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A Parent's Perspective, This Time Supersized: Part II Print E-mail
By Mark Schein   
April 5, 2009
Mark Schein at the SuperNationals

Where did all these strong players come from?  It seems like more and more highly rated kids are coming out of the woodwork.  I think Aaron plays a lot of chess and works very hard, but it’s really amazing to see the numbers of kids improving and sticking with the game.  Now, if Aaron could only avoid playing them, we’d be all set.  The strength of the competition was the first thing that caught my attention at this Nationals.  The second thing was that it’s pretty hard to know who you’re competing against when the pairings are posted in another county.  I understand that there wasn’t enough room to put them up in the playing halls, but posting pairings in the sorbet freezer at Haagen Dazs is a bit inconvenient.

I know how hard the directors and USCF work to run this tournament, but I think we’ve got to put some of our great chess minds together and decide how and where to post pairings.  Why don’t we have a lecture panel on Saturday night entitled, “How can we post the Blitz pairings so that the kids don’t trample each other and the Director isn’t so frustrated that he’d like to take a swing at someone?” I have a few possible solutions, but I’m not going to write about them because they wouldn’t make anyone laugh and I’ve been told that humor is what’s getting a lot of parents through the weekend.

Speaking of parents, I’m concerned that very few of them are eating.  I first noticed this with myself and now it has become clear that we are all running at full speed to grab food for the kids only to return with food “only for the kids”.  I am going to go out on a limb and say that I think most parents are subsisting this weekend predominantly on their children’s leftovers.  I’ve heard a parent say, “thank goodness my son doesn’t eat the crust on his sandwiches.”

Aaron said he enjoys his father's blogs and estimated his dad's chess strength at 1100.
In round 3, I took part in a Simul.  Chess parents participate in Simuls all the time.  For me, it included simultaneously seating Aaron at his board, responding to a work email, fielding a phone call from home and saying “good morning” to numerous people.  I think I seated Aaron pretty well, but the other items were a blur.  While seating Aaron, I did notice the rituals many parents go through.  Do you go to the board with your child?  Do you whisper any words of advice? Not knowing much chess, most chess parents fall back on the following words of wisdom as they seat their child at a national tournament:

    * “Play slow”
    * “Stay at your board”
    * “I’ll be in the team room”
    * “Have fun”

If you can find a place to stand peacefully during the rounds, the Nationals is a great place for people watching.  I enjoy the transformation into the country music genre over the course of the weekend.  More and more parents and kids wind up in cowboy hats and rhinestones as the weekend progresses.  My guess is that the cowboy wear is one of those “caught up in the moment” purchases that will be about as useful back home as that chess book you bought.

Let’s focus for one moment on the chess store.  The chess store is to the nationals what Las Vegas is to America.  Has there ever been a place with as much untappable potential as the chess store?  Every ounce of knowledge that your child needs to excel at chess is right there on those tables.  Books which explain every facet of the game.  Books, which contain every important game ever played.  Software that reinforces the tactics and principles that underpin the game.  Let’s face it, 99% of us can’t get one worthwhile idea out of those books.  I’m pretty sure that in order to understand and review the examples in a book for a person rated 1200, you need to already be rated 1800.  Assuming you actually sit down with a board and pieces and try to work through an example, you probably run into the following scenario: you play eight or ten moves on the board, reading along, and then all of a sudden it gives you several variations.  So you follow one variation for five moves and then the book says, “OK, go back to where we were five moves ago.” Unless you are already deeply immersed in chess, you have no idea where you were five moves ago, and you will probably close that book and put it back on the shelf.  Very few chess parents get through more than a chapter of these chess books.  That being said, I bought two more this tournament, but please, keep it between us, my wife has already put me on chess book probation.

In my article last year, I was critiqued by the chess community for not including any chess games to discuss.  I thought I would clear that up for all the chess experts who are looking to improve their game by reading my blogs.  I am going to annotate Aaron’s third round game for the chess world.  My comments are those of a chess parent, not a coach.  With that in mind, I think the annotations will only be helpful to those rated between 1900 and 2400.  Those rated below…already know this stuff.


1.e4 c5  2.c3
Aaron’s use of the Alapin variation shows that I had him into the tournament hall on time and he did not oversleep. Nc6  3.d4 e6 4. Nf3 d5 5.e5 f6 6.Bb5 Qb6 7.Bxc6 Qxc6 8.O-O Castling here tells a chess parent that Aaron ate a good breakfast and wants to protect his king. 8...Bd7 9.Re1 o-o-o 10.Be3 Kb8 11.exf6 11.Bf4 would have been better for Aaron, however, at this point Aaron was watching his friend’s board down the row and exf6 was the best move on his friends board, so he accidentally played it. 11...Nxf6 12.Ne5 Qb6 13.Nf7 Qxb2 14.Nd2 Qc3 15.Nxd8 cxd4 16.Bf4 Ka8 17.Nxe6 Bxe6 18.Rxe6 Ba3 19.Nb3 Bb2 20.Rb1 Rf8 21.Bd2 Qd3 22.Rxb2 Ne4 23.f3 Nc3 24.Qe1 Kb8 25.Re8 Rxe8 26.Qxe8 26.Bf4+ leads to a checkmate in three.  However, from my parent’s perspective close to a mile away from Aaron’s board, it appeared that he had been kneeling on his chair and tipped over backwards.  Kc7 27.Bf4 Kb6 28.Nc1  1-0

Aaron Schein at the board
I’ve had a great time at this year’s Super Nationals.  It has been a challenge both because of the tough sections and the large crowds.  However, we had fun.  Aaron hasn’t worn headphones since we got here.  We’ve talked, studied for school, and laughed a lot.  He did ask me how old he has to be to come to these tournaments by himself, but I’m not going to think about that right now.

Last year, my dad had been sick.  He passed away on the day after we got back from Pittsburgh.  I think he waited for us.  We told him about Aaron’s tournament and he seemed genuinely happy for Aaron. (He thought I was a little crazy for being so involved). Thanks to Aaron, chess has become a part of our family and hundreds of chess families from all over the country have also become part of our big chess family.


April - Chess Life Online 2009

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