Set to the rhythm of The Night Before Christmas, Twas The Day of the Chess Tournament is the story of a team’s first time playing in a chess tournament. While it is a fictional story, the actions and feelings do occur with new chess players on a regular basis. This is the perfect story to give a child embarking on their first chess tournament although it would also be good for kids reflecting on their first tournament. Coach Coy is based on I, who believes healthy competition is important while still maintaining a great overall attitude. She also believes that chess is a great way to facilitate important life skills as well.
Last week I was teaching curriculum classes at one of our partner schools and a student asked me to learn about the Sicilian Defense, something I typically would not teach until students are rated 1200+. A few minutes later, he was playing against another student and attempted to capture his opponent’s king after he made an illegal move that did not get him out of check. He did not remember that kings never get captured in chess. Inexperienced chess coaches will often jump to instructing basic strategy, openings, endgames, etc. before students know all the rules. Knowing all the rules does not just mean piece movement; before students learn any strategy, they should know how to castle and know the exact definitions of check, checkmate, and stalemate.
Often when I ask beginners what checkmate means, I will get answers like “It is when the king cannot move anywhere”, “It is where anywhere the king goes, he will get captured”, “The king is surrounded”, etc. All these answers are incorrect and will cause confusion to students when they are playing. Two years I was directing at our tournaments and a child raised his hand. When I went over to his board, he was excited as he exclaimed. “I won!” He thought it was checkmate as his opponent’s king had no legal moves but it was not in check. I told them to play on and a few moves later he made the exclamation. However, I had to be the bearer of bad news and explain to him why it was stalemate and how he only would get a ½ point for the round. I felt bad as he left the room crying but of course the rules were rules. While it may take a while for students to fully grasp the differences ad be able to independently describe the differences of these three related terms, this lesson must be done before students continue their chess study.
Check means “the king is in danger”. This means that the king is in a direct line of fire from one of his opponent’s pieces. If the king were any other piece (pawn, rook queen, bishop or knight), it would be able to get captured on the next move). In beginner classes, I will often say “Raise your hand if when your in check, you should get out of it”. Usually most of the beginners will fall for the trick and raise their hand…… One must get always get of check; it is not something he should do. As Nikki Church likes to say, ” the whole world stops until you get out of check.”
Checkmate means “the king is in check and there is no way to get out of check”. Every other type of answer may be close but is not correct. When a students says “checkmate is when there is no where for the king to go”, I will ask “is the king in checkmate in the starting position of a chess game?”.
“Of course, not”, the student will generally reply. He gets surprised when I explain to him how according to his definition of checkmate, the king would be in checkmate in the starting position.
Students will often suggest “checkmate is when the king is in check and there is no way for the king to run.” This is a better definition but is also not correct…. Is this Pirc Defense an opening that loses on the spot?
If white could play 2. Bb5#, I don’t think many top players like ….. would play 1….d6.
However, of course this would not be checkmate as black can easily block the check with 2…c6.
I then remind students of the acronoym of CPR as the three ways to get out of check:
Stalemate means “the king is not in check and the player has no legal moves”. Today I set up this stalemate position in a class (Black to play).:
I asked the class why it was stalemate and not checkmate. Most of the kids kept explaining how the black king had no legal moves. However in either checkmate or stalemate, black would have no legal moves. I had to tell them that the reason that it was stalemate, not checkmate, was that the black king was not in check. I repeatedly tell students “if the king is not in check, a position can never be checkmate”.
It is often difficult to teach young students the differences of these three important terms because it can require unteaching some previous bad habits, like capturing kings and thinking you a win a game because “the king is trapped and has no moves.” Chess teachers will often move on and start teaching basic strategy becuase it can take several weeks for children to fully grasp the difference of check, checkmate and stalemate; however, it is necessary that students know the exact differences to get the results they desire.
Raising children comes with many challenges and rewards. If you’re like most parents, you’ve probably felt completely overwhelmed at some point while raising your kids. However, there are countless great resources for helping you through all the tough times and finding answers to all your questions. Here are some basic tips and resources you need to know at every stage of your children’s development below.
Many teens like to think they can take care of themselves alone, but they still need guidance, patience and understanding. Find resources for helping your teens navigate through these tough years below.
