Category Archives: Chess and Society

Reminiscences

How time flies! The Didactics of Chess are well behind us, if still fresher in our memories than the previous three editions.

Beginnings were modest. The first London Chess Conference, back in 2013, could fit in one of the commentary rooms at the London Chess Classic. With a grand total of 15 speakers (distinguished though they were), the gathering had a decidedly cosy ambience. “Plenary workshop” was not a contradiction in terms. By the first afternoon, everyone had met everyone else. Forget cursory introductions: one would have had a long, stimulating conversation with every other delegate over the course of the weekend. Sessions ran consecutively, aministrative work was minimal, and the networking gathering was an affair so quiet and serene that many would entertain ideas of a quick game of chess. Those were simpler times.

Fast forward three years and we all found ourselves at an eight-room conference centre to discuss teaching chess with 150 delegates working in 25 countries of the world. The 4th London Chess Conference was by far the largest and most international ever gathering of educators, researchers, schoolteachers, coaches, organisers, civil servants and non-profit executives interested in how chess can be used as a force for driving educational attainment. Disappointment was universally voiced at having to choose between concurrent sessions, all equally excellent. But there was no alternative: who would have time to attend a fortnight-long conference? That is what it would have taken to run all talks, workshops, seminars, debates and panels consecutively.

The diversity of topics was staggering and the quality of sessions universally excellent. As has become a tradition, a competition was also held: this time for the best chess exercise involving collaborative problem solving. In the end, the judging panel could not decide between two very different entries, and awarded a shared first prize.

As is unavoidably the case with an event at such scale, there were organisational challenges, but we hope that they remained hidden behind the scenes. At the end of the day, it is not our work as organisers that made the Conference what it was, but the expertise of over a hundred unbelievably clever and dedicated delegates along with your love of chess, passion for education, and selfless enthusiasm for sharing your knowledge and experience.

Our job was gathering all of you together in one building; if we could do that, the event was guaranteed to be a success. We hope that everyone left London feeling as inspired as we certainly did.

From all of the organisers to all the attendees, thank you for making the 4th London Chess Conference so unforgettable.

National Mind Sports Centre

Plans are afoot to establish a National Mind Sports Centre where chess and Go and other strategy board games can be played.  The project is a joint venture between the English Chess Federation and the British Go Association. It has long been desired to find a place to play league games and competitions and to hold gaming events.  Teaching and training would be part of the mix to encourage the next generation into the boardgame realm.

The latest initiative arose from Go player T Mark Hall who left a substantial legacy for the establishment of a centre in London.   He fondly remembered the place where he played go as a youngster and wanted others to revive the concept.  We are all familiar with the problem of finding a space for community activities.  Pubs and church halls serve the purpose but are not ideal.

The original National Chess Centre was in the John Lewis department store in Oxford Street.  John Spedan Lewis was a devotee of the game.  Unfortunately the Centre was bombed during WW2.  After the war,  a number of coffee houses, such as the Prompt Corner in Hampstead, open from 10-midnight, kept the spirit alive. It was popular with intellectuals such as George Orwell and European emigrés but eventually all these unique places disappeared.

A recent trend is the rise of board game cafés in which patrons pay a board fee and are expected to buy some drinks and maybe a meal. These are popular with young adults who are to be found socialising in fashionable places like DraughtsLondon in Shoreditch.

Casual Chess Cafe
Casual Chess Cafe London

Chess and Go have traditionally been played in relative silence, certainly at the higher levels. This factor has made it more difficult to find suitable venues and to attract people to clubs. Bridge, being an inherently social game, does not suffer the same problem. The Casual Chess Club which is held daily in the BFI bar off Tottenham Court Road shows that playing chess in a bar with chatter and music in the background are not always incompatible. There is scope for more than one type of playing area within a venue.

The latest plan is to concentrate all the activities related to mind sports into one place and to combine flexible game playing spaces with in a cafe and a merchandising outlet. The revenues generated from the commercial activities will help to defray the cost of the game activities.  Fundamental to this plan is the acquisition of a property which will cost at least £3 million. There are many issues to be resolved regarding funding options, corporate structure and charitable status.

Amanda Ross, who runs the Casual Chess Cafe, has been commissioned to conduct a feasibility study on the National Mind Sports Centre. She will outline her current thinking in a presentation at the London Chess Conference on Monday 12th December 2pm – 4pm. This session is open to all and does not require registration at the conference. Please come along if you would like to share your ideas and enthusiasm about how to achieve this laudable objective.

 

 

London Chess Conference 2016

The 4th London Chess Conference will take place at the Hilton Olympia on 10, 11 and 12 December. For the first time we will be able to hold a three-day gathering.

