zwischenzug (ZVI-shen-tsoog) — noun

A chess tactic in which a player, instead of playing the expected move, first interpolates another move, changing the situation to the player's advantage (such as gaining material or avoiding what would otherwise be a strong continuation for the opponent).

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Favorite Game Movie and The Coolest Way to Roll Dice!

My favorite gaming movie is Dice Boot, which is the story of toy U-boat and its adventures before sinking in port from a bunch of small plastic cubes being dropped on it.  No, wait, I am confusing that with the movie Das Boot...

So, what is a dice boot?  Now that we have talked about dice trays and cups, its time to show the coolest way to roll dice:

This Chessex product is called a dice boot, which is a type of dice tower.  In general, dice towers are gaming accessories that are used to roll dice through internal baffles.  They come in all sizes and shapes, and are incredibly useful two reasons beyond containing dice and helping little hands; they help prevent "dice snatching", and they add to the fun.

A gaming group I once belonged to had one player whose dice vice was “snatching”.  Having rolled, this player would snatch the dice right back up, declaring the result but not allowing anyone to see it.  After a while, it gave, well… a poor impression.  While no one ever accused him of cheating, there certainly were some very timely rolls!   With a dice tower, not only can the group have the rule that only the next player may pick up the dice, but the dice tower itself will make dice snatchers think twice about risking damage to the tower.

Lastly, many of them add to the Awesomeness Factor of a great game!  Come-on, who wouldn’t want o play an epic fantasy game with one of these for rolling dice:

My palms are already starting to itch…

Not being the craftiest person in the world, though, our house has two purchased towers.  The first is a dice boot, as in the video, which travels well because it can be assembled and disassembled.  (See a video here.)  It is a bit noisy though.  The second is a permanently assembled mini-tower from Blue Panther.  I haven’t used it much, but it is a little quieter, and is always ready to go on my game shelf.  Either of them can be purchase online for about $20.00 (USD).  I may paint this one as the Dark Tower in Lord of the Rings, but I also like the look of the natural wood.  It may just stay the way it is.

Some day, I want to design a dice tower to look like the ghost towers of the Delaware coast, which are part of the old WWII coastal defense system.

Some day…

It’s Your Move!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cups and Trays

Dice trays are certainly a help when rolling dice.  There is another accessory which many of us will be familiar with – dice cups.  Anyone who has ever played Yahtzee or backgammon has used a dice cup before.  In backgammon, they are a genteel way of rolling the dice.  In Yahtzee, as well as for our little ones with little hands, they are a cool way to roll more dice than we can hold.

There are several ways to obtain a dice cup.  One easy way is to steal one from another game.  For a while, I used our Yahtzee cup.  Others I know have used a Farkle cup.  Both of these hold a decent number of dice.  However, I soon wanted a separate dice cup.

Leather dice cups are great looking, but will set you back around $30.00 (USD).   As I said last time, I tend to be cheap on game accessories; I’d rather be buying another game for that amount.  There are “leatherette” cups, otherwise known as vinyl, for roughly $5.00.  Those will be found online.  However, that may only make sense as part of a larger game order due to shipping costs. 

Once again I went another direction.  I found a pencil holder at Wal-Mart that is a lined cup.  It even has genuine faux leather on the outside!  Oh, wait, that’s vinyl again.  Well, it looks nice, gets the job done, and only cost around $5.00 with sales tax. 

The only possible issue is that it may not be enough.  There are many times, particularly with the kids, when both the dice cup and the tray are both needed to contain the dice.  There is one more solution, though, that allows small hands to roll lots of dice and keeps things contained.  Best of all, it is a solution that can rate much higher on the Awesomeness Factor.

Until then,

It's Your Move!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

3rd Sunday Gaming Group – March

Yesterday was our monthly gaming group day.  We started off with seven players, which can be an awkward number.  Most gaming groups split into two games at that point, with some playing a four player game and others in a three player game.  Sometimes it will split 5/2 instead of 4/3.  However, our group generally wants to be all inclusive, so we looked for a seven player game.  I had hoped my copy of 7 Wonders would have arrived by now, which plays up to seven, but my understanding is that the US distributor is waiting for the shipment to clear Customs.  That wasn’t an option.  We played a few other games instead.

