Sunday, July 21, 2013

Des Moines Chess Camp 2013

The 2013 Des Moines Chess Camp was an event I looked forward to for months.  I helped teach last year and  chess coach Hank Anzis of Marshalltown (who introduced my family and I to tournament chess 8 years ago) invited me to instruct at the Des Moines Chess camp again this year. 

I prepared my demonstration games a few months ago and spent Wednesday evening printing and reviewing them.  Thursday morning we drove to Des Moines.

The other teachers were Frank Li and former Iowa Chess Champion Jose Gatica.  Julia, the nurse, was there to help with any medical needs the children might have. About 30 children signed up to attend.  This year the camp was held at the John R. Grubb Community YMCA.  

We arrived at about 9:30.  Hank was already there, Jose arrived at about the same time, and Frank showed up a few minutes later.  I got my notes ready, and the children started arriving for classes which would begin at 10.  Hank took the beginner students (about 12) to a smaller room to teach on openings and winning with 2 queens.

I started the more advanced class with the brain warm-up below (taken from one of my dad's games):

White has just moved Rb6.  He thinks he has the advantage of pinning the knight,
 but he has fallen for a mating trap.  Find mate in three.

Answer: Qxf2+ Rxf2 Re1+ Rf1 Rxf1#

 I then taught on my two demonstration games, focusing on bringing rooks to open files, giving bishops and knights plenty of "elbow room," the dangers of pins, the importance of not passing opportunities, examining checks, keeping the initiative, and  never leaving pieces unprotected.  The students were very polite and attentive, and I was very glad to have Jose there to help explain when the students proposed variations which strayed from the lines I had considered.

After the two games I gave the children a chance to vote on whether to do one more demonstration game or play practice games.  The result was a nearly unanimous consensus on practice games, so we played chess till it was time for lunch break.

  From 12:30 till 2:00 Jose taught tactics to the beginners and Hank taught the advanced class about threats.  Frank and I watched the backs of the classes for disruptions.  One of the students in the beginner class (a 5 or 6 year old) couldn't understand the lessons and started crying.  I wasn't sure what to do with a crying child, so I was glad Papa was there to give some pointers; we took him out of class and gave him personalized lessons/ practice games.  It ended up being quite enjoyable and the student had a good time.

At 2:00 it was time for the tandem simul.  All the students sat or stood at rows of tables, and Jose, Frank, and I walked through each making a move.  It's hard playing chess when you play one out of every three moves in 20+ games!  Frank, who played the first move in each game, kept it exciting by playing 4 different openings.  I dropped a piece on one board, and though we occasionally got into some bad positions, we managed to win every game against the students.  

An hour and a half later, we let the children play more practice games, and at around 4:00 their parents came to pick them up.  We stayed to do some clean-up, and were delighted at how much less messy this year's group was than last year.  (Clean-up was done very quickly--last year there were crackers, crumbs, chess pieces, and wrappers everywhere!)
Papa and Charity had come with me, so we drove over to the capitol building.  We parked quite a ways from the building, and had a long walk over the roasting sidewalks. As we went through security, we were told we only had 10 minutes before the capitol closed to visitors.  We hurried in to take a look at the dome and take some photos, and then walked back to our car and drove home.

Friday I woke up very tired, but after a nap and sausage egg McMuffin on the way to classes, I was ready to go!  I taught Hank's threat lesson to the beginners until shortly before lunch while Jose and Frank taught the advanced class.  During lunch break, Papa told me that he had been working out in the gym which was situated between the advanced and beginner class rooms.    I decided to give it a try.
 
I easily lifted this 30lb weight above my head and the 40 lbs (18 kg) wasn't that hard either but...

This one was a bit harder *wink.*

  I decided it was time to get back to teaching chess; I'm not quite prepared to be a muscle man...I'll have to leave that to Papa.  

Lunch break was over, so while Hank taught the advanced class and Jose taught the beginner class I watched one or two children who were tired of sitting down.  At 2:00 it was time for the bughouse tournament.  I consider bughouse one of the funnest variants of chess--I've played over 4800 bughouse games online--so when Hank asked me if I'd like to partner one of the younger students to play in the tournament I was delighted.

My bughouse partner Jacob and I
The first game, Jacob had a little trouble remembering to press his clock, but he quickly caught on and before long we were blitzing much faster than our opponents, giving us opportunities to sit/stall when needed.  It was clock move and many of the children were careless with their kings, providing a plethora of opportunities for sac-n-mate or simply taking the king.  We met our match when we ran into Frank's team and the other team below who both beat us once. Still, we tied for 3rd place!

  Hank gave a certificate to every child and then we posed for a group photo before everyone left for home and we started working on the clean-up.
(Unfortunately only the not-so-serious photo turned out well)
Comparing this camp to last year's, the only thing I disliked was that the location was not as spacious as the location last year, and there were many people coming and going.  On the other hand, most of the children seemed better behaved this year (credit and gratitude to the parents). The beginner class was also smaller than the advanced class which made it easier to teach than last year when we had a small advanced class and a large beginner class.

Overall the camp was very enjoyable for me and, I believe, all who attended.  I know I learned, and I hope all the students did too.  Many thanks to Hank Anzis for inviting me to join in the fun!

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