Before founding Premier Chess, I co-founded Pillar Sales, a sales outsourcing firm and closed deals upwards of 5 million dollars at Oracle and Rapid 7. When I would interview for new roles, hiring managers would often ask me the common question “Why do you like being in sales?” When I answered because I liked the analytical nature of it, my interviewers most often would not believe me, thinking I was just interested in the money. To the contrary, sales is analytical like a chess game. In both sales and chess, one should look for low-hanging fruit, recognize the process and review his games.
One of the biggest takeaways I got from my sales training at Oracle with Bill Petersen is that one should always look for the low-hanging fruit. When a sales representative first receives as territory, it can be overwhelming as he has lots of account and does not know where to start. While it may be tempting to go after the ‘whales’, the companies with the most revenue that may have a lot of buying power, it is best to go after one’s install base, identifying opportunities for his customers to upgrade where needed. Likewise, in a chess game, the goal of a chess game is checkmate, as that is the only way to win a game. However, one cannot blindly attack and aim for checkmate if the position does not justify such a plan. One should always look for his opponent’s weaknesses and determine an applicable plan.
For instance in this position, white would not go for a king side attack as black’s king is relatively safe. On the other hand, he would try to move his knight to c4 to put more pressure on the backward d6 pawn.
A chess game and sales both have distinct processes. In the opening of a chess game, a player develops his pieces, controls the center and castles to prepare for the middlegame. Likewise, in the beginning of the sales process, discovers budget, ability, need and timeline and identifies an opportunity. In the middlegame, a player excecutes a plan, while a sales representative offers a proposal and negotiates. In the endgame, a player tries to increase his advantage to get a winning position, as a sales person tries to close a deal.
In chess and sales, it is important to always analyze your mistakes and figure out what you can do better. The good thing about a chess game and a sales deal, is there is always another one. My former Vice President at Oracle Kevin Mcgee used to often say “there is only one way to overcome a lost deal- to go find another one.” To better on the next sale or game, one should objectively figure out his areas of improvement, whether it be in the opening, middlegame or endgame.
While there is no question one has to have a drive to make money to be sucessful in sales, an analytic mindset can also help. Whether you or sales person, entrepeneur or other revenue generating employee, chess can help. Off and on the board, look for the low-hanging fruit, recognize the process and review your games, and you will be sucessful.
This was my college essay that I wrote back in 2007, which helped me get accepted to Brandeis University:
When I see myself on the May 2007 cover of Chess Life magazine, I feel a sense of stunning accomplishment. After thousands of matches and countless hours of practice, my tenacity was rewarded when I served as captain of the first place team at the 2007 U.S. Amateur Team East Chess Championship (USATE). This achievement served not only as a milestone of personal growth but also to motivate my decision to pursue a business career. Four years ago, I played in the USATE for the first time and had a hard time even finding a team. This year, I put together a team and led four other players. One came from as far as Tennessee and after a long weekend of competitive play we came home with first place honors.
In 2003 I entered high school without a clue of what I wanted to do in the future. My desire to imamprove myself motivated me to pursue a demanding International Baccaleureate (IB) curriculum with an elective in IB Business Higher Level. This rigorous course has opened my eyes to the methods companies use to achieve their objectives. It is one thing to learn such concepts in the classroom but to get a true sense of what they mean it is essential to apply them to real life problems. Therefore, when I began to think about this year’s USATE tournament, I decided to see if I could use these principles to develop a winning strategy.
First, I took on the recruitment process to form the best team possible. I began by initiating a research effort, looking at teams that had won the USATE in previous years. As companies perform reverse engineering to evaluate the strengths of their competitors, I conducted an analysis studying other top-rated teams. This led to a conclusion that it was best to have four players with ratings close to 2200, the maximum allowed team average. I realized this would give us a competitive advantage over the many teams that focused their resources on players with extremely high ratings. That is because to meet the 2200 maximum average, their remaining boards would have to be rated significantly lower.
I carefully selected a team using this strategy, and made sure my teammates knew each other so they were able to cooperate and have high morale. One teammate suggested the team name “Beavis and Buttvinnik” incorporating the movie Beavis and Buttheadand the 1950s world chess champion Mikhail Botvinnik.
When we were nominated for “ best name prize,” our team spirit received a boost. Other teams also recognized us more, especially when we were fighting on the top boards for first place. This nomination showed me the importance of both a company’s name and brand equity. Our cooperation and spirit was noted during the last round when my teammate Nick came back to the boards with four cups of water for those of us who were still playing. A grandmaster saw this action and said, “Your team is a lot nicer than ours.”
