Category Archives: Speakers

Speakers and presenters at the conference

When Chess Meets Special Needs

It´s a story you hear from many chess teachers: A child, usually a boy, with attention deficit or hyperactivity, is starting to concentrate at the game of chess, often to the surprise of carers, who only know the child in an excitable, uncontrollable state. A Spanish team of psychiatrists and chess coaches has gone beyond anecdotal evidence. Numerous boys, diagnosed with severe ADHD, have been helped to reduce or altogether come off medication by chess. This success story has been shared at a recent psychiatric conference in France and will be brought to us by Luis Blasco de la Cruz, whose club Villalba 64 in the North of Madrid is a champion of social chess projects.

Pioneer of chess against ADHD: Luis Blasco from Madrid
Pioneer of chess against ADHD: Luis Blasco from Madrid

Children on the autistic spectrum, often diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, are another group reported to benefit from chess. Karel van Delft has been interested in this for a long time and has been coaching autistic students one on one. Here is a video interview he conducted with an autistic tournament player. Dijana Dengler from Munich is teaching chess to children with all kinds of conditions and is an expert on inclusion through chess. Another speaker is Richard James, who makes a case that children with special needs have more to benefit from chess but at the same time are often excluded from school chess activities.

Support organisations and parents of children with special needs are invited to join our workshop on Sunday at 15.15-17.00 for free upon prior notice to

Impressive Evidence

Keynote speaker Anna Nicotera has just completed a systematic review of all the studies into the impact of chess in schools (download link below the text). The effect sizes are remarkable, says  Anna, a specialist on the efficacy of educational interventions. Given that chess is usually taught for an hour a week (at most two hours), she considers the reported benefits high – especially when it comes to attainment in mathematics. Like all professional researchers, she counsels that the results should be interpreted cautiously since they are based on fewer than ten studies that met the rigorous eligibility criteria of her review.

Anna Nicotera has analyzed all high quality studies on school chess: It works!
Anna Nicotera has analysed all high quality studies on school chess: It works!

She gathered all empirical studies on effects of chess in school that she could find in English.  She filtered these according to strict methodological  standards and went on to analyse the reliable studies in detail. Many school chess studies are not and could not be included in the final analysis, she says. The overall results of the impact of chess are impressive. In order to identify the active ingredients in school chess, i.e. the precise details of how the impact is made, more high quality primary studies will be required.

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The Harmony of Chess and Mathematics

Researching the impact of chess on mathematics
Susan Sallon Researching the impact of chess on mathematics

Susan Sallon initially trained as a concert pianist in London and then took a degree in music at Edinburgh University. She then worked for the BBC in the music department. After taking a career break to have eight children, she took a Post Graduate Certificate in Education and taught Music and Mathematics in a  secondary school for twelve years before leaving to start a degree in Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Now completing her MSc in Psychology at MMU, Susan has a particular interest in how children learn and is conducting her research into the cognitive effects on mathematics performance in children who learn to play chess at a young age.

Susan came to the attention of CSC when she conducted a study on 500 children comparing those who had studied chess with those who had not. The results were so significantly positive in respect of “thinking skills” that Susan has continued to research the topic. She hopes to expand this research into other areas of learning after finishing her masters. Susan will be describing her latest research in her conference presentation.

Promoting All Children

Christina Schenz, Professor of Primary Education
Christina Schenz, Professor of Primary Education

School chess started out in many places as a voluntary activity in secondary school. It typically attracted bright kids, with a substantial number of them taking part in competitions and moving on to junior and club chess. As a curricular subject in primary schools, chess has to be approached and presented differently. The goal has to be for all kids to benefit. Chess must become inclusive in the broader meaning of the term.

“Inclusive promotion of giftedness” is what educational psychologist Christina Schenz calls it. According to the professor of primary education at the German University of Passau chess should be as suitable or even more suitable than mathematics to discover and promote strengths in all children of a class, because the acquisition of the game depends only to a small degree on language.

Schenz is a research partner and advisor of the project CASTLE, which has secured EU funding to develop and implement a three year chess related curriculum in primary schools in Germany, Italy and Spain and is covered on FIDE´s Chess-in-Schools website. In the early part of her academic career in her native Vienna she also became a teacher of special education to get the inside perspective, which is now very fruitful for her research and teaching. Apart from inclusion and giftedness, her research interests are on the professionalisation of teachers and on gender roles in education. Both topics are relevant to the further evolution of scholastic chess: Too few female teacher think they are up to using the game in their classroom. And chess pedagogy is only just entering the main pathway of professionalisation, which is the academic training of future teachers.

MiniChess Goes Global

Marisa was elected South African Teacher of the Year 2012
Marisa was elected South African Teacher of the Year 2012

At our 2013 conference Marisa van der Merwe inspired many with her moving talk on chess teaching in South African townships. Through her MiniChess curriculum thousands of disadvantaged kids picked up arithmetic and coordination skills. At the time she was already deep into a new project, translating MiniChess into an app, that can reach many more children worldwide. Marisa found investors and an Estonian team for the programming.

As the MiniChess app is just being launched, Marisa is working the globe: She was an invited speaker at the recent WISE convention in Doha, a prestigious education conference. Here is a video of her session. Actually, another WISE speaker Paul Tough spoke about school chess in New York. From Doha Marisa went to Australia and New Zealand. In December it´s on to London.

