Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Uncle Miggy

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With some minor assistance from my sister and her husband, I became an uncle yesterday! (No, I'm not posting any pics. You're welcome.) Now to the most important question: When does the chess training program begin? My sister refused to read Botvinnik's lectures to him while he was in the womb, so we're already way behind. I'm thinking the Verhoeven & Skinner book of Alekhine's games would make a fine baby gift. They could always use it as a changing table.


"Nowadays, when you're not a grandmaster at 14, you can forget about it." - Anand

Is the infant 2200+ yet?! Else.. send him to school.

I could use the pic I made for this article:


Mazel tov, Mig.

I know you meant this as a lighthearted, family announcement, but seriously, what do you think is a good age to begin teaching chess?

I have taught a lot of kids, and except for one really talented and motivated five-year-old I know, it seems to me that there are some mighty big conceptual obstacles to a five-year-old learning the moves. From my experience, I would say seven is a good age to begin teaching the rules (followed of course by tactics and so forth). I think I read somewhere that Kasparov cites seven as the right age to begin the game (although he might have been trying to delay the development of future prodigy-competitors).

Actually Kasparov said nine, unless a child shows a special ability to concentrate for long periods (and enjoys it).

Introducing kids to the game at younger ages isn't a problem at all, it's only if you try to take it too seriously and they aren't ready for that. Let them guide the way.

When you see your nephew remember to say how adorable he is. Two weeks ago I became an uncle (again) and in an unguarded moment mentioned to my sister that my new neice, her first daughter, looked like a lemur I had just recently seen. It will be a while before my sister accepts my chess-training program idea (or any idea now) for my neice. :-)

And thanks for not posting pics Mig. I had a 2x life-size pic of my new neice taken 30 seconds after birth pop up on my screen. Ugh. No, I mean "adorable" :-]

>> in an unguarded moment mentioned to my sister that my new neice, her first daughter, looked like a lemur I had just recently seen...<<

You are seeing lemurs...??

Congradulations to your sister and her husband!
As a four times uncle, all I can say is that relationships with your nieces and nephews change along the course of your and their liftimes. As babies to tots, to young children and adolencence, their vision of you changes. I have one nephew (the oldest) who is married with his own son (of one year!) who still visits and is happy for my brother and I to visit. While the other two nephews and one niece lives are a complete mystery, and they do not call or write!
I guess what I mean is that their lives as young adults become so varied and unpredictable for themselves, that time for uncles and aunts is minimized!
So take the time in their young lives, when you are more than just another relation to instill as much goodness as you can in them.
Because, one day they will not call or write!

It's a serious question whether you should encourage chess in a youngster. Like many, I was completely absorbed in the game when I was young. Chess is a double edged sword--it has brought me many hours of pleasure, but at a certain cost of time and missed opportunities to engage in other more social (and frankly, productive) activities.

My oldest son is six, and shows a great interest in the game. I just bought him some golf clubs--maybe there is still time to save him...

Agreed redivan. Dont teach kids chess! Get them swimming or playing football or golf or whatever, and hopefully they'll be richer, healthier, more attractive and altogether more fulfilled than their chessplaying adult relatives!

Congrats on the new arrival! Please forward my regards to you sister and her husband, Mig!

When my son Rowen finally came home from the hospital, we had placed cards that had black and white patterns and geometric shapes on them to stimulate his still-developing eyesight. Would you care to take a guess as to which one he seemed to have the most interest in (i.e. kept returning his prolonged gaze towards)? He had a keen interest in the checkerboard pattern! That means that he is either going to be into NASCAR or he will like chess and checker boards! Maybe both...! Wishful thinking...?

I first leaned what the chess pieces were and how they moved at age six...but I had no other instruction until high school, and even then it was on my own. I think six or seven is a good age to start, but each child has to be assessed independently to see what is an ideal pace to truly learn the game.



Congratulations, Mig!
To my taste, golf is exceptionally pointless game and, also, the board is perhaps too big there.
It would be a crime if you will not teach your nephew the rules of chess. Then please do not speak about the popularisation of chess and all this stuff. You can start your attempts in 3-4 years I guess. Personally, I learned how to play when I was six (and showed no much interest in the game when I was five). But your nephew must be more talented. Well, there will be nothing wrong if he will not become a professional, but if he will have real chances, you will see it and will have possibility to support him. Many of parents of talented kids are not chess-players themselves and just do not know what to do.