We started with Pit.  I hadn’t played this since high school, and our game wasn’t as rowdy as I remember it.  You are commodity traders on the floor of the exchange, and you are trying to corner your market.  There are no turns.  You are trading in real time by just shouting the number of cards you have available for trade.  There really isn’t much strategy here, it’s just rowdy fun.  It feels a lot like a party game.  In the end, it wasn’t really a hit with the group.

Next we moved on to Citadels, which is a game I like less and less as time goes on.  With three or four players, there are better games to play.  With six to eight players, there is too much time waiting for your turn.  Additionally, there is very little control.  At that point, the game just outstays its welcome.

Dinner was the next agenda item, and then one of our regulars had to go.  At six players, we went with Carcassonne with several expansions:  The River, Inns and Cathedrals and Traders and Builders.  This is a typical European style game, in which the object is to score the most points.  Some points are scored during the game, and some are scored at the end.  This session was interesting in the various approaches people took.  I concentrated on in-game scoring opportunities, and was the leader after play stopped.  Meanwhile the person in last place had concentrated almost exclusively on end-game scoring (though I am not sure that was intentional!).  That player scored roughly 125 out of 140 points all in the endgame, and very nearly won.  It made the end of the game pretty exciting!  The winner blended the two scoring opportunities.  (I came in fourth, if you are wondering.)  This is a game that deserves a review for family and casual gamers, and is on my list.  In the meantime, I will just give it a thumb.

Three more left, and we broke out Pandemic.  This game is designed by the same person who created Forbidden Island, which I have reviewed.  Pandemic is a little longer and a little more complex, though certainly still good for families and casual players.  It is another cooperative game, where everyone is playing as a team against the game mechanisms, trying to cure the world of diseases that are threatening to wipe out the human race.  To put a positive note on it, we solved the world overpopulation problem, since the diseases wiped out the world’s population!  We lost two close games.  This game is also a great one, and is in the hopper for a review too.

By this point, it was getting late, so we called it a night.  For those of you who are curious, I won exactly zero games.  I said I love to play games; I didn’t say I was terribly good at them.  Of the games in this session, my recommendations are:



 Until next time,

Keep on rolling!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Dice Bowling, or Dice Bowl?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  The Luck o’ the Irish brings to mind Notre Dame Football (Go Irish!) and those little cubes that are found in so many games: dice!  I will stick with the latter topic and save the flame wars for ESPN.

For those of us who grew up on Risk and Monopoly, there is a certain amount of nostalgia in chucking dice.  There are fond memories of rattling those bones around in your hand, hoping for that one roll you needed to miss that run of hotels, or hold out just a little bit longer in Siam.  How many times, though, did you manage to roll the dice right into the opposing armies, stopping the game until everyone could agree on how many armies were in each country?  At least in Monopoly, the center of the board is pretty open for rolling dice, so it’s not as big a problem.  In some games “dice bowling” can be a disaster.

Growing up, we used the box lid for a lot of dice rolling.  This kept the dice generally contained, though they occasionally did bounce out.  It was a cheap and readily available solution.  The problems with this solution were two-fold:

  • The box lid was frequently half the size of the board, so it still took up too much space.
  • The repeated handling of the lid had a tendency to tear the corners out, so that the box stopped staying shut.

There are a few solutions I will suggest…

Image from Kaplow
The first option is to purchase a dice tray.  These can be bought for $10-$20 (USD) either online or at a gaming store.  The larger ones are particularly nice looking.  They contain enough space for a good roll, but with a felt bottom inside and decent sides, the dice stay in the tray.  There are only two drawbacks to them: the cost and size. (The one pictured is 10 inches across.)   Particularly for games with big boards, there still may not be enough table space for one of these great trays.  Furthermore, I am not wild about spending half the cost of a game on a small accessory. 

One could always use a cigar box, but those are getting harder to come by.  The size is decent, and the cost is zero.  They may not look the best, but that could be fixed by someone with some crafting skills.

Then there is my favorite solution.  One day I was playing a solitaire game of B-17: Queen of the Skies, and got tired of having to get up and go around the table to chase down dice that had rolled over the edge.  I had received some handkerchiefs for Christmas, and the wooden gift box was lying around just holding keys.  It made perfect sense as a dice tray; it’s made of wood and looks nice, it’s small enough to fit some tight spot on the table, plus it already has felt on the inside!  And it’s free!  Well, it was almost perfect.  Because my new dice tray was small, the dice did bounce out at times.  I adjust my rolling technique to hitting the side of the tray first, not the bottom, and that solved that problem. 

