Teaching Chess

I mentioned a few days ago that I will be teaching chess classes at Archer
Glen elementary school where Jacob and Matthew are in 3rd and 1st grade,
respectively. I helped out with the beginner class (1st – 3rd grade) last year
– Jack Weeks was the instructor, and he was a great role model. I will teach
two classes a week: the beginner class on Tuesday mornings and the advanced
class on Wednesdays.

I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the beginner class; partly because
I was involved last year, and partly because I’m comfortable with my ability
to teach at that level. I will focus on basic rules, how pieces move,
checkmates, stalemates, etc. I small amount of strategy and a bit of tactics.
I will introduce the tactics of pins, forks, as well as walk through some
simple endgame approaches. Strategies focus on pawn structure, control of the
center, and material / position advantages.

I’m a bit more concerned about the advanced class, mostly because of my own
abilities. I’ve played sense since I was a child, but I’ve never played
competitively and I don’t consider myself a very strong player. The theory
makes sense to me, but I just don’t have the pragmatic experience. So I’m
trying to ramp up quickly by playing as much Chessmaster as possible and by
reading some good texts on opening theory. I’ll keep posting reports here as
things progress.

Matthew’s Soccer Game

Wow, it sure has been a while since I posted an entry. I was in Chicago all of
last week at our customer conference and got a bit behind. Matthew had a bye
week in soccer this weekend, but I have some pictures from last Saturday where
he score eight goals in his game. We can’t help but think it is mostly due to
his size and speed, but for his first year playing we are certainly amazed.

One of the parents from the other team jokingly exclaimed “get that 12 year
old off the field”. We’ll enjoy it while we can. It sure is doing a lot to
boost his confidence which can only help him in the future.

A few other random notes:

  • Jacob’s football team continued its undefeated streak, winning over Wilsonville this Saturday. Jacob had another solid game – no fumbled snaps, and he made three tackles on defense.
  • I volunteer to teach chess at Archer Glen elementary this year. I’ll be teaching two classes a week until spring break – one for grades 1-3, and another for grades 4-5. This will be fun, though I really need to improve my skills.
  • I’m sitting here watching the Chicago Cubs play in game 5 of the NLDS. They are up 4-0, and the collective world of Cub fans are crossing their fingers. It has been waaay too long!

Wallenstein Arrives, First Play

My backordered copy of Wallenstein finally
arrived from Funagain last week. I played this for
the first time during a trip to New York City last July, and I was anxious to play again. I’m
pretty sure this game is out of print, so I think I’m fortunate to have landed
a copy of this game.

My routine when a new game arrives is to dismantle the bits and divide into
little plastic baggies. One of the coolest features of Wallenstein is the
combat tower, which is used to resolve combat between two players. Little
wooden cubes are dropped into the top, some get stuck in the tower, and some
roll out into the tray. The player with the most cubes rolling out wins the
battle. It is actually a bit more complicated than that (native farmers might
fight on the side of one of the players, for example), but that’s the basic
idea. Jacob suddenly became very interested in the game as I showed him the
tower and the gameboard and I talked him into trying a two player game. We
used the variant rules posted on the ‘geek. One
other note on the rules – make sure you grab the most recent translation from the ‘geek! The
version sent with the game from Funagain was almost worthless.

Jacob picked up the game very quickly, but was a bit too aggressive in his
attacks. Rather than focus on expansion first and then picking battles where
he had an advantage, he tried to fight me one too many times where I had equal
opposition. The luck of the tower was leaning towards me in these battles and
I came out ahead. He was also slow to understand the victory conditions and
didn’t get enough strength in his buildings across the region, so I won pretty
handily.

Cubs Win!

Man, it has been a long time! 95 years in fact – 1908 was the last time
the Cubs managed to win a post-season series. In my lifetime, it has been one
heartbreak after another. There was the collapse in 1969, the disaster in San
Diego in 1984, and the letdowns in 1989 and 1998. Not to mention the multitude
of losing seasons. Up until this year, I think I was one of about 120,000
people in the world that had ever seen the Cubs win a postseason game – I was
at their only victory in 1989 at Wrigley against the Giants.

Tonight, the Cubs won their division series against the Braves. Onto the NLCS!

Session Report: Volldampf, I’m the Boss

Ken and Brandon came over Sunday afternoon for a few hours of gaming. We
decided to take a break from our D&D campaign and bring out the boardgames.

Volldampf

After playing this game a while back at Kevin’s, I purchased my own copy and did a
paste-up job on the cards with the English translation available at the ‘geek. Ken and I both
enjoy Age of Steam
(that was my birthday gift for him last spring), so I thought he would enjoy
this predecessor. Jacob, Brandon, and Matthew joined us for a five-player
game.

There are some key differences in the 5 player version relative to the 4
player version. One is that only 2 track cards per group are drawn each turn.
For some reason I didn’t like this – I enjoyed having to find the best set of
3 cards in the 4 player version, and the choices in this game seemed too
obvious. Of course if it really were obvious (or simple), I wouldn’t have
scored so poorly.

Have I ever mentioned the good fortune that my son Matthew appears to have?
Quick tangent here. Some of you may have read the Robert
Jordan
Wheel of Time series. One of
the main characters is
Mat, and because of some strange magic he is endowed
with extremely good fortune. Julie and I really are starting to wonder about
this kid… I wonder if he hears dice tumbling in his head? Should we take him
to Vegas?

Back to the game – I try and coach Matthew on some strategies for acquiring
track sections, explaining how goods will be shipped, and overall feeling
pretty smug about my own understanding of the game. This is of course my
second playing, and I won my first game largely because of some very fortunate
merchandise card drawings. We start laying track, and I get a few good
sections and jump out to the front early on. Matthew doesn’t manage to get
much on his first turn, and Ken is stuck with some poor choices (he finished
5th in the auction) and was unable to break even and suffers a small setback
on the income track.

One cool thing about these train games is the ability for a player to require
others to use his track sections to ship goods, sharing in the produced
income. In the second turn, Matthew started to collect a dividend from just
about everybody. Through luck or sheer brilliance, his track happens to e
placed in 2 or 3 of the most strategic junctions, encouraging most of us to
use him. The pattern went like this – I want to score 3 of my own sections on
this shipment, but I’ll have to use one of Matthew’s – sounds like a good
deal! So 3 out of 4 of us do this, plus Matthew ships his own goods, and next
thing you know Matthew is racing into the lead. Ken also made some good use of
action cards gained from his poor early turns and was neck and neck with
Matthew.

The endgame wasn’t very satisfying – there were some serious kingmaking
opportunities for anyone that wanted to take some time to do a bit of
calculation. In the end Matthew won the game in a tiebreaker (over Jacob I
think), with Ken very close behind.

I’m the Boss

We ended the afternoon with this game of negotiations and deal making. This is
any easy one to teach, and everybody got right into it. This is a game I need
to play with adults – the negotiations could be a bit frustrating at times,
though I could certainly afford to be more patient and tolerant. It did get to
be a bit annoying to hear a negotiation dialog like this:

Chris: Let’s see… I need Cashman to finish this deal. Can anyone bring
Cashman into the deal? I would cut you in for $5 million.

Matthew: Well, I’ll bring Sacks into the deal for $6 million.

Chris: I don’t need Sacks, I need Cashman.

Matthew: How about if I bring Sacks in for $8 million then?

So maybe you’ll understand my point. It was still fun, and Brandon did very
well. I think he finished with around $43 million, and I was a distant third.