The mouse Cheddar is the hero of the MiniChess App
The mouse Cheddar is the hero of the MiniChess App

The energetic networker is partnering with Kasparov Chess Foundation Africa to bring the educational benefits of chess to other African countries. Another cooperator is educational psychologist Joreta Parsons, who is also joining the conference.

An Ideal Study?

photo Giovanni Sala_London Conference
Giovanni Sala

Connecting people is a main purpose of our conference, which has many informal meetings beyond the official programme. On the eve of the 2013 edition we invited a research workshop. There Giovanni Sala, a young researcher from Bergamo in Northern Italy, first met with Fernand Gobet, Professor of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Liverpool. Recently, Giovanni has moved to Liverpool as a PhD student. They are already cooperating on several chess-related investigations.

One of them is on the relationship between handedness, gender and achievement in mathematics and chess, a topic first suggested by Guillermo Campitelli, an earlier PhD student of Professor Gobet from Argentina. While Campitelli had looked at adults, Giovanni´s focus is on children. His underlying hypothesis is that chess instruction at school improves spatial ability.

Another topic he is interested in is metacognition, the awareness of thinking processes. Chess, especially mini-games and chess puzzles, give children relatively easy access to reflecting about how they think when they find the solution or the best strategy. The focus of his presentation at the conference will be on early findings from a study Giovanni has been doing on metacognition in primary school children with Roberto Trinchero from the University of Torino, another speaker at the conference.

A Dutch Multi-Talent

foto Karel van Delft
Karel van Delft

Is there anybody else who is an expert on as many aspects of school chess as Karel van Delft? The psychologist, chess teacher and coach from Apeldoorn has just published a compendium on school chess in his native Dutch. “Schoolschaken” is available from his personal website and will be presented to the public at the prestigious Max Euwe Centrum in Amsterdam on 17 December.

Formerly a newspaper journalist, Karel covers the contributions of others equally well as he is explaining his own ideas and experiences. He proposes an analytic grid for evaluating chess instruction and has an original chapter on chess and dyslexia. The book includes a glossary of more than hundred pages with 328 entries and an annotated reading list. Out of his many fields of expertise, Karel will be presenting at our conference on chess instruction for gifted children and for autistic children, in both of which he has years of experience.

Back and front cover of Karel´s new book
Back and front cover of Karel´s new book

If you want an exemplar of “Schoolschaken” at the conference contact him at k.vandelft AT

Karel is also going to document the conference with us. His excellent footage of the 2013 presentations is still on his website.

Thousands of Mexicans Trained to Teach Chess

mexico lecturersSchool chess experts and scientists from all over Latin America and Spain, as pictured left, are involved in a unique training project. 2200 teachers and chess teachers attended its recent launch in Mexico-City. The lectures took place in different venues at the world´s biggest university UNAM, the Teatro Hidalgo, the Palacio de Medicina and the EXPO Reforma congress centre. They are now followed up by an online-course for chess instruction, which is expected to reach 3000 participants with about three quarters of them school teachers. More lectures and in-presence-trainings are planned for April 2015 all over Mexico.

The ambitious project is the brainchild of Hiquingari Carranza. Well-known for the huge chess festivals he has been running since many years, he is now also the President of Kasparov Chess Foundation Iberoamerica. Many of the lecturers know each other from a series of chess and education meetings in Buitrago near Madrid, that have been directed by Leontxo Garcia. Leontxo is joining our conference as a liaison to the active and creative Spanish-speaking scholastic chess community.

Life is a game

Jorge Nuno Silva learned the rules of chess as a yjnsoung child but only started playing in 1972 when the Fischer-Spassky world championship match captured everyone’s imagination. He did what all enthusiasts do – joined a chess club and seriously studied the game by reading books on chess theory. Short of local competition, he played correspondence chess, when he had to put a stamp on the envelope and take it to the letter box. Jorge claims never to have been a strong player but he once beat an International Master whilst playing the Black side of the Budapest Gambit. It all depends upon what you mean by ‘not strong’.

According to Jorge, there is something inherently wonderful about playing games – as if one comes alive through the experience of play. Like many games players, he distributes his favours and also enjoys bridge, poker, dominoes and so on. The passing years have not diminished his keen interest – in fact he is more active now than ever. In Portugal, Jorge instigated the national abstract strategy games competition in which thousands of young people participate each year. This admirable activity is a cross between a chess congress and a mathematics olympiad.

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Are games another type of mathematics?

David Wells photo This question has been at the core of the work of David Wells.  His interest in mathematics and chess was nurtured at school in Bristol from where  he obtained a mathematics scholarship to Cambridge and thereafter became British U-21 chess champion.

He started his career as a mathematics teacher in primary and secondary schools. He enjoys introducing the beauty of mathematics into young minds and still occasionally gives private tuition.

David has made many contributions to mathematics education, especially using  the problem solving approach which he developed into a secondary school course. He has written widely for the professional journals including Mathematics in School and The Mathematical Gazette. He became especially interested in the similarities – and differences – between abstract games and mathematics

Continue reading Are games another type of mathematics?