This picture was taken when I was teaching the Russian children in Moscow

I write a monthly column for ChessCafe. This month’s column is about chess training. To read my monthly column, please click here:

The Importance of Proper Training

The United States produced one U.S. born World Champion in the 20th century. Of course, that champion is Bobby Fischer. Moreover, the United States, a nation with 280 million people, has produced very few grandmasters in the last two decades. As of April 1, 2006, the U. S. only has 59 living grandmasters. This is especially shocking considering the incredible growth of scholastic chess in the country.

It is an embarrassment for a country this size to produce so few world-class players. There are a number of reasons for this, but the biggest problem is the lack of a uniform training system. In fact, there is no official system at all, and the USCF has done nothing to solve this problem.

Many of our kids are being taught incorrectly because parents often don’t know any better and coaches want immediate results. Disregarding a solid, basic chess foundation may work when competing against other very inexperienced children, but it is not sound. As these players grow a little older, they start to fail miserably, through no fault of their own. They simply were misguided; many then get discourage and quit. This becomes a scholastic chess mill with no long term success.

I truly hope there is a remedy to this problem and that we can institute a uniform chess training system, but I have my reservations. Our chess politicians are more interested in red tape and bureaucratic politics, than in fixing the glaring problems that have existed for decades. In August 2005, Anatoly Karpov and his organization offered a ready-made chess curriculum to the USCF, but the politicians allowed the matter to be reviewed by a committee headed by people from the Kasparov organization. If this was not a direct conflict of interest, then it was certainly in bad taste. Well, the Karpov plan was shelved, while, seven months later, the Kasparov Chess Foundation is now introducing its own curriculum.

Instead of respecting and embracing the free assistance from a legendary world champion, our politicians managed to insult people who truly wanted to do good things for chess. To be honest, I do not know which curriculum would be better, but the decisions need to be based on the merit of the proposals and in the best interest of U.S chess. I respect the chess knowledge of both Karpov and Kasparov, but too many corrupt deals were made behind closed doors for various outrageous reasons.

It’s likely that both curriculums were very good. So why not make them both available and let the parents, teachers and coaches decide which is best for them. It may just come down to personal preference and there is nothing wrong with that. Why pit one organization against another? In the meantime, organized chess is floundering, which is why I decided to do something about it.

Last weekend, I went to Brownsville, Texas to train more than 60 teachers and coaches. Brownsville has one of the most successful scholastic chess programs in the country, but the teachers and coaches realize that they can still use additional help. The educators understand how important chess is for their students and they want to incorporate chess into other daily school subjects. I presented my own curriculum based on a combination of the best of what the Russian Schools of Chess have to offer, the exclusive Polgar method, and my 30+ years of experience in chess, including the feedback that I have received from countless students, parents and coaches across the country during the past four years.

Some of my students, including my own son, have jumped 1,000 rating points in approximately one year. My program will take students from absolute beginner level to becoming informed chess players within the first school year. Additional training courses are designed to take the students to a much higher level, keep them in chess longer, and provide benefits that extend beyond chess. I am also working with computer experts to create a very unique free scholastic chess database, so chess information will be readily available for anyone who wants it.

You can read the rest of the article here.
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Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar