have been pushed hard for many years, become prime candidates to drop out of chess entirely as they turn 13 or 14.
For another insightful perspective on competitive chess parents, please read two reports on Chess Life Online written by New York parent Mark Schein from the venue of the recent Bert Lerner National Elementary School Championships. Mr. Schein writes about years of experience attending national competitions as a father. Click here for the first article and the second article.