If your group has trouble containing dice, keep an eye out for something to use as a dice tray.  It can be a huge help, particularly for children who have small hands and large motor skills.  The purchased ones are beautiful, but there are around-the-house options too.  I, for one, can always use a few more handkerchiefs. 

I have a couple other suggestions to help with dice rolling, but I will cover them soon in another post.

Keep rolling along!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Gaming Resources – BoardGameGeek: the Doorway to my Demise

When I turned back to gaming at the beginning of 2008, I had played Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan.  I had so much fun with these games, and I had never experienced anything like them.  I wanted to find out more about these types of games.  After a quick Google search I found myself at the Wikipedia entry for Ticket to Ride.  At the bottom was an external link to the Ticket to Ride page at some place called BoardGameGeek.  Just the name made me curious.  Little did I know my life would change forever as I gained a new addiction.  This one website helped me find great games, will quickly and easily lead you to great games too!

image by BoardGameGeek
BoardGameGeek, or BGG as it is known, is both a huge and authoritative database of board and card games as well as the largest online community for these types of games.  As of today, BGG has 50,874 games in its database, including Ticket to Ride and Tic-Tac-Toe.  Hundreds of thousands of people all over the world are part of the community, including the publishers and designers of many of the games.  The content is mostly user contributed.  The breadth of information and the number of people involved makes this a huge resource for the entire gaming world.  Much of the content really is, well, geeky.   However, there is great information there for the casual and family gamer too, including ratings, synopses, and more.  Membership is free, though just viewing content doesn’t require a membership.

Each game on BGG has its own webpage, and right at the very top will be the average rating for the game.  BGG members may rate a game in the database, if they choose, and this generates the average.  The scale is 1 – 10, with 10 being the highest rating.  Additionally, there is a Bayesian averaging routine which is used to rank the games.  Currently, the highest ranked game is Twilight Struggle, a game in which two players relive (or re-write) the history of the Cold War as the United States and the Soviet Union.  (I haven’t played this game, though I would love to play it.  I do know it’s a pretty involved game.)  It has an average rating of 8.31, which shows there isn’t any one game that everyone loves.  My general rule is that any game with a rating above 7.0 is a pretty safe bet, and anything below 6.0 probably isn’t worth checking out.

Below that is a synopsis of each game, which gives a little information and generally includes the theme of the game.  This is very important; your family and friends may love a game about building a zoo, but may be turned off by a game called Nuns on the Run.  This section lets you know of the game “sounds interesting”, like the inside of a book jacket.

There are other features that are also useful, particularly the forum on each game.  The forum will give answers to common rule questions, often answered by the game’s designer.  There are also strategy hints and news.  There is a huge amount of information, and it can be a bit overwhelming.  So, I will tell you the best way to quickly and easily find games for your family and friends!

When you go to the BoardGameGeek home page, you will notice a row of blocks in towards the top that list general groupings of games.  One of the blocks towards the middle is labeled “Family Games”.  Hover your mouse over that, and a short dropdown list appears.  Click on “Games” in that list, and you will be taken to the rankings of those games considered “family games”.  These are games that typically play with 3 – 5 players in two hours or less, and are generally suitable for kids over 10.  Some go as low as 8 and up.  Smaller children might find them too difficult.  Just go down the list until you find a game that sounds like a good thematic fit, and you have a great pick.  There are similar blocks for Children’s Games and Party Games if those better suit your situation.

Be warned!  This website can be addictive, and can lead to uncontrolled game purchasing and room additions.  However, it is guaranteed to show you gaming alternatives that you never even knew existed.  Best of all, it can lead to hours of fun with the people you like to be with the most! 

Keep rolling along!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bait Games – Getting your family and friends to play

Since you are the one reading this post, it would be natural to guess that you are the one most interested in playing games in your family or group.  In fact, you may be the only person interested.  It may come as a surprise to you, but I feel your pain.

Most of my gaming is with my gaming group that meets once a month.  I would certainly like to play more often than that though.  That leaves me three choices, playing solitaire games, playing online or getting my family to play.  I have a few solitaire games; it’s really not the same experience.  Playing online is great for chess, but leaves me cold for other games.  Let’s talk about the last option; playing games with those friends and family you spend most of your time with.  There are three things that help draw people to the game table: great looking game bits, how fast the game plays, and a theme that appeals.