This year’s main theme will be The Didactics of Chess. We are planning talks, workshops, discussion sessions, panels, presentations and other contributions on different ways of teaching chess, especially in a classroom environment.

The last three editions firmly established the London Chess Conference as the world’s foremost professional gathering of people interested in the impact of chess (and strategy games generally) on education, and how it can be a force for good in society. Amongst the contributors attracted to London each year there are leading chess education practitioners and researchers, academics working in the field, educational software authors, executives of non-profit chess organisations, journalists, authors, teachers, headteachers, politicians and others.

We organise the conference but we do not make it work. It is the profile of attendees and the quality of their contributions that define this excellence. Let us make the fourth edition the finest one yet.

If you have not yet registered, please do. If you would like to contribute, please contact us as soon as possible on conference@chessinschools.co.uk. We invite submissions on all aspects of the principal theme. Here is but a small set of suggestions:

  • Using Chess in Primary School Mathematics
  • Promoting Metacognition through Chess
  • Teaching Chess together with other Strategy Games
  • Chess for Disadvantaged Students
  • Training Teachers to Teach Chess
  • Certification for Quality Chess Instruction
  • Lobbying for Chess in the Education Community
  • Evaluating Chess in Education Projects
  • From School Chess to Junior Chess
  • Raising Chess Talent
  • Business Models in Chess Teaching
  • Chess in Libraries, Science Centres and other Informal Settings
  • Chess as a Model for Scientific Research
  • Chess History Research with a Social Perspective

We look forward to seeing you in London.

And the Winner is: Luis Blasco!

Social Chess Project Competition Winner: Luis Blasco and IM Malcolm Pein
Social Chess Project Competition Winner: Luis Blasco, left, being congratulated by CSC Chief Executive Malcolm Pein.

Ajedrez y TDAH, a Spanish project that develops chess as an educational intervention for children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), has been voted as the clear winner of the Best Social Chess Project competition by the attendees of the Chess and Society conference. Project leader Luis Blasco de la Cruz has received the award and £500 from Malcolm Pein, CEO of Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC).

Ajedrez y TDAH is linked to Universidad Europea Madrid, the Hospital General de Collado Villalba, the ADHD Organisations APDE SIERRA, CADE and Fundación Activa as well as the Erasmus Plus-sponsored CASTLE project. 64 Villalba Chess Club is developing the program and Madrid Chess Academy is training teachers and giving the option to carry the Project to another places outside Madrid.Luis is working on a manual for teachers and is available to train teachers in Spanish or English as well as to consult on adding and adapting a module on ADHD to teacher training programmes abroad.

Best Social Chess Project Award finalists (from left) Luis Blasco, Marisa van der Merwe and Tal Granite awaiting the result of the audience vote (photos: John Upham)
Best Social Chess Project Award finalists (from left) Luis Blasco, Marisa van der Merwe and Tal Granite awaiting the result of the audience vote (photos: John Upham)

The competition was part of the first Social Chess Entrepreneurship Bootcamp that was held before and during the conference thanks to grants by the European Chess Union and CSC. Social chess entrepreneurs from nine countries heard lectures and took part in workshops.

The trainers were Johanna Valentin on business plan, Mike Truran on project proposals and pitching, Bob Kane on sponsoring and sponsor relations, Gabriel Fernandez Bobadilla on capital management, John Adams on (social) return on investment and Andrea Schmidbauer on social media marketing. Bob, Johanna and Mike were also jurors and heard the participants´ project presentations. As they found all projects valuable and promising, the jurors had a hard job to pick three finalists to present to the conference audience. The bootcamp participants gave each other feedback and helped the finalists to polish the versions that were finally delivered.

It is hoped that the experience and initial interest from additional sponsors will lead to a repetition at the London Chess Conference 2016.

Chess can be Cure or Disease

online addiction unknown sourceHe was in his mid forties and there was nothing better for him than playing chess online. He had loved the game since his youth, but didn´t become hooked until worthy opponents were always within a few clicks´ reach.

He started to miss work, spent whole nights in front of the screen, eventually got missing. His wife didn´t see him for days. Later it turned out that he spent them locked away in the attic, idling away on online games and sleeping right there not to be bothered by anyone or anything but chess. Later was when his wife dragged him to a therapist. The couple went there three times but to no avail. The man didn´t find anything wrong with his constant urge to play chess. Nor with giving up on life apart from the game.

Developing a behavioural addiction in mid life is not unusual, we were told by this man´s therapist. He usually treats patients who gamble online or spend their wake life with video games. But he wasn´t aware that chess could be fast enough to constantly trigger dopamine responses. When he learned about the very fast time limits of online chess, he confirmed that it can be addictive.

