We competed in the gifted program at Landsdowne Middle School in East St. Louis, along with 30 other very bright students. After school, Mr. Magarian offered all the students an opportunity to compete in the Snickers Candy Bars Tournaments. Larry and I were regulars in the chess match. This daily tournament would soon become chess practice for one of the Midwest’s most notable middle school chess club.
Chess requires you to plan out your moves; to think through the consequences of every choice you make. “If I move here, my opponent is likely to move here or there. If he chooses to move there, I’ll move here and then he’ll be forced to move there! Once he moves there…I Ah HA!” And so it goes for hours. This process of self-talk might be considered paranoid or compulsive anywhere outside of Chess and/or IT auditing. However, this is exactly what it takes to beat the competition in Chess. It has been said that the great Bobby Fischer could see the end of a game from the beginning. And that is why he has been considered the best of all times.
I’m no Bobby Fischer. At my best, I could see up to 10 variations for every move in a game. But even then, Larry was usually one step ahead of me. Because of this, he usually beat me in Chess. I heard that Larry would go home and play chess against him self for hours. He would sit at a table with two chairs. With the board set for two players, he would make white’s best opening move. He would then stand and walk to the other side of the board and sit. Once there, he would become the black player. Then he would make his best move as black. This intellectual battle against him self would last for hours. Of course this was all a rumor.
One day after beating all the other kids in the Snicker Tournament, Larry and I stopped at his house to go over a game we played. Of course, we played a game or two or three. This brief stop turned into a daily ritual after school and chess practice. We would rush to his house, finish our homework and get down to business. We would tryout our toughest openings. We would share the most challenging situations we had seen from our opponents. We would critique each other’s moves. And then there was the most outrageous and disturbing thing. We would play heavy metal music very loudly in an effort to break each other’s concentration. I believe his mother soon provided us with head headphones. In the process, we became big fans of Bon Jovi and Twisted Sister. We also developed very good focus.
Most importantly, we developed The Chess Partner Challenge, which is commonly known in the business world as an accountability partnership. Accountability Partnerships are functional relationship agreements that serve three primary purposes.
1. To insure that things get done
2. To improve the partners’ performances
3. To celebrate achievements and accomplishments
These three benefits are very difficult for individuals to produce for themselves. Through accountability, we find improved performance and self-confidence. As a chess and character coach, I often create accountability partnerships between students. This helps young people understand the importance of relationships and accountability. In chess, it is the most effective tool I have found to improve performance.
If it true that Larry played against himself daily; playing against me gave him a new perspective. And if nothing else, it saved him time in moving back and forth from chair to chair.
If you would like to know more about Accountability Relationships and how you can use them to create stronger and richer relationships with the student groups you serve, drop me and email. I’ll send you “How To Create Accountability Relationships That Work;” a guide for creating effective relationships with teen groups.