Friday, January 25, 2019

Quick thoughts about sportsmanship: DRAFT

As I get older, my appreciation for good sportsmanship grows.

As a kid, I remember hearing about sportsmanship regularly when playing team sports. After soccer and baseball games, we would form a line and exchange high fives. Everyone was so into the game and having so much fun, players were pretty nice. Coaches were constantly teaching us about sportsmanship.

When I organize chess tournaments and teach some classes, I see that some kids don't show great sportsmanship, and maybe they have some issues with etiquette in general.

I think a lot of the kids learn to make rude jokes from friends, or from YouTube/TV.

A few examples:

The Thank You: Kids saying "thank you" during a game as they capture their opponent's chess piece. If it's a casual game, it's still good to play quietly... and saying "thank you" after your opponent loses material is not very nice. But it's a habit some kids have. It is okay to say "thanks for the game" after it's over... but personally, I feel a little awkward saying anything after I win a game, but I make sure to give the handshake, and give them a few minutes, and then chat with them later. If I lose the game, I say "good game" or "you played very well" or something like that.

Illegal Move Humor: After losing a game, not admitting they lost, but making a joke where they are pretending to cheat. Like moving their King illegally out of mate, but jokingly. Just say "good game" or acknowledge that you lost... there is no need to diffuse the awkwardness of losing with a joke. To be good at chess, you have to lose hundreds to thousands of games, and it's just a big waste of time to make boring jokes because you feel a little weird about losing. 

Piling On: Two players are playing a practice game. An audience of kids surround the game and give commentary. Parents seem to be smiling because it's an exciting scene. The truth is, one kid is probably losing a lot. And the commentary is given to the kid who is winning the game already... so basically everyone is piling on some 5 year old who is losing. I have broken this up many times, by telling everyone to play their own games instead of watching. I'm not a huge fan of kids watching games when they have the option to play their own game or read a book. Surprisingly, the consequence of this isn't so bad. The loser rarely seems upset. But everyone gets a little hyper, and I think it's a little inconsiderate of the audience members to comment on a game in progress, even if it's a casual game.

Promotion Humor: It's funny to many players to promote a bunch of pawns, but it's not nice to do in tournaments, and really mean to do it to kids. I don't see this that often anymore (maybe kids know I really dislike it). This is the equivalent of "running up the score" in basketball, instead of dribbling out the clock.

Solution: I think I see better than average sportsmanship because I, like my baseball and soccer coaches, discuss sportsmanship all the time. But also, I am just genuinely annoyed by rude behavior.
I believe that kids of all ages can spot a phony, and if you genuinely dislike bad sportsmanship, it rubs off on them. I also notice that in a room of 10 kids, if there is just one super polite kid (who is good at chess) it rubs off on everyone. So it's very important to become a better person as you get better at chess. If you have a sarcastic/dark sense of humor, just don't bring it to the chess club.

Casual chess vs. formal chess. There should be no difference! You can't sprain your brain (I don't think). 

I used to play basketball casually, and in college intramural leagues (competitively). This is not a humble brag. I was not good in basketball. I made one goal in basketball: to look so good, that someone might ask me if I played in high school or college. I've only been asked this question once, by the night manager of a 24 Hour Fitness, as he walked in when I happened to drain a few three pointers in a row.

In casual basketball games or pickup games, there is kind of an unwritten rule to not play too hard, because you don't want injuries, etc. So defense isn't as physical, people don't box out as much for rebounds, and players are careful with their shoulders when driving into a lane. It kind of works out naturally. Sometimes play can get a little rough, but it's the exception not the norm.  In competitive basketball, things would be more intense. Defense gets tough. People really box out hard. The college intramural refs aren't the greatest, so there is a lot of physical pain.

In chess, I don't really understand why there should ever be a difference between casual chess and formal/competitive chess. I personally try my best every game. If it's a shorter time control game, I have to play faster and make mistakes. But I'm trying my best. When I play a kid, I try to play perfectly. I notate the game, take a photo of the game with my phone, then give the scoresheet to to the kid. I try to play perfectly so 1) I don't get bored playing kids - playing perfectly is a challenge. 2) So I don't get weaker at chess. 3) There is absolutely no downside to trying my best... I'm not going to sprain an ankle playing chess.

By the way, one thing I have to admit...  when I play proplerly, I truly forget that I'm setting a good example. I remember seeing something on my social media feed from a school teacher, that one of the best things you can do is read a book in front of a kid. And I think about it, and I believe the reader of the book is reading because she wants to read, not really making it the goal to set the good example. But don't get me wrong - setting a good example is wonderful! But this goes back to my belief: Kids can spot a phony. They can tell if you are genuine.

My students are often surprised that I'm notating, and I explain that I'm doing this because I like doing it, and I'm not doing something different to set a good example. I just really have to play this way. I let kids know that I will give them the notation sheet and they should put it in a frame, and replace all of their chess trophies with this item (okay I make annoying jokes too I guess).

By the way, I always tell kids to shake hands before and after. I always shake hands. But I totally get nervous shaking hands with kids...  because I see that they put their fingers in gross places. Of course I shake their hand, but the whole time I remember my two rules: 1) don't touch your face (a friend told me that he learned this in Marine Boot camp. It's funny that this advice came back to me when I went to "war" over the chess board against a young kid with dirty hands). 2) Sanitize your hands as soon as possible, but do so after playing a few chess moves, so you don't make your opponent feel bad (I bet they don't teach this trick in Marine boot camp!).

The point is, Sportsmanship is great. I often capitalize this word. Chess coaches should use this word a thousand times a year. We don't really have etiquette classes anymore, but I believe chess is a formal, intellectual, classy game. People associate it with good etiquette and intellectual behavior. Chess players are lucky that their favorite game is looked at as such a positive activity, while other intellectual games, society kind of views as a waste of time (not necessarily fair, but I'm not going to complain).

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Entries: Saturday January 19, 2019

SwissSys Wall Chart. chesspanda01192019saturday: preregistered (Alphabetical)

1Amanda Yu
 480 16406281
2Andy Xiangzhong Wu
 584 16647140
3Anish Krishnan
 575 16596617
4Brayden Li
 404 16925096
5Bruce Shu
 unr. 16929407
6Divakar Shenoy
 836 16409604
7Efran Tianzhang Zhao
 911 16805308
8Kyle Yiwen Wang
 1227 16586700
9Leo Zhu
 500 16754631
10Louis Massuttier
 513 16871846
11Marc Lu
 903 15444158
12Marcus Li
 715 16498533
13Mihika Krishnan
 569 16596204
14Mike Weng
 939 15814082
15Nathan Li
 905 15889394
16Nathanial Curry
 595 16095161
17Neil Shaw
 883 16119016
18Rachel Curry
 768 15443930
19Rishab Nambiar Randeep
 1173 15493378
20Ronak Nambiar Randeep
 1301 15129467
21Santiago Arellano
 963 16480937
22Tyler Taizhong Wu
 256 16926057
23Vyshnavi Kadiyala
 942 15590732
24Wenqiao Chen
 unr. 16931696
25Yvonne Zhao
 977 16465046
26Zhenxun Liu
 1087 16406337