Winning at the USATE was a high point in my life. It allowed me to see myself in the role of manager and showed me how much I can achieve when I apply myself. It also demonstrated how academic studies can be applied in a real life setting. The desire to learn more about business influenced me to take a college course in microeconomics at New York University last summer. This experience provided further depth to my understanding and gave me further insight into preparing for college.
Since then, the four-minute barrier has been broken by over 1400 athletes. Would have any of those 1400 runners made the feat had Bannister not done so- who knows? Similarly, Abhimanyu Mishra recently becomes to the World’s youngest grandmaster, at the age of 12 years, 4 months and 25 days, beating Former World Championship Candidate Sergey Karjakin’s record. Proteges like Bannister and Mishra teach us that most of our goals can be possible if we put our mind to it. We can do so by avoid saying “I don’t know”, living by the idea of “Ufaratzta” and abiding by the 50-point rule.
One answer I never accept from students is “I don’t know.”Teaching students of all ages and skill levels, I have a great idea of what questions are too hard or easy for each one. However, often students will tell me “I don’t know” or “I haven’t learned that before.”, not realizing the answer is well within their wheelhouse. To the contrary, Social Worker Carrie Cohen, MSW, LCSW once shared how in stead of saying “I don’t know” to a question, they should say something a long the lines of “Can you explain the question more”, “I need some more time to think about it”, etc. They should not jump to conclusions that they do not know the answer; they should spend as much time as they need to figure it out, confidently. Stronger players will often rush doing puzzles, clicking through the moves on Lichess or Chess.com, without figuring out the answer completely on their own.
“Ufarazta” means to spread out in Hebrew. More loosely, it means to get outside of one’s comfort zone. My mentor Peretz Chein, Director of Chabad of Brandeis, first taught me the idea when I learned about him running a ½ marathon after only a few months of training, when he hardly ran a day in his life before him. Despite the fact that most people did not believe he would be able to do it. He proved everyone wrong and ran the race. The next year, he ran with a group of students, named “ Team Ufarazta”.
Yesterday I was teaching a beginner student and he was so proud to tell me all of what he knew about chess- piece movement, basic opening principals, pins, etc. Since he has not played in over a year, he forget parts of the rules, like the difference of check and checkmate. As he tried to regurgitate the rules he did not know, he was actually not learning. Rather than try to stay what one knows, he should listen as much as possible and soak in as much information as possible. It is also important to be open to trying new activities, places, foods, etc. Never did I think I would end up taking a ballet class ever in my life but I did the other evening; that was definitely an ufarazta experience for me.
A few weeks ago I asked a class if Magnus Carlsen was a strong chess player; of course all the students said he as of course as he is a strong grandmaster and current world champion. I then asked if he was good, relative to Stockfish and very few students said “yes.” The truth is even our world champion is not as strong as our top silicion friends thse days. No matter who you are playing, it is easy to either overestimate or unederstimate your opponent. No matter what rating your opponent actually is, you should pretend as if he is 50 points higher rated; that way you give him a little of a respect but not too much. For more ideas regarding confidence, see this old post.
If your instinct is that you cannot do something, do not think it is impossible. I personally did think in the first two months of our business in 2017, we would have 10 instructors working in 14 schools but we did. Some times, you just need to avoid artificial belefis and, as Nike says, “just do it!” Avoid saying “I don’t know”, live by the idea of “Ufaratzta” and abide by the 50-point rule.
Beginner students will often capture pieces, without considering why their opponents are allowing them to do so. To the contrary, our 118th Podcast Guest Grandmaster Maxim Dlugy often reminds us how chess is like a duel. If your opponent offers you something, your initial reaction should not be to take it but rather be suspect as to why he is allowing you to have it. One may decide to leave a knight where it can be captured, if it means capturing his opponent’s queen on the next turn. There may also be something more complicated, like a hidden attack.
Even more experienced players will not abide by Dlugy’s guideline. For instance, in the 5th round of the U.S Open 2021, I was playing against an “A”player who I bet in a tournament in Manhattan 3-years ago. When I offered a draw, he almost instantly took it and afterwards told me he felt a little relieved since he was in time pressure and I was 250 points higher rated. However, truth be told, I only offered it because I knew I was losing; when we looked at it together with the engine, Stockfish gave his position +4.9, which equates to almost a rook.
Who knows what would have been the ultimate result if the game continued but he likely would have won. If you want your opponent do something in chess or any other area of life, you must force him to do so. With this in mind, here are the most forcing type of moves, 10 being the highest and 1 being only slightly forcing:
8 – Attack a queen, trade queens, threaten to promote.
5- Attack a rook, trade rooks.
3-Attack a bishop or a knight, trade minor piece.
2-Theaten to make a trade that rips open kingside.
1- Attack a pawn.
While forcing moves are not always good, one should strongly consider every single check, capture and threat. These moves can help you create tactics to lead to winning of material and checkmate. That said, one should not making an attacking move just for the sake of making an attacking move. One should only do one if he looks at the move his opponent will likely respond with and sees he will get some benefit.
‘There sits on my shelf a beautiful wooden chess set. The box has some nicks on it, a couple of pieces are missing the felt bottom. But there it is for all who visit to see. “Why would it be out on display?” you may ask. It sits there because of the sentimental value. It once belonged to my husband’s father, and it holds memories of a precious relationship solidified by many years of playing chess together. My husband remembers with great fondness the patience his father showed when teaching him the game. And he remembers with great pride the first time he legitimately beat his father. There were conversations that took place over a game of chess that might have been missed otherwise. Words of wisdom and encouragement, gratitude and love, were exchanged over that board. So of course, this old chess set sits on display!
Sadly, this old chess set does not get used as much as it used to. My husband has tried to teach me the game, and I simply flounder. I know what all the pieces are, I know the rules of the game, but he beats me every time! And it’s not because I’m not interested – chess is fascinating to me and I could watch people play for hours! When “The Queen’s Gambit” came out on Netflix, I was jealous of her skill and ability to master this game. I’m an intelligent person, but there seems to be a block in my brain when I start to play chess.
This is the same type of block that happens for many of my clients when they are trying to solve the puzzle of how to meet business goals. In chess, a player – as my husband has told me- has moves already created in their mind. If their opponent moves a piece in a certain spot, the player already knows what move they will make to counteract it. The flaw of this thinking for business owners and managers is that they continue to make the same move, regardless of the outcome. They don’t always assess the situation for new opportunities and adapt their next steps accordingly. It’s like a player who only uses one chess piece and then plunges to a rapid loss because they don’t know what to do when they lose that piece.
Despite my failings at chess, I am very good at business strategy, with a twist. Just as a master chess player can assess a board and think 6 steps ahead to a victory, I can look at a business and assess what the obstacles are and provide a strategy to overcome those obstacles resulting in new opportunities. But I’m not looking at marketing or processes or any of those classic fundamentals. My focus is on what is actually happening when the people are working.
As a chess player does, I’m looking at the pieces that make up the organization. I’m looking at roles, and the people who occupy those roles. I’m looking at how they interplay with each other. I look at management that is moving those pieces around. The question that is asked, “Is the right person in the right role?”. In other words, is the Knight where it needs to be to guard the Queen? Is the Pawn out of the way so that the Bishop can attack?
My clients get the opportunity to reset the board. I remind them of what pieces they need, what the characteristics of those pieces are, and how to best activate them for a victory. People who work with me are taught how to best interact with each other, and to lead a team with minimal politics, minimal confusion, high morale, and low turnover. They are given the strategy to motivate their employees to be their best in order for the company to win.
As exhilarating as it is for a chess player to implement their best strategy for a victory, I get the same rush when working with business owners and managers to improve company culture, teaching staff how to best communicate with each other and their clients, directing managers to effective hires, and so much more. Just as a chess player loves setting up the board for a new game against a worthy opponent, I love teach strategies that will develop employees from average to amazing, bringing more certainty to the future, without service disruption.
All this talk of chess has inspired me to give it another go. Perhaps this time I might be able to break the mental block and actually present a challenge to my husband? And I hope you are inspired to learn more how to get your amazing team members in place! Email me at email@example.com to learn tips you can start today.
When I noted chess’ most vivid application to life was one semester while I was an undergraduate in Western Massachusetts. Shortly after being hired as an associate news editor for the independent student newspaper, I was tasked to the administration beat.
One of the first encounters of note while covering the administration entailed the chancellor and my initial face-to-face meeting, almost immediately after which I viewed him as the king and campus as the board. His administration was populated by assorted power players with various levels of authority, vigilance and mobility, fulfilling stand-up roles akin to the back line of queen, bishops, knights and rooks. Lower level members of the staff served as the first line of defense, very closely resembling pawns.
My responsibility was to keep tabs on the administration amid ongoing happenings and then articulate those developments in cogent, informative print. Though I did not view myself as an opponent but, rather, a monitor of this modified game of the king, this task availed multiple opportunities for direct access to the chancellor and his crew, including forays deep into his life, times, office and home.
All of which begs the question: Who was the opponent?
Given a college campus is the heart of critical culture, the top administrator had no shortage of critics telling him how he should and should not do his job. But whether anyone wanted to sack him is another question.
Among the top critics was the then chair of the journalism department, with whom I was strolling one day between classes when suddenly another faculty member comes rushing over to share an excerpt about a recent move by the king. The chair whimsically smiles, gently shakes his head west-to-east, and compares the campus’ point man to ‘a monk in a cell’.
One day I was being seen at the campus health center. An avid reader of daily news, the attending physician recognized my name and when I told her I was responsible for covering the administration, the fixer-of-ills opined that the brass was ’top heavy’.
Journalists are trained to be critical (ergo the chair’s point of departure) though while in frequent contact with the campus’ top administrative official, I did not believe sharpening the talons would be beneficial for my purposes.
Also critical was the editorial/opinion page of the student newspaper and its editor, who turned down an overture from the campus’ top suite: publishing the king’s periodic submissions. The paper derided him in a piece titled ’The Chancellor’s New Hobby’. And whether that was a signed column or an unsigned editorial, I cannot recall.
Maybe that elusive opponent was from within. His was an unenviable job, rife with opportunity to commit forced and unforced errors, become tangled in weeds and immersed in pitfalls, manufacture up-and-coming doubters, and engage an abundant number of observers and critics.
Similarly, careless, forced and unforced errors abound in chess, a thinking man’s game that sharpens critical thought processing and forward-looking ideas, plans and strategy.
The last few days I was in Tampa to kick off our new program at Tampa Day School ,walked by Pineywoods and was impressed by the full stack of servies that they offer. I know some great real estate brokers, lenders, title representatives, mortage brokers and insurance agents, who can be seen on our partners page. To the contrary, I never heard of a company that offered all of these services. Similarly, I worked at Oracle, which took pride in offering the full technology stack with hardware, database, applications, consulting, and more:
Likewise, for top chess improvement, we recommend that individuals, schools and companies take a full-stack approach. To get better in chess, it is best to have a good mix of group classes, private lessons, self-study and tournament practice. Here is more detailed list of suggest full-stack approach for each vertical:
Group Classes: Good way to pratice with coach and other players, will be a mix of lectures, practice games, puzzles and more, can be part of school program, virtual group classes , or other option.
Private Lessons: Work 1-1 with a coach, usually weekly- best way to get individualized learning plan, prepare openings, study middle game themes and fundamental endgames, review tournament games, etc.
Self- Study: As much learning you do with coaches, privately or with a group, there is no replacement for self- study. All players need to review their games, do chess puzzles and learn opening, middlegame and endgame fundamentals. There are lots of great resources out there, incuding good-old fashioned books, Lichess and ChessKId.
Administrators will often ask me “What does your program look like”, not realizing, we currently serve 80+ schools and no two contracts look alike. While this not feasible for every school, given budget constraints, this what the full-stack chess program looks like:
Curriculum Classes: Chess teacher visits each classroom, all students in school (or a set of grades), gets exposure to chess.
After-School Program: Open to students who want to learn more advanced strategies and get ready to represent school at tournaments
Professional Development: Instructor classroom teachers how to teach, prepare them tio supplement chess program and allow kids to practice when chess teachers are not there.
Coaching at Tournaments: Instructor travels with students to help prepare for games and analyze them afterwards.
–Lunch and Learns: Allows companies to start a chess culture, provides networking opportunity between different lines of business and a productive break from work.
–After-Work Events: Allows for extra chess practice, can be weekly, monthly, etc; higher the frequency, the better, will include lectures, games with feedback and more.
While a full-stack-approach is the best way to achieve rapid chess improvement, we realize it is not feasible for all indivudals, schools and individuals, based on time and economic constraints. It is best to start with a little bit of programming and expand as resources permit. For instance, we have several schools start after-school partnerships with us and later begin curriculum classes. To learn more about what solution is most feasible for you, book some time to chat with yours truly.