The Right Coast

May 18, 2005
The Church of Chess
By Tom Smith

Eugene has a link to a nice law professor authored chess site. It is not exactly what the doctor ordered -- more on that later. My problems are more basic. The following exchange from this morning explains.

My 13 year old Luke: Dad, did you really call chess club "The Church of Chess"?
Me: Yes, Luke. I was trying to get everybody to shut up. They wouldn't talk in church, so I was telling them it was the church of chess, where they should just be quiet and play chess. I thought it was a pretty good analogy.
Luke: Well, everybody is making fun of you now for saying that.
Patrick (11): Yeah, Dad. Everybody is making fun of you.
Me: Well, it was just a joke. To try to get people to quiet down.
Patrick: They didn't know it was a joke. They thought you were weird.

They have no idea.

The problem I see with teaching chess is to get the little demons to play plausible openings (e4 or d4) and not do STUPID THINGS (a4 is an ever popular stupid first move). Another big problem is the transition between the first few moves of the opening and what you might call the later opening. It seems very hard to convince kids they really should think about things like establishing a position or even getting control of the center of the board. Too boring, I guess. Instead they go off on these bizarre lines that would make smoke come out of Deep Blue's cooling vents.

There's only one more meeting this year. Next year, I think I'm going the Supernanny route. There will be tables, assigned games, scores kept, tournaments, clocks and scorecards kept. By God. The whole, we're just getting together to have fun playing chess, is a recipe for chaos and ennui. Structure! Order! Of course, they may find some other dad who is less weird.