Thursday, January 21, 2010

Elizabeth Vicary - A Chess Teacher To Follow

GiLoCatur wants to share below blog posting by Elizabeth Vicary in her blog. GiLoCatur found it interesting that we can learn something from it.

First of all, surely, many especially Malaysian chess community would like to know who she is. GiLoCatur also does not know her personally but would love to know and meet her personally to talk and discuss about chess development among school children. The first time GiLoCatur heard and knew about her name was when reading "Kings of New York", a chess book authored by Michael Weinreb. As far as GiLoCatur remembers from the book, Elizabeth teaches chess to students at public schools in the United States. She involves in the Chess-In-School (CIS) program. ( GiLoCatur : Is wondering whether this sort of program can be implemented in Malaysia? ) She happened to be a chess teacher and motivator to some of the Edward R Murrow's chess team members, the America's top high school chess team.

pretty lady, eh? dare to challenge her?
( credit : - here )

So, here it goes ...

I keep being impressed by Alexandra Kosteniuk (the above picture). I had gotten a good impression a year ago, when she did a benefit simul at the British International School and played Alexis and Ezequiel. I saw her again at her book signings at Grade Nationals.

For the most part, I think introducing kids to strong players usually results in awkwardness. The kid has never heard of the strong player; the strong player doesn't have any interest in talking to the kid, and they have absolutely nothing in common anyway.

But if the kids get a chance to meet a world champion, I figure of course I should make them. I'm a teacher, right? So I go up the elevator and round up the first ones I see, and bring them to the bookstore to meet her. On the ride down, I ask them to think what questions they want to ask her, on the grounds that you don't get too many chances in life to ask a world champion anything you want.

So the kids are all very bashful at first, and then Justus blurts out "What's it like to be a world champion?"

not a great question, right? Really, a hilariously bad question. I'm about to interrupt and apologize, and scold Justus for being stupid, but then Kosteniuk says something like, (and I'm very loosely paraphrasing a whole month later) but something like this:

It felt fantastic when I won, and I was really happy for a while, but the thing is, it's not like you win the world championship and then ok, you're done, you can relax. The next tournament you play in everybody tries to beat you, and you have to play well in every game and prove that you really deserve to be world champion. You can lose at any moment, to anyone, so it's a constant struggle, you have to always try to improve yourself, to raise your level. But this is also what's exciting and it gives you a lot of energy.

I was blown away by this answer. I thought it was a fantastic thing for a talented kid to hear, that, as hard as it is, you have to get used to putting yourself on the line in every game because you will never stop having to do so. And that you can and should use competitive emotional energy to push youself to work on chess: that doing this both helps your chess and gives you something positive to do with the feelings.

Then Azeez asked Alexandra what chess books she liked. At first, she started talking about how when she was a kid, she liked reading stories about chess players, more than instructional books, but Azeez just gave her a blank stare, and then she said she had really enjoyed Jesus de la Villa's 101 Endgames You Should Know and had made flashcards out of the 100 positions. One side of the card had the position; the solution was written out on the reverse, and she quizzed herself on them until she knew all 100.

I'm equally amazed by this second display of question-answering virtuosity: in two sentences, she turned studying technical endgames into a fun activity with cards. wow. I casually say to Azeez, "I'm pretty sure we have that book in our classroom library; let's make flashcards and learn all 100 endgames when we go home," and he says "yeah! great! that sounds like fun!"

source :

The points :

In Malaysia, books signings during chess events should be conducted and held. We need to invite the authors of chess-related books during international chess event like the (DAT) Malaysian Open and Selangor Open.

In GiLoCatur's observation, there is still gap between our elite, IMs and FMs, and top players with the juniors in terms of socializing and communicating. Even GiLoCatur is shying away from saying hello or hi to them afraid of not getting friendly response. Maybe, they feel the same too. In short, the gap need to be look into. What we need is the mediator whom can help close the gap.

Chess players should always keep their energetic enthusiasm and excitement level even though he or she has achieved lots of championships and trophies.

Reading books about chess players is very important for a kid or a child. So, chess parents, buy and borrow books about chess players for your children. Or get them from the internet.

Flashcard is a method used by chess masters and experts as a way of fun learning. So, start using this method. Any parent can do this for their chess kids, right? Surely, school chess club teachers can do the same.

To achieve greatest achievements in chess, one cannot omit reading and having chess books. It is the very essence of being chess masters and experts. The sad fact about us Malaysians is we don't like reading. Reading is not part of our culture. We read just for examinations or mostly about gossip and entertainment.

We are in dire needs for chess teachers like Elizabeth Vicary and chess development programs like CIS = Chess-In-Schools and US Chess School implemented in the United States. Shouldn't we find out about the program? Would't we should go to USA to have a learning tour? :)-

About US Chess School program, from here.

The US Chess School is a nonprofit venture, the mission of which is to help the most talented young American chessplayers by organizing free week-long training sessions with top grandmaster coaches. Three sessions are held every year; locations, trainers, students, and age groups vary.

For further reading articles, especially our young or Junior chess players :


  1. I'm always very impressed with your research, Saleh. You are a THINKER! And that is what society needs, thinkers.

    Collin Madhavan

  2. Mr Collin,

    firstly, tq for ur moral support.

    secondly, I am just a normal person and human beings. I am very glad if my posting benefits the readers.

    hopefully, together we help chess development and betterment in our beloved country.

    btw, I will never forget the experience and moment my kids and I had in your simul a couple years back. also the chess camps that my kids had with you.

    mr collin, I would be very happy if you continue your pursuit for IM and then GM. sayang, you are a CM already.

    but I notice that you do not participate in chess tournaments anymore. maybe you're following pandolfini's advise, eh! :)-

    btw, don't you have any plan to approach the tourism ministry for a chess project?

    and I was thinking for quite sometime to have an interview, maybe just via email, with you. i want to write a little bit about you and chess. but I am a bit shy to ask he he ...

    tqvm again mr collin for reading my blog. I am really honored!

    Saleh aka GiLoCatur