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.

Make the Best of the Conference!

hilton olympiaGetting you to cooperate is the main goal of this conference. This is why we have added more opportunities to interact in workshops, debates and the exhibition. Ask the conference team if you look for partners. Use the exhibition area to show your materials and to check out what the others have. Agree on what you can do together in the future and stay in touch. The printed programme includes a participants list with your e-mail contacts.

Registration opens at the Hilton Olympia on Saturday at 10. If you visit the Olympia for the opening day of the London Chess Classic on Friday (and are not a registered participant of the bootcamp) please notify
tereza@chessinschools.co.uk.

Another option for Friday might be a visit to the Tate Modern which opens until 10 pm and has free live music, performances and exhibitions. Friday is also the announced release date of the movie “Pawn Sacrifice”, but we could not locate any London theatre that is showing it.

Upon your arrival you will get a printed programme at the venue. You don´t have to register to attend any of the conference sessions, even though the conference is very well booked.

The wheather in London is mild throughout the week-end with highs above ten degrees. Sun is only forcasted for Friday, it may well also stay dry on Saturday and Sunday.

The UK has its own kind of electricity plugs. Converters are available for 1 pound at poundshops (elsewhere expect to pay 4 pounds). We stock converters at the conference and at the Lily Hotel for you.

It is still possible to make a guess and win the prize offered by Björn Frank. It only takes a minute. Everything you need to know is here.

Please report about the conference. Use this website, which is now going into documentation mode, twitter (#LondonChessConf) and the photo and video materials which we will provide.

Please bring your educational and marketing materials to show to others. If you want a designated area in the exhibition please contact us.

If you make a presentation (yes, there are enough projectors) please e-mail us the presentation.
Most or virtually all presentations will be available from the conference website. If you don´t want your presentation online or want to provide a different version this is perfectly fine but you have to tell us.

Have a safe journey! We are all very excited to see you!
John Foley, Stefan Löffler, Tereza Pribanova

Programme Updates

conference logo
We have to apologize if the updated programme includes surprises over what you have seen before. We had to make several changes, including some this Wednesday and Thursday, due to speakers withdrawing for health and personal reasons. We also strive to avoid clashes that would impede speakers from making their contributions.

Specifically, we had to cancel the History of Chess in Society session that was planned on Sunday. To avoid a too long afternoon we have shortened the parallel workshop session on Saturday starting 16.30 to end at 17.30, from when the World Café Debates will add an interactive and more personal touch. We have also shortened the Sunday afternoon and expect the conference to finish at 17.00.

Please check the updated schedule page.

An experimental number game

Chess is a wonderful board game which brings insights into the broader topic of Game Theory which is a more mathematical approach to analysing competition and co-operation. This type of thinking is very influential amongst economists  – eleven game theorists have won the Nobel prize for economics.

When playing chess, you are really playing two games – one is the logic of the position – the other is trying to outguess your opponent. You have to assess how likely it is that your opponent will fall into a trap. You have to consider not only your opponent’s calculating ability but also their sense of danger. Conversely you have to be on guard whether you are being lured into a trap even though you have not seen the denouement.

BjörnFrank
Björn Frank experiment in game theory

We now introduce a number game devised by one of our presenters, Björn Frank. All you have to do is choose a number. The number you should choose depends what numbers you think other people will choose. Sounds simple? Give it a try. Take a quick look and decide your number. You don’t have to be a chess player. This is a serious study and the results will be announced at the conference.

2015 London Chess Challenge

There is a prize for the winner, claimable only by those who attend the conference.

Chess Pains

An article published this weekend in the Guardian newspaper examines the current state of chess in England, with a particularly harsh light being shone onto the English Chess Federation.  The journalist Stephen Moss, a keen player, has spoken to many of those involved in the game, at club and grandmaster level, and identified problems which are unlikely to be restricted to England. Top of the list of concerns is the continual inability of the Federation to raise sufficient money to support top players and to develop juniors. It seems that those involved in the administration of the game are prone to squabbling amongst themselves to the detriment of pursuing strategic objectives. In spite of this, we should note that England acquitted themselves reasonably well at the European Team Championship in Iceland which finished today. They came 10th after tie-break compared to a ranking of 5th.  In days gone by this would have ben a cause for concern, but today this outcome can be regarded as something of a relief.

Much of the article content is familiar to chess insiders. However, it will probably be surprising to the general public that the ECF Council ousted the Chief Executive and Marketing Director, replacing them with empty chairs, ducking the challenge of how chess is going to make a positive impact in the media and win support from government and funders. A myopia afflicts those who run the game: organising the next event takes precedence over deciding what type of events should be organised.