We have learned of grandmasters who blitz away far beyond what could be legitimated as training or having fun. The majority of those who loose control over their online play are amateurs. What can online chess servers do to help players at risk?

When we invited Danny Reinsch, Vice President of Chess.com, the biggest chess server, he was certainly aware of the problem. He pointed out though that some of the heaviest players used to have more damaging addictions in the past. Chess was rather a path out of the dark for them.

Chess therapy might be an efficacious add-on treatment for some addiction patients, suggests a review by Sabine Vollstädt-Klein.
Chess therapy might be an efficacious add-on treatment for some addiction patients, suggests a review by Sabine Vollstädt-Klein.

Online chess addiction is one of the aspects in our path breaking workshop Chess and Addiction. Sabine Vollstädt-Klein from the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim and Professor at the University of Heidelberg reviews the latest research on cognitive remediation therapy, which suggests that chess could be an effective and cheap intervention for some addiction patients. In Brazil chess has already been tried as a therapy for drug users. Darcy Lima will present promising data from a brand new study.

Workshop with Mads 2013

Scope of the Conference

The conference will cover the following topics through presentations, workshops and debates. For an annotated and detailed list, go to our Programme page on the menu.

CHESS IN COMMUNITIES

  • Chess in Prisons
  • Chess in Communities
  • Chess with Refugees
  • Chess in Informal Learning Places

CHESS IN EDUCATION

  • Early Years Chess
  • Chess and Maths
  • Training Education Professionals to Teach Chess
  • Chess Teachers’ Qualification Needs and Certification
  • Inclusion and Integration in School Chess
  • The Role of Families in School Chess
  • Chess for Children Diagnosed with ADHD
  • Teaching Scholastic Chess
  • Youth Counselling with Chess
  • Chess in Camps for School Students
  • International Exchanges in School Chess
  • Lobbying for School Chess

CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

  • Social Investing in Chess
  • Working with Volunteers in Chess
  • Social Opportunities for Chess Federations
  • Chess for the Visually Impaired
  • Chess for Old People
  • Chess against Addiction
  • Chess against Depression
  • Chess and Football

If you wish to present contact us at
conference@chessinschools.co.uk

Social Chess Entrepreneur Bootcamp

The first ever professional program for social entrepreneurs in chess is going to be part of the Chess and Society Conference and what we hope to be a perfect addition to our theme. The twelve best applicants will be invited for a professional crash course and a best project competition.

On Friday, 4 December, throughout the afternoon and evening, experts will lecture and give workshops on crucial topics like

  • Business Plan
  • Pitching and Presenting
  • Social Media Marketing
  • The Social Investor’s Perspective

On Saturday and Sunday, 5 and 6 December, the participants will, apart from participating in the conference, pitch their project or project idea first to an expert jury and then to the conference audience at large. The best voted project shall receive an award.

In your application you shall demonstrate why you have the skills and personal resources to be a social innovator in chess and why your participation will be an asset to this group. Your application must include a CV and an essay in English of up to 500 words on your expertise and your project or project idea and make clear what social need it is addressing. Grammar and style won´t be judged beyond that your English is good enough to participate actively. No cover letter or reference letters are required. Applications are only accepted by e-mail to
conference@chessinschools.co.uk
until Tuesday, 6 October 2015, 18.00 CET.
(original deadline postponed)

The stipendia, half of which are made possible by the European Chess Union, include free participation in the social entrepreneur training, competition and conference but do not include travel, accomodation and food. If you don´t have the resources to cover these costs, please add a brief letter to your application, and we may be able to help.

Successful applicants shall be informed by mid October. If you are selected you will receive reading materials and links for 10-15 hours of preparation. Please keep in mind that you will also need to be prepared to deliver a ten-minute-presentation of your project or project idea. And be ready to network at the conference.

We are looking forward to hear from you!

Ten Reasons why Chess is a Sport

Playing games is a natural part of human life yet it has become fashionable for leaders of the sports bodies to decry the rise of gaming when our young people could be active outdoors. The English Chess Federation takes a more positive view towards games. We advocate strategy games rather than “shoot ‘em up” games where adrenaline may be high but the intellectual content is often low. Chess is a classic strategy game which challenges the finest minds in the world. It is not recognised as a sport in the UK and receives no public funding. It is worth reminding ourselves why the International Olympic Committee and over 100 countries recognise chess as a sport.

