Chess: improvement

simple checkmatesDear Parents of Boys’ Chess Students:

Last week I posed a simple question to your boys, “What do you need to change for you to become a better chess player?” and was delighted by their surprisingly thoughtful answers.
boys playing chess

Two_suggestions are now part of our routine. One was about focusing — several wanted to be able to “focus better.”  I told them that was a smart goal and described my high school chess tournaments, where there would be hundreds of students in a gymnasium together, all absolutely silent and focused. I asked them how long they thought they could play and focus in silence.  Their predictions tended to be long:  six hours, nine hours, etc. I suggested we start with twelve minutes of silent focusing and take it from there. It was a challenge, but they did it, and we have practiced this each week since.  On Tuesday, we stayed silently focused for fifteen minutes straight.

The second goal that came up was what is technically called “board vision,” the ability to see the perils and possibilities of the whole board. IMG_2804This is the opposite of “tunnel vision,” narrowly focusing on just one piece or area of the board.  To address this, I had the boys switch to a new board after each move, so that they would see a new position each time and have to reassess the whole board. This had the added benefit of making several boys simultaneously share responsibility for each board, which meant a lot less ego invested in each game, freeing the boys up to think more abstractly about the positions.
They liked both of these exercises, and rose to the occasion admirably.  One student commented that the class was “very peaceful.” IMG_0246IMG_0244

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