A Parent's Perspective on the Way to Dallas
By Mark Schein   
December 11, 2009
Aaron and Mark Schein at the SuperNationals earlier this year
Well here I am sitting in row 23E on my American Airlines flight to Dallas for the National K-12 Championships. It's Wednesday evening and I think it's always good, if you can swing it, to get to the tournament a day early. It allows you to adjust and allows your child to play Bughouse and/or Blitz. A lot of coaches feel that these pre-tournaments aren't good for your young player. They teach him bad habits or tire him out the day before the real tournament begins. That’s probably right. However, Aaron has gotten to be pretty good at both and I look at it as a chance to possibly win something and get that part of the weekend out of the way.

There is a competing school of thought that if your child wins a trophy on Thursday he no longer has any incentive to play well on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Who knows? I do know that thanks to his success in chess, Aaron hates trophies and won’t carry them home. That's my job. It's ok, I don't mind explaining to the TSA at the security line that my son's a good chess player. The trophy also helps when the X-ray security technician jumps up and yells when she sees the little chess clock surrounded by dangerous looking pawns on her screen. I’m sure the clock and pieces look extremely threatening on the security screen.  They should, that chess set has turned our lives upside down.

The chess trophies always make it home to Aaron's room.  This fall, Aaron and his mother decided to box them up. I have to admit I almost cried. Each one of those trophies meant something to me. Each trophy represented hours upon hours of stomach churning and pacing around. Great comebacks and thrilling victories, to say nothing of the thousands of dollars of lessons, entry fees and travel costs. Plus, who knows what I could have done with my life had I not spent so many hours at these tournaments. However, it’s clear that each one of those bronzed chessmen means something to me…and me alone.

So let me tell you more about seat 23E today on American Airlines flight 753. Not only do I get to the tournaments early, I drive my family crazy by getting to the airport early. Today it was three hours early. (You see, maybe there is some obsessive chess gene inside of me after-all.)  Aaron and I have fun at the airport. Aaron has a little Asperger's Syndrome and we used to play "guess what that person's feeling" while we hung out at the airport.  That game was good practice at looking at people's faces and guessing their mood. The airport has a lot of good face reading opportunities. Today, people were reading our faces when we arrived to find our flight cancelled. However, since we were three hours early, we hopped on the much earlier flight. First, the pilot told us we were delayed. Then, because the plane was too heavy, they dumped fuel. This meant we don't have enough fuel to get to Dallas, so we're planning to re-fuel in Little Rock. That's all OK if we still get in Wednesday night. Aaron is sitting in seat 22E because we grabbed the last two available seats. He wanted to sit behind me so he couldn't be annoyed by me looking over his shoulder, but it didn't work out for him and now I can periodically check in to make sure he is doing homework, or chess problems, even review a few openings. I'm pretty sure I'm making quite an impression on the people in Aaron's row. But hey, what's their son doing this weekend?
The lead-up to the Nationals requires careful planning. I try to make sure Aaron has played a few tournaments and has taken some time to review openings or any mistakes he has made repeatedly in recent games. Most of his work is done with his coach or on his own. This year especially, with work keeping me busy, and school keeping Aaron busy, my preparation has been limited to packing the right things. This includes food. You never know when we'll need it.  A cereal bar or a pop tart, at just the right moment, may be the difference between a win and a draw.  We have also packed a great deal of sports equipment this year. Baseball gloves, bathing suits and a football. Who am I kidding? Either way, the bags are stuffed.

This year will also have a unique twist. At the Dallas Airport, we will be collecting Aaron's best friend Gavin who will be staying with us for the tournament. Last Spring, Aaron and Gavin agreed to play Bughouse together this winter. They also played together at the ICA Chess Camp over the summer. It seemed on track until as a result of an unavoidable commitment, Gavin's parents couldn't make it to Dallas.  A few months ago, as I broke the news to Aaron about his Bughouse partner, I tried to cushion the blow by saying, "look at it this way, one of the kids rated above you won't be at the tournament." But Aaron put it into a different light when he responded, "Dad, Gavin's my best friend. I want him to be there. Why can't he stay with us?" Leave it to the child to look at the situation in a mature way.  And thus, Gavin will be my second son for this weekend.
I'm hoping the weekend is calm and worry-free. Chess has settled into a nice rhythm for us over the last six months. Win or lose the games have been well played and relaxed. I'm sure all of that is about to change. Why will all of that change this weekend?  It must be the parents.  I think the parents have an internal desire to validate to themselves and others that all the work done during the year and all the adult tournaments played, pay off at the scholastics. Why can't it be the other way around: all the work at scholastics pay off when our kids play against adults? I guess it's because when our child beats an adult at a chess club, that adult’s parent is rarely sitting outside with me. I guess I need to be relaxed and the rhythm will continue.  Let’s see, I’ll keep you posted.

See standings up to round two on the results & pairings page and catch some games on Monroi.com.