One of the issues the article highlights is that there is a flipside to the brilliant problem-solving mind for which chess players are famous. Problem solvers can also be problem creators. Single-minded determination can get you a long way in chess but beware losing contact with the real world.

Stephen-Moss-L
Stephen Moss: argues that brilliant people create problems too.

 

Stephen Moss will be hosting a debate on Making Chess More Friendly on Saturday 5th December 2015.

 

 

 

 

Top photo: John Robertson at 4NCL Birmingham

 

Railway station chess

An unprecented number of refugees are crossing into Europe to escape the civil war in Syria and strife in other places. They arrive at the main railway stations in Europe full of stress and fear but also hope. They are hoping a safe future.

In these troubled times, concerned citizens have stepped forward to help in any way they can. One group of chess volunteers led by Kineke Mulder, a web designer, got together to greet the refugees as they arrive at Vienna’s main railway station. They are part of an initiative known as the Train of Hope which offers a welcome and emergency aid to new arrivals. The project started as a Facebook page (Twitter #hbfvie) and just grew.

The problem, as always, is how to communicate with people when you do not speak their language such as Arabic or Farsi and they do not speak German or English. Chess provides a common language – allowing self-expression in a throng of anonymity.

Kineke and her colleagues provide a special chess welcome. They started by setting up several chess boards with tables and chairs in the station concourse. They were immediately surrounded by curious onlookers. Some gladly accepted the challenge to play chess. Others preferred to watch and learn. As usual there were the kibitzers. Soon there were concentrated and happy faces – of volunteers as well as the refugees. Vienna was representing European culture at its best in the form of chess.

johannes-christian
Johannes Lentner                                    Christian Srienz

Kineke, Johannes Lentner and Christian Srienz are spending between 5 and 15 hours per week on the chess boards. They are keen for other people to join them or to start their own version of meet and greet chess.

Kineke will be speaking at the Conference.

Top photo: Kineke Mulder

Railway station chess photos

 

Chess with asylum seekers

What can you do when you hear that asylum seekers have come to the old prison in your town and besides their worries they are also bored? You gather old chess sets from everywhere and you ask your chess club members to donate a new chessboard. That is what happened to Niels van der Mark in Doetinchem in the Netherlands a year ago.

Now, one year later they play weekly in the centre and meet a lot of refugees. Most of the time they exchange only a few words of English. But they play chess the whole afternoon, shake hands and sometimes hug and that’s good. The refugees that come to Doetinchem, a small town near the German border and stay there for about 6-8 weeks. During they stay they learn whether they can stay (most of the time for 5 years) or have to leave. Although they know they know they can stay safely for period of when they come from the civil war in Syria,  they are naturally worried about the process. Somehow playing a game of chess eases there mind. It provides a distraction from thinking about their relatives who may also be on the run if they haven’t managed to escape from Syria. On the chessboard they are solving other problems on the chessboard that they have a  chance to solve.

ChessClubCardDuring their stay in Doetinchem, the club offers asylum seekers free membership. The club is one way to help them to get into Dutch culture and customs. The club made a business card with its address and a QR-code they can scan which opens Google Maps and the route to the playing location. The card is issued if they would like to play a serious game of chess.

Another way they have found to stay in touch is through Chess.com.  Niels invites the asylum seekers to create an account so they can play online once they have left for another centre for. Besides playing chess they can still stay in touch.In this way, Niels kept in touch with Mohammed and learned that he wanted to start a chess club in the centre where he was staying. Niels organised ten boards and pieces and brought it to him. And so he started a chess club in the centre at Deventer.

ChessDeventermedium
Chess with asylum seekers in Deventer, Netherlands

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Niels Van Der Mark will be speaking about his project at the conference.

Local press report.

Chess as a mental health therapy

JulianWayJulian Way was reading Classics at Oxford immersed in the literature and philosophy of Ancient Greece and Rome. He was also a strong chess player – a FIDE Master – and had authored a monograph on the Queen’s Gambit. Given his intellectual talents, he could legitimately have expected a glittering career but suddenly everything changed. He had a mental breakdown and ended up in hospital. He never returned to the dreaming spires to finish his degree. Instead he spent years in and out of mental institutions.