Because I like sports games, I have two football games.  The first is Bowl Bound, a college football simulation that is the sister game to Paydirt, which some of you may remember.  Bowl Bound was originally published by Sports Illustrated in 1973, and is faithful to the game of football.  It features lots of charts and tables and one little flat football.  Last week I picked up Battleball (which just sounds cooler) from the thrift store.  Published by Milton Bradley in 2003, it is the “future of football”.  Which is the better football game?  To a football fan (me), that would be Bowl Bound.  To a 13 year-old boy (my son), it’s definitely Battleball, because of the truly cool figurines. “Wow, miniatures!”, Daniel says.  “When do we play this?”  The Awesomeness Factor is definitely a pull.

Battleball - All kinds of awesomeness! (Photo by Henry Durand)
This works a little differently for my wife.  She likes games that are visually balanced and/or beautiful as you play.  It’s actually more important than winning to her.  Scrabble games must fill the whole board, which is aesthetically appealing to her.  Another favorite is Carcassonne, which produces a beautiful map of cities and countryside by the end of the game.  Players build it as they go, and it never looks the same way twice.  Again, the visual appeal gets her to play this game more than others.

The Carcassonne Countryside (Photo by Mecandes)
Time commitment will often be another factor.  The “speed” of the game has three pieces to it.  First of all, most people who play more casually are looking for a game they can learn fast.  Secondly, they want a game that keeps them involved, without a lot of “down time” between actions.  Lastly, and most obviously, they may not want to commit to a four hour marathon even if there is time.  Ask someone to describe Monopoly in one word, and you will most likely get the word “long”.  At first, a game should probably last less than an hour.  Once your family and friends realize this is fun, they will have the patience to learn longer and more complicated games.

The final factor is theme.  Most people like playing a game about a topic they like.  Daniel likes fantasy themes, which shouldn’t be a surprise with him being a boy his age.  In fact, his favorite game is War of the Ring, which has a fantasy theme, figurines and a huge map of Tolkien’s Middle Earth – go figure.  My wife, being a school librarian, almost immediately likes word games.  We were introduced to Bananagrams over this past Christmas, and she immediately wanted all three games in the series.  Those are the two types of games I can almost always get them to play.

War of the Ring (Photo by Christopher Bartlett)
I will admit those themes are worlds apart.  Getting all three of us to the table at the same time isn’t easy.  Taking turns is the rule for picking games as well as playing them.  I can be persuaded to play almost anything, so that helps a little. Flexibility is important.

I would love to hear what works for you and yours.  Please let me know what themes work for your family.  There may be a theme that appeals to you that will help someone else find a game for their family and friends, and you may find a new theme too.  Until then…

Keep rolling along!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mass Market Myth – Scrabble (it’s really not about vocabulary)

I am playing my first game of Word for Friends since its release on Android based phones.  (For those of you who don’t know, Words for Friends is a Scrabble knock-off for smartphones.)  My first game is against a friend of mine who rarely loses.  With sixteen letters left in “the bag”, I am up by 41 points.  I can give the toughest Scrabble program a run for its money.  The reason is that Scrabble is not about vocabulary!  It’s a strategy game.  It’s not about knowing fifteen words that have a Q and no UScrabble is really about four things: making sure you occupy the bonus squares and your opponent does not, creating multiple words at the same time, understanding the power of small words, and knowing when to dump the high value letters.

So here is the disclaimer.  I do recognize that knowing a lot of words does help, as does knowing a bunch of words that start with J or have an X.  I am not saying those abilities are bad.  You probably need all that and more if you want to play at the tournament level.  I am just saying that you can be a very competitive player amongst your friends and family, even those Scrabble fans, by realizing that Scrabble is a strategy game!

The first strategic concept is to take all of the bonus squares, and in particular the triple word squares.  It’s pretty obvious.  Scoring big points this way is good offense, but more than that it’s good defense.  By denying your opponent those squares, you suppress their score.  It’s even more important in a multi-player game, since it holds everyone back, and allows you more control of the game than you have by just aiming for big scores.  Like many games, a player’s ability to control a Scrabble game is lessened with each additional player, and this is a way to combat that effect.