This is a really interesting discussion and one which has been on my mind a lot lately. I have a son who will be 2 in April. He is fascinated by my chess sets, so I gave him an older plastic tournament size set to play with. He brings it to me all the time. He has no connection between the pieces and the game, but it's an introduction of sorts. I have heard of people learning the game as early as 4, but I agree that 7 or 8 is a good age.

I also run the chess club at the school where I teach and I have students from age 5-11 learning the game for the first time. It's amazing how some of them pick it up more easily than others.

The checkerboard pattern is something all infants seem to be attracted to due to the contrast between the light and dark squares. It's easy for their developing eyes to focus on.

Of course, the real question is how do we maintain that interest in chess from children into their adult years...

My 3 1/2 year old loves to stack the pieces of my tournament set; I taught him the inverted-queen-on-the-rook trick, and he makes some pretty impressive towers. He can name each of the pieces and likes to fiddle around with them. That's as far as I plan to take things until he starts asking questions about games he sees me playing with adults.

Mikhail, all games are pointless; that's why they are games, and not a serious pursuit...

Exactly. Chess is extremely fascinating and all that, but it is just that, a board game just like any other board game. It's not like it's important to the world, especially rewarding (compared to other pursuits) for those who pick it up or anything.

I think many who talk a lot about the need to popularize chess has a kind of missionary mentality. What we're doing is so incredibly noble and sophisticated -- we have to show the rest of the world the light. Truth of the matter is that chess is a board game. A board game played with wooden pieces.

Chess is important for the world. It helps people from different countries to understand each other better, or at least helps people to understand deeper that people in other countries are still people and not monstres, etc.

and dont knock golf! I thought it was boring and pointless too, till i played it once and then was hooked! Its one of the most relaxing and enjoyable games around. You walk around in a beautiful landscape, and for the duration of the 18 holes, your worries are forgotten. And believe me, it requires quite a bit of technique...

I like to see a kid become interested in chess, but also interested in other things--sports, music, and so on--so that the child is well rounded.

What I distrust is all the USCF hype about "a direct correlation between chess ability and scholastic achievement" and when people (like Bruce Pandolfini and Garry Kasparov!) make connections between strategic thinking in chess and in life.

Only an avatar of the chess godhead like Bobby Fischer understands that chess is life. For the rest of us, thank goodness, it is merely our beloved game.

First of all, I would like to say congrats to Mig, Uncle Mig! Mother is the most beautiful word in the english language, according to this site:


Children or Child did not make the top 4 list but I would rank it #2 most beautiful word. And Uncle Mig gets to paint the unwritten mind of the child...muuhahahahaha!

Second, I want to direct this to all those who say chess is just a game: it is only a game when two people sit down to play, but off the board chess is so much more. It is one of the very few games where there is culture, a very rich and mature culture at that. More books have been written about chess than ALL the other games combined, including Bridge, Go, and Poker. The word Chess itself is now used as a metaphor for anything deep, strategical, or complex. A great number of famous people, celebrities, scientists, politicians, athletes, philosophers, past and present have played it. Many of these even write about it. Chess is studied/analyzed/abstracted by computer scientists and mathematicians to gain insight in Artificial Intelligence. Psychologists have also studied chess and chessplayers for its relationship to memory, visio-spatial ability, and intelligence, as well as its relationship to chess related sicknesses. Chess related economics is easily worth hundred of millions of dollars, if not billions.

Can any of you name even one pc or console game that matches even one hundredth of the culture of chess?

And on the game itself, I cannot think of another game, not bridge, not go, not checkers, not computer games, that is so strategically rich and varied.

There are so many facets to chess it is not a wonder that many become consumed by the game.

Chess is life. It is not a game.

Mama sez:
OK, give him lessons, but Uncle Miggy is going to have to produce his own little pawns if he wants a boy for whom "chess is life"! His papa wants to take him to the golf course (won't a golf ball bean him on his little head?) and his grandpa, a hunter, already bought him a RIFLE! So far, he has shown exceptional aptitude for taking naps. Sign of genius? I think so.

Oh, that is so funny. You sound *exactly* like my sister when she talks to me!! I'm still chuckling. And while my dad hasn't bought a hunting rifle yet for the grandkids, I know it has crossed his mind.

Well let's see, the kid is a chess player with a rifle and a golf club.. hmm I would say he would be crowned a champion with out even playing, I mean who would want to play a kid with both a club and a gun.. ok you win.. grin..

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on February 10, 2005 2:37 PM.

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