Chess Grit

The website of one of the two organizations teaching the Royal game to youngsters in after school programs in Atlanta is Championship Chess, which proclaims on the website (https://www.championshipchess.net/), “Championship Chess Makes Kids Smarter.”

Chess has not and never will make anyone, child or adult, “smarter” at anything other than Chess, as the latest studies have all proven, and you can read about the latest research studies right here on this blog. A few of the many posts written on the subject can be found below:

https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/does-playing-chess-make-you-smarter/

https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2015/03/05/chess-offers-low-level-gains-for-society/

https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/can-you-handle-the-truth/

A new Baseball book (After Gene Nix posted a link to this blog on his Greenville Chess newsletter an older gentleman informed me he had clicked onto the link and, seeing the picture of a Baseball book, exited immediately, saying, “I don’t like Baseball.” See: https://xpertchesslessons.wordpress.com/2018/12/13/powerball-and-chess/) recently read has caused me to reflect upon why some with much talent and ability fail while others without such gifts succeed. It has also caused me to reflect about how children are taught in school, which is simply not working in public schools, and frankly, I have my doubts about places of “higher” learning. I decided to write this post while thinking about how Chess is being taught. How should Chess (or any subject for that matter) be taught? The famous Baseball maven, Branch Rickey

forbid his his managers from criticizing a player’s mistakes without telling him how to correct them. How many times have you seen a Chess “coach” criticize the mistake of a student without telling him how to correct the mistake? How many Chess coaches are capable of explaining to the student how he can correct his mistake? Weak teachers and methodology are the main reasons Championship Chess has been ridiculed unmercifully by the Chess community. How many Championship Chess type organizations are raking in the dough from the so-called “Chess boom” without actually teaching children how to play Chess?

When young I played Baseball. I was never the best athlete on any team and, although a fast runner, I was never the fastest runner on any team, nor was I the most powerful hitter on any team, but could make contact at bat and had a “good eye,” which meant I drew an inordinate number of bases on balls, which was good because I was the lead off hitter. I was above average as a fielder, but my arm was more suited to second base than shortstop even though I played the latter position most often until becoming a teenager. I even pitched and mostly pitched well even though “fastball” was a misnomer when one left my hand. Yet I had good control and was able to make the ball “move.” Young hitters who had only seen straight balls coming at them had much trouble with my “junk” pitches. Like the Georgia Peach, Ty Cobb,

of whom I have read much, I was the studious sort, always watching, and thinking, about how best to beat “those guys” on the other team. The adult coaches would ask me questions about this player of that player and I would give them what they asked for, such as, “You can lay a bunt down on Stubby (the third baseman).” Although talented, Ty Cobb was never the most talented player on the field, but he had the most “grit.” I, too, had an abundance of “grit.” After a game my Mother had attended with her cousin Carl she proudly told him someone said, “Your boy has an abundance of grit.” Cousin Carl replied, “Yeah Mud (short for ‘muddy,’ my Mother’s nickname), “Michael is full of grits!” She ran Cousin Carl out of the house…

After leaving Baseball I discovered Chess. Four years after beating my philosophy professor I tied for first in the 1974 Atlanta Chess Championship with Wayne Watson, who was from New York, which made me the Atlanta Chess Champion. “Can you believe we have a class “B” player as the Atlanta Chess champ?” was heard at the time. I will admit to not being the most talented player in the event. There was no Atlanta Chess championship tournament in 1975, but there was an event in 1976, and again I was not the highest rated, or most talented player in the field, but yet I scored 5-0 to again win the Atlanta Chess Championship.

When one becomes immersed in the culture of Chess most everything one reads is thought about through “Chess eyes.” The question, “How does that relate to Chess,” is foremost in the mind of a Chess player.

I still watch Baseball and am a big fan of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and Georgia BullDawgs Baseball teams. I can still be found occasionally watching, or listening, to the Atlanta Braves even though the Major League games have become some kind of version of “Home Run Derby,” as the game drags on and on and on with endless pitching changes and long breaks to “review” the umpires call. The people in charge are to dumb to realize the quest for perfection breaks the flow of the game, which is what made Baseball great. Forget about America, someone please Make Baseball Great Again!

I continue to read about Baseball, as I have done since 1960. The most recent Baseball book read was, The MVP Machine: How Baseball’s New Nonconformists Are Using Data to Build Better Players by Ben Lindbergh & Travis Sawchik.

I had immensely enjoyed Mr. Lindbergh’s

previous book, “The Only Rule Is It Has to Work: Our Wild Experiment Building a New Kind of Baseball Team,”

and was looking forward to reading his latest effort, which did not disappoint. In the second chapter of the book, A Natural Maniac, An Unnatural Athlete, which concerns MLB pitcher Trevor Bauer, now with the Cleveland Indians, one finds:

Angela Lee Duckworth had left a management-consulting job to teach seventh graders math in New York City schools. Se soon observed that IQ alone was not a reliable indicator of the difference between her best and worse students. She became convinced every one of her students could master the material if they worked “hard and long enough.” Her experience led her to believe that educators must better understand learning from motivational and psychological perspectives.

Duckworth then left teaching to study psychology. She examined the performance of children and adults in challenging settings, always exploring the same questions: Who is successful, and why? She tried to predict which West Point cadets would stick in the military. She forecasted which contestants would advance furthest in the National Spelling Bee. She administered a questionnaire to Chicago high-school students and analyzed the responses of the ones who graduated. One characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. It wasn’t IQ. “It was grit,” she told the TED Talk audience. “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in and day out. Not just for the week of month, but for years. And working really hard to make that future a reality.”

To Duckworth, who had spent much of her professional career studying it, the most surprising thing about grit “is how little we know, how little science knows, about building it.” What she did know is that natural talent did not make some “gritty.” If anything, her data showed that grit was inversely tied to measures of talent. “The best idea I’ve heard about teaching grit in kids is something called growth mindset,” Duckworth said.

Growth mindset is a characteristic defined by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, whose research suggests that the way we think about our abilities is a key to shaping talent. Dweck defined a fixed mindset as one that assumes that a skill, ability, or attribute cannot be improved or changed in a significant way. Cultural critic Maria Popova writes that with a fixed mindset, “avoiding failure at all costs becomes a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled,” whereas a growth mindset regards failure not as evidence of stupidity or lack of ability but as a “heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.”

From: “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverence,” TED Talk, published May 9, 2013:

Advertisements