Chess is competitive in nature because it is clear who the winner and who the loser is. It is not easy to blame a loss on chess on such things as luck and bad playing conditions. When two people are done playing chess after an hour, it is usually clear who the better player is.

Some people deal with these facts better than others do. One famous Grand Master is now infamous for jumping up and down on a table in a quiet tournament hall and screaming "Why must I lose to this idiot!"

Of course, tournaments annunciate the competitive nature of chess. Tournaments are chess matches with prizes. Take a prize that every kid in the room wants (a trophy) and the kids who win the trophy are going to be proud and happy and the kids who do not win the trophy may get upset.

Our goal is to help kids deal with the brutal nature of winning and losing. It is true winning is not everything, but kids tend to feel better when they win and worse when they lose.

Dealing with winning and losing is an important part of chess, and in fact, an important part of life. Bobby Fischer is famous for even as a child his dislike for losing. Fischer is said to study chess like a monster (see Bobby's secret studying style here) because he did not want to lose. But like all strong players he lost plenty in his rise to power.

To get better at chess you must lose. You learn from your mistakes. The kids who can deal with losing will get much better than kids who only play weaker players in fear of losing. A strong chess player always seeks out matches with stronger chess players. Chess is no fun for a chess master without the risk of losing.

We at Academic Chess have decided to deal with the competitive nature of chess rather than hide it. Some school teachers have complained that we should not give out prizes unless everyone in the class gets one. If every kid got a prize, then our prizes would lose value and would not mean as much to the kids. Instead, we try to give the prizes to different kids every week for different reasons. For example making huge improvements in chess is one of our favorite accomplishments in a chess class. The purpose of a chess class is to better your chess...if a kids is making significant strides in accomplishing this aim this kid deserves a prize.

We urge parents to let their kids fight their own battles when it comes to chess. Yelling at a tournament director because little Johny deserves a trophy, may be common little league tactics but is really out of place at a chess tournament, where there are no referees and few variables. Because of parent behavior, most kids tournament directors do not allow adults in the tournament halls. It is hard to believe, but along with disruptive parents, I have seen parents actually assisting kids during matches!

Chess is fun. It is also very competitive and difficult to master. I hope we all can keep from getting swallowed up in it all, have fun, play chess, and better our minds, and most importantly, better our lives and the lives of our kids!




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