Monday, May 30, 2016

A Crash Course in The World of Chess Parenting

2015-2016 - Tucson - Si:ban played Bughouse Chess.  Ani cried.

2014 - 2015 - Gilbert Si:ban forgot her book.  The reading tournament.

2013-2014 - Flagstaff - We went Sliding Rock State Park.  Eating hummus in the car.

2012- 2013 - Tucson - Ryan couldn't go due to work.

2011 - 2012- Gilbert - 110 degrees out, no AC, no team rooms, Ani Puked

2010- 2011 - Lakeside (Pinetop) - It snowed.

My daughters started learning how to play chess as part of the curriculum at The Montessori Schoolhouse, at the age of nine.  They had mentioned wanting to join the after school "Chess Club", which you had to pay for, but at the time, we were already struggling with after-school pick-ups and making ends meet, so unfortunately, we simply couldn't do it.  

It wasn't until the next school year, when the Chess Instructor/Chess Coach, Josh, flagged us down one day and offered us a half-scholarship for both girls, that we realized that we were holding them back from a great opportunity.  Josh told us that the girls were very interested in chess, that they asked questions and although they had a lot to learn, he could see them working hard to improve and that they listened to what he had to say.  We HAD to make it happen.   


After a few months of attending the after school chess club, we received information about a chess tournament.  

Other than knowing we had to buy them chess boards there, we didn't know what to expect at all.  We showed up to the very first chess tournament with not enough cash, no books to read, no chairs to sit in, no snacks, no pencils, no sunscreen, and no idea what was even going on.  

When we got to the school that was hosting the tournament, we saw prepared parents everywhere.  They had camp chairs, blankets, ice chests, chess boards, hats, sunglasses and some of them even had extension cords for their laptops, which were already out and being worked on.  Chess games were being played on worn chess sets that had already seen a lot of action and you could hear kids and parents talking about strategies and moves in a way that sounded alien. 

The kids were running around wearing chess-themed shirts and some of the parents did too.  A few really intense looking parents wore matching chess shirts with their kids.  


My husband and I had a crash course in learning the language of chess.  We had to learn about "pairings," "rounds," "notation," "review," "clocks," "ratings," "bughouse," etc.  

The thing that surprised me the most was when we helped our daughters find their boards and settle in, an announcement was made for parents to leave the room!  

We had no idea we wouldn't be watching our children actually play chess! 

I felt like we had shown up to a pool party wearing pants.  

I also didn't know it was an all-day event.  I assumed they'd play a few games and then we'd leave.  Instead, we spent an entire day, observing the world of chess enthusiasts and making note of what we'd need for the next tournament.  

Looking back on that rude introduction to chess culture, six years later, now that the world of competitive chess has become part of our normal lives, it's almost comical.  

As devoted chess parents, it was our job as parents to feed and water our children, to give them hugs and high fives when they finished a game and to smile and nod as they explained how they won or why they lost (even if we couldn't understand what they were telling us.) Our job was to remind them to record their games, move by move, and to learn from their mistakes, but not dwell on them.  It was our job to teach them to be gracious winners and to be respectful to their opponents.  

We invested in camp chairs to stay comfortable during the long days.  We learned to pack books and phone chargers to keep ourselves entertained during each round.  Sometimes, my husband would bring a basketball to play around with, if there were basketball courts.  We bought "Chess Mom" and "Chess Dad" shirts and wear them proudly at tournaments.   

We have traveled all over Tucson, Vail, Flagstaff, Pinetop and Gilbert, 

We've seen a lot of families come and go, and still, my daughters have been ready, bright and early (for us) Saturday mornings during the months of September-April, with their chess sets, notation books and a few carefully sharpened pencils, ready to compete.