 

His depression lasted fifteen years and it was only when he took control of his recovery and eschewed medical input that he felt he made significant strides. The standard treatment model for mental illness places emphasis on medication. Julian feared that this model takes responsibility away from the patient and can make them feel disempowered. Instead, he prefers developing life skills and strategies ranging from a common-sense self-assessment, with inevitable trial and error, to submitting to the more scientific Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. These skills and strategies are also pertinent on the chess board. According to Julian, recovery from long-term mental health issues has strong parallels with chess. He cites planning, problem solving, self-awareness, emotional stamina, stubbornness and patience.

Mental illness is by its very nature difficult to manage for the individual concerned. Julian advocates adopting a strategic approach. He counsels against impulsive, short-term measures as personal experience suggests these will probably not suffice. Playing chess can provide individuals with scenarios to hone a different kind of thinking. Being able to develop, harness and sharpen thinking skills is integral to chess and essential to recovery. The parallels are abundant and useful discussion may well yield further areas of overlap.

Julian’s view is shared by many but remains controversial given current scientific practice. Julian is not dogmatic about his view that chess presents a microcosm of life itself – he is more concerned to create a dialogue and get a debate going.

Over the last decade Julian has been rebuilding his life. He holds down a job as a social worker in the mental health field. He took a degree in creative writing at a local university and is now working on a Masters. He is writing a therapeutic autobiography and is playing chess happily once more.

Julian will be attending the conference.

Chess mediated counselling

Fernando Moreno is a school counselor based in Maryland near Washington DC, the US capital. He has for over a decade been developing chess as an instrument of psychological counseling. His approach focuses on improving the social and emotional skills of his students and consequently their academic performance. For new migrants, he supports their adaptation and integration by increasing the involvement of the family in their new school. His innovative technique is to present real life situations as carefully chosen chess positions. The chess position models in some way the decisions that they have to make.

The children that Fernando supports did not start life with many prospects. His school has the lowest income population in the district with 95% of the pupils receiving free school meals. Furthermore, three quarters have limited knowledge of English. Many of them received little schooling in their home country before immigrating. The families may have experienced war, poverty, violence or persecution.

Chess does not have any bounds: it is played in every country. Fernando relates to the newcomers by telling them about chess in their culture. He tells stories of the players and refers to a chess library illustrating games from Central America (El Salvador, Mexico), South America (Colombia, Peru, Bolivia), Asia (China, Vietnam), Africa (Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa), Spain and Russia.

Fernando tells the newcomers that their move was not a free choice but was due to external circumstances. He correlates this narrative with chess: if you learn the rules of the game then you can move your own pieces according to one’s own plan. He teaches the children the new rules of the environment, how to take appropriate measures to improve and feel better at the new school, and how to get on with their new teammates.

BigBoardChess with Fernando is a noisy, boisterous affair. Playing and talking at the same time gets across his messages more powerfully. The key to the therapeutic effectiveness is a synchronously shared experience. He can sense the feelings and thoughts of his students and this creates a positive atmosphere of trust. They talk through the student’s decisions about their life situation. Fernando recommends using a large floor standing chess board because this results in more insightful conversations, perhaps because body language is more evident.

This is pioneering work and some may question whether it is possible to replicate Fernando’s therapeutic approach because it depends so much on his interpersonal skills. However, he points out that it is not necessary to be a strong chess player – only to play at the same level as the pupils. It is even a bonus if the pupils can beat him sometimes. He can explore decision making in circumstances of inexperience and ignorance. They learn together to find the best chess moves as they might do in real life.

Fernando will be presenting his approach at the conference.

Top diagram:  Fernando is introducing parents to chess.

Chess as Social Enterprise

Social applications of chess are often pioneered and developed by individuals. There is a growing spirit of social enterprise in chess and a need to professionalise. Chess in Schools and Communities and the European Chess Union (ECU) have joined forces to call the first Social Chess Entrepreneurship Bootcamp during the Chess and Society Conference.

The selected participants are:

      Radislav Atanassov (Bulgaria)
      Luis Blasco de la Cruz (Spain)
      Kevin Cripe (USA)
      Tal Granite (Canada)
      Balazs Kecskemeti (UK)
      Monika Korenova (Czech Republic)
      Patrick Reinwald (Austria)
      Erzsebet Sarlos (Hungary)
      Hedinn Steingrimsson (Iceland)
      Marisa van der Merwe (South Africa)
    Kajetan Wandowicz (UK)

The Bootcamp includes lectures and workshops on topics such as Business Plan, Finance and Fundraising and Social Media Marketing as well as a competition. An expert jury will hear the project proposals and preselect the finalists. The conference audience will then vote the best social chess project.

ECU_new