The future of Scrabble?
Creating multiple words at the same time is accomplished by saving the S and D tiles for making plural words and past tense verbs.  I will say it another way: never use an S, and only rarely a D, in a word that does not connect it to another that already exists on the board.  Adding one of these letters to any existing word allows you to score not only your word, but all of the letters in the existing word again!  The joining letter counts in each word.  You don’t get any of their bonus squares, but this is still incredibly powerful!  It allows you to capitalize on your opponents’ vocabulary.  When they play “quark” for a double word score, you can get half of their points for yourself by using an S to make “quarks” in the process of forming another word. 

Use small words.  My wife calls me the king of cheap words.  That’s because I will regularly play some small word to link other words or to gobble up a bonus square – preferable both!  I will admit there are some tricks here that are worth knowing.  Realize that every spelling of a letter’s name is a valid word.  The name of the letter M is spelled “em”.  That’s a word in Scrabble.  It’s in the dictionary (even if my spell checker just flagged it!) For that matter, so are all of the Greek letters, psi, phi, beta and the like.  Greek letters can be used to dump those pesky I’s that clutter up your hand of tiles.  The one, and only one, “Q without a U word” I know is “qat”.  Don’t ask me what it means, I don’t know and don’t care.  All I know is that getting an A and a T is fairly easy, and will help me score the Q.  Beyond that, I use cheap every day words: “the”, “its”, “in”, “on”.  Whatever it takes.

In combination, these three can be very powerful, as I will illustrate.  Our opponent, Dr. Evil, has just played “quell” on a double word score for 28 points, breaking out in his most diabolical “Mwu-ha-ha-ha” laugh as he gloats over his cleverness.  Nonplussed, we play “psi” across the bottom, using the S to connect it in and making “quells” in the process.  The I in “psi” also falls on the triple word score, giving us a total of 30 points!  (“Quells” makes 15 points, and the triple on “psi” is 15 also.)  Dr. Evil snarls and goes back to thinking his dark thoughts and breathing his foul breath over his tiles.  (So I like fantasy themed games, is that a problem?)  If the S would have been gracious enough to fall on the triple word score, both words would have been tripled, for a score of 60!

Lastly, keep in mind that dumping a high value letter late in the game, particularly the Q or the Z, can cause a big shift in the end of game scoring: 20 points for each of those two letters.  Players cannot trade in tiles once there are less than seven in the bag.  Just before that point, take that troublesome letter and trade it in!  In a two player game, there is a 50% chance you will give that problem to your opponent, and too late in the game for them to use the letter effectively.  In a four player game, there is a 75% chance someone else will pick it!  So if you can’t use the letter for your benefit, use it to smack your neighbor!

Hopefully, I have shown you that Scrabble isn’t a vocabulary game, it’s a strategy game.  Occupying bonus squares, making multiple words, using small words, and dumping troublesome letters late in the game will help you beat that Scrabble fanatic in the family.  Working on strategic play rather than big words will improve your score.  I realize now that I have shared all of my secrets, I will never win again.  Oh, the things I sacrifice for my readership!  I guess it’s a good thing I like playing more than winning.  I will still play.  In fact, my username on Words for Friends is feldmafx if anyone is interested…

Keep rolling along!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Getting on Board with Ticket to Ride

Last month I said I would review Ticket to Ride, which is one of my go-to games for casual gaming. No one has ever told me they dislike it, and we often have people ask to play “the train game”. With it being recommended for ages 8 and up, which is accurate, it is accessible to many children. At the same time, it is definitely a game that will appeal to adults. The publisher, Days of Wonder, produces quality games that are solidly made with artistic components, making them a joy to play.

Welcome aboard! Ticket to Ride is the cross country adventure game set in Victorian America. You are travelling the United States, attempting to become the most travelled person in the country. You will be taking trains from city to city to claim the honor, trying to get to all of your given destinations before time runs out!

Photo by Manuel Pombeiro
The artwork in Ticket to Ride is reminiscent of the novel Around the World in 80 Days. In fact, the game play has some of that feel to it. Players play sets of cards attempting to “claim routes”, placing little passenger train cars on the routes between nearby cities. These claims score points, which will determine the winner. Additionally, each player has a few cards, called “destination tickets”, which give secret goals of connecting two cities that are not near each other; Los Angeles to Miami might be one destination ticket a player might have. The end of the game occurs when one player has essentially run out of little passenger cars to place. At the end of the game, those secret goals which have been completed add to the score; those goals which failed subtract. The person with the most points at the end of the final scoring is the winner!

