Sunday 4 February 2024

Seventh Teesside Megafinal: Managing Expectations

As previously mentioned, the Seventh Teesside Megafinal (click on the link to find the entry form) will soon be here and it seems to be a good moment to think about general expectations.

The vast majority of children play in Megafinals so they can have fun, enjoy the company of their friends, make new friends and to test their chess skills against children from other schools. Their level of play will almost certainly improve as a consequence.

Chess tournaments can be tough, especially if a player has unrealistic expectations going into the event.

Mixing wins with a similar number of defeats is perfectly logical expectation. Expecting to win every game without any particular difficulties along the way is not so logical.

Occasionally, it is reported to me that a child is 'heartbroken' or 'devastated' after (what they see as) an unsuccessful tournament performance. It goes beyond hyperbole, because the parents in question really do appear to believe that what they are saying is true.

This usually isn't far away from those who claim they want their child to learn the art of resilience through chess, only to claim, retrospectively, that not only did their child have to play strong opponents but also that their opponents cheated in every game.

If expectations are realistic then we wouldn't have to navigate through so much smoke and so many mirrors.

We never apply pressure to our pupils to perform at tournaments either in our chess classes or on a one-to-one basis.

We cannot monitor or control parental pressure, but we do find ourselves having to deal with the aftermath.

I have plenty of stories to tell another time, including how a parent threatened to set his Rottweiler dogs on me after his son failed to win a game.

For now, here is a reminder of the ethos of our Teesside tournaments:

'We will be working very hard on the day trying to ensure everyone has a great time. As usual with our events, we want to keep the pressure on the children to an absolute minimum.

To help protect this ethos, we want the children to relax between the rounds and to temporarily forget about their chess battles.

It would be greatly appreciated if all parents, guardians, teachers, chess coaches et al supported this ethos too and helped all of the children to enjoy the day without applying any pressure between the rounds.'

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