Parenting a chess player can be more difficult than playing the game


This weekend at the Super Nationals in Nashville, Tenn., The biggest event of the year for school chess competitors, parents will be treated to something that has never been discussed at the event before: how to be good parents and sports trainers. The free seminar will not only cover the ins and outs of educating a good competitor, but also how to choose a trainer that is best for your child.

The Super Nationals, a quadrennial event like the Olympics, will welcome more than 5,000 children from 47 states plus Washington, DC and Puerto Rico, from a total of 1,541 schools, according to Robert McLellan, spokesman for the American Federation. chess based in Nashville. . These children will be accompanied by either an anxious parent or a professional chess coach by their side.

Even Alexandra Kosteniuk, the 12th female world chess champion who herself started a chess career at the age of 5 admits parenting her daughter Francesca, 6, throughout the process is very intimidating. .

“It’s a roller coaster to watch her play,” Kosteniuk said in a phone conversation from Nashville as she prepared her baby girl to compete in what will be the child’s first Super National. “It is very difficult for me to stop, not to intervene because at this age children do not always play the pieces correctly or do not remember all the rules.”

I now have this wonderful mental image of the absolutely fit female world champion of a model pacing a few feet from tables, destroying her manicure, much like I do when one of my own sons takes part in n ‘no matter what.

It makes me feel better as a sports parent because it tells me that becoming a parent levels the playing field between the famous sports parent and the average sports parent. Technically, chess is classified as a sport, covered by ESPN, and subject to the same type of governance as other sports bodies because it is played as a team. Chess also has both good and awful coaches.

Chess in the Olympics campaign says there are at least 605-700 million people around the world playing chess – that’s more than the entire population of the United States, Russia, Mexico and Japan combined, or 8.6% of all humans inhabiting Earth. There are 8 million registered chess players representing over 160 countries. On the Internet, there are up to 200 million people who play chess.

What is really important with chess is not the trophy but the educational win-win for a child.

“I run a school in Russian and I can say without hesitation that you take a kid, any kid, and teach him chess and I promise you a year later he’s a completely different kid. in many ways, ”says Kosteniuk. “You see a child learning critical thinking, better general life judgments and confidence. It is this price that we should especially wish for as parents of our children. “

Speaking of what athletic parents want, chess parents are just as notorious for their outbursts as those in soccer, Pee Wee football and any other sport where the worst in us emerges when the parental protection mechanism kicks in. action and merges with the thrill of the mist of battle.

“In seven years of Super Nationals, we’ve had three physical fights,” said Bill Hall, executive director of the American Chess Federation. Only one was between children, the others were parent to parent. “Sometimes parents live a bit vicarious through children, and of course there is a certain level of emotion when someone talks about your child. Parents reach an heightened emotional state, to say the least.

Mr Hall himself was a chess player and is also the parent of players and said he is very happy to see the seminar which is being given for the first time in the history of the event by Daniel Rensch of Tonto Village, Arizona. Mr. Rensch is a parent, two-time former National Individual School Chess Champion and creator of the world’s most visited chess websites: and According to Rensch, “ has just under 7 million members and is ranked # 1 worldwide for traffic by Google and Wikipedia.”

“I’m going to talk about the importance of focusing on the student and getting results rather than being results-oriented,” he explains of his approach to the seminar. “In chess, it’s common for a child’s coach to be their parent, but whether you are the coach or you choose one, you’re looking for the same basic approach.

The same theme emerges when speaking with Kosteniuk, Hall and Rensch, namely that a child needs a trainer who does not put him down emotionally, verbally berates him and in so doing kills his confidence and confidence. passion for the game.

“Pick a coach or choose to be the coach who finds the tools that make a great player,” Rensch says. “Don’t focus on the results of the game because we cannot change the results.”

Rensch offers chess parents and coaches the same basic points:

  • No more “winning is all” because it is not.
  • Do not replay a lost game immediately after or during the tournament.
  • No teaching of critical growth while a child / player is in an emotionally charged state. This can be considered a criticism even if it is not intended to be so.
  • Make sure the child has eaten, rested, and is focused.

When it comes to tips for choosing the best chess coach for your child, Rensch’s rule of thumb is: For players rated below 1,300 or 1,400, find someone which will simply stimulate a child’s love of play. For higher ranked players, he says it’s a more difficult decision: “There are people who know the game and people who can teach the game. Finding someone who can teach chess can be difficult.

Hall adds, “I recommend that you go watch a trainer teach a kid who is relatively the same age and skill level as your kid. See the interaction for yourself because in the end, you will know who you feel good with for your child.

Ultimately, Rensh says parents should revisit the relationship between the child and any athletic trainer through regular parent-child discussions about how that coach makes them feel.

“If you start early and your child gets into the habit of talking regularly about the coach and how they are feeling, then as they get older it will become natural for the child to share their feelings and concerns. with you, “says Rensch.

So when you are on the chess court, the moral is to play well and your children too. It’s not about us, it’s about them – and no matter who we hire to coach them in a game, we are their leading life coaches.


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