  1. Competitive. The objective of a game of chess is to win. Chess involves a relentless struggle against one’s opponent. There is probably no sporting activity in which two people are locked in a competitive struggle of such intensity for such a sustained period of time. One lapse of concentration and suddenly a good position is transformed into a losing one. Each game is a drama in which the outcome is uncertain until the very end. When recently interviewed by journalist Dominic Lawson, the world chess champion Magnus Carlsen said that chess was “definitely a sport”.
  2. Well established. The world championship has been organised since 1886 and our national federation was founded in 1904. Chess competitions are organised at every level: schools, universities, counties, cities, leagues, junior, senior, European, World, etc. Six million people play chess in England each year according to pollsters YouGov. 125,000 children learn chess in school each year.
  3. Physical fitness. Peak mental condition requires being in good physical condition. Players need to concentrate totally for up to seven hours. As the stress and tension builds up, blood pressure, pulse and respiration rates all increase. Contenders for the world championships have nutritionists and fitness coaches.
  4. Behaviour code. Players are penalised for poor sportsmanship e.g. for refusing to shake hands with their opponent. Potential cheating is taken seriously. Mobile phones are banned. Players are prohibited on their move from leaving the playing area. There is an anti-doping policy.
  5. Olympic Recognition. Chess has been recognised as a sport by the International Olympic Committee since 2000. It was an event at the Asian Games in 2006 in Doha and again in Guangzhou in 2010. It is also being considered for inclusion in the Pan-American Games. Tokyo is preparing bids for the 2020 summer Olympics and has invited chess and bridge to apply for inclusion. Russia is trying to bring chess to the winter Olympics.
  6. European Recognition. Chess is recognised as a sport in 24 out of 28 member states of the European Union. The exceptions are the UK, Ireland, Belgium and Sweden. In Sweden, it is likely that chess will be included from next year. Support has come from the Swedish sports coaches organisation which admires the mental discipline of chess.
  7. Global game. Chess is played around the world irrespective of age, race, gender, income or language. People with physical disabilities play chess. Blind people play chess. People with advanced motor neurone disease play chess: Professor Stephen Hawking played chess with his children.
  8. Mental component. All sports have a mental component. Ultimately competitive sports may be construed as strategy games differing only in their physical manifestation. Commentators are prone to similes such as: curling = chess on ice; bowls = chess on grass; snooker = chess with balls, and so on.
  9. National accolade. World chess champions have won their national Sportsman of the Year competition including Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Vishy Anand (India) and Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria).
  10. Player ranking system. The player ranking system was developed for chess in 1960 and has been adopted by many other sports including American football, baseball, basketball, hockey, korfball, rugby and golf. Football and cricket use a related formula.

England should be proud of its chess tradition. The first book printed in English by William Caxton was on chess. All official chess games must use the style of pieces designed in England by Nathaniel Cook in 1849 and named after Howard Staunton who was the strongest player in the world at that time.

England has performed with distinction at the World Chess Olympiads. We had a strong team at the Buenos Aires Olympiad in 1939 during which WW2 broke out. The team returned home where they worked with Alan Turing to break the German Engima codes. England came third in 1976 and regularly came second in 1980s behind the mighty Soviet Union. As recently as twenty years ago, England finished fourth behind Russia, Ukraine and the USA but since then we have declined – in the most recent Olympiad at Tromso in 2014, England came 28th.

All but one of the 27 teams that placed above England recognise chess as a sport. The exception is the USA which funds chess privately. Governments actively support chess as it improves academic performance and symbolises a country’s intellectual strength. China classifies chess as a sport and in less than two decades has gone from nowhere to winning the recent Chess Olympiad and producing the women’s world champion, Hou Yifan. The next open world champion is expected to be Chinese.

Chess has health benefits. There is an emerging awareness of the effectiveness of chess in delaying the onset of Alzheimers. Chess promotes social integration as players travel to a venue and interacting socially. Chess presents a welcome social activity to many children who are on the autistic spectrum. Many Aspergers children find chess opens up for them a whole new world which conventional sport does not. For many adults, chess provides them with meaning in their lives.

Recognition as a sport does not bring any obligation of funding but it would open some doors. Many public funding bodies and foundations only fund officially recognised sports e.g. the national lottery. Chess would be able to obtain shared access to sports facilities as it does in other countries. Our students would no longer be prevented from playing in the European and World University Chess Championships because of the condition that the national sports body should recognise chess as a sport. We would no longer have to look at other countries seek funding from the Erasmus+ sports programme for chess, a possibility not open to us.

Recognition of chess will not open the floodgates to video games. The mindsports (including bridge and chess) are well-established, public-domain, abstract strategy games played competitively throughout the world using one canonical form. By contrast, the video game market has numerous franchises (e.g. Grand Theft Auto) each of which spawns many game titles which are of short-term duration and which typically use proprietary technology.

The English Bridge Union is going to court to have bridge recognised as a sport. We wish them well.