Since only one person can claim each route between nearby cities, there are strategic opportunities to block, giving this game a little spice. That said, we have nearly always played Ticket to Ride as a “friendly” game, with confrontation happening incidentally as a result of trying to complete destination tickets, rather than overt attempts to block someone. It’s just as fun as a friendly game. The game is not complicated (though it’s not tic-tac-toe, either) and the strategy is not so complex that you are exhausted after play. I will say again that I have never met anyone that doesn’t like the game: kids and adults alike.

Ticket to Ride belongs to the genre of “Eurogames”, a style of gaming that originated in Germany. Unlike American designed games, Eurogames do not eliminate players. Everyone is in the game until the end. Typically, there is scoring during the course of the game, with a big set of points being awarded at the end of the game to finally determine the winner. The person leading up to the end isn’t safe; someone can certainly come from behind in the endgame scoring.

Be aware there are several versions of Ticket to Ride, including Ticket to Ride: Europe, Ticket to Ride: Märklin, and Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries. I will recommend the original Ticket to Ride, with the United States map, since it is slightly simpler. However, any of them would be a great purchase. They are all loved by both casual gamers and the hobby gaming community.

Ticket to Ride: ages 8 and up, 45 minutes, 2-5 players.
Good Casual Gaming! Kid Friendly!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Knightly Devotions

This is my third year of teaching chess in our son’s grade school. Contrary to what I expected, it gets tougher every year. While I have some great ideas I have received from others who have run scholastic chess programs, they are only partially helpful. Many of those programs are aimed at competition, and we just aren’t there. In fact, I have learned there are at least three big obstacles to starting a scholastic chess club: the emotional maturity of the child, the level of chess knowledge they come with, and when they join during the school year.

First of all, let me say that our school chess club is based upon the idea that chess is a classic ability everyone should know, improving logic and problem solving skills and promoting sportsmanship. Subsequently, no one is ever turned away. This principle is largely responsible for this set of problems, so I realize I have made my own bed.

chessThat said, the administration agreed with me at the beginning of the year that primary school children in general would not have the ability to sit still and play chess. Therefore, a child has to be in fourth grade to join. Since the primary is in a separate wing of the school, being “beyond the double doors” has meaning akin to a rite of passage. Using this existing distinction to define the privilege of joining the chess club is accepted more easily. This is not a hard and fast filter; we admitted a second grader based on faculty recommendation and consultation. This boy has shown he already knows how the pieces move and he is focused. At the same time, a fourth grade girl who has been with us all year apparently has not yet learned how all the pieces move. There is some suspicion she is pretending to be confused to gain attention. Even some of the older students cannot remain quiet, and must be reminded they are disturbing other players’ thoughts. The noise and distraction get in the way of teaching, even for the mere ten to fifteen minutes I would like, just as they would in the classroom. Even when a lesson manages to slip in, the difference in maturity shows. Younger players are less likely to move center pawns out early, even when instructed repeatedly. It seems the younger children shy away from the kind of confrontation early center play can start.

Another obstacle is the variation in the children’s “chess maturity”. I currently have students that have never played the game before this year, and I have students that have been in the chess club all three years. Their needs are obviously different. My wife is the school librarian, and acts as the faculty advisor to the group. She is willing to take the new learners and teach them the moves. Our idea at the beginning of the year was that we could divide the group between us, with me teaching the next level of play. However, it has become apparent there are at least three groups that need attention. There are those learning the moves, those learning very basic concepts (control the center of the board, protect the king), and finally the students who are looking at somewhat more advanced ideas (doubled rooks, bad bishops). As this goes forward, I suspect there will be more differentiation.

Add to this the constant inflow of new students to the club, and we sometimes take two steps forward and one step back. It can be a bit frustrating, but I will firmly stand by the commitment to teach anyone who wants to learn, even teachers who show up! More volunteers would be great, but very few people can come in after school.

Most of the chess programs I have seen that are highlighted in the news, or who write about their success, are based on the idea that they will take students who are already chess players and take them to tournaments. There we see the best and brightest. We are far from that goal, though I would love to be able to do that, but my group of kids is just not there yet.

If you have any suggestions, please let me know. What qualifies me as a chess coach for the school is not any great ability to teach, and obviously (if you have been checking out my chess rating on the left) not any fantastic skill in chess. I am just the guy who said “yes”. I would love to hear thoughts on how to make it a better chess experience